Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013 -

HERE is no­body like him.” Th­ese were the sim­ple words of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma re­cently as South Africa and the world braced it­self to say good­bye to Nel­son Man­dela.

“His big­gest legacy – to South Africa and to the world – was that he helped peo­ple to find a way to talk to each other,” said Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela on the same day.

“We are re­spected through­out the world for this – and the finest way to re­spect his legacy will be for us to keep on talk­ing to each other as South Africans.”

His­to­ri­ans and an­a­lysts will, for years ahead, try to as­sess what his real legacy has been.

For re­spected po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and au­thor Wil­liam Gumede, Man­dela will al­ways be the per­son who set the stan­dard of what it means to be an ex­em­plary, demo­cratic leader.

“We can hold him up as the ideal for set­ting a per­sonal ex­am­ple of demo­cratic lead­er­ship for oth­ers round the world to fol­low,” said Gumede.

“For the next 100 years, he will be recog­nised as the found­ing fa­ther who played this role.”

Key for Gumede was that Man­dela ex­er­cised his lead­er­ship in­clu­sively.

“He gov­erned in the in­ter­ests of ev­ery­one, not just for the dom­i­nant lead­er­ship. This was cru­cial in a di­verse coun­try like ours. He taught us that, even if you are the leader of a dom­i­nant group, you must gov­ern in the in­ter­ests of even the small­est mi­nor­ity, all the time… and that every­body must feel part of that de­ci­sion-mak­ing.”

A fur­ther at­tribute of Man­dela’s legacy, Gumede said, was the fact that he was a for­ward-look­ing leader.

“At all times, he pro­jected a pos­i­tive fu­ture with all of us to­gether.

“His mes­sage was that the past is hor­ren­dous but we have an in­clu­sive vi­sion for the fu­ture, a pos­i­tive mes­sage of na­tion-build­ing.”

A fur­ther legacy, said Gumede, was Man­dela’s abil­ity to per­suade op­po­nents to be part of his vi­sion.

“This, un­for­tu­nately, is miss­ing in to­day’s lead­er­ship. Such vi­sion is vi­tal in gen­er­at­ing eco­nomic growth and in get­ting all South Africans ex­cited about start­ing new na­tional projects. What Man­dela did was to make us all feel part of a great project.”

Su­san Booy­sens, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and au­thor of The ANC and the Re­gen­er­a­tion of Po­lit­i­cal Power, be­lieves one of Man­dela’s great­est lega­cies will be his as­so­ci­a­tion with an “era of hope”.

“Life for the ANC was eas­ier un­der Man­dela. It had not yet been ex­posed for so long to the cor­rup­tive power of be­ing in gov­ern­ment.

“But South Africans are no longer in that era of hope. When Man­dela left gov­ern­ment, it was seen as just a ques­tion of time be­fore th­ese things would be fixed. There is lit­tle doubt the ANC be­lieved they had the ca­pac­ity to do that, and the po­lit­i­cal will was there. Fif­teen years later it is much worse.

“But no mat­ter how dif­fer­ent it is, and no mat­ter how un­true to the Nel­son Man­dela legacy, a lit­tle of his unique jour­ney and its lessons will for­ever rub off on South Africa and even on the cur­rent ANC lead­er­ship,” she said.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and newly ap­pointed vice-chan­cel­lor of Wits Univer­sity, Pro­fes­sor Adam Habib, be­lieves Man­dela’s great­est legacy was his rec­on­cil­i­a­tion drive.

“This is de­spite it hav­ing been seen by many in the black com­mu­nity as too ac­com­mo­dat­ing of white in­ter­ests, and not suf­fi­ciently fo­cused on the trans­for­ma­tion agenda.

“The real ge­nius of the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion project – in­clud­ing tea with Betsy Ver­wo­erd – was that he bought South Africa time and, by cre­at­ing a cross-sec­toral le­git­i­macy, he al­lowed demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions to be­come rooted in so­ci­ety.

“So, years later, when the chal­lenges emerged, from eco­nomic in­equal­ity to the Se­crecy Bill and oth­ers, those in­sti­tu­tions re­mained ro­bust enough to, at least, be openly crit­i­cal. The me­dia is one ex­am­ple of this, as is the fact that po­lit­i­cal elites, for all their other faults, have been com­mit­ted to re­solve things through the rule of law.

“Take Ja­cob Zuma as an ex­am­ple – he has tried to pack the courts some­times, but he has never re­jected a court’s de­ci­sion.”

Habib con­tin­ued: “Madiba’s great­ness is also tied to the fact that he gave up po­lit­i­cal power. Most politi­cians don’t. In do­ing this, he in­her­ited a soft global power of le­git­i­macy which not many other peo­ple have. It is an irony that most politi­cians don’t want to give up po­lit­i­cal power – but, in the case of Man­dela and Ma­hatma Gandhi, they gave up power and be­came global icons.

