South Africa Needs New Heroes


There is no doubt South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela, who will be buried on December 15 at his village in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, has left a gigantic mark in the history of the world.

Mandela’s legacy is particularly well defined in the struggle for freedom and emancipation. There is no doubt, Mandela, one of Africa’s most revered icons played a great part in freeing South Africa from the yoke of apartheid. He fought tenaciously for the liberation of his motherland and fellow countrymen and women. Together with other veterans of the struggle against the racist apartheid system, Mandela did his part, which will forever be an imprint on the history of South Africa, the people of the African continent and all progressive people of this world.

Mandela’s achievements are as towering as they come, a lifetime sacrificed for the freedom of a nation and its people. Heroes will continue to emerge from this continent but Mandela and those of ilk occupy, and will continue to occupy, a special place in Africa’s and indeed the world’s Hall of Fame. Faced with mammoth obstacles, Mandela and his comrades never wavered until they delivered freedom to the people of South Africa. And for the past 19 years, South Africans have enjoyed the right to vote for people of their choice into political leadership positions. It is a right that Mandela and many others such as Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Steve Biko and Joe Slovo fought hard to ensure it came to fruition.

The composition of the thousands of leaders and mourners, who gathered at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg this past Tuesday to pay tribute to Mandela at his memorial service, is testimony of the influence or the mark this man left.

More people from diverse backgrounds are expected to bid farewell to this great African liberator at his burial in Qunu in the Eastern Cape today (December 15).

This is all proof that Mandela’s contribution to freedom and emancipation is undisputed. But as many analysts and observers have been pointing out, political freedom should be backed by economic empowerment of the majority people of any particular country. That has not been the case in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and his successors have not been able to give land to black South Africans and economically empower them.

White South Africans still enjoy and take pride in maintaining economic power while being able to maintain undue political influence not befitting their minority numbers. The current state of affairs in South Africa is in contrast to the ruling African National Congress’ Freedom Charter, adopted on June 26, 1955, and begins with the promise that: “The People Shall Govern…” It promises land to the landless, equality, free and compulsory education as well as freedom of movement and more. 

From prison, Mandela wrote a note to his supporters in January of 1990, a month before his release. Here’s what he wrote:

“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.” But this remains a pipedream nearly 20 years after South Africa gained political independence.

“South Africa remains one of the world's most unequal societies and whites still control huge swathes of the economy. In the words of leading trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi, its structure is akin to an Irish coffee – black at the bottom, with some white froth and a sprinkling of chocolate on the top.

“On average, a white household earns six times more than a black one, and nearly one in three blacks is unemployed, compared with one in 20 whites. Such ratios are fodder for critics of the 1994 settlement that brought the curtain down on nearly half a century of institutionalised white-minority rule and saw Mandela anointed South Africa's first black president,” reported Reuters news agency. What South Africa needs now are new heroes to take further the struggle of the people of that country. Mandela and his contemporaries delivered political freedom and those who have taken over the baton should complete the marathon to total political and economic emancipation.

December 2013
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