Thoughts on Mandela, the man and the myth of the Rainbow Nation

The statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Squ...

The statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square, London. Sculptor: Ian Walters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I lived in South Africa as an English ‘alien’, which is how we who weren’t born in that country termed. I was a child during most of Mandela’s pursuits and was present when my parents and their friends, all white people of course, talked about the events and I was curious. I asked questions.

It is true that that black African, Coloureds and Asians were kept down by the white regime. I saw it with my own eyes. As in most countries in Africa, peace among the people no matter what colour was wrought often through threat or deprivation, but the same is true in many countries in the world including the UK and the US.

Black people were not allowed to live in white areas. In fact none of the black Africans in the very south of Africa where I lived actually existed any more. The original tribe, called the Khoikhoi were extinct by that time. Only the Bushmen exist in small numbers and of course the Zulu who were much more numerous in the Transkei. Africans needed for work were transported in from the Transkei and neighbouring African countries. NONE of them were indigenous to the region. They were only indigenous to the continent.

They had to have permits to work for the white people and government, they were kept in certain areas and although many outside South Africa believed they were not offered education, in fact, this isn’t the case. Their children were given education, but only in the most basic sense. Many Africans, who are tribal by nature didn’t trust the white man’s form of education, it meant nothing to them.

As a child I saw immediately the basis for the unrest. Seats in public parks, on buses and trains were segregated, to my childish fascination, and labelled Blankes and Net Nie Blankes, i.e. whites and non whites, as were schools, public entertainment places and many shops. Although people of colour were allowed in most stores, it was frowned upon except in certain stores like OK Bazaars. This was something I did not understand, it wasn’t what I was used to. In England, although there was prejudice in the 60s, people of any colour were allowed anywhere.

My mother used to say, hush, these are the rules of the country we are living in and we must respect them while we are here. She never said whether she agreed or disagreed, even though she knew I was puzzled because I was discouraged to play with the son of one of the workers who was the same age as me. I didn’t grow up blindly accepting as my sister did, I thought a lot of it was unfair even at a very young age. “They’re just people, like us.” were my thoughts on the matter, although I rarely said them out loud, I was a child witnessing events that would reach a cataclysmic culmination.

Was Mandela a terrorist? It’s a word we bandy around very freely these days. If we see the Africans as people held to the yoke of a cruel Master and who fight in secret to be free and allowed no rights, then Mandela was a freedom fighter who did all he could to free his people, but make no mistake, Mandela may have genuinely visualised his Rainbow Nation, but unfortunately, those around him, like Jacob Zuma and the people of the ANC did not share his vision of a multicultural and multiracial society. And what’s more I think he knew that.

It was Francis de Klerk and Mandela who both realised that South Africa was heading into civil war who hammered out the basis of the new South Africa where everyone is equal and accepted and it was a good idea. De Klerk rarely gets any approbation for the courage it must have taken for him to go to Mandela cap in hand to plead for balance and peace in a South Africa heading towards being a killing ground.

The importance of this man is not so much what he did to get this freedom for his people, but what he didn’t do after he came into power. By then he was surrounded by very militant people, of whom the most militant was his ex wife, Winnie, who was a difficult woman with violent tendencies. Mandela knew that his name attached to her was being dragged through the mud, but you must ask yourselves just how many of the people around Mandela when he held office now absolutely hate whites with a passion. I don’t think Mandela did, I think he realised that the country needed people of all colours and education to retain the infrastructure until the black community could do it for themselves and they also needed contact with the white nations of the world, as well as those in Africa.

Unfortunately, the black people of South Africa spite of affirmative action in every walk of life; where in jobs the choice must be in this order: Black (whether they are educated or trained or not), Indian, Coloured and then White at the bottom of the choice pile  – are still in dire straits. There are still many black South Africans who adhere to the old ways of their tribal roots. They were promised many things… a vote which is something that is now strained because of the gangs from the ANC going round who threaten them with ‘vote for us or we know where you live’. They often offer food to poor voters. Food and a tee shirt if you vote for us.

Yes they have a vote and the appearance of democracy, but they are no better off than they were before. Where is the housing that was promised to them? Why are they all still living in shanty towns siphoning their electric from the main power lines, no toilets, no running water? It seems to me that if Mandela and his ANC were going to make lives a little better for their people, it’s been a helluva long time coming and still hasn’t got here. When visitors and tourists arrive in Cape Town International airport, they are treated along the motorway into the city by Crossroads, the tent city, which was there twenty years ago and is still there and still populated by people living in abject poverty. If the lot of the black South African is better now, why are they still there?

Oh it will take time people outside South Africa say, how much time? You can put houses up in six months, possibly less, they have had twenty years. Oh people choose to live there…. no… positively no. Nobody CHOOSES to live in squalor.

Oh it’s the white people’s fault, they’re prone to say, but it’s twenty years further down the line and the white South Africans are no longer in power. Most of them that were in power aren’t even in the country any more, or they are dead. The infrastructure of the country is dying, tourists don’t see that part. They stay in plush hotels and eat in good restaurants not even considering that the person who makes their bed and cleans their room may go back to a corrugated one room shack with a candle for a light. They go to romantic shebeens in townships and think they are experiencing the black South African in his true place. But the townships have no running water and are just ruins, whole big families living in one room, children in danger of being attacked and raped in their own home because many black African men believe that raping a virgin will take away or stop them from getting AIDS.

What kind of life is that for them, twenty years on in this Rainbow Nation? Why are they not better off, living in better conditions? You can only blame the white regime of apartheid for so much. They now have their freedom, the vote and democracy, so why is their lot still so bad?

Mandela at the end of the day was just a man;  a human being who was as flawed as any human being was and he himself freely admitted it in his book. Yes he committed what were termed as terrorist acts in the days before his incarceration on Robben Island, and he was responsible for ordering many deaths, from all areas of the South African population and for that he must pay the price and carry the guilt.

He also had to sit there after retiring from public life and watch, possibly in despair, while the ANC and their lackey in charge slowly destroyed and destroy the country and I can’t help feeling that the man must have wanted his time to end because what South Africa is now, was not his dream. Zuma and the people around him are determined in sending the country to hell and any white people should now plan to leave because the ANC party and government encourage the other black South Africans to believe that everything is the white man’s fault, even though it’s the ANC who are sending South Africa into bankruptcy, something which I think Mandela would have despaired over.

They have stated openly that they want the white people gone. They would never have done anything overtly about getting rid of the whites while Mandela was alive, he was too much of an icon, terrorist or freedom fighter, whichever you choose to believe he was, in the eyes of the world outside South Africa, but now, well let’s wait and see.

The country has become utterly corrupt under ANC rule. Government ministers enrich themselves more or less openly. After all, Zuma’s costly palace at Nkandla (millions of Rands while his people live in shanty towns)  tells us how the President behaves. Civil servants, teachers and the police are all massively corrupt. Community riots against poor service delivery occur once every two days. Mandela may join the ANC up in heaven — but the party down below seems hell-bent on destruction and woe betide any whites, coloured, asians, orientals or anyone not black who get in their way.


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