Mandela Rhodes Scholars
Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Don’t be another Mandela

By Kelebone Lekunya

I think we have to acknowledge the big role that Nelson Mandela played for the “liberation” of the blacks and whites in South Africa. Nevertheless, I don’t think we should be obsessed with him to the extent of thinking of everything as being Mandela. The man played his part and left us to play ours. If each of us would play in his/her position, we would be able to connect each one of the dots and make a bigger whole. The world would be a very wonderful place to live in. We don’t need other Mandelas, but we do need the real each of us to occupy his/her position and show us his/her mission. Being occupied by the memory of Mandela and feeling like being him will not change anything. It will make matters worse.

The world we live in needs people who know what they have been “sent” here to do. Mandela was one of those who had identified his calling. He did exactly what he was bound to do. If peace and reconciliation was his to complete, economic freedom in our lifetime is ours. We don’t have to blame him for the wrongs he left in governance to pursue reconciliation. I am one of the people who often blame Mandela for the stupidity of the South African regime that authorised the September 1998 Lesotho invasion which left many Basotho fatherless. I am one of those that blame him for the big gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa. I am one of the people who believe Mandela should have addressed the emotional land reform question during his term in office. But he wasn’t preoccupied with those things.

His was to see South Africa as a unitary state with all the races living in harmony. That was his mission. And I believe he accomplished it.

What then now that Rolihlahla is gone? Is South Africa obliged to produce another Madiba to cure it of its social and economic ills? God forbid.

How can the future of 52 million people be bestowed upon one man? Everyone in society should take his place and do what he/she does best. Let every man and woman play their role in building the kind of future they would be proud of. Let them take Madiba as an example of selfless service to their fellow man. He endured 27 years of prison because he had an ideal he was prepared to die for. Do we the present generation have that kind of an ideal? The one we might even dare to die for? I doubt that.

We are the kind of society that believes someone somewhere will come to our rescue. What we know is to live lives full of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Will these substances uplift us from the present dilemma we find ourselves in? Not at all. We need our sober selves to pull ourselves out. The Mandela we put everything upon is now dead. The youth should identify their capabilities and strengths to channel them towards their development.

Corruption and stealing from the poor won’t help us. We need to leave this, shake the dust from our aprons and get back to work. We need Afro-optimists who will help shape Afrika to become the leading continent. Not with the highest rates of death and malnutrition and aid recipients. No! Afrika should be leading in terms of socio-economic development and international trade. It won’t rise while it’s still full of thieves, despots and political thugs. Our mentalities should change for the better.

Let every one of us stand their ground and play their role. Let’s not be the Madiba. Let’s be ourselves and do our missions. Afrika and the world will change. Mayi-buye iAfrika! Ea khutla naha! Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika! Morena boloka sechaba sa heso!

Kelebone Lekunya is a 2013 scholar and is studying a master’s in town and regional planning at the University of Pretoria.

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    • aim for the culprits

      Great, thank you. Did you read that Jonathon Oppenheimer, Anton Rupert and Cyril Ramaphosa. You are duty bound to improve the GINi co-efficient of South Africa, not to grow your and your family’s wealth. Payback time, Man/woman up.

    • Cobus Viljoen

      Mandela unified the country?? Don’t know which country or planet you are living on because from where I sit I cannot see any unification! Just crime and corruption!

    • george orwell

      I agree with much of what you say.

      Mandela was great but unfortunately some of his legacy is marred by the fact that he allowed himself to be seduced by neo-liberal western power players like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who trailed massive corporates like McDonalds, and massive arms deals and who encouraged development of elites, rather than a slightly more socialist upliftment of the poorest of the poor.

      By the way, I’ve never understand how Mandela’s name came to be linked with that great exploitative colonialist and imperialist Cecil Rhodes….

