Bryan Mukandi
Bryan Mukandi

Mandela: Commodity or icon?

I remember, as a poor varsity student, begging and borrowing money to visit Cape Town. A former schoolmate who had relocated to that beautiful city invited me to spend the week with him there. After some financial gymnastics, I eventually scraped enough money together to make the trip.

In Cape Town, I decided to make the most of the experience and used the bulk of my money on a tour of Robben Island. It was an important historical site and I thought it might help me make sense of a country full of contradictions. That turned out to be a big mistake.

Perhaps it has since changed. But when I did it, the Robben Island tour had very little to do with an important period in South Africa’s history and development. It was an ego massaging exercise aimed at foreign tourists. It felt like going to watch a film dedicated to the viewer, which leaves you feeling as though you are a central part of the betterment of the world. By the time it was all over I wasn’t sure if I was sick from the boat ride or from what I had witnessed.

From the beginning, tourists were repeatedly thanked for the sanctions their governments had imposed on South Africa. The tour guides kept making it seem as though the people on the boat and then the bus, and by extension their governments, were the sole reason South Africa was a free nation. After that came the commodification of Nelson Mandela.

At every turn his name was evoked. Like some magic charm or deity, he was mentioned as often, it seemed, as possible. His cell and his captivity, during that tour, stopped being symbolic of a brutal system that had finally been overcome. Instead they seemed to be turned into a theme park where, having paid a couple hundred rand, you could get your picture taken over the carcass of an imaginary dragon you had supposedly helped slay. The whole thing was perverse. All I could see was money being churned out of a place that should have been almost sacred.

In my frustration, I asked an elderly tour guide, a former inmate, if what was going on around us was what he had been imprisoned for. Very graciously, he reminded an impetuous young man that reality trumps romanticism. He told me that a commitment to unrealistic ideals was what had led to the destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy. South Africa would not go down that route he explained.

I left Robben Island angry. But I wasn’t angry at those who had built it or those who had incarcerated people I had been brought up to think of as my heroes. I was angry at the fact that those heroes were being treated like commodities. Objects almost, that could endow the buyer with a sense of the heroic too.

As I watched clips of Mandela campaigning with presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma, I was reminded of the Robben Island experience. Was this just another example of the commodification of Mandela? Did some political consultant somewhere calculate that the admiration and support enjoyed by Mandela could just be transferred onto Zuma? Was Madiba seen as a magic cure or whitewash to wipe the slate clean and get all the issues surrounding Zuma removed from view?

In terms of pure politics, it was a brilliant move. How many ANC people are going to desert the party when Mandela still supports its leadership? Without expending too much energy, Cope can be cast as a party of Mbeki supporters, or some other fringe group, which the ANC is better off not having. Zuma’s ANC can be portrayed as a party that embodies Mandela’s ideals.

But surely the likes of Zuma should have to fight for, and win, their own atonement? Otherwise isn’t Mandela in danger of going down the same path as so many heroes of old? Won’t who he really is get lost somewhere along the line and be replaced by some symbol? A symbol that, bearing little resemblance to the man himself, appeals to most consumers for the greatest profit. Worst of all, won’t lessons that should be learnt be lost in the profit-maximising practices of some commercial venture?


  • Madiba’s tears
  • Are South Africans really all capitalists at heart?
  • A commemoration of Nelson Mandela
  • Rhodes Fell
    • siyabonga ntshingila

      “But surely the likes of Zuma should have to fight for, and win, their own atonement?” -There’s valid logic there. But I disagree with the point in this context.

      Here’s the thing-Mandela requested to attend the rally. Had the ANC asked him to come the point would have some basis and legitimacy and would indeed beg discussion.As it should.

      Would it not have been disrepectful and insulting to Mandela to deny him a chance to show his support for the ANC just because JZ has to please cycnics?

      Should the old man be a closeted supporter of the organisation he gave his life for? In fact, is reducing his participation in the rally to a political stunt-based on one’s perception and no actual fact- not in itself the kind of reactionary act we scorn Malema so much for when he indulges in it?

