I was in Kamaqhekeza when we heard that Madiba died. In a way it feels like he has been dead for a while. Not just due to his prolonged sickness (think of his timid body when they drove him out to the World Cup Final or got stuck in the cold of Midrand with a broken ambulance) but also due to his failing legacy. Now, everyone is respectful and kind but in the preceding months what I heard on the ground was ‘Mandela was too soft’, ‘he did not take enough from the whites’ and ‘nothing has changed’. Add to that our democratically elected president singing Mshiniwam and young Julius’ divisive EFF and you might understand that Mandela has been dead for a while. That is why I always found the whites with their ridiculous story of ‘night of the long knives’ so stupid, the story that blacks will start killing whites once Mandela dies. How stupid: Siener van Rensburg and everyone that believes his crap. Add to the stupid category all the fundamental Christians who hate Madiba for ‘taking attention away from Jesus’ and the conservative whites that prefer speaking of Madiba as the young ‘terrorist’ that bombed innocent people.
So all the stupids aside, I can’t help to draw parallels between Mandela and Jesus. Firstly, I draw the comparison because both of them embodied suffering, love, sacrifice, forgiveness and inclusiveness. Secondly, because as with Jesus, people love to ‘praise’ Mandela and talk about him, but few seem willing to imitate their lifestyles and ethics. A hero can inspire or a hero can be an excuse to do less.
Back to Kamaqhekeza. After training football with these very poor and rural kids and mothers, we stood in a circle and my friend Doc asked everyone what they remember of Madiba, what did Mandela mean to them. The answers shocked me. Rich people, like you and I think of Mandela’s perseverance, inclusivity, forgiveness, nation building, love, dignity. The poor gave answers much closer to home. This was literaly the complete list of answers: “He gave us RDP houses and took us out of the shacks”, “he gave us free schools”, “he gave us free pension and grant every month”, “he gave us voting”, he gave us good jobs”. Some of these might be disputed, but the main theme is that Mandela is simply seen as a liberator, a friend of the poor black person. A friend because he gave stuff. The fact that the list contains things given freely, speaks of the entitlement, which is not totally unmerited considering pre-94 society.
So as more than 70 world leaders fly in to Joburg for the funeral, I think of the poor youths and mammas. I asked them, how do you want to celebrate Mandela’s life and death?” they replied: “we don’t care we just want to play football and enjoy ourselves because those things are far away from us”. The World, our country, ‘care’ for Madiba, but we don’t care for the children and people Madiba cared for. Sure there is a time to honour and mourn, but that should be part of doing. I’m sure Mandela would gladly take the attention and expense of travel and banners and direct that to poor youths without homes and kids without attention.
For the mourners: I believe if you didn’t honour Madiba through a life of reconciliation when he was still alive, you should now stop mourning and go back to making money while complaining about the country.
For those trying: keep trying. It is a long walk to freedom.
For the masses: Don’t be sad, we have nice leaders like Jacob and Julius to continue Mandela’s legacy.
Viva ANC. Obviously we have to keep voting ANC to show respect and say thanks to Tata.
So it is a doubly sad good bye from me: