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In his quest for peace, Nelson Mandela helped gatekeep apartheid legacies in South Africa

South Africa is burning at the moment. Strife and instability in their universities while foreigners are being burnt alive. Black South Africans are at the moment a melting pot of seething anger, bitterness and desperation. They want answers. They are desperate to blame someone, something for their woes. Foreigners are an easy target to terrorize and take out their anger on.

But in reality, South Africans have only one man to blame. The late Nelson Mandela. In my opinion Mandela, in his quest for peace, helped reinforce and gate-keep apartheid legacies in South Africa. My opinion is derived from both my intellectual wealth but also a close look at Nelson Mandela before and after prison.

Before he is sent to prison we see an outspoken, vibrant and energetic young man who is prepared to dislodge apartheid at all cost. He begins his journey with peaceful citizens meetings and demonstrations. But the apartheid government does not budge and ignore all these efforts by black South Africans to engage peacefully. Then things take a new twist. Nelson begins orchestrating and organizing various bombings in a bid to put pressure on the apartheid government. These bombings consequently lead to the apprehension and incarceration of Nelson Mandela. He is sentenced to 27 years in prison.

In my view his incarceration was the beginning of the end of the only most robust effort to dislodge apartheid in South Africa, to date.


Photo credit: america.aljazeera.com

27 years later, due to international pressure, the apartheid government led by FW de Klerk pulls Mandela out of Robben Island and parades him as a symbol of peace. Nelson Mandela, in my view, is at this time a tired, old and weary man. A shadow of the gallant cadre and son of the soil who was sent to prison. He is, for the apartheid government, the right person to toss around and put pressure on to forge a delusional reconciliation and peace process. I have over the years called it the delusional South Africa peace project because it was not conducive for an aggressive reform and redress process which was needed at the time.

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What this peace project did was to keep white supremacy legacy intact.

The only thing that blacks attained was freedom of movement and an illusion of inclusion. But the truth is that none of this inclusion ever happened in reality. Now, even after Madiba’s death, his peace dream that never was has thrust South Africa into turmoil. Blacks are still disdavantaged, poor, hungry and education is not within their full and fair reach. Its expensive and the job market is characterised by unequal opportunities in favour of white people. I lived in South Africa for 5 years I am saying this from lived experience.

When Madiba came out, he should have addressed policies and institutions which had put in place by the apartheid government to disenfranchise South Africans. Chief among this was education. Primary, high school and tertiary education. Instead he was tricked and convinced into believing that South Africa needed to heal and move forward. How do a people heal from something that has not been addressed?

Robert Mugabe did the most phenomenal thing in Zimbabwe on the other hand. Soon after being elected into power, he made sure he created a robust and affordable education model. He confronted the exclusion of black Zimbabweans from education. The result is a 99 percent literacy rate and an intellectual level that has helped the country to keep lowest levels of crime and other social ills at bay.

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The baseless claims by black South Africans today that Zimbabweans and other foreigners are taking their jobs is idiotic and fallacious. Foreigners own mostly small businesses in South Africa due to their high levels of education. They are able to manage and run the these small business profitably. No one is stopping the black South Africans form doing the same. South Africans want to run around burning other people out of jealousy but in fact it is their country and no one stops them from venturing into the same endeavors that other Africans are doing in their country.

In short, South Africans, should not blame Zimbabweans or Somalians or whatever other Africans. They should blame Nelson Mandela. He proffered an illusion of a new South Africa without clearing up the old one.

Source: www.edinahmasanga.blogspot.se

*Edinah Masanga (@EdinahMasanga) is a Journalist, Speaker, Gender and Media Rights Advocate, Founder  of Women Empowerment Foundation Scribes Africa: www.wefsa.org*