      And lastly COPE and Mama Epainette Mbeki-do you feel the same logic applies there?

    • Mandrake

      Very insightful piece.

    • Bonginkosi


      You surprise me. How many times have you met disciples of the free market who are unwilling to acknowledge that there are flaws in the free market system? What about die-in-wool socialists and/or communists? If you seriously consider it, you will come to realize that nothing is that perfect in its purity….there is always things about it that you do not like. However, the disciples scream the one chant, ‘Socialism is the answer’ as though that is the scientific truth.

      It is the way things work nowadays. Either we do not have enough time to think through everything and be critical in our actions or we are in a rush to get to the destination we forget about the beauty of the journey.

      The point is people try to cram everything into sound bites now. It has to be a half hour tour. And in that half hour, you choose your words very carefully because that is all you have: half an hour.

      In the days of TV etc., do you think Mandela, or anybody for that matter, has time to contextualize what it is they believe in? Do you think there would have been space for him to explain that he still believes in the general principles of the organization but is a little hesitant about its present leadership? So go for the 3 sentence sound bite.

      If you can say it in one little phrase, that’s what you do. Yes we can.

      It’s all about branding and marketing etc. Nothing is of substance anymore. And we let them do it.

      There is a famous politician in SA. She is a good looking woman naturally. When, however, she thought about re-positioning her party to be a serious contender to rule the country what did she do? Did she rework the policies, reach out to a new and unfamiliar section of the population etc?!? No, none of that, you see. Instead, she went off to have her face Botoxed, lost the glasses for contact lenses, re-branded the party logo to resemble that of Obama and organized quick slogans like, ‘One nation, One future’.

      See, it is easier that way. Commodify, commodify and commodify everything. It hides the bankruptcy of your ideas!

    • Dean

      Couldn’t agree with you more. I would image that the man has earned the right to sit in the sun and enjoy the fruits of his life. Not trotted out on every occasion, that our might leaders think need a bit of “Struggle” authenticity.
      What angers me most is the same people (read All S.africans) that owe him some much debase his sacrifices and deeds.

    • Benzol

      The “commodification” of Mr Mandela has started long ago and while he was still in prison. His stint as President was part of the campaign. What happened after that, was the mere completion of the commodification process.

      Using this old man in an election campaign shows that the desperation of the ANC overrides all respect for the elderly and all respect for decorum. Indeed the “commodity” Mandela was brought in as part of a rescue plan. I hope it backfires.

    • pasile

      So it has began! Now we are likely to see the undermining and vikification of Mandela because he has not supported the liberal and media propaganda of the ANC supposedly abandoning his legacy. Madiba insisted on coming to the rally despite his frail health. He made it clear that the ANC’s leadership is a legitimate heir to his unparalleled contribution and legacy. The so called analysts who were insinuating Mandela’s abandonement of the ANC are all quite now, some desperately looking for reasons to belittle the event. This media does not reflect the views of the majority in this country. The more you talk about the ANC, the more you give us strenght to work even harder.

    • Siphiwo Siphiwo

      […]Bryan spends most of his time trying to figure out what is wrong with the world, and how to fix it. He is a doctor after all. ”

      Good, stay figuring…
      Mandela–for us– is everything…it’s up to your
      prying mind to classify whether he’s an icon, or ANC or the legend…

      Enough with cheap claptrap…Mr President bring elections please!

    • Fred

      Mandela might have lost his marbles,or maybe his childrens foundation (paternal ones that is) stand to lose out on some hefty business contracts if the ANC no longer have a strangle hold on all the big contracts in SA. I think we all maybe put this man on a pedistal that was greater than the man himself. He appointed Mbeki after all which was like watching paint dry( and Zimbabwians die).At least Zuma can dance a few steps and sing a bit.Not sure what Mbeki did except deny everything.

    • Marius Redelinghuys

      Very well said Bryan, and I agree whole-heartedly. Sad, but true.

    • Bongo

      Mukandi, I agree you sound very young. Go look up the word loyalty and come back. Zuma did not ask Madiba to appear at the rally, he asked Zuma whether he could attend the rally out of his own free will. This demonstrate Madiba as a disciplined loyal cadre of the ANC. Something you should learn very quickly!

