They may be seen as political rivals, but President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma agree on at least one thing: Nelson Mandela was no sellout.
The Citizen reported on Wednesday the two ANC stalwarts shared the stage at the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations in Mvezo, Mthatha, with former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe, Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk also in attendance.
Our current president made it clear he had no time for the “sellout” accusations currently doing the rounds.
“I want to stress and restress what former president Jacob Zuma said: Madiba did not sell out. Underline that, Madiba did not sell out. In any fact, Madiba never had it in him to sell out anything,” he said.
“Those who are saying Madiba was a sellout are armchair revolutionaries,” Ramaphosa said.
This came after his presidential predecessor, Jacob Zuma, had expressed similar sentiments, saying “Madiba never sold out, he fought for this country”.
He said if the foundation Mandela laid had not been built upon, it was not the late struggle icon’s fault.
“Madiba brought political freedom. If we failed to use it to advance economic freedom, let’s not blame Madiba, let’s blame ourselves.”
Yesterday, former president Thabo Mbeki joined his SA presidential cohort in expressing this view, strongly defending Mandela’s legacy in an SABC interview.
“You had this argument, some people saying that Nelson Mandela sold out because of the negotiations. This is a very false proposition. It’s very wrong. If there was any mistake, it was not Mandela’s mistake, it must have been the mistake of the ANC, which the present generation says it was a mistake,” he said.
The Citizen reported on Tuesday that a growing sentiment in South Africa accusing Madiba of selling out the struggle to appease white economic interests was making itself known on social media.
Important people such as Julius Malema and late “mother of the nation” Winnie Mandela have gone on record advancing this notion.
But this week’s centenary has shown Mandela’s importance as a liberating force in South Africa is valued by many.
A column in The Citizen on Wednesday argued that, if anything, Mandela was the one who was sold out.
Opposition to the growing view that Madiba did indeed sell out the struggle is not new. The Citizen reported in May that Constitutional Court deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke had rubbished the idea in a speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“Nelson Mandela did not sell out, and many of his fellow leaders in the struggle did not sell out. They set for us a goal, encapsulated by the constitution, and we must pursue it relentlessly,” he said.
In the same month, a column by Professor Steven Friedman in The Conversation said it was wrong to blame South Africa’s woes on Mandela.
Journalists Ferial Haffajee and Redi Tlhabi were among those who took to Twitter to express their support for the late politician, who became South Africa’s first democratic president.
Both @CyrilRamaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma deliver a KO to those who call Nelson Mandela a sell-out. They are, says Ramaphosa, armchair revolutionaries.
— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) July 18, 2018
I believe Mandela did his part, the next was for all of us to move it on. Have we? But we can't now call him sell out instead of continuing
— Phaphama Mahamba (@craykabini) July 19, 2018
Mbeki on SABC "notion that Mandela sold out is false. Look at documentation & conditions of the time, decisions were made by ANC for valid reasons."JZ adds "Madiba sold out. Where? They want to blame the man who brought freedom. It was a relay race. "Even JZ gets it????Do better ????
— Redi Tlhabi (@RediTlhabi) July 18, 2018