“But we must not ro­man­ti­cise this too much. Man­dela came to power when he was 74 and re­tired when he was 79. When you are 79, you view life dif­fer­ently. I am not sure he’d have given up power had he been 49. That’s not to take away from his abil­i­ties and great­ness, but it is im­por­tant to lo­cate him in con­text.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, we must not for­get that his ad­min­is­tra­tion 18 years ago had strengths as well as weak­nesses. His ad­min­is­tra­tion made some very se­ri­ous mis­takes: the whole HIV/Aids de­ba­cle started un­der him, as the state failed to ad­dress the chal­lenge as it emerged. This is also true of eco­nomic pol­icy: The Gear pol­icy, which was adopted in 1996 and the po­lar­i­sa­tion it cre­ated hap­pened, in part, un­der Man­dela.”

Habib said South Africa would, to a cer­tain ex­tent, ro­man­ti­cise the strengths of Man­dela’s legacy, and for­get the weak­nesses.

“He will be hailed as the fa­ther of the na­tion – what Gandhi is to In­dia and what Lin­coln is to the United States.”

Habib con­tin­ued: “Given all the de­bates about his legacy, he was a great fig­ure. And there can­not be a bet­ter fig­ure than him to be our hero.

“He pre­sented the best of us and what we could be.”

In­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Dr So­madoda Fikeni said Man­dela’s death comes at a time when many peo­ple are ques­tion­ing the true div­i­dends of lib­er­a­tion and democ­racy.

“Some are ask­ing, when faced with dire eco­nomic and other hard­ships, whether the sym­bolic rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Man­dela brought about should have been ac­com­pa­nied by a con­crete im­prove­ment in so­cial and eco­nomic jus­tice.

“…They ac­knowl­edge that he helped bring about a pro­ce­dural democ­racy with good in­sti­tu­tions, but that per­haps there has been in­suf­fi­cient trans­for­ma­tion of the deep struc­tural and sys­temic legacy of the past.”

Fikeni con­tin­ued: “When Madiba goes, there are dif­fer­ent Madibas which will be pro­jected in terms of his legacy. Peo­ple in dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion will re­mem­ber dif­fer­ent Man­de­las. Some will high­light the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion as­pect and oth­ers his ear­lier role in ad­vo­cat­ing for rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

“So there is no im­me­di­ate agree­ment on what Man­dela’s legacy rep­re­sents.”

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and fu­tur­ist Daniel Silke be­lieves Man­dela’s key legacy was to pro­vide South Africans with an im­pe­tus to­wards na­tion-build­ing – “a crit­i­cal na­tional char­ac­ter­is­tic which also in­cul­cated ac­count­abil­ity and sense of be­long­ing”.

“Man­dela man­aged to reach out to his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies and win their re­spect, even though he never won their po­lit­i­cal sup­port. Mak­ing his en­e­mies feel com­fort­able, and even wanted, in the new South Africa was an ex­cep­tional as­pect of his lead­er­ship.

“His rec­on­cil­ia­tory ethos al­lowed him to tran­scend the nar­row, of­ten petty, con­fines of party pol­i­tics. While ob­vi­ously an ANC pres­i­dent, he be­came South Africa’s pres­i­dent and a re­spected pres­i­dent of all the cit­i­zens – whether you voted ANC or not – an ex­cep­tional ac­com­plish­ment.”

Silke said given his lim­ited fiveyear term, Man­dela ac­com­plished more on the deep-rooted heal­ing of the wounds as­pect of South African life, rather than on de­liv­er­ing the fun­da­men­tals of the much-vaunted “bet­ter life for all”.

“Per­haps South Africa re­ally needed a sec­ond term of Nel­son Man­dela. Five years was too short to in­cul­cate all th­ese val­ues, and pro­vide the nec­es­sary con­ti­nu­ity to a fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers. Per­haps the moral de­gen­er­a­tion within the South African body politic is par­tially due to South Africa not hav­ing enough of the ‘Man­dela’ ef­fect.”


FOR­WARD-LOOK­ING LEADER: Nel­son Man­dela is re­mem­bered by many in many ways.

IN­SUF­FI­CIENT: So­madoda Fikeni says peo­ple will re­mem­ber dif­fer­ent Man­de­las.

TOO SHORT: Daniel Silke thinks SA should have had a sec­ond term of Man­dela.

REC­ON­CILER: Adam Habib says unity was Man­dela’s great­est legacy.

IN­CLU­SIVE: Wil­liam Gumede hails Madiba’s pos­i­tive mes­sage of na­tion-build­ing.

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