By Amukelani Mayimele
This is one of those days where society is watching everything we say about Nelson Mandela. We are almost challenged to sound politically correct in our writing and in our sharing of memories of Madiba. Many have succumbed to the pressure and society’s dictatorship on how we should react and think about the death of this great man. As much as our thinking is channelled towards a particular direction, I believe we can think further than just celebrating or mourning his life.
Mandela was an inspiring struggle hero. We can do more to honour his life than just quoting him. By just quoting Mandela during this time of mourning we have managed to de-politicise him. Media has also chosen to feed us the “Mandela the lover” story as opposed to the “Mandela the fighter” story. We are also too busy singing about how he spent 27 years in jail so we can love one another. We forget he was in jail to overthrow an unjust system. Mandela fought for reconciliation but not only reconciliation, he believed so much in equality and democracy too.
It is highly unlikely that we will learn more about the Mandela who was part of Umkhonto weSizwe. But we need to take responsibility as young people. We need to learn from young Madiba and not to be complacent. One of Mandela’s key examples is that the status quo must and should not be maintained. Let us continue the struggle and commit to action.
Three causes that Mandela fought for which we can carry forward:
Mandela was so concerned with education that he built many schools with the help of the corporate sector. At the opening of one of the schools in KwaZulu-Natal he said to the young people: “You should have the opportunity to equip yourself with the most important weapon to serve your country, to serve the world and that important weapon is education. And that is why therefore many of us have decided that if we have to make a contribution to our country it should be in the education sector.”
Today we need to ask ourselves as South Africans where are we with championing education in our country? I know most of us would love to quickly jump and blame the government for not delivering textbooks and not being concerned. But in reality the issues that concern education in our country are too many for government alone to address. We need to get involved: build schools, fundraise for student bursaries, enforce government to act on education policies, mentor young people, do something. For Madiba, one of the most important things was for every person to be educated. If you can’t champion for education at least go to school.
2. Commitment to children and young people
Mandela was concerned about the future. He loved children, he spent time with them, he sang and danced with the little ones. He was sometimes referred to as “Nelson the children’s champion”. He established the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. When he was in power he ensured that he established feeding schemes where children got free meals at school, he also established the childcare grant. He often visited children in NGOs, in schools and hospitals. Some of the centres he supported were meant to assist young people through youth education, workshops and training. He said children need to live in an environment where they can flourish. Clearly Mandela believed that children held the key to the future of a country. He said that “children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people”.
A few practical steps on honouring Madiba here would include advocating for children’s rights, offering support to children’s homes and orphanages. You can also fundraise for children’s needs or like Mandela, spend time with children, visit them, sing and dance with them. If you can’t do all this, the least you can do is not hurt them. Mandela described children as the greatest treasure and the future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and this weakens the nation.
3. Justice in the world
Madiba dedicated his life to fighting for freedom, not only in South Africa but throughout Africa. He played a key role as middleman in crisis-hit areas such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo during Thabo Mbeki’s reign. Through this we are able to see how Mandela was a pillar of strength and source of inspiration for the oppressed all over the world. He was admired for his wisdom, vision, humility, intellect and his integrity. We need to pledge solidarity with fellow Africans. We must also partner with causes that promote peace and transformation in the world. Through combating xenophobia and related attacks you will be representing the struggle of Mandela. You will be allowing Mandela to live through you.
These are basic actions we can include in our everyday lives. Whether you are a business leader, an employee, a student or a professional, you can get involved. You can represent Mandela in his absence. You can allow his spirit and energy to live on. We need not only be satisfied with the twitter messages and the pictures of ourselves mourning his death. But view his death as the beginning of the continuance of the struggle and championing the causes he fought for. Without action we cannot honour Mandela’s life. He was an action-filled man.
Amukelani Mayimele is a young South African leader and internationally recognised peace builder and activist. She is also the founder of Zayrah Africa. Zayrah is a youth-led development agency that focuses on socio-economic development and youth empowerment in Africa. www.zayrah.org.