    • KC

      I agree 100%. Yes, tata Madiba is an icon and a loyal member of the ANC; there is no doubting his support for the ANC. His love for the party does not necessarily translate to loyalty individual leaders; by dragging Madiba from retirement, frail looking as he was, just to placate their members and by extension the general public, that he still supports the ANC, must rank as one of the lowest moment in this election campaign.

      Clearly the higher-ups in the ANC were not satisfied with the letter read by his daughter at the launch of the ANC manifesto. They schemed, connived, colluded and deceptively got him to the Eastern Cape, far from the madding crowd, and manipulatively had him appear at their rally. The desperation and panic in the ANC is palpable.

    • Dave Harris

      I feel your pain when I see the “commodification” of Mandela and admire and congratulate you on the extra effort required to make the visit to Robben Island possible.

      “He told me that a commitment to unrealistic ideals was what had led to the destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy. ”
      Not quite, it was that one-party state that was dominated by a Mugabe who did not tolerate any dissension that ultimately led to its downfall. Can you believe that the Zimbabawe had a strong and stable currency and its agricultural industry once flourished?

      “…another example of the commodification of Mandela”
      Granted there are many dubious characters coming out of the woodworks to be associated with Mandela and its sometimes embarrassing to see such a spectacle, but lets be more tolerant and forgiving. Rather than looking at Mandela as a commodity, couldn’t we view him instead as a role model to aspire to. Mandela’s qualities are a source of inspiration to countless millions around the world. Thats why South Africa will always be special to the rest of the world. The apartheid struggle that South Africa went through is emblematic of the struggles we all face in our daily lives against prejudice, greed, overcoming the odds and facing our own humanity. Isn’t that a good thing?

      “Cope can be cast as a party of Mbeki supporters, or some other fringe group, which the ANC is better off not having”
      Are South Africans better of now than when Mbeki took office a decade ago? If the answer is yes then I’m afraid you are quite right. However, the facts show that South Africans are in a much worse state now than 10 years ago. The COPE party does not consist of only Mbeki supporters. It is a valiant attempt at trying to create a viable opposition to the ANCs domination that will ultimately lead to the demise of the country if left unchecked. We can see numerous examples of negligence on the part of the ANC leadership in the areas of crime, AIDS and unemployment. These decisions are not easily reversible and can ultimately lead to a country’s collapse. Having a politically vibrant country means being faithful to the constitution. Corruption is not unique to South Africa we just hear more about it now because unlike during the apartheid years, we now have a free press. Multiple political parties provides a means of keeping us in check by reducing corruption and promoting health discussions on staying true to the constitution. The Constitution is the only thing we have!

    • Bryan Mukandi

      Thank you all for commenting. I feel I must start with a disclaimer. I don’t support either COPE or the ANC. This piece is not a partisan statement. And in case it is unclear, like most people, I admire and have buckets of respect for President Nelson Mandela.

      I won’t respond to all of the comments individually, but hopefully I’ll cover most of the issues.

      To all those who affirmed this blog post, thank you. Your encouragement is appreciated.

      Siyabonga – Yes, the same thinking applies to COPE and Mama Epainette Mbeki. You are right, it is important to point out the fact that Mandela asked to address the rally and was not coerced into it. That said, I can’t shake off the feeling that there was a degree to which his image or ‘brand’ was being used in the same way we all use other commodities daily.

      Bonginkosi – I think you’re right. But I also think we need to try to fight the sound-bite culture. The one means at my disposal is showing it up whenever I see it being employed in the place of real arguments, especially if they are important arguments.

      Fred – I agree that we all put Mandela on a pedestal. But I also think he really is a great man, who is in full control of all of his faculties. If anything, I think it’s sad that instead of being allowed to enjoy his retirement, he still has to referee childish disputes.

      Bongo – you are right, I am relatively young, though I must add that I am older than some who are even more impetuous than myself – Julius Malema springs to mind. I will assume you are older and ask you a question that I would like my fathers to answer. Does loyalty mean that one cannot question things that seem wrong? Does it mean that we blindly agree with everything our leaders say or do? Surely that kind of loyalty is what destroyed Zimbabwe?

