CityPress - - Front Page - MONDLI MAKHANYA

At about this time ev­ery year, we em­bark on an orgy of cel­e­brat­ing the life of Nel­son Man­dela.

Reams of tributes are writ­ten about him. Politi­cians, peasants and ty­coons rem­i­nisce about their years or 10 min­utes spent in the pres­ence of the great man. We in the media dig up oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans and non­a­ge­nar­i­ans to re­call mem­o­ries of him.

Kugels ditch their red-soled high heels and don over­alls as they go off to paint schools.

Even the most squea­mish snobs head for or­phan­ages, where they wipe snot off the faces of ba­bies. Some crazy crea­tures de­cide to tor­ture them­selves by climb­ing moun­tains and tak­ing self­ies 6 000km above sea level.

Man­dela’s quotes are re­gur­gi­tated like verses from the holy books. But what has been dis­ap­point­ing is that one of his most fa­mous quotes never makes it on to the news pages.

It was a state­ment he is­sued in De­cem­ber 1995 af­ter the great, mighty and glo­ri­ous Or­lando Pi­rates won the African Cham­pi­ons League – the only south­ern African team to have won the tour­na­ment, which has been dom­i­nated by teams from the north and the west.

Man­dela’s state­ment read: “I am ab­so­lutely de­lighted by the suc­cess of Or­lando Pi­rates football club in the African Cham­pi­ons Cup com­pe­ti­tion ... Or­lando Pi­rates has given South African football the in­cen­tive and con­fi­dence we need as we ap­proach the African Na­tions Cup tour­na­ment in Jan­uary 1996.

“They have done what ev­ery pa­triot is ex­pected to do on be­half of his coun­try and his peo­ple. May they go from strength to strength.”

As Man­dela so prophet­i­cally pre­dicted, the con­fi­dence of the team that went into the Africa Cup of Na­tions a month later was greatly boosted by Pi­rates’ tri­umph. Mem­bers of the Pi­rates side who had won the Cham­pi­ons League formed the nu­cleus of the vic­to­ri­ous Bafana Bafana squad that con­quered Africa that year.

In in­spir­ing Bafana Bafana to that vic­tory, Or­lando Pi­rates had done, as Man­dela had so aptly put it, “what ev­ery pa­triot is ex­pected to do”.

In keep­ing with that spirit, pa­tri­ots have stepped up to the plate by turn­ing much of July into a fes­ti­val of giv­ing.

By Mon­day, how­ever, the pa­tri­o­tism and spirit of giv­ing had evap­o­rated like an Eastern Cape gov­ern­ment bud­get. All the lovely Madiba Day plat­i­tudes had dried up. We wound up our win­dows when the blind beg­gars ap­proached us at traf­fic lights with their empty cans, shouted an­grily at en­thu­si­as­tic win­dow wash­ers and waved the car guards away when they tried to im­part their su­pe­rior K53 ex­per­tise.

Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives con­tin­ued to ex­ploit their work­ers and politi­cians went back to their ly­ing ways. Rob­bers went back to rob­bing and the ladies of the night re­turned to their lu­cra­tive pave­ments.

In a way, Man­dela Day runs the risk of turn­ing into one of those sym­bolic public hol­i­days, like Youth Day and Women’s Day, which have been gut­ted of mean­ing.

On both these days, bored peo­ple trek to venues where they lis­ten to politi­cians giv­ing dry speeches full of prom­ises and empty rhetoric.

For their pain, they are re­warded with poly­styrene con­tain­ers with a piece of wors and a bread roll, ac­com­pa­nied by a poly­styrene cup filled with weak Oros juice. Af­ter the ex­er­cise, ev­ery­body – speak­ers and lis­ten­ers – goes home and for­gets about it all un­til the next year.

If we are to stop Man­dela Day from be­com­ing a con­science-salv­ing tick box, it needs to be­come a big­ger idea. It needs to be about us search­ing for the idea of the per­fect South Africa – an elu­sive con­cept, but one worth pur­su­ing.

The day has to be about the kind of South Africa that we all say he fought for. It can­not be pos­si­ble that just a day af­ter July 18 we im­me­di­ately for­get about the poor and marginalised peo­ple we were so con­cerned about 24 hours ear­lier. It can­not be that busi­nesses re­turn to their ter­ri­ble prac­tices just af­ter giv­ing their staff some time off to do good deeds.

Or that Nathi Nh­leko, Cedric Frolick, Mathole Mot­shekga and Doris Dlakude con­tinue to sell South Africans that dirty lie about se­cu­rity fea­tures at Nkandla just days af­ter promis­ing to em­u­late Man­dela’s prin­ci­pled ways.

The mantra of mak­ing ev­ery day a Man­dela Day needs to be in­ter­nalised and given prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion in the 11 months that we are not com­mem­o­rat­ing Man­dela.

This prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion has to be in the form of good deeds and gen­eral be­hav­iour.

The daily ques­tions we should be ask­ing are: How do we fight poverty ev­ery day in our per­sonal spa­ces? What do we do to elim­i­nate racism and other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion in our work­places and com­mu­ni­ties?

Do we do enough to fight cor­rup­tion wher­ever we see it, or is the an­ticor­rup­tion mes­sage just a slo­gan? Does hon­esty and in­tegrity de­fine our daily do­ings for 365 days?

Do we, in our daily work, as the great and glo­ri­ous Or­lando Pi­rates football club did in De­cem­ber 1995, do “what ev­ery pa­triot is ex­pected to do for his coun­try and his peo­ple”?

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