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Maki Mandela: “Father always recognised his failings, and would not want us to beatify him.”

NEWS AND ANALYSIS

Maki Mandela: “Father always recognised his failings, and would not want us to beatify him.”

To celebrate the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth New African’s Regina Jane Jere spent two weeks in South Africa compiling a Special Report (full version available in July print issue). The Edition is Guest Edited by his eldest daughterDr  Makaziwe Mandela who writes:

This year, we celebrate the 100th birthday of the great son of Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. This year also represents the 5th year since the passing of Madiba. With all things involving Tata, both in life and in death, commemorative activities have been planned across the globe to celebrate the life and the legacy of this unique African.

New African magazine, a pan-African title which for over 45 years has and continues to provide news and analysis on African politics and economics from an African perspective, has found it fitting to publish a special celebratory edition in honour of my father. As a daughter I am honoured to be invited to serve as the Guest Editor of this historic edition.

This special edition honours Tata’s lifelong struggle against apartheid, his steadfast refusal to compromise his beliefs during the 27 years of incarceration; his enduring commitment to freedom and reconciliation, democracy and multiracialism and the emancipation of the oppressed and the marginalised in South Africa, Africa and the world at large.

As a daughter, and perhaps biased, I can affirm with conviction that Tata and his colleagues laid a solid foundation for building a sustainable future. It is up to this generation to correct the mistakes of the past and build upon the foundation he so humbly fashioned.

Tata saw his life as part of the revolutionary generation that was called upon to change history and create the society that was set to be. Tata lived that others might live and that the happiness of others might reign. He died that liberty might not perish and for freedom and justice to reign. Tata fought for the healing of our nation and abhorred bitterness among races. He sought peace for our troubled land. He beckoned South Africa and Africa to take charge of its own future and shape the destiny of her people.

These are pertinent issues confronting the South Africa of today and worthy of critical and dispassionate accounting. The content in this edition attempts to assess the resilience of Madiba’s legacy.

Triumph of human spirit

In his lifetime, Madiba became synonymous with the triumph of the human spirit. His name will forever speak of his capacity for suffering, of victory over adversity, of patience, forgiveness and steadfast, iron-clad conviction that principles will always endure.

These are the legacies this special edition seeks to celebrate through interviews, analyses and tributes from people who knew him best.

The qualities of character, courage, humility and compassion that are personified in my father have granted him, even in death, an authentic moral authority. He is, in the words of his official biographer, Anthony Sampson, “a universal hero”. 

However, my father being his modest self always argued that his achievements and glory were not his alone. They were the principles of the shared achievement of a political movement, the African National Congress (ANC). 

Tata recognised his failings and his own place in the world. As he often admonished, he was “not a saint” and therefore would not want us to beatify him. 

When Tata walked out of prison in 1990, he was the first to admit he was not a free man, since for him there is no freedom for one man without the freedom for all. Thus he fought hard to bequeath us the political freedom all South Africans enjoy today. 

It is a truism, though, that freedom even today remains elusive for millions of our unemployed youth, millions of our people stuck in poverty, contempt and indignity.

The best way of honouring Madiba’s memory is to try to offer an honest, well-rounded assessment of his lasting impact on South Africa, Africa and the world at large,

Tata recognised the massive challenges that lay ahead in their hour of victory. In his speech on 27 April 1998, he said: “Our freedom and our rights will only gain their full meaning as we succeed together in overcoming the divisions and inequalities of our past and in improving the lives of, especially, the poor.

“Though the old lines no longer have the force of the law, they are still visible in social and economic life – in our residential areas, in our workplaces, between rich and poor. When we celebrate the start that we have made in undoing that legacy, it is in the knowledge there is still much to be done.

“That requires hard work by all of us, employers and workers; teachers and students; government and communities. On the part of all of us, wherever we stand in society, it requires us to work together to reverse the disparities of the past. 

“As we enter our 5th year of freedom, we have taken great strides along the path that stretched out before us when we gathered here eight years ago at the start of our transition from a painful past to a bright future. We face challenges which in many ways are even greater.

“As we overcame the obstacles that lay before us then, we will meet those of today.  The foundation for a better life has been laid, and the building has begun. Today, let us renew our pledge to work together, to make South Africa into a land of our dreams.”

Such were the parting words Tata made as he passed on the baton from his generation to the next. But he was also a realist and prepared to admit the mistakes of his generation. He was the first to admit so when the great promises made to our people somehow passed into empty words and life taking a different course.

Precipice of time

What have the generations after Tata done with the stewardship of our dear nation? And have Madiba’s legacies and promise been kept alive? Or is Mandela’s legacy hollow and worthy of condemnation? These are questions worthy of serious debate and which are explored in this edition.

Nineteen years since Madiba handed over power to Thabo Mbeki and those after him, and five years after his demise, South Africa stands on the precipice of time and mortality. As a nation, we stand on the threshold of the present, looking to the future with the past as our guide.

When Tata walked out of prison in 1990, he was the first to admit he was not a free man, since for him there is no freedom for one man without the freedom for all. Thus he fought hard to bequeath us the political freedom all South Africans enjoy today. 

It is also a time of danger and promise for the land of my birth, South Africa. All manner of challenges face our nation and continent and the greatest danger is sometimes the lack of faith in ourselves as Africans. We have allowed others to dictate the terms of our existence and define our destiny. 

Tata fought domination of all shapes and colours. He spoke against the abuse of power and the bullying of weaker nations, which has become fashionable in the global politics of today.

As a daughter, and perhaps biased, I can affirm with conviction that Tata and his colleagues laid a solid foundation for building a sustainable future. It is up to this generation to correct the mistakes of the past and build upon the foundation he so humbly fashioned.

In conclusion, the best way of honouring Madiba’s memory is to try to offer an honest, well-rounded assessment of his lasting impact on South Africa, Africa and the world at large, and this is what this edition seeks to achieve.

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