    • Peter Win


      An excellent piece.

      Mandela is a great man – no question!
      But – he has been exploited by undisciplined cadres like Malema and Siphiwo to build political clout or hide inadequacies with the cloak of propaganda.
      If Mandela is the father of the rainbow nation, then he is father to all – not just the ANC.
      And if that is the case, then it is cheapening his achievement to use him for party political propaganda.

    • Benzol

      @….”I will assume you are older and ask you a question that I would like my fathers to answer. Does loyalty mean that one cannot question things that seem wrong? Does it mean that we blindly agree with everything our leaders say or do?”

      Loyalty requires first and foremost loyalty to yourself and your principles.

      If your loyalty to your leader (or case) becomes in conflict with loyalty to yourself you have the right and obligation to change loyalties to another leader who better represent your own principles.

      Party loyalty to the ANC seems like army discipline: “follow orders and do wrong” or as my old army sergeant used to say: “don’t ask questions. Leave that to the horses, they have a bigger head than you”.

      Sincere loyalty allows for serious questioning and critique. You did ask the right questions. Hope you are able to select the right answers.

    • Alisdair Budd

      They way it was reported in the Media that I read, Mandela stated he supported the ANC, not Zuma.

      This is a subtle difference, but SAs, Black, White and Coloured, are not stupid.

      He appears to be showing his contempt for Zuma, whilst supporting the party.

      What he should be doing is asking the party to choose someone else for president.

      Someone who doesn’t make them look stupid by appearing in court on corruption charges.

    • Hugh Robinson

      Refreshing to read of one so young that he is able to distinguish between what is right and wrong. LOL

      You underestimate the value of pride. Those compliments work. My daughter who has lived in the UK for some years came away feeling that what was said was the god’s known truth.

      She forgot that those sanctions also destroyed this country inasmuch that that investment lost has never returned. Those sanctions left the country broke. If the politicians of the time were like Magabe and wanted only power they would have held out until the country was destroyed. Unlike now where the difference between those who loves their country and those that wish to retain power are Chalk and Cheese.

      Someone here wrote >>This demonstrate Madiba as a disciplined loyal cadre of the ANC. Something you should learn very quickly!

    • Luyanda

      Its no unfortunate that people enjoys living in the world of suspicions. Therefore, Bryan from high towers of Ireland, President Mandela has decided on his free will to attend the ANC rally, as an elder of the party not as a commodity as wish him to be. You cannot fool us, as we know that there is no one is neutral when discussing a particular subject, therefore, you have an objective when you raised this commodity subject.

    • Hugh Robinson

      Attempt three : Because there seems to be a problem with your server

      The Madiba we were led to believe, is supposedly a man of strong principle and morals. To base a mans worth on the former statement means that one is required to put the party before the wellbeing of the people.

      That said, does it also mean that Madiba has a Feet of clay? Can it not be said that any man who will put a political party before the people is not a man, but a FOOL who is blinded to the reality of SA?

      Should we not question the Party die hard in that category as being a danger to this beautiful country? For are they not willing to accept the status quo and the loss of integrity in the hopes of self-gain?

      Should we not question their integrity and ask why they are willing to see corruption and other shenanigans as being socially acceptable?

    • Hugh Robinson

      Dave Harris said on February 17th, 2009 at 5:34 pm >

      Sorry Dave but I really feel that you should take another look at what you have written. I would love to know where any of your statement has come into being?

      If you know you anything, it should be recent SA history where you should have learned that the current Government has more than once ridden roughshod over the Constitution.

      Consider too that the Constitution is but writing and is no real protection. For the Government can suspend the Constitution at the drop of a hat. Constitutions are for those who uphold the morality and rule of law. Something this new lot seem to have trouble with.

      As for the corruption, Press freedom had nothing to do with it. The Rudigate scandle being an example. That alone proves your statement a lie.

      If you know your history or were a part of the system in the Homeland days you would know that almost every Homeland official was coruptable.

