Augustine Ruzindana

Mandela death: Leaders can learn from Obama-Castro handshake

Share Bookmark Print Rating
By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, December 13  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

This, unfortunately, is the order of the day in Uganda. Mandela refrain that “leaders cannot afford to hate” should become the chorus for Ugandan political leaders, particularly those exercising public power.


Mandela is gone but like everyone and everything complex, different people will pick different one-line images of Mandela the man, the leader, the boxer, the revolutionary, the warrior, the reconciler, the myth, etc.

For relevance to Uganda I choose to remember him by what he told the New York Times: “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.”

I wish leaders in Uganda can learn that it is not possible to be officially angry or to hate or love officially or to quarrel or abuse officially. These sentiments when expressed become personal and personalised.

This, unfortunately, is the order of the day in Uganda. Mandela refrain that “leaders cannot afford to hate” should become the chorus for Ugandan political leaders, particularly those exercising public power.

Mandela’s struggle, the struggle of the ANC and other political and civic organisations and individuals achieved non racial democracy through racial reconciliation. Mandela’s unique contribution was to isolate what was achievable and strike a political bargain for a democratic constitutional order that put an end to apartheid well aware that economic restructuring will not occur.

Thus the bargain, because it enshrined property rights in the new constitutional order, essentially preserved the economic privileges of white South Africans. This Mandela political deal poses serious and for some time insurmountable political, economic and constitutional challenges for the post Mandela leadership.

Sure, the black Africans can vote and they are the rulers but the majority remains impoverished and frustrated by slow land and economic reforms.

As long as Mandela was alive many people refrained from expressing their frustrations openly but now that he is gone more open protests are likely. Worse still the incidence of patronage and cronyism seem to be on the rise.

Thus it is no surprise that Julius Malema’s calls for expropriation are beginning to resonate among the urban poor and landless rural people. That there were boos when President Zuma’s arrival was announced and when he was called to make his keynote speech, at the funeral service, is quite ominous.

Its true there are now some black millionaires but since the end of apartheid the inequality between blacks and whites has actually increased rather than diminished. Racism, even if no longer acceptable, still remains a reality.

In fact, the rural and urban poor rarely interact with white people other than on TV. The average lifespan of a black South African is less than 50 years (HIV/Aids is a factor), while for his/her white compatriot, its about 70 years.

Apartheid era racial classifications are still used to classify workers for the purposes of the implementation of Black empowerment policy that requires large companies to employ a specific proportion of its work force comprising blacks and other previously disadvantaged races.

In spite of these challenges Mandela’s legacy of a non racial democracy will endure, even though the ANC may suffer setbacks and in time lose substantial black support.

Typical to Mandela, even in death, he has played a reconciliatory role. President Obama shook hands with President Raul Castro of Cuba. This is certainly not going to create good relations between the USA and Cuba but there is a saying that “from small beginnings come great things” and another one that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. You never know what the handshake may lead to. But even across the USA presidential divide, there was a truce

. Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton travelled together aboard Air Force One to South Africa and they were joined by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton in South Africa. Fare thee Well Mandela, the uniter, the reconciler.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.