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  • Always great reading views that go against popular opinion and l am a big fan of this website! But given your arguments, l feel you are being contrarian for its own sake. You maybe right. Just that you didnt show it with this article. So Madiba is the reason why there is Xenophobia in SA? That even astonishingly pre-supposes that a human being burning another must always have a rational reason to do so. But even worse is to suggest that a man who left power voluntarily 16 years ago and did nothing that can’t be reversed by successvie governments should be blamed for street fights in Soweto? Besides, there is xenophobia in several other SADC countries including Zim . Its just expressed in different forms! And make no mistake xenophobia is xenophobia. There arent any ‘better forms’ As for SA, why is it not Mbeki’s fault when he was the one who was in power for double the years Madiba was in power? Infact Mbeki was the defacto PM of sorts the final years of Madiba reign. You talk like SA history began and ended 1994-1999. You also compare two men who had vastly different periods of time in office to deal with the many colonial and governance issues bedevilling their two countries. One had 5 years and another 35 still counting. How you can realistically have expected Madiba to dismantle EVERYTHING about centuries old apartheid in under 5 yrs is unclear. It usually takes a generation to transform a country and l think you are being impatient with a 20 year old country thats barely out of its ”teenage years”.
    But to use your arguments, if Mugabe had stepped down in 1990, would you have accused him of selling out Zimbabwe for agreeing to the 10 year moratorium on land deal at Lanchaster right? How self righteous and ungrateful would that be? To also reduce independence to some ”íllusion” is to insult another country and the fallen men and women who fought and agreed to that arrangement. Noone ever said or expected independence to in itself solve all problems. Infact these are the kind of articles or thinking which led many independence leaders to cling on to power for decades because ”the job is not yet done”- No leader does everything and those who try to..well l am sure you have seen how that does to a country when its captured by 1 leader who will only leave when ”everyone is empowered”. Guess what? noone would leave power because it aint happening! The 1996 SA constitution is an envy to many and Zim borrowed generously from it as late as 2013.The constitution is what any foundational leadership bestowes onto the new country and SA delivered isnt? This is no small feat. Neither is it enough. But an illusion? Moreover, NEGOTIATED settlements like SA AND Zim are set up in such a way that change is more evolutionary than revolutionary. The 1st 5 yrs of Zim were more or less like those of SA; That you expected all ills to be solved in Madiba’s first term is not only unfair but strange and to the blame Madiba for the current xenophobic attacks is truly baffling! Really sister Edinah? You seem awestruck by RG and its your choice (describing him as phenomenal). But you dont have to do so while denigrating another country that way. Zimbabwe is not exactly innocent on the issue of xenophobia. Xenophobia is rampant accross the region in general and it takes different forms. You probably know how Zimbabweans over the years called Malawians and Mozambiquans who migrated to Zim in the 80s and 90s. Even the Malawi and Mozambique farm labourers who were caught up in the Jambanja crossfire in 2000 could say a thing or two about Zim. Funny thing is those who illtreat sometimes don’t even realise it.When they do realise they feel they have the best reasons to do so (they taking our jobs or we are addressing history). Lack of African solidarity sometimes manifesting as xenophobia is so complex and rampant that its disappointing you have looked at it in such a narrow and highly subjective even inaccurate way like this. If you check the literacy rates of Zim and SA you will be surprised they arent meaningfully different even though Zim is 14 years older! Refresh your memory with SA stats here
    http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/southafrica_statistics.html. There is a lot that is not going great in SA. Rampant inequality, joblessness,crime (esp rape) etc. That is true! But doesnt it sound familiar? Zim is hardly the phenomenal example here. Also refresh your memory with the two countries’ GDP Per Capita Income or HDI Index or Corruption Perception Index or Doing Business Indicators, social safety nets, access to loans for business etc. SA actually does better than Zim in many respects and vice versa probably! The millions of Zimbabweans running TO SA for EDUCATION and JOBS arent idiots l think.They probably see something BETTER that they have to cross the crocodile infested Limpopo to get into SA even illegally.We are begging SA for jobs, loans, electricity, maize but l am always amused at how we still have these ‘SA is shit and Zim is lekker’ type of writings. Troubling also how a lot of it is never backed up by data. Part of the challenge is that you also are conflating way too many issues in your article that to respond to you one has to be equally all over the place. You associate issues that aren’t necessarily related (xenophobia and Madiba). The debate on post-apartheid SA is crucial. So is Madiba legacy. But while we are free to have our own opinions,we are not free to have our own facts. Otherwise happy blogging!

    • I think Evan’s reply is well balanced and without hysteria. Informative old chap!

    • WOW! I really enjoyed that read. Food for thought there.

      Thank for visiting and sharing your thoughts – much appreciated. Will share this link just so people can read your response in particular.

      PS glad you like our website. We’re working hard to improve it all the time. Your suggestions are always welcome 🙂

  • Evan. I enjoyed reading your comment more than I enjoyed the article. Thanks for your objectivity

  • Both the article and Evan’s response have me thinking.. great stuff. Robust debate.

    • That’s good news re the debate. We publish this work/ideas/articles as a way of creating and initiating debates such as this.

  • This writer forgets her hero RGM was just as reconcilliatory at the start, and it took 20 years for war vets to force his hand to take back land from white Zimbabweans. IMO, Mandela’s greatest legacy was managing the transtion. He averted a certain civil war. If you remember, a little after he came out of prison, Chris Hani was assasinated and then there were retalliatory killings that looked certain to escalate.. Other SA presidents have been in power longer than he was yet the writer completely ignores this in her arguement. Baffling indeed. Maybe she expected Mandela to be some kind of superhero who can bring about change that can take generations in just 5 years?

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