By Mashingaidze Gomo
THE great Mandela is dead, and the white nations that created and sustained the apartheid system that incarcerated the black man for 27 years are flying their national flags half mast in mourning.
And, their media has run out of superlatives describing the post-prison life of the black man who survived the ultimate violation of the 1948 United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration.
It has hyped Mandela into perhaps the greatest African that ever lived ‘in the tide of times’!
They are celebrating what they are calling: ‘Forgiveness without Vengeance,’ and, because of it, Mandela has become the world’s greatest.
Because of it, Mandela has been dubbed: ‘The Most Popular Prisoner That Ever Lived.’
And, behind all the superlatives, one senses a mischievous comparison being made because no superlative is a self-sustaining unit of meaning.
No superlative stands alone.
All superlatives are relative to something, and in that respect, no man can be ‘greatest’ standing alone. No one can be the ‘most’ popular prisoner on his own.
A local daily was less covert in its comparison.
It suggested (in its headline) that Mandela had hoped Mugabe would see sense and the implication was that Mugabe should have taken Mandela as his role model. The Western sponsored daily obviously chose to ignore Mugabe’s earlier warning to the CNN Amanpour: ‘President Mandela is President Mandela and Robert Mugabe is Robert Mugabe. Look at him in his own circumstances and that’s it. If you damn him, well and good. But I know my people have great praise for me. I know African people think very highly of me. And that satisfies me.’
That the personalities of Mugabe and Mandela irresistibly invite comparison is beyond dispute, but the time to do so is not now.
African culture inhibits brutality in eulogy, and, the guiding tenet is ‘wafa wanaka.’
In Africa, we console the bereaved and then patiently wait until their tears have dried and they have started eating and laughing again, and then we evaluate the gap left by the dead, if there is any gap at all.
So, the time is inexorably coming when black people must ask exactly what it is that Mandela did for the black race and exactly what it is that Mugabe did for the black race.
But, what is certain for now is that the death of Nelson Mandela has put Western media in a moral quandary.
The expectation that the act of judgment has the psychological effect of diverting moral scrutiny from the judge is not exactly working.
What is at play is yet another African observation kuti: manga chena inoparira parere nhema.
Forgiveness without vengeance inexorably draws attention to racist white sinners whom Western media is uncomfortable to unveil.
‘Most Popular Prisoner’ also suggests and draws attention to ‘The Most Inhuman Jailers’ whom Western media is also uncomfortable to identify.
It is not easy to credibly celebrate Mandela’s ‘forgiveness without vengeance’ without defining the crime and identifying the criminals.
It is a stubborn fact that if the ‘greatest and most popular prisoner in the world’ owes his greatness to ‘forgiveness without vengeance’, then surely, the world deserves to know what crime he forgave, and the criminals must not be obscured but positively identified in order for the world to admonish.
In his inauguration speech, Mandela defined the crime of apartheid as ‘the experience(s) of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long.’ And, logically, the crime also suggests ‘extraordinary criminals’ deserving ‘extraordinary punishment’. No extraordinary criminal deserves a pat on the back.
The foregoing morally obliges the Western media that celebrated the ‘extraordinary punishment’ of Osama bin Laden, Sadam Hussein and Muammar Gadaffi not to celebrate Mandela’s forgiveness without vengeance without identifying and letting the world know the white nations and heartless men of stone who sapped the health of this greatest man, breaking quarry by hand on the desolate Roben Island Prison.
This satanic Western media must say to the world: ‘If a man could endure twenty-seven years of torture and then live up to 95, how many more years would he have lived if he had not been subjected to that gross human rights abuse?’
It is unrealistic for Western media to celebrate an extraordinary man for extraordinary survival of extraordinary abuse by extraordinary criminals without suggesting extraordinary punishment of the extraordinary criminals from precedents the same media branded and celebrated before.
Goodness is credible only in as far as it also suggests evil.
And, the idea of superlative goodness is unsustainable without the identification of commensurate evil.
And, in this respect, the pertinent global media question is: Mandela was superlatively good to whom?
What Mandela did for the white apartheid criminal race is unmistakable.
He allowed the apartheid criminals to retain the land and exclusive affluence founded on the abuse of the black human race.
And, what is less obvious (in compensatory value), is exactly what the forgiven criminals did in appreciation of the most popular prisoner’s magnanimity.
We know they awarded Mandela a Nobel Peace Prize that no other African leader who resisted racist domination in order to empower black people was ever allowed to have.
But, he had to share it with an apartheid thug (de Klerk) so that one wonders if the prize was not a shackle; A psychological bribe intended to retain exclusive privileges acquired through abuse of black people?
The British who heartlessly kept apartheid alive made Mandela a 9-foot bronze statue that now stands in the company of white racists in Parliament Square, London, UK.
Among the racists is Abraham Lincoln, the slave-master who purported to break the black man’s physical chains of slavery when in fact he was shucking the responsibility of looking after slaves made redundant by the industrial revolution. The fact that it is slave masters and not the released slaves who were compensated vindicates this position.
The black man’s purported freedom came without institutional access to the benefits of an economy that had been founded on his sweat and blood.
Then there is Churchill, who conscripted black people from occupied Africa to stave off Nazi occupation of continental Europe and UK but after his own victory had no conscience to end his own British occupation of the black man’s homeland. He instead, proceeded to appropriate more African land to reward British WWII veterans, thus insolently excluding Africans from the very universal human rights they had fought to preserve from the Nazi holocaust.
And then there is Field Marshall Jan Smuts, who regarded Africans as immature human beings – ‘children of nature’ – who needed white leadership.
He avidly supported institutional and territorial segregation of races that then became the basic principle of genocidal apartheid.
After release, Mandela was to describe the philosophy as ‘an extraordinary human disaster.’
But one thing for sure is that the bronze statue was not made in the interests of Mandela, his black kith and kin or Africa.
The act of sculpting fulfills one of the primary functions of art, which is the act of taking possession.
The act of sculpting Mandela was therefore an act of capturing or securing him in the form of an image they could manipulate by context without resistance.
When the image is placed in the company of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Jan Smuts it amounts to the same act of appropriation that African resources have been consistently subjected to by the West.
It means he is no longer one of us.
But, in retrospect, after his death, it is clear that the vision has degenerated into a Shakespearean hero’s tragic error of judgment.
A misplaced trust that his own magnanimity could reform a racist Afrikaner conscience stunted by centuries of genocidal apartheid.
And, it is that error of judgment that has kept apartheid-impoverished black humanity imprisoned in squalid slave quarters twenty years after ‘independence.’
It is the same error of judgment that has allowed the apartheid economic system to track the survivors of the Sharpeville and Soweto massacres right down to Marikana, in another hideous mop-up massacre.
Where is the logic of celebrating ‘justice without vengeance’ if the celebration is silent on the criminal, and the criminal is determined not to compensate the victim as a way of restoring savaged dignity?
Are the permutations of prison limited to high walls, armed guards and razor wire? Do they also not include Nobel Peace Prizes and statues in the wrong places and wrong company as well as analogies that muzzle the African cry for genuine freedom?
And, in the foregoing regard, it is really pertinent for black to genuinely question if Mandela was ever really freed from prison? Is he also not imprisoned in a distorted history even in death?