Mandela ’s iconic stature earned, not demanded

via Mandela ’s iconic stature earned, not demanded — Nehanda Radio  DECEMBER 8, 2013 By Nevanji Madanhire

It seems the death of Nelson Mandela has been rather problematic for the Zimbabwean government. This is seen in the very subdued manner in which the news was received in Harare with something like a blackout on state radio and television.

President Robert Mugabe issued a condolence message almost 24 hours after Mandela’s death had been known. And, when it came, many wondered what difference it would have made if the message had been issued at break of day on Friday when everyone else from across the globe issued theirs.

The reason for the lack of grief from Harare may not be too difficult to figure out.

Of late there has been debate in Zimbabwe on Mandela’s legacy. South Africa is our neighbour and Zimbabwe contributed not little to the emancipation of that country and the rise of Mandela to the throne, but in comparison to Robert Mugabe, he has been seen as a great let-down to the African fight against colonial domination.

Those in power in Harare have been less than charitable in their assessment of him accusing him of having been too lenient with his country’s former oppressors in a way that left the oppressors better off than the black people they enslaved for 500 years.

But those who accuse Mandela of having sacrificed his own people on the altar of reconciliation fail to appreciate the circumstances in which he rose to power. South Africa had been a deeply racially divided nation since the National Party came to power in 1948 and introduced the system of apartheid that was based on white supremacist thought.

Between 1948 and the demise of the apartheid, a bitter civil war had ensued. When it ended in 1990 a leader was needed who could reconcile the entrenched positions that polarised the country. The policy of national reconciliation he adopted was hardly new, having been propounded a decade earlier by none other than Mugabe himself when he became Zimbabwe’s first black Prime Minister in 1980.

In the policy of reconciliation Mandela averted a civil war which many in South Africa and round the world thought was inevitable. His major achievement in the four years he was in power was to cool the tempers of a deeply divided nation. That in itself is a legacy that many post-colonial governments have failed to bequeath to their countries.

But Mandela was also an iconoclast; he attacked cherished beliefs about African leadership. Before his advent African leadership was about strongmen with a mafia-like grip on their countries and peoples as epitomised by Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997) and the generals of Nigeria.

Mandela set out to break that image of the African ruler. Not only did he demonstrate that a leader could be compassionate to his own people and his erstwhile enemies as a way of nation building, but he also began to challenge other African leaders to follow his example.

He set the tone when he condemned the execution of Nigerian dissident novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa leading Nigeria to, in a fit of anger, withdraw from the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations tournament held in South Africa.

Another image of the African leader he destroyed was that of a despot who dies in power. When he retired from office after one term, when he could have continued without hindrance, he turned topsy-turvy the superstition that leaders should die in office.

This did not endear him with the African strongmen who had helped in the anti-apartheid struggle.

When we look at the ideal that Mandela set out to achieve, we see it doesn’t go beyond the achievement of freedom. He says, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

His long walk was a long walk to freedom, which was achieved with the end of apartheid. That equal opportunities did not necessarily materialise in his lifetime — for such is the nature of ideals — cannot be held entirely against him alone. Mandela showed the way in which countries should be governed; that’s as powerful a legacy as they come.

Christians believe that God sent his only son to die for humanity’s sins and when he was crucified Jesus Christ had only defined for his followers the ideal to eternal life. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.” Millions of people live by that doctrine but they are under no illusion that the way to eternal life is going to be easy. That was Jesus’s legacy, not the abolition of sin because sin thrives unto this day.

Many heroes die before their struggles end and are apotheosised when the struggles posthumously come to fruition. Zimbabwe boasts of tens such heroes who did not make it to the Promised Land. Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo and others easily come to mind.

If Mandela had died at Robben Island, his legacy would still have been cast in stone as an uncompromising freedom fighter.

Mandela’s detractors in Harare want the world to think that there cannot be two African heroes living contemporaneously. For them, there can only be one hero, the one who fought against colonialism and gave his country’s natural resources back to the indigenous people.

That hero is Robert Mugabe. True, Mugabe is a hero to millions of Zimbabweans and to millions others on the African continent disillusioned with their own leaders who succumbed to the trappings of power while their people languish in poverty.

To these millions of Africans who worship the ground Mugabe walks on, he is a beacon of hope that every African leader has to emulate. To them Mandela falls desperately short in comparison because indigenous South Africans still yearn for land and other resources that their country possesses.

But does Mandela’s iconic status diminish Mugabe’s heroism? That seems to be the fear in the corridors of power in Harare, hence the reluctance to celebrate Mandela’s indisputable achievement. The truth of the matter is that it’s up to the world to judge.

Is Mugabe going to have the same international stature that Mandela had as demonstrated by the outpouring of global grief on his death? It’s a stature that one can only command, like Mandela did, not demand, as others would like to do for Mugabe.

Nevanji Madanhire is the editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Standard and this article was initially published under the Editor’s Desk

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13 comments on “Mandela ’s iconic stature earned, not demanded
  1. matombo chiremba says:

    True heroes of liberation struggles are those who will uplift their fellow countryman from poverty to wealth, who when they themselves fall ill are taken into their own hospitals and when their children need education will gracefully enter their own country’s institutions of higher learning, instead of flying thousands of kms to other countries for medical attention or children’s education, which their impoverished countrymen cannot afford. The world, South Africa and Zimbabwe need to judge who the leading light is between Mandela and Mugabe indeed!!

  2. DL says:

    If there are 53 heads of state attending Mandela”s funeral then Mugabe will be lucky to get 6 who show up. And the great Chinese will only send an ambassador. That’s an indicator of how low he’s sunk.

