I will take com­pli­ments in my life time, please

The Sunday Independent - - Leader - Win­nie. Di­a­mond Stal­in­grad, Black Vic­tor Kgo­moeswana My Lens. 8115: A Pris­oner’s Home. Through 491 Days: Pris­oner num­ber 1323/69, ■ Kgo­moeswana is the au­thor of ‘Africa is Open for Busi­ness’, a me­dia com­men­ta­tor and pub­lic speaker on African busi­ness aff

THE EVENTS of the past two weeks prompted me to con­sider tak­ing out an ad in a ma­jor na­tional news­pa­per. The ad would in­vite any­one set on praising me to do so be­fore my death.

It would also ban speeches or mes­sages about me af­ter my demise, be it on so­cial me­dia or at any me­mo­rial ser­vice or funeral. That would save me the con­vul­sions plagu­ing the de­ceased when they lis­ten to our clumsy trib­utes at their burial.

The death of our na­tional lib­er­a­tion Strug­gle icon, Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela, let loose a tide of ill-timed com­ments, in­clud­ing what should have been left un­said. We Africans, pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment goes, do not tell our own sto­ries.

De­spite my typ­i­cal re­sis­tance of any­thing neg­a­tive about Africa, it was hard to not ad­mit to this af­ter the screen­ing of the doc­u­men­tary

This tell-all film by French di­rec­tor Pas­cale Lam­che, renowned for pro­duc­ing works such as

and got me won­der­ing what it will take for us to over­come this in­abil­ity to talk about things and peo­ple while we can, or when they can still an­swer.

It was not for noth­ing that the late Madik­izela-Man­dela was known as the Mother of the Na­tion.

That ti­tle be­longs to her now, as it did for the first time in the 1980s.

It was her abil­ity to brave the sharp edge of any apartheid govern­ment knife with her bare hands for free­dom that led to her undis­puted coro­na­tion.

We all knew what she did and the cir­cum­stances in which she did it. Still, when al­le­ga­tions about her role in the death of Stom­pie Seipei were ped­dled in the me­dia, we mort­gaged our abil­ity to dis­cern fic­tion from fact.

Even when Jerry Richard­son con­ceded that he was in fact re­spon­si­ble for the death of the young­ster, we elected to let Mama Win­nie stew just a lit­tle longer in the shadow of sus­pi­cion.

She lived her post-1994 life in her cold soli­tary cell, as she had done be­fore 1990, while we drugged our­selves with daily dosages of fake news.

Ex­cept for the few books or films about her, we did not do enough dig­ging to un­cover the truth.

Alf Ku­malo, that leg­endary pho­to­jour­nal­ist who gave over five decades of his life to telling sto­ries through the lens, once told me that he was ac­cused of an ob­ses­sion with the Man­de­las.

His col­lec­tion of the Man­dela fam­ily was like noth­ing ever seen.

Ku­malo col­lab­o­rated with writer Zuk­iswa Wan­ner to pro­duce a stel­lar por­trait of Mama Win­nie in the 2010 book ti­tled

There was more about her in an­other book by Ku­malo and jour­nal­ist Tanya Far­ber,

Then there was her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,

and the movie later star­ring Jen­nifer Hud­son.

Com­pare that to the more than 50 movies and count­less books on Chicago gang­ster Al Capone.

One would imag­ine that the pe­ri­odic rev­e­la­tions re­gard­ing the life of Mama Win­nie and the dis­clo­sures of on­go­ing con­spir­a­cies to be­smirch her name would have made us all go out to find out more about the truth.

It would have been fit­ting to have had many me­dia in­ter­views with her to find out ex­actly what her real story was.

But, no; we had to wait un­til her death to have our mass me­dia screen her doc­u­men­tary, be­fore pro­fess­ing our anger at the un­fair treat­ment she en­dured.

Our fury was so seething that some were will­ing to use the oc­ca­sion to dis­credit Nel­son Man­dela and many ANC lead­ers for marginal­is­ing her un­fairly.

Trust us Africans to let one film di­vide us.

To­day, there are many Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­de­las liv­ing among us in acute pain and lone­li­ness whose sto­ries we are ig­nor­ing and we will prob­a­bly re­mem­ber them only af­ter their deaths. Look­ing away from their pain and lonely road is noth­ing short of sin­ful­ness.

This should be the last time we ever leave kind words un­said! While at it, may we also learn to let the mem­ory of Madiba rest in peace!

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