Thursday, June 2, 2011

From Mandela, Mbeki to Zuma: Did South Africa need the Invictus?

A child looks on as the mother cast her vote in last months election.  Courtesy;
The just concluded municipal voting in South Africa where the ruling Africa Congress Party, ANC won with 62% has showed the government’s underbelly with race relations 17 years after the end of apartheid rule.

Democratic Alliance, DA formed by liberal whites and led by journalist Hellen Zille which 24% was quoted as saying “no party own any voter permanently”
The electorates disgruntled by failure of ANC government to provide running water, housing and sanitation like having open toilets saga, caused only slightly half of the registered voters to turn out at the ballot.
Adding to the poor mood of the electorates are the emerging young black elites using their ties to the ANC to acquire wealth.  The most recent being Khulubuse Zuma,  Jacob’s Zuma’s nephew and Zondwa Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela who are directors of Aurora Empowerment a mining company involved in a scandal.
Without mining experience, the two runned down a mining company leading to loss of 5,300 jobs affecting about 42,000 people and owing workers about R 12 million, and polluting wetlands, according to South Africa’s Times Online and  BBC.
This soft underbelly of race and economy as brought fore by last month’s election begs a question if South Africa needed the Invictus.
Invictus (from Latin meaning unconquerable) is poem recited by Nelson Mandela to fellow inmates at Robben Island. Originally written by English Victorian poet William Ernest Henley, who had his legs amputated due to bone TB shows resilience and forgiveness.
Invictus; The Movie
The title was adopted by Clint Eastwood in the movie capturing how Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) used the 1995 rugby world cup (which SA won) in a game viewed by blacks as an Afrikaner heritage to bring reconciliation in the country torned by apartheid.  

The poem’s famous lines: It matters not how strait the gate,/ How charged with punishments the scroll,/I am the master of my fate:/I am the captain of my soul shows the spirit of forgiveness modeled by Mandela.

The Invictus caused the ‘Madiba effect’ on spectators not only in rugby but also cricket, football and other sports as in case of unsuccessful attempt for Mandela to officially open the last FIFA world cup. The effect shored Mandela’s support with blacks and respect from whites.

This approach was left by Thabo Mbeki, his successor. A studious and introvert reader with shrewd intellect favored transformation of SA to reconciliation.

Mbeki foresaw and feared what he called ‘mounting rage’ of millions of disillusioned blacks according to author Martin Meredith in State of Africa: A history of fifty years of independence.

“If you want reconciliation between black and white. You need to transform the society.” Mbeki is quoted by Meredith. “If we have an economy that is geared to benefit the whites and disadvantage the black majority, and you don’t address that, you will not have reconciliation”  

Although the remark could be pegged on Mbeki’s communism upbringing it offers a glimpse at deal and ballot/blood way African countries, with SA being sever, gained independence.

It involved colonialist backing from an avalanche of black African majority rule opting for a deal to give the people the flag and the parliament but keeping the banks, businesses, land and other key resources.

The effect has been most locals locked out in means of wealth with the colonialist glass ceiling.

Mandela’s release and 1994 election win brought optimism to blacks but under Mbeki the high economic growth, vigorous civil society, assertive press and independent judiciary could not outpace unemployment, safe housing, security and sanitation to blacks.

This created a ‘mounting rage’ that saw the xenophobic attack on foreigners by SA blacks locked out of the system and their fear of stolen opportunities from other blacks.

Mbeki, an intellect locked from this reality and seen by electorates to be cosy with the elites saw Jacob Zuma enter the political scene.

His gaffes, simplicity, humble demeanor and ‘Africaness’ (like polygamy) though irks black elites, whites and the world stuck a cod with this locked out unemployed and poor blacks.

The just concluded poll with only slightly over a half of registered voters caring to turn out shows plainly that Zuma’s ‘invictus’ has failed to yield fruits.

Published on The People Monday, 6th June 2011

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