      The very same who are positions of power today. For as it was then and as it is now, being in power or having access to something that another wanted meant you had a turn at the Pig trough.

      I strongly suggest that you stop watching DSTV and look to local programming particularly that on SABC 1 + 2.

    • brent

      Bongo – you are right, I am relatively young, though I must add that I am older than some who are even more impetuous than myself – Julius Malema springs to mind. I will assume you are older and ask you a question that I would like my fathers to answer. Does loyalty mean that one cannot question things that seem wrong? Does it mean that we blindly agree with everything our leaders say or do? Surely that kind of loyalty is what destroyed Zimbabwe?

      Bryan you ask the correct question above, is loyalty blind obedience or considered wise comment/disagreement of a loyal party member – why can’t Africa accept a ‘loyal oppersition?’ – it is key to a thriving democracy.

      May our democracy produce many many more Mandela’s


    • pasile

      Were it up to the enemies of the ANC, Madiba would have stood in the sidelines whilst his legacy was being contested and rubbished. In that way, the liberal media and the SHIKOTA brigade could continue insinuating that Mandela had distanced himself from the ANC.

      KC- you are clearly living in lala land. What part of “Mandela wanted to go to the rally”, do you seem not to comprehend?
      Fred- your baseless assertions that Mandela’s family risked loosing business opportunities had their father not endorsed the ANC is all too predictable and typical of the white people that dominate these forums, and you are actually not worth responding to.

      Bryan- please refer me to your article where you denounced or questioned SHIKOTA when they were parading Epainette Mbeki when she joined them. I’m guesing it does not exist because you thought it perfectly fine conduct, until the ANC done it. Lets drop the pretensions at being objective and neutral. Be like Setlentse and Trapido- atleast they are clear about their anti-ANC stance.

    • Mokgalaka

      Now the purpose of you writing about this whole piece is because of Madiba endorsing the ANC? This seems to have upset a lot of people and for what good reason I don’t know. Is it wrong for Madiba to still be a member of the ANC? Is it wrong for him to appear at an ANC rally? Is it wrong for him to say to the masses that he is still a member of the ANC? As much as Madiba and a lot of us might not like Zuma as a president of the ANC it doesn’t mean that we are no longer member be it card carrying or just supporters of the ANC. The Zuma time will come to and end soon and the ANC will stand and will still have the same policies that it has always stood for.

      As for Zuma history will judge him, Me as an ordinary supporter of the ANC who saw nothing wrong with the democratic way that he was elected will leave the rest to history. He will decide wether to be remembered as an ANC president and maybe the president of the country who contributed immensely to the development of the country or if he will be fired just like Mbeki and not be remember in the books of history. Because yes if he stuff things up he will get fired, that I can bet on. The ANC is not Zuma, Zuma is just a member of the ANC who will soon decent from the presidency of the party and other potential candidates will be made available.

      And in our culture, South Africa, almost all the black cultures, we believe in getting blessings from our elders before we do anything important in life, and it is a bonus if those blessing from the elder comes on their own.

    • Peter

      We were told that President Mandela wanted to attend.

      We did not hear anything from the great man himself.

    • Pitso

      Bryan I agree with your parting comments, about Zuma and his ANC having to tough it out by themselves, however I have a problem with the view that Mandela is being “used” by the ANC. I completely disagree with that, Mandela, though old, has proven that he still has an independent mind. Like when he stood against the Mbeki AIDS denialism, whi he later got a hiding at an NEC meeting from COPE’s current president, Lekota.

      He still knows what principles to stand for. If one reads the letter that he sent to the ANC in January as a declaration of his support, he asked them to stand tall and above corruption. He knows that the ANC is corruption riddled, and he opposes that just like he opposed the AIDS denialism of Mbeki and Lekota.

