Mandela was more than the freedom fighter we know

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By Robert Atuhairwe

Posted  Monday, December 9  2013 at  00:00

As the world concedes to the grim reality of former President Nelson Mandela’s earthly end, the majority will relish a man they heard so much about but whose full energies, in transforming the nature of how world governments run, were never put to use. All they know is Mandela, the liberation superman.

Of all affected countries, South Africa suffered the most entrenched form of colonialism which had overturned the “Africanness” of the country and that’s how his name caught on so fast.

Mandela happened to have been at his prime when Africa was reclaiming its lost glory and the epic battle was against apartheid as its success brought foreign supremacy on African soil to a close.

The mark of Mandela’s significance is his peaceable outlook throughout his struggles, presidency and latter life. “A saint for peace” is what Mandela’s memory should be about. He was virtuous in many ways but most of his values risk being abused by flukes who claim to pick their inspiration from the Madiba and yet their speech, gestures and companionship dictate otherwise. If the world raised change agents who could defeat human malevolence with peace, those are Mandela’s heirs. Could it be that his spirit for vengeance was ultimately broken when he got incarcerated? That of the whole group he emerged as most exceptional should endorse his methods. Few can inspire crowds from behind bars but Mandela’s spirit sustained the struggle from his cell as indeed it should be now that he is gone with unfinished work.

And this is the tragedy of the world. The man ended up as a “trophy statesman”. Overwhelmingly supported but simply voted in as a reward and symbol that finally blacks were in charge.

Never have we been told if, with national freedom assured, he was the best to address South Africa’s ordinary and emerging challenges of economic advancement and industrialisation, social cohesion, security, Aids and cultural revival. In only one five-year term, Mandela didn’t have sufficient time to prove his healing touch in other sectors and to deliver functional and efficient systems.

South Africa suffers similar social, economic troubles like her neighbours and sometimes these escalate to global headline status. A country so near but never there. Possibly had he served an extension in office, he would have been the foundation for galvanising all sectors of the country into a world power.

Even commercially, nobody has sold the Mandela brand in real terms to match his stature. Where are Mandela clothing lines, electronics, automobiles or airlines? Can someone assure the world that the great Southerly nation has progressed better than if the Dutch had remained in charge? Some celebrate Mandela’s life on the basis of his ‘reluctance’ to stay on. However, may it be clarified that he declined re-election on the basis of feebleness due to old age, at 81. This proves it’s not fun being at the summit as some think. He had to rest since he had exerted himself too long, splitting rocks at Robben Island.

A younger Mandela, say in his 40s or 50s, would have accepted another tenure to master himself as a people administrator rather than be forever acknowledged only as a transitional freedom fighter.

This is the Mandela we are left to visualise and shall never know-the veteran leader.

Grieve not for him. Grieve for the living, for vows of “keeping his memory alive” will end at his graveside, and then we will be back to what he resisted and never lived for.

Mr Atuhairwe is a National Media Liaison Officer