Mandela: Few have towered as high as he did.

We Will Miss Mandela, But Will He Miss Us? Nooo, So Let Us Set Him Free

WELL-wishers continue to gather, pray, and sing outside the hospital in Pretoria where former President Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition. And the journalists, whom Mandela’s family has called “vultures”, also continue to do the Mandela deathwatch outside.

The world, meanwhile, holds it breath and waits. At 94, and in ill-health the last 10 years, only the most starry-eyed would think that Mandela has not had enough time on Mother Earth—the only wrinkle here being that 27 of them were spent in detention.

This week, it dawned on me that South Africa, Africa, and the world could be more terrified of Mandela’s death than he himself ever was. So why don’t most people want to let Mandela go?

There are some like me, who still want to find answers. For example, in a continent where 90 percent of the leaders try (and most times succeed) to change constitutions so that they can be presidents-for-life, how come Mandela gave it all up after the first term? He was still adored, and could have won a second term without getting out of his bed to campaign for it.

Or why, after Boer racists detained him for 27 years, did he not seek revenge but put out an olive branch instead when he became president? As president, Mandela did not have a single white man, woman, or child, shot. Jeez, I know African presidents who cook and eat opponents’ liver and testicles for less. That is why that Clintwood Eastwood film Invictus, in which Morgan Freeman plays Mandela, messed with my head.

I have written elsewhere that the most plausible reason for this is that Mandela is actually an alien from an outer planet.

Mandela-prayer-finalThe man had his failures, including his inability to hold down a marriage (although in his marriage to Winnie Mandela he was arguably the wronged man). However, that also proved something I have always suspected. That too much love for family often undermines the cold rationality and ruthlessness needed to succeed in the modern world (which is why I don’t seek or expect greatness, because I can’t give up loving my children).

But enough of what we see in and want of Mandela. The unasked question is will Mandela miss us, or this world? Is he really sad to be departing?

I suspect that deep inside, Mandela is not terribly proud of South Africa, and the world as a whole, today. I was in South Africa for a week during the 2010 World Cup, and it was amazing how much the place had been built, rebuilt, scrubbed, and re-imagined for the World Cup. In one of the most innovative urban remakes, many declining and crime-infested parts of Johannesburg were brought back from the dead and are still full of life three years later.

However, the World Cup is really the only thing South Africa has done well in a long time. My suspicion was that World Cup was in some ways South Africa’s attempt to find something greater than Mandela, its best asset.  A story that could be told without referring to Mandela. However, though it was a great tournament, its legacy is mixed.

Today’s South Africa is a xenophobic country. There was that frenzy of xenophobic killings of African immigrants in 2008. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) shamefully prevaricated in condemning and putting a halt to it quickly. True, many South Africans rallied against it, but they were clearly in the minority.

Mozambican man Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, burns during the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa: It became the defining image of that shameful affair.

Mozambican man Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, burns during the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa: It became the defining image of that shameful affair.

In recent months, the attacks have returned, mostly targeting Somalis. The anger of the ordinary South Africans is understandable, but their violence is not excusable. They feel their country is being overrun by hordes from the rest of Africa. However, they wouldn’t be as angry if they had done well from freedom. Instead a corrupt ANC and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) fat cats have stolen their dreams.

There is enough wealth in South Africa, Africa’s richest nation (though not for much longer) to go round, to fix roads, improve its third-rate education system, reduce the misery in its bleak slums, and pay workers a better wage. But the fat cats have squirreled away most of it. And when the workers protest, as the miners did in Marikana last year, police slaughters them.

The influx of immigrants into South Africans, means that businesses can get by with paying lower wages to these foreigners, because they have fled from countries where they were starving and are grateful for two dollars a day. The old Marxists would say that this in turn weakens the bargain power of the South African workers. On a bigger scale, it also undercuts their democratic bargaining power. This is complicated by the fact that because of apartheid history, most South Africans are trapped into voting for an increasingly incompetent ANC because the next best alternative is, well, a “white” party!

But this generation of South Africans, should be able to rise beyond their anger and not burn other Africans to death. Most of these immigrants come from countries that gave South Africans sanctuary in the terrible years of apartheid. They housed, fed, educated, and shielded them. These nations paid dearly through regular bombings by the apartheid airforce because of their support for South African liberation.

True, Somalia was a bit too far away to help much, but South Africans should still be able understand why people flee their countries, and why being nice to them is good business and politics for the future. No, it is not yet time for South Africa to forget.

After all, it is the land of Steve Biko, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Helen Suzman, Oliver Tambo. Today it should not be shooting workers, or lynching African immigrants.

The world too has changed only a little since Mandela left office: The Jews and Palestinians are still feuding. America went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and things got really messy. The terrorists have multiplied. There is still suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is war in Syria. The Chinese still cannot vote freely.

I think Mandela has had enough of it all. The great man just wants to go away. We should set him free.


