Columns 21.9.2015 06:00 am

No more Mandelas

Devlin Brown, digital editor. Picture: twitter

Devlin Brown, digital editor. Picture: twitter

During the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup Prince Harry asked “who will forget in 1995 when Mandela handed Francois Pienaar the trophy?” Nelson Mandela is loved all over the world, and hearing a foreigner talk about him was nostalgic and triggered a flood of memories of the great man, who led a once-great country.

There are many things that Mandela will be remembered for, by various people in different contexts, but the thing that stands out most is the dignity with which he confronted problems. The cynical among us blame him for selling out and pandering to white interests. It would be interesting to see how the great man would have spoken to the disillusioned and disappointed people of 2015.

Before he became president, Jacob Zuma was quoted in a British documentary saying “there are no more Mandelas”. It was a cheeky quip, but it held a truth so profound its real meaning is only being felt now. When the military plane took off from Waterkloof, the television playing clips of his great words, it was as if Mandela was flying home, taking with him his words and legacy – a greatness we would never see again.

The hatred, the vitriol, the name-calling and bullying, the outright racism and bitterness that dominates South African politics is a far cry from the heyday of our new dawn. Yes, most people in this country were still living in conditions that were no different from apartheid, but under strong, positive leadership overcoming those challenges would have been far easier than in the current atmosphere of anarchy.

For the disillusioned among us, the realisation that Mandela was just a once-off great man – standing head and shoulders above his peers – and not the first of a new breed of presidents to make South Africa great, is a bitter pill to swallow.

It could be argued that in the early 90s this country needed a leader like that, a man who united in very tense circumstances, and that South Africa is now a legitimate democracy and the wheels of bureaucracy need to turn without the motivational and inspirational sound clips. I beg to differ. South Africa is at rock bottom, the worst point since 1994 in terms of race relations and violence. More than ever this country needs a strong leader to unite and inspire everyone to willingly pull in the same direction.

Sadly, attention-seekers are taking legitimate issues and perverting them, culminating in faeces on statues, the most hateful words and violence. There is no ways this would have been tolerated under another leadership. There is a difference between radical activists and thoughtless troublemakers trying to make a name for themselves. Radical transformation is not incitement or violence, it is not hatred or anarchy. It is an uncompromising drive for the emancipation of all South Africans within the confines of one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

There are no more Mandelas. Let those words seep in, because as the great man sleeps his dream of a vibrant Rainbow Nation is fading and quiet. The days of strong, fearless and uncompromising stands – dotted with humour – are gone and they have been replaced with fist-fights, hatred, overhauls and hard hats. It doesn’t have to be like this – we all remember Mandela vividly, but in order to change the status quo, so-called leaders need to serve the people and not their personal agendas.

 

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