via Zimbabweans reflect on Mandela’s influence | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell December 6, 2013
As the world mourns the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Zimbabweans have been reflecting on what influence he had in shaping their own democracy.
Current South African President Jacob Zuma announced Thursday night that Mandela, aged 95, had died earlier that evening. The elderly icon’s health has been a matter of global concern for the past year, after he was hospitalised several times.
Mandela died in his Johannesburg home.
In Zimbabwe, Mandela will likely be remembered as a respected liberation leader who ended the rule of a racist regime and fought for real peace, democracy and forgiveness in his country. Some Zimbabweans told SW Radio Africa on Friday that these are valuable lessons to learn, and they are deeply saddened by the death of a “father of Africa.”
“He painted a good picture for us to follow, especially his endurance and wisdom and his good heart,” a Harare man said.
But for many Zimbabweans, Mandela will also be remembered for not speaking out against Robert Mugabe, despite the human rights abuses being committed by his regime. In 2008, when politically motivated violence was on the rise in Zimbabwe, Mandela came under huge pressure to publicly condemn what was happening.
He eventually made a comment during a visit to the UK, where he said that there was a “tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe. The comment, though lauded as a condemnation, was criticised for not being critical enough. The excuse given was that Mandela did not want to interfere in a situation meant to be under the control of his political successor Thabo Mbeki, who in turn faced condemnation for his policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’ towards the crisis in Zimbabwe.
“I think he did what he could, but it us up to others to finish whatever they feel Mandela could not have done. We need to get out of the habit of asking others to do what we should be doing for ourselves,” a Bulawayo man said.
Some Zimbabweans meanwhile said they would not remember Mandela in such a positive light, saying” “He wasn’t a real liberation hero.”
“I don’t think he was a real authentic liberation figure. Mandela was too soft and too inclined to forgive his enemies. I don’t think he did care about Zimbabwe, because he was pushing a conservative agenda,” this Bulawayo man said.
At the same time, this Harare based ZANU PF activist said that while they “regretted” Mandela’s death, they do not believe he did enough to “empower” black South Africa.
“There is still suffering. People aren’t owners of their lands or economic systems. They are not economically empowered. We feel a lot more could have been done in his lifetime to empower South Africans,” the ZANU PF activist said.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Friday morning, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai paid tribute to Mandela and his ability to forgive the grave abuses of South Africa’s past, and to foster peace and democracy.
“His death represents the fall of one of the greatest liberation fighters. After so many years of incarceration, he did not come out a bitter man. He showed humility and the capacity to move on and forgive. For me, he passed the endurance test, moved the country from the brink of civil war to democracy (so) that Africa can aspire to have very high values,” Tsvangirai said.