      His show of support is rather for the ANC and the ideals that it was formed to stand for NOT for Zuma personally, it is true that he ANC is now so corrupt and flawed (beginning from the days of Mbeki until now under Zuma), Mandela understands that there is no point for him to now humour the opposition, he has a moral obligation to speak against the corruption BUT will achieve nothing for divorcing the ANC which made him what he is today! My blog elaborates on this matter…

    • pasile

      Alisdair Budd- Mandela has never endorsed any individual but the ANC, in both the 1999 and 2004 elections. In the ANC we are rooted in the simple idea taught to us by your Mandelas and his generation that the collective is more important than the individual because our struggle was and is a collective one. He referred to Zuma by his clan name, the clearest way African people show affection towards each other. But you can continue believing your fantasies if they help you sleep better.

      Benzol- Mandela and Mbeki never had any patience for undisciplined cadres who raised their fraustrations outside of organizational structures- what is happening right now is not new.

      Hugh Robinson- the MAJORITY of South Africans seem to tell us clearly, through their VOTE, that their interests are intricably linked to those of the ANC. This is a fact that insignificant MINORITY does not seem to get.
      There are going to be 30 by-elections soon. Let’s hear what the South African public says.

    • Siphiwo Siphiwo


      No, I’ve got to disagree with you. Traps is still pretending to be an ANC supporter, while his actions are 180degrees opposite to that of a person who would be proud ANC supporter…He hasnt come out to say he’s supporting any other party.
      He doesn’t want to say that he supports DA—but we can see through his inscription.

      Pretension is the way to go on these blogs, more especially if you want to have high ratings + significant readers. Look at Pashivar (spel?), he enthusiastically mentioned that he’s a staunch DA supporter…And you saw the reaction from readers. He always gets 1 or 2 stars and not more than 10 responses on his blog.

      So, Brian himself will pretend to be objective, while leaning 120 degrees towards cope…He wants to push his ratings up. The only way to do that—as Sentletse would agree—is to write about ANC, nothing else, but ANC…Papers, on line media firms and radio stations have learnt that long time ago, more listenership or readership means ANC should be the daily bread…As long as you dig a story about ANC, not DA, no ID, not IFP anyway who cares for 5% parties, but ANC, you’ll be well-off.

      By the way, you shouldn’t forget that most Zims are still thinking that ANC led their country to ditch , conveniently forgetting that they’re the very persons that kept giving Mugabe a stepladder to climb on…they kept voting for him. It doesn’t matter whether they were only 5000 people voted for him or more, but still you can see that they wanted him back.

      Don’t stress yourself about people who pretend to be even-handed …we know them

    • ozoneblue

      Guess I have posted this link on another thread but here it is again to dispell any myths regarding Mandela’s allegiance:

    • Kit

      Pasile’s comment reminded me that there was something basic from Politics 101 that I wanted to bring up a while ago but this seems as good a place as any.

      Voters almost everywhere generally vote in the way they do (a) because they are creatures of habit and (b) because they are swayed strongly on a particular topic. There is no need for them to be in complete sync with their chosen party on every single issue.

      Therefore, logically, an ANC supporter may not find the idea of Jacob Zuma as president appealing but may still vote for the ANC because they either (a) always have and just do or (b) find their socioeconomic, pro-poor policy is more important than the choice of leader.

      A quick answer of the following questions by anyone even with a basic knowledge of American (as in USA) politics might give a clearer, less emotional, feel for this.
      Do any African Americans ever vote Republican and if so, why? And what about Hispanic Americans?
      Do any anti-abortion believers ever vote Democrat, and why?
      Do pro-choice people ever vote Republican?
      Do people ever switch sides (and if they don’t, how does the other side ever get in)?

      The truth of this is that people pick their biggest issues and their history and vote with those. If abortion is a big issue for you but the economy is a bigger issue, you might just have voted Democrat this time around. If better socioeconomic rights for minorities is a big issue for you but you run your own business and you want tax breaks more and to be left alone to your capitalist self, you might vote Republican regardless of your race.

      Maybe our obsession with the ANC shows us something that opposition parties should be taking seriously but don’t appear to be. It shows us people’s motivations but also their ability to be swayed into an illogical and irrelevant way of thinking. It is not necessary for ANC voters to believe in every notion that the ANC claims to stand for. The ANC will say it is but that’s just them trying to instil discipline into their own members. It’s not. But the opposition parties aren’t realising the immense pull of history and are doing little, if anything, to pull in the opposite direction. The ONLY way for them to pull voters from the ANC and its history is to focus on the issues and ensure that they are clear in their communications to voters. Their dumb whining at the ANC is completely and utterly useless.