    Mugabe started out well but became a murderer, a thief and a despot who is despised by most of the world. He has shown by his actions that he doesn’t really care about the common man – only himself and his own political party.

    Many will rejoice when he no longer breaths.

  3. mareverakufa says:

    In as much as I do not condone Nevanji’s analysis in comparing Mugabe and Mandela I refute the analysis of Robert Mugabe’s claim of heroism. The truth of the matter is Robert Gabriel Matibhiri Mugabe is no hero at all. He is an usurper of power. He does not deserve to lead Zimbabwe. His usurping of power follows his murderous disposition in disposing true heroes of Zimbabwe hence it is by all means that Mandela can never be compared with Mugabe in terms of leadership because it is as good as comparing black and white and trying to bring an equilibrium. So comparing Mugabe and Nelson Mandela is a non entity for the former is a murderer and has never had the people in his heart yet Mandela had his people at heart.

    • Mthwakazi says:

      @mareverakufa

      I agree totally with you. Mugabe is a usurper of power. He should never be compared to Mandela.

      Mugabe was invited into politics by Enos Nkala and others. Otherwise he was busy minding his own teaching business in Ghana.

      He himself even stated openly that by going to Ghana his aim was to teach for a few years, raise some money and proceed to the UK for further studies – politics was not part of his plans.

      On the other hand, Mandela was a trail blazer in politics. He started uMkhonto weSizwe (MK); MKV’s first Commander-in-Chief; and the first balc to train as a guerilla. Mandela needed no invitation to join the struggle; he rebelled from authority right from the days he was at Fort Hare.

      Meanwhile Mugabe has no record of rebellion against authority in his younger years – he was always chasing after the skirts of his mother, a mama’s baby!!

  4. Eddy Grant says:

    Mwana waBona is a despot who has done all to stay in power even after losing elections and hated by 90% of the population whereas Nelson is a Global Icon revered by humanity. Robert suffered from a disease called Mandelalitis when the Global Statesman was released from prison.

  5. Mike says:

    Talk about, “Beauty and the Beast” One fought for freedom and dignity for all and was selfless. The other fought for self enrichment with no thought to the country or it’s people’s. The thrift of one group of Zimbabweans properties has been proven to be no more than theft in order to enrich the leader and his gang and to bulls_ _t the masses. Where are millions of Zimbabweans now? Pumping petrol, working in gardens, sweeping streets and anything they can find to survive in countries out of Zimbabwe. With over 80% of Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe out of work and millions relying on UN food parcels to survive, that president has show himself to be a plunderer, not a leader.
    The two should never be mentioned in the same context or sentence.

  6. Mthwakazi says:

    This nonsense about Mugabe giving land to blacks should now stop.

    Look, did Mugabe give land to blacks in the first five years (1980-1985)he was in power?

    If not, why is Mandela expected to have done so in his five years in power, yet the apartheid system had been far more entrenched in South Africa than the racist policies of the Rhodesian government?

    People should start reasoning, using their brains instead of hallucinating.

    Besides, why do we still have land invasions to this day in Zimbabwe if it is true that Mugabe gave land to blacks. ZANU PF itself is now sending the police and the army to stop these ongoing land invasions, but we keep hearing about Mugabe giving land to blacks.

    Please stop the nonsense, its gone on for far too long!!

  7. Washumba says:

    You are wise in appearance but very very stupid upstairs. On all those millions you said subtract me. You want please Mugabe by writing these things and you are getting opposite response. If I was Mugabe I was going to throw you behind bars. You are making our president insulted.

  8. JOC says:

    Washumba I am sorry but respect is earned. The president has not earned respect and is therefore treated with all he deserves. Mandela is praised all over the world from both black and white and all different cultures. He is not insulted like Mugabe is insulted because he has never deserved to be insulted.

  9. Mthwakazi says:

    I agree totally with you. Mugabe is a usurper of power. He should never be compared to Mandela.

    Mugabe was invited into politics by Enos Nkala and others. Otherwise he was busy minding his own teaching business in Ghana.

    He himself even stated openly that by going to Ghana his aim was to teach for a few years, raise some money and proceed to the UK for further studies – politics was not part of his plans.

    On the other hand, Mandela was a trail blazer in politics. He started uMkhonto weSizwe (MK); MKV’s first Commander-in-Chief; and the first balc to train as a guerilla. Mandela needed no invitation to join the struggle; he rebelled from authority right from the days he was at Fort Hare.

    Meanwhile Mugabe has no record of rebellion against authority in his younger years – he was always chasing after the skirts of his mother, a mama’s baby!!

  10. Joe says:

    I mean really only a fool would be Mugabe in the same calibre as Mandela. There can never be even an iota of similarities here. One is revered whilst the other is despised. Get a life you Zanoids, you are definitely on the losing side and always have been

  11. Abbu says:

    Surely how can Mandela be compared to Bob. Already 53 leaders have confirmed attending his memorial service this Sunday yet at Mugabe’s inauguration only abt 3 leaders attended. Mugabe can only be compared to such despots as Amin, Abacha, Mobuto, Savimbi etc. How can u compare a peace maker and a war monger. In SA everybody is mourning him ANC, IFP, NFP, DA, AGANG, VFF Plus, COPE etc. Do u honestly ZAPU, MDC T, MDC N, MDC99, NCA, Mavambo etc will mourn him???

  12. Mpilo Moyo says:

    The writer is merely showing why they , in Zimbabwe , delayed announcing condolences . The two are no the same in any way , Mandela is a genuine hero and Mugabe is a zero , nonentity and I am even embarrassed to be Zimbabwean because of him .

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