    • Kgositsile Mokgosi

      If you think of it, many more individuals sacrificed everything including their lives in a commitment to liberate Africans from the yoke of oppression defined by land dispossession, subjection to subhuman existence and suppression of means to develop. Some of them were even more effective in getting the oppressors to have a change of mindset while sacrificing their own lives such as Steve Biko whose death in 1977 was followed by a change of mindset from that of enacting anti-African prejudice to that of finding a way to live with black people. Hence the cry by PW Botha to “adapt or die” and the apartheid regime began to repeal or refrain from enforcing their laws in 1978. Steve Biko’s sacrifice of his life interestingly also led to consideration of unbanning liberation movements and the very release of Mandela. No liberation movement ever spoke of killing whites AFTER attainment of liberation therefore reconciliation is not rocket science. No one ever talks of other liberation movement (PAC, AZAPO) having accepted defeat at the polls and never having gone underground to wage a guerrilla war against the one that won (ANC) as happened in Mocambique, Angola and now South Sudan regardless of the land not having been repossessed, subhuman existence continuing, and chances for self development equally limited. Broadening source of inspiration to include the likes of Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe and many others may inspire all to recognise their own strengths to make a…

    • Kelebone Lekunya

      Cobus Viljoen, Mandela tried to unify South Africa. He couldn’t achieve that on his own. He needed people like you and me to attain that. With us all pulling in different directions, South Africa, Africa and the world will continue being full of despots and aristocrats. But if we would all work together we would do more (Not ANC’s way, hahahaha). Aim for the culprits, thanks. George Orwell, Mandela was an internationalist. Remember many from all over the world celebrated his release though they initially labelled him a ‘terrorist’. Mokgosi, I can’t agree more with your views. Mandela had been glorified even more than the movement which built him. They always say no one is bigger than the ANC but I doubt if that applies to him too. Many great sons and daughters of the soil fought and suffered for the liberation of the ‘black’ people but their names are disappearing from the historical accounts. So I think we should all do our part and not be Mandela.

    • Rory Short

      To me Madiba stood out as someone who truly loved his own and others humanity. If that was the base from which we each operated we would be able to solve all our problems.

    • xsanga

      ‘The call to forget the past’ , the hypothesis of all SA living in harmony only exposes a short sighted view of the South African problem. Apartheid not only created poverty but gave excessive wealth to the white population and a white monopoly economy. To insist that we forget the past is to disrespect Mandela. Mandela is a symbol of freedom for black SA, hope that we can reclaim our dignity and degradation, though alleviating mass poverty and employment from a white owned economy that refuse to show any interest in the starving poor. The past is our foundation for eradicating poverty and misery of the black majority. How do we live in harmony with 80% of the land owned by the apartheid whites, about 15% of the population. Will macro economics be able to feed the poor while the economy grows with wealth (white) and black poverty continues to grow simultaneously. Why are these salient issues being purposely ignored, so that the poor masses be maintained with harmony?. Structural and institutional racism will not disappear by delimiting narratives of racial harmony.

    • Chris Stevens

      I entirely agree with you! However, we have people (on this very website I might add) like Gillian Schurle who continue to demonize a specific demographic and make gross generalisations about “white males” as a means to “addressing the issue of racism. By pointing the finger, those with her mentality shift the responsibility onto a straw-man figure of the “white male South African”.

      Surely 20 years is suffient to make a meaningful impact in addressing issues of the past, making inroads into TRUE reconsiliation rather than just kicking the old racism dog and pointing the finger at one group of people, washing our hands from what should be everyone’s responsibility.

    • Kgositsile Mokgosi

      Poor Xsanga, if Mandela symbolises your freedom why do you still display a sense of being constricted by white people? Please wake up! There are no whites (at least dominantly) making laws to restrict you from developing to your full potential. It is black people making decisions and responsible for creating an environment in which you can prosper.
      Liberate yourself. Under apartheid ( i.e before 1978) you could not study wherever you desired whatever you desired, you could not open a business anywhere you liked, you could not be employed just anywhere at just any level. Since 1978, long before it was even contemplated to release Mandela it was already open to you to find your way to progress, thanks to Steve Biko, BC and the 1976 riots .
      Mandela only came with forgiveness/reconciliation which is about whites retaining what they have achieved on the back of blacks and finding a way (their way) to accommodate blacks, as well as blacks accepting the economic status quo on the other hand
      Liberation is about freeing your mind from the constraints of inferiority complex, nurturing of self confidence, developing the drive to be better and making it possible for others to prosper wherever you can. The only symbol of freedom black people can display is massive progress on the educational, economic, scientific, artistic, athletic, academic as well as on the governance political front.
      You can never claim to be free if you are still complaining about whites.