Mourning Nelson Mandela: A stolen funeral


THIS week the world is united in mourning Nelson Mandela.
It is true that he fought for the political independence of black South Africans, but he has left a lot of unfinished work behind.
South Africa cannot be counted among truly independent countries in Africa.
The economy is still in the hands of the Afrikaner bureaucrats, and last year 38 miners were killed in cold blood by the police for demonstrating for better working conditions.
They too were heroes, but the same Western countries that are using Mandela’s funeral to preach the doctrine of human rights remained silent when these miners were murdered. More than hundred world leaders and celebrities converged in South Africa to pay their last respects to a liberation icon and a hero.
It has never happened that four presidents of the USA (Obama, Bush, Clinton and Carter) and three British Prime Ministers (Blair, Brown and Cameron) would all leave their countries at the same time to attend a world event.
Mandela really meant a lot to the West, and to the world at large.
It is sad that his death has been abused by world politicians who downsized it to a political showcase to deride other African leaders.
President Obama did not waste his time to declare Mandela as the ‘last great liberator of the 20th Century’.
We know there are many liberators and heroes who fought for African independence and black emancipation who are still standing (Kenneth Kaunda, Robert Mugabe and Sam Mujoma to say the least) but who the West may not wish to acknowledge.
They suffered the same brutality as Mandela from oppressors.
We know our heroes and we should be left to define our own heroes.
Mandela was branded a terrorist by the same people who now view him as a world hero.
He was on the USA terrorist watch list till July 1 2008.
In the UK as late as the mid 1980s there were posters circulating demanding him to be hanged.
The then PM Margaret Thatcher labelled Mandela a terrorist and was against imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa.
I suppose all this is now water under the bridge.
And we should not forget Africa’s many sons and daughters who lost their lives during their quest for independence.
Some nationalists and heroes were denied the chance to live and enjoy independence.
The Patrice Lumumbas of African independence were nipped in the bud to stop the spread of black people’s independence.
Writing for The Guardian Newspaper on January 17 2011, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja (a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) highlights how Patrice Lumumba was viewed as a threat by the Americans.
In his article entitled “Patrice Lumumba: the most important assassination of the 20th Century” he writes: “Patrice Lumumba’s determination to achieve genuine independence and to have full control over Congo’s resources in order to utilise them to improve the living conditions of our people was perceived as a threat to Western interests. To fight him, the US and Belgium used all the tools and resources at their disposal, including the United Nations secretariat, under Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche, to buy the support of Lumumba’s Congolese rivals, and hired killers.”
In an interview with a French journalist on July 22 1960, Patrice Lumumba said: “The colonialists have campaigned against me throughout the country because I am a revolutionary and demand the abolition of the colonial regime, which ignored our human dignity. They look upon me as a Communist because I refused to be bribed by the imperialists.”
As a result he was viewed as a villain by the West and not a hero.
It was hypocritical of Obama to use the podium at Mandela’s funeral to preach the doctrine of democracy and human rights, peace and reconciliation when the Americans had not shaken hands with their Cuban neighbours for decades!
Perhaps they should honour the spirit and legacy of Mandela by removing the sanctions that are affecting millions of poor people in Zimbabwe as a spirit of reconciliation.
Mandela was a hero in his own way and should not be likened to, or compared with any other African leader because they fought different struggles and in different political terrains.
All frontline African states bore the burden to free South Africa and other colonised countries.
They paid dearly and suffered major financial and economic setbacks, some which are still affecting them today.
Mandela was not an island.
The presence of these nationalist icons at Mandela’s memorial was downplayed by the US president Barack Obama. Mandela was not a saint.
He was a forgiving person who forgave the whole world, yet he found no place in his heart to forgive Winnie, the woman who suffered most when he was in jail.
In addition too, many people think that Mandela could have done better to redress the imbalances created by apartheid on black South Africans.
I have been reading many posts on Mandela flying on social media.
There are some discerning voices especially from pan Africanists who are arguing that he was a hero for the whites and not for black South Africans, because he saved them (Boers) from losing their economic interests in South Africa.
Writing in the Pink News (December 6 2013), gay-rights activist Peter Thatchell also remarked that Mandela did not do enough for his people.
He says, “Under his presidency, not nearly enough was done to tackle poverty. For the most part, the black majority remained impoverished. Mandela did not significantly reform the economic system and the income inequalities of the apartheid era. Land reform was slow, piecemeal and limited. The majority of black South Africans are still shut out from economic progress.”
Many people I spoke to here in the UK, both Africans and African Caribbean, feel that Mandela’s heroism is being blown out of proportion.
Posting on his facebook page, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka (Leeds) wrote “You may not add me to these RIP Mandela communities. I know that our culture says wafa wanaka, and that everyone seems to have seen heroism in this man but let’s not assume that we all did. Sure, I admired the man, took part in plays and campaigns to get him released. Then he got out and walked all over the one person who stood by him for 27 years, who kept his name and image in the news. That, for me, was one bridge too far.”
He accuses Mandela of feigning dubious reasons for not attending the funeral of a Nationalist and Founding Father Julius Nyerere.
He wrote, “Consistent with his desire to keep his image acceptable to the West, our hero [Mandela] pleaded a scheduling conflict as his reason for not attending the funeral of Julius Nyerere, a socialist who mortgaged the success of his country on helping oppressed Africans elsewhere attain independence. Yes, wafa wanaka, so all is forgiven. But, should it?”
I would say Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela. These people are spoiling it for your legacy.


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