Remembering Nelson Mandela and his legacy

Charles Kenny over at BloombergBusinessweek writes about Mandela’s often forgotten economic legacy (Perhaps because of the continued entrenchment of economic inequality and injustice in South Africa):

South Africa’s GDP growth rate, meanwhile, picked up considerably under Mandela. Economic growth rose from less than 1.5% between 1980 to 1994 to slightly under 3% between 1995 and 2003. Despite the sudden influx of internal migrants with the legal right to compete equally for jobs, average personal incomes for white South Africans increased by 62% between 1993 and 2008, according to University of Cape Town economist Murray Leibbrandt. Average incomes for Africans themselves increased even faster—by 93% over that same period.

The huffingtonpost has a collection of speeches to remember Mandela in his own words.

[youtube.com/watch?v=-Qj4e_q7_z4]

 

Richard Stengel over at Time explores the idea of Mandela the freedom fighter and leader who possessed almost mythical qualities in the eyes of many:

In many ways, the image of Nelson Mandela has become a kind of fairy tale: he is the last noble man, a figure of heroic achievement. Indeed, his life has -followed the narrative of the archetypal hero, of great suffering followed by redemption. But as he said to me and to many others over the years, “I am not a saint.” And he wasn’t. As a young revolutionary, he was fiery and rowdy. He originally wanted to exclude Indians and communists from the freedom struggle. He was the founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the African National Congress, and was considered South Africa’s No 1. terrorist in the 1950s. He admired Gandhi, who started his own freedom struggle in South Africa in the 1890s, but as he explained to me, he regarded nonviolence as a tactic, not a principle. If it was the most successful means to the freedom of his people, he would embrace it. If it was not, he would abandon it. And he did. But like Gandhi, like Lincoln, like Churchill, he was doggedly, obstinately right about one -overarching thing, and he never lost sight of that.

Back in 2011 writing in the Journal Peter Godwin noted that Mandela’s real legacy was his refusal to become life president, like many independence heroes before him on the Continent:

If anyone was well positioned to launch a political personality cult it was Mr. Mandela. His refusal to do so is probably his greatest legacy to his homeland. It set South Africa on a course different from most other African nations. Seventeen years into its post-apartheid incarnation, South Africa is already on its fourth president. This has radically reduced the danger of a single leader dominating the state.

As the world pays its last respects there will be nagging thoughts and questions of what next for South Africa. I am reminded of Eve Fairbanks’ piece earlier this year in which she cautioned that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that all South Africans benefit from the freedoms (political, social and economic) that Mandela fought for:

Many South Africans under 40 feel little connection to the father of their nation. Articles about Mandela’s many health scares late in life (at press time, the former president had been in a hospital on life support for more than a month, battling a lung infection) often feature laudatory quotes from two kinds of South Africans—whites and older blacks—while leaving out the voices of young blacks, who have a more ambivalent relationship with their founder-saint. Some even resent him.

The point here is that Mandela’s legacy will only be protected if the government facilitates greater economic inclusion of young South Africans. Simply replacing Smiths, Krugers and Plaatjes with with politically connected Khumalos, Gcobanis, and Phumlanis in the economic sphere as has happened under BEE will not cut it.

The statues and all sorts of honors that will undoubtedly come from around the world will not matter if the Madiba legacy does not get to live in the hearts and minds of South Africans of all generations, now and in the years to come.

The man gave up a lot for his country. Now that he is gone, it is time for South Africans (and especially the leadership) to honor him by keeping his dream of a more just South Africa alive. This is the least they could do for a man who is arguably top of the list of the greatest Africans of the 20th century.

Rest in peace Madiba. 

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Remembering Nelson Mandela and his legacy

  1. A man who is arguably top of the list of the greatest human beings of the 20th century. I have never heard the term ‘grandfather of the world’ conferred upon any other human being – of and in my life time; neither can I think of anyone upon whom such esteem is conferrable.
    But mine is not dispute your conclusion… indeed it is to humbly join in your sorrow and moment of reflection.

    Mandela – a man of the people who put the people before the man. If the world had a flag, it would fly at half-mast.
    The final certainty unescaped, may his salient soul sail silently and gently past the sun to the known unknown.

    Chaka Sichangi Namasaka.

    Like

  2. It’s true there are others left, but more and more the great figures (good and bad) of the Cold War are disappearing. They might remember him, but it’s not long now before it’s a South Africa (and world) that doesn’t remember the times that made him and others.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s