      If the Democrats had just whined in the US, they’d have been left with McBush II because people’s historical, anti-abortion, conservative stance would have held. A positive, economy-focused (that being something that was and is a big issue for a lot of people) , ‘we’re all in it together’ change campaign was the play the Democrats chose, and it worked for them. And don’t give me that whine about not bring in the imperialist West and it not being the same. Humans’ motivation is pretty much the same everywhere. We want to be heard and understood, have control over our own destiny and see improvements in our lives and our family’s and community’s lives.

      There endeth the free lesson for the so-called ‘strategists’. Useless bunch.

      On the issue of Mandela being dragged out on a leash like Mbeki’s mum, I find it pretty distasteful on the surface but hey, if he wanted to go that’s his call. He might be old but I assume he makes his own decisions still.

      Nice article, Bryan – it’s always good to read something challenging without being challenged in a Diakanyo sense.

    • Lyndall Beddy

      Good Grief! You make simple things complicated.

      Mandela said he was staying neutral. Zuma visited him, and reminded him that he (Zuma) was not going down alone for the arms deal (as he has said many times before). Mandela was president during the arms deal.


      That link is irrelevant – it was before Cope broke away.


      That is what OPPOSITION parties do – OPPOSE the ruling party, until they become the ruling party.

    • KC

      @ Pasile, I get the assertion that Tata Madiba wanted to go to the rally, I just don’t buy it. The man could hardly speak, walk or stand; he could barely wave to the throngs of people congregated there; he was clearly frail and in no condition to be out there in such a whether. That is not the kind of picture one wants to see of an icon in the mold of Madiba. If there was any sense of decency at all with whoever got him there, they should have advised him against attending the rally even if he insisted (and I doubt this very much). No one doubts Madiba’s loyalty to the ANC, the party. Having him out there at the mercy of nature’s harsh elements is not only idiotic, but cruel in the extreme. The sadistic pleasure with which Zuma and his entourage embraced this little coup, points to the depravity into which the Zuma-led ANC has sunk. By the way, you are free to believe that Madiba wanted to go to the rally.

    • Bryan Mukandi

      Again, thanks to everyone who has decided to engage with this piece on this forum.

      Ladies and gentleman, I am a Zimbabwean who lives in Ireland. I agree that the idea of objectivity is debatable. That said, I assure you, I’m not part of some conspiracy to elevate COPE at the expense of Jacob Zuma and the ANC. Really.

      It came as some surprise when it came to my attention that I, and this blog post, was being discussed on an internet forum on a website run by ‘friends of Zuma’. Even more surprising was the fact that someone decided that the ANC had to be vigilant because I either represented or was a part of some sinister liberal plot.

      All I can say is that I am shocked by the degree to which some will go to resist any sort of introspection. Turning such mild criticism into evidence of a plot is symptomatic of very serious, disturbing even, underlying problems.

      For all those trying to work out my ‘motives’, I suggest you read my first blog post on Thought Leader:

    • Jorene

      Oh, Mr Mandela, you have really tarnished your good name by standing with Zuma.

    • Dave Harris

      @Hugh Robinson
      I was wondering how to reply to your very confused statements. Anyway, I sincerely hope this gives you something to chew on:
      “Consider too that the Constitution is but writing and is no real protection…”
      The Constitution is all you have to govern a democracy. There is NOTHING else. Even though the UK, that does not have a single document , it has an unwritten de-facto constitution which consists of statutes, treaties etc. When anyone serves their government they promise to uphold the constitution. Judges interpret the constitution to ensure laws are enforced accordingly to keep the government powers in check. The worlds great democracies are built on a constitution. One of the first tasks when SA was liberated was to draft a constitution.

