Madiba's legacy and Mandela Day: A reflection by his grandson, iNkosi Zwelivelile Mandela (MP)
18 July 2019
I am often asked about my grandfather, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela's legacy and the celebration of Mandela Day. Whilst I think such mass outpouring of altruism and philanthropic acts are meritorious in themselves, they are in fact the antithesis of what our global icon stood for. Don't get me wrong I am not rubbishing random acts of kindness, I am saying it is not enough.
If we truly value the man as a hero and a giant amongst men, we should make an effort to understand the milieu in which he was born and what gave rise to the emergence of a generation of men and women in our liberation movement who moulded and shaped the Madiba we know. We would be well served to understand the ideological basis of his beliefs and the path that it shaped for him to traverse.
If we loved uTatomkhulu and what he stood for we would go to extraordinary lengths to emulate his strict personal and organizational discipline and demonstrate an unwavering loyalty and commitment to his worldview: his passion for human rights, international solidarity with the oppressed masses of the world and working towards a more just and balanced world order.
Yes, the thought of self-sacrifice and a lifelong commitment to activism and making the world a better place is infinitesimally more difficult a path to traverse. Nkosi Dalibhunga was groomed in the cauldron of struggle, often living at great risk to his life and wellbeing. He sacrificed a potentially lucrative legal practice and went in pursuit of freedom, liberation and peace.
Yes, in the course of his life he did many acts of random kindness out of the goodness of his heart. He will be remembered for that but he will always be memorialized for the great freedom fighter that he was; for bringing to an end the system of apartheid, for ushering in a new democracy.
President Mandela was deeply conscious that his long walk to freedom did not end with the dawn of democracy and "that there were many more hills to climb." Madiba knew that poverty and inequality were systemic. However, he was equally convinced that those problems were man-made and can be solved through human intervention. He knew that poverty is so deep-rooted that it may take generations to right the wrongs of centuries of colonialism and decades apartheid. Yet, that did not stop him from believing that poverty can be beaten. His legacy is that he put South Africa on the right course; a policy trajectory that recognizes the nature and complexity of poverty.
His response to the pervasive and endemic poverty was firstly to recognize the need for a policy review rooted in uprooting the causes of poverty and inequality. Secondly, he championed transformation of the South African economy and changing the ownership patterns through broader participation by the majority of citizens. Thirdly, he ensured that the social safety nets required in the transition to a new society and a new economy were in place including free housing, water, sanitation, electricity as well feeding school children and an elaborate system of social grants not perfect but a safety net nevertheless.
Madiba realized that unless there was a genuine national reconciliation embraced in the social, political and economic life of the nation, the nation building and social cohesion that we sought will forever remain evasive and beyond reach.
On this Mandela Day our call to fellow South African’s is to recommit to the true essence and meaning of reconciliation that Madiba regarded as the golden standard of building a new future for this beautiful land and it is people. It is always considered impossible until it's done.
My call to the young people of the world and the not so young is to rise to a higher purpose. Mandela Day must be a moment to reflect and ask what is the state of our world and where am I in relation to that. How does what I do today for this 67 minutes or however long you choose to serve contribute to ending human suffering in the world, to bringing about a more just world order or to advance the causes that Nkosi Dalibhunga championed the freedom of the Palestinians, the right to self-determination of Western Sahara and Kashmir; an Africa, united, prosperous and at peace with itself.
Today, there are those who rubbish Nelson Mandela's legacy and make spurious allegations of him being a sell-out and other baseless drivel. History exonerates him through its eternal challenge: show what you have done with what has been given to you.
This Mandela Day let us rise to the occasion and celebrate our hero through those things that made him great; an unflinching belief in the propensity of all humans to do good, an unwavering determination to stand for justice, an unshakable commitment to end human suffering regardless of where in the world it may be; striving for a united and prosperous Africa and a better world.