Sometimes I think there is only one thing that all politicians in South Africa agree on: the semi-divinity of Nelson Mandela. He and possibly Desmond Tutu (who headed up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) are perhaps the only ANC political figure whose records are not plagued by rumours of corruption, incompetence or ignorance.
I do not believe Mandela is a saint. Mandela headed up the ANC for five years after our first free and fair elections and he was the symbol of peace that kept blood from being spilt. Yet the party under him has never experienced a moment without accusations of corruption. I sometimes wonder if he could have done more to make the ANC the political party that South Africa deserves.
Now he is an old, ailing man and it is too late. Rather, his legacy is being abused. Firstly, by his own party who can pretty much count on the people’s votes as long as they are Mandela’s party and then do whatever they like. Secondly, it seems by his own family, who appear to be making a lot of money from his legacy (that said, much of this money may well be quite legal, if not necessarily tastefully acquired). Many more, for good or for ill, invoke the spirit of Mandela. He is a sort of deity: his blessing whether real or implied can make an endeavour succeed.
The SABC (a public broadcaster, i.e. politically influenced) released footage of Mandela after he had been in hospital for some time. In what seems like an almost unbelievable feat of cognitive dissonance, Jacob Zuma and others proclaim Mandela’s health while Mandela himself seems apathetic and, frankly, nearing death. I have no idea what the ANC was trying to achieve, but it seems to me they only managed to enforce the idea that Mandela and his legacy are nothing more but pawns for their games.
Mandela was and is, I believe, loyal to the ANC. He would not turn his back on his party. But his party has abused his loyalty. And they will continue to do so after he is gone. Mandela’s legacy will live on when he dies, in fact, it is likely to become even stronger. And with death he will truly seem Saint-like. Mandela’s legacy is for everyone. Like Ghandi his words and actions transcend time and circumstance and politics. It is a powerful thing.
I wish the power of this legacy may be free from political abuse, but until the ANC is dissolved, I fear this will never truly be the case.