The new South Africa

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By Chungu Kabaso

Politicians and the elders in South Africa should provide leadership to the young generation who today are crying for a lot of changes including the fall of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in some universities. That it affects the life and culture of people whose ancestors have lived and contributed both positively and negatively to what South Africa is today calls for level headedness in arriving at the decision.

History is on record on how Nelson Mandela defused what could have been an Afrikaner guerrilla war against multiracial rule in 1993. It took a lot of reflection for those who had left their incarceration together with other leaders, black, whites coloured, Indians and others on how best both Whites, Blacks, coloured and Indians where going to be integrated in the new and independent South Africa. The birth of the Rainbow Nation was not a fluke but harmony of languages, races, peoples and cultures.

Is there something that Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa missed? Was the healing process just a fluke or elders today and the current crop of leaders have proved failures to the commonwealth of the Rainbow Nation and have been incapacitated to pass-on the torch, spirit and vision of the men and women who sacrificed a lot for independent South Africa to their children. Or is it that those who held different views to the Madiba’s now have the opportunity to promote their ideologies, philosophies and anarchy?

If today there are leaders in South Africa who are supporting the cataclysms and the manner in which students are trying to win their points of view then such leaders are living in the fantasy world and are perpetuating the very soul of Apartheid for which a lot of sacrifices were made.

That evil ideology (Apartheid) among other things believed in the suppression, the dominance of one group of people by another. A lack of respect for each other is the spirit that we see now emerging in the new South Africa by the current generation.

Just a quick reminder on how the post independent first generation leadership handled the looming crisis of potential disintegration;

In his inaugural speech Mr. Mandela said “we understand it still, that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people for national reconciliation, for national building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all”. This was the mind of a man who had spent 27 years of his life’s journey on earth incarcerated at that lifeless island of Robben. A man who would have taken revenge on people that persecuted him; a man that proved magnanimous to all.

There are lessons we should learn from Mr. Mandela and the entire world should, before we rack the country and before the world is racked.

Here, drawn from the works one John Carlin, British author of the book “Knowing Mandela”, are lessons from Mr Mandela for politicians and the general citizenry:

Treat your enemies with respect:

What Mr Mandela fought for, his entire life was “ordinary respect”. Respect was what Apartheid denied Black people. Mandela won respect by giving it to others. He treated everyone with respect. While in jail he took time to study Afrikaans and although most Afrikaners had considered him a terrorist and an enemy, he used his knowledge and skill of the language to win them over.

What Mandela understood is that the human factor matters. “Big decisions he once said, – in politics and beyond – are made by people. Enemies are people who don’t respect you and think you don’t respect them. If you can demonstrate respect and empathy, they will trust you to treat them right”. The talks that ended Apartheid have parallels with today’s political rhetoric.
For the sake of South Africa and posterity, respect for one another is a must. There is need to engage each other in constructive dialogue. The issue in South Africa today is not just about Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, but there is a bigger picture – a complete alienation of a culture, its influence and all. This is wishful thinking. What is required is engagement and not disengagement. Disengagement belong to ancient political dispensation in modern South Africa.

The people factor – the fantasy of a blank slate

On Robben Island, Mr Mandela always told his fellow prisoners that the new South Africa must include Afrikaners. When leaders succumb to the fantasy of a blank slate, things go wrong. Mr Mandela demonstrated by persuading General Viljoen, who was on the verge of launching a guerrilla warfare in opposition to South Africa’s first Multiparty elections that ushered in the Rainbow Nation.

In South Africa if anyone will ever think that any single group of people are superior and considering others insignificant then such ones are burying their heads in the sand and avoiding being realistic. Of all the groupings that make South Africa today there is none inferior or superior, but all are equal. South African belongs to no one but to all its citizens. It is a country founded on a common existence of the one Rainbow Nation and should forge ahead to ensure that it remains so as a united whole

Politicians should be flexible

After leaving jail in 1990, Mr Mandela and his colleagues planned to nationalise South Africa’s main industries. But in 1992 after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, and taking time to listen from other delegates from several countries he had a change of heart on the economic policy for post-Apartheid South Africa. Back home, he called on officials from his Party the African National Congress and stated his position on the matter. That is leadership.

Successful politicians are unbending only on very few issues. Every position on lesser matters is just a bargaining chip. Mandela had the principle of not pushing people. In his Party he had to convince his followers and with those who considered him an enemy he made pacts with plenty of devils”, writes Carlin. Even as President, he never punished those devils. As he told white audiences: “Forget the past.” Often people punish others to affirm their own moral superiority.

How many of our leaders and our people today have such a mind? Most of us are ego centric. If it is not our position then there is no position, we know it all and all others should just follow or is just a question of political expediency? We need to weigh the costs.
In the current fiasco in South Africa, there is no need to start pushing each other based on differences of opinion, but best is to learn to be on the round table and issues should end there amicably.

We should be forgiving

Mandela affirmed his superiority by forgiving. It happened to be the only way to make a new South Africa. While others expected him to be vengeful, he shocked both the persecutors and persecuted with his willingness to forget the past and forge the future. The past to him was history and what mattered was the future of the new dispensation.

There is no need for antagonising any one. It is important to look at the future of South Africa, South Africa and South Africans are one family and should unite. The issue at hand needs to be discussed. Suppressing any group of people should be avoided.
Everyone can be replaced.

One of the attributes of Mr. Mandela was his believe in the ability of others and ability to nurture them. He [President Mandela] retired after one term as South African president. This should have been the time for most of us when it would have been sweet to have remained in the seat. He opted to move on and leave the mantle to the next generation. Whatever would have happened to the future South African leaders and whatever is happening now, it never gave him reason to hold on to power. He showed Africa that it was possible to rest while the grass was still green and thus assist in creating and strengthening the young democracy in South Africa.

In South Africa today, anyone as long as they are called South Africans, citizens of the Rainbow country, such can aspire to any position in the land. America has done it, South Africa can do it.

Only two years after the passing on of Mr Nelson Mandela we see these great lifts in the South African Nation. It is just too soon.

“Sweet should be the memories of this statesman, revolutionist, sportsman, teacher, friend, pioneer, a freedom fighter, hero, colossus, the very personification of a full-fledged personality and simply a commonwealth of the Rain-Bow world”

Look at the colors of your National flag. Think through what it stands for and what it means to you as an individual. It should be a reminder of what South Africa is and should be. A land for all South African, a blending of cultures, languages, races, ideologies, a United South Africa. Every South African should ask what they can do their country, not what their country can do for them.


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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31