Man­dela’s dif­fi­cult vi­sion is ours to ful­fil

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

Tcep­tion. HE greater the dis­tance we travel from the heady days of ANC leader Nel­son Man­dela emerg­ing from prison to as­sume a de­ci­sive role in re­fash­ion­ing our coun­try, it seems the harder it is for many to re­gain the sense of opti- mism of the Man­dela years. Man­dela has suf­fered from two ex­tremes of per- On one hand, he has been li­onised out of shape, chiefly out of well-mean­ing sen­ti­men­tal­ity, but one that makes it harder for many peo­ple to see him as an al­to­gether hu­man fig­ure – with his foibles and flaws – or as the prag­matic and mostly wise polit- ician and party leader he un­doubt­edly was. By the time of his re­lease, the mys­tique was such that, as his bi­og­ra­pher An­thony Samp­son wrote, at­tempt­ing “to por­tray the Nel­son Man­dela be­hind the icon… is rather like try­ing to make out some- one’s shape from the wrong side of the arc-lights”. The glare of fame and mythol­ogy, he im­plied, could ob­scure the real man. There are also those who, by em­pha­sis­ing the role played by this in­dis­putably great leader, would over­look the ex­tent to which Man­dela was part of a col­lec­tive ANC lead­er­ship. On the other hand, Man­dela has also been the ob­ject of harsh re­vi­sion­ism by some who feel that when he sanc­ti­fied the 1994 set­tle­ment, a sum of hard-fought com­pro­mises by in­ter­ests whose ri- valry had been bloody, he sold out a rev­o­lu­tion in- tended to cut white supremacy down to size. But at a time when so many South Africans seem con­tent to opt for parochial havens – of race, of cul- ture or ge­og­ra­phy – to de­fine their sense of iden­tity, of be­ing “at home”, it is worth remembering it was this very parochial­ism Man­dela de­fied in as­sert­ing the value of a com­mon South African­hood. Yet he never claimed it had been achieved; the im­plicit chal­lenge of his dif­fi­cult life re­mains ours to shoul­der.

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