    Comments 12

    1. Bernard itonga

      A well thought of article. But one thing I disagree; we should not wish Mandela go! Human beings never wish for the death of those that they admire; however sick or suffering; rather, they wish them full recovery and many more years on earth. So be it for Mandiba!

    2. Africa Jewel

      I find answers to your questions in the nice article written here. However for me I think the great man finished his work when apartheid ended, that is what he fought to stop and when it was done he was sane enough to understand that the world is too big for one man, and that one man can only do a handful.

      He therefore took his term as president to set the pace for a new South Africa and there after retired peacefully. This is what many others fail to see, they begin to imagine that they are immortal and God’s gift to the world and get used to a grandiose life style they think they are entitled too. While totally drifting away from the original mission!

      They miss the meaning of humility and collective contribution to a better world. For me Mandela will live for ever.

    3. Moses Akena

      Great piece here, as always, Charles. Someone might think you are ghoulish, but that is the fact. We should learn to let go of those whom we so much adore when time comes for God to call them home. It doesn’t stop me from wishing him good health and long live

    4. Brenda Syovata

      You can only let someone go when the person is really gone and it is only God who knows the time for all of us to go back home. He is still breathing and that is what matters, you can never wish death on someone no matter how much they are suffering. Has he told you that he has had enough? There is a reason why he is still breathing. We will let go when he is truly gone and not while he is on his hospital bed.

      I have been asking myself this question over and over, “would I let go of my father or grandfather while he was in his hospital bed?” And the answer has been no, no, no, over and over. Same applies to Madiba, I am still praying for his quick recovery, him and many others who are fighting for their lives all over the world.

      There is a Swahili saying and I quote, ” mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo” (a child will grow according to the values and norms installed in him or her by the parents and the community in general.) I have been raised to always wish for the best, no matter how tough the road is, to never give up, to always move forward and last but not least it is a taboo to wish death on someone. Therefore Charles what you are asking me to do is a taboo in my culture.

      This is Mandela’s journey, lets not be quick to predict its out come. Lets part him on the back and wish him the best. After all he never gave up on the dream of a free South Africa and as we do this we will be applying the principles he taught us; to love one another and to never give up.

      So Madiba we are not giving up on you, we will continue to pray for you, wishing you the best. FIGHT DADDY, FIGHT UNTIL GOD CALLS YOU BACK HOME. But in the mean time, QUICK RECOVERY MADIBA.

      Come to think of it, I might even die before Mandela does, that’s how funny life is, so always wish for the best, it is a lazy principle to give up on people.

    5. Jonathan

      You took the words out of my mouth on this one! Great read. Let the man have his peace, he has done more than could be asked.

    6. Nziza

      South Africans never got independence rather they got Mandela. Those he left in office after his term never mastered his lips. Let him not see , the shorting of mine workers.

    7. Robert Kaija

      Great piece of work Ndugu Obbo, couldn’t have surmised it better to comemmorate such a legacy as Ex-President Nelson Madiba Mandela.
      In the words of a great preacher long ago,he said, ‘we are placed on this earth by God to do ONE thing in ONE lifetime’.
      Madiba knew this principle in Life and that’s why he answered you first question by saying,’Jesus was the Son of GOD and yet died at the age of 33 years after fulfilling His purpose on earth’.
      Its unfortunate that our South African brothers have not outgrown their bitterness from the apartheid era inspite of the sacrifice made by their great leaders you mentioned earlier.
      Herein lies the problem with the human psyche of our brothers.
      The Rwandese got over their bloodbath of ’94, so did Ugandans get past the Amin era; why not these guys. It’s a low down dirty shame to see a Mozambican brother lynched on account of jealousy by a mob of African descent. We have forgotten our roots and traditions and are slowly turning barbaric.
      I can appreciate Mandela’s success through the years as the First black president of South Africa-his role in removing the iron curtain of racism, democratically elected a parliament on multiracial lines along with political transparency and accountability. The economic prosperity experienced has been the envy of other African nations.Thats just a small note of his achievements.
      Surmise to say that let the old man rest-as much as we love him, we need to let him go and say goodbye while there’s still time.

    8. Peter Wanyama (@PeterWanyama4)

      When would one be ready to leave this life? The answer isn’t just in longevity. Neither is it only in how much one has achieved for humanity. It is in how we have responded to God’s offer of eternal life in Christ, regardless of everything else. When we depart, we meet God; Christ is central in His criteria of evaluating us.

      Please consider the sublime words [featuring Apostle Paul] from the most widely translated and all-enduring book:

      “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” [Phil 1:20-24].

    9. gold price

      This is a task that only each country and each nation can achieve. However the great lesson of today’s world is that this cannot be achieved in isolation. We are all interdependent. Even the greatest countries are not immune to what happens in their neighbourhood and further away in the world.

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