      “As for the corruption, Press freedom had nothing to do with it.”
      Freedom of the press has everything to do with exposing corruption. During the apartheid years, there was no freedom of the press, so international journalists and activists had to risk life and limb to give the world a peek into the naked oppression of the SA apartheid regime. The corruption you saw was just the tip of the iceberg because in reality that government was corrupt to the core! Today thankfully, we have a free press in SA, where we all have a chance to speak freely and expose corruption with government without being killed or jailed.

    • the answer is simple

      either Mandela is there because he sees no problem with Zuma’s umpteen fraud charges, leadership on Aids, and backing of Malema… or he is being forced to be there by the ANC.

      Any way you look at it, the public image and the man must be 2 different things. Mandela is definitely a commodity, you need look no further than those 466664 concerts to see that.

    • Twanji Kalula

      I am glad you wrote this piece – very insightful.
      This argument is difficult to make, because people immediately think you are trying to dispute Mandela’s positive influence or legacy. But I agree with a lot of your points – thanks for putting them out there so concisely. For me it’s not necessarily a political argument, but a commercial fact. Madiba Fever is everywhere.

    • Kit

      Lyndall, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough for you. That is exactly why they will simply remain opposition. There has to be a massive tipping point before just ‘opposition’ gets a party into government. Obama isn’t there simply because he provided opposition. He immersed himself into a positive discussion on what the American people wanted (as opposed to what they didn’t want).

      All I’m saying, quite simply, is that if opposition parties wish to become more than the hypothetical yapping lapdog or whatever Leon was described as, they need to attune themselves positively to the main aspirations of their potential voters. If they want to sit for 20 years and wait for a new tipping point they’re welcome but they mustn’t complain that no one gave them a foot in the door.

      If you wish to oversimplify things even further that’s your perogative, but if the political strategists oversimplify matters like that, it’s no wonder that no opposition party really gets off the ground. What would be the point of voting for someone whose only claims are that the existing ruling party are crap?

      That’s probably why the DA’s ‘Fight Back’ campaign only really worked to draw in your old-style then-homeless Nat supporters. They wanted the old back; that was their main interest.

      Or perhaps you think we’ve reached that political and social tipping point already? The majority of this country says not. Ahead of your time or looking back?

    • Rod MacKenzie

      – Benzol , “Using this old man in an election campaign shows that the desperation of the ANC overrides all respect for the elderly and all respect for decorum.” Agreed one hundred per cent. Why does this “old man” allow it???
      Bryan – great piece, needed to be said, especailly by a black man from Zimbabwe now in Ireland, no disrespect intended. Thank you.

    • Lyndall Beddy

      Dave Harris

      You have it a bit wrong. It was our own journalists, like Helen Zille who broke the Steve Biko story, who leaked the news to the international press.

      And the Nats were racist, but corruption was not tolerated if uncovered (usually by the press). The drama of the Citizen being funded by the Nats dislodged a presidential candidate! It would be small beer today!

    • Lyndall Beddy


      What opposition party in what democracy did NOT “fight back” and win power by criticising the ruling party?

      Obama is a typical example – the main criticism was of Bush and the Iraq war, and then, at the end, they got an extra boost with the economic meltdown -caused by Bush’s policies!

    • Dave Harris

      @Lyndall Beddy

      But the simple fact is that there was no freedom of the press during apartheid like we enjoy today in SA. To expose corruption, you had to be a connected (if they let you in) white journalist to be able to pierce the veil of secrecy under which the corrupt, racist government operated. Remember the morally corrupt apartheid regime had the simple aim of extracting as much as they could from non-whites whom they regarded as sub-human. In a weird way I suppose you could say that their Mafia-like tactics had some code of honor among thieves. They did not dare rat on each other.

      If you remember, corruption only started to surface in the final stages of apartheids collapse where they began to sell each other out. The Nats tried hard to project an appearance of normalcy by promoting a puritanical lifestyle and going to church with their families every Sunday. If you didn’t see corruption does not mean it wasn’t there, it just means that is was covered up. Similar to some middle eastern countries where you would swear there was no stealing, rape or murder simply because these crimes are simply not reported. Thank God we have the main ingredient for a workable democracy in South Africa – freedom of the press!