10 December 2013, The Tablet

Why can't we see Mandela’s example in those who hail his legacy?

by Fr Rampe Hlobo SJ

During the dark days of apartheid, each time a freedom fighter was killed by the security service or even by the orchestrated “black on black” violence, one of the mourners would shout “A spear has fallen!” and the rest of the crowd would then respond in a very loud and strong voice: “Pick it up!” – the idea that a warrior fights the battle left unfinished by his fallen comrade.

As South Africa and the world mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, a man of such magnanimity, humility and respect, one’s mind is shouting “a spear has fallen!” This time though, I ask myself whether we have anyone to pick up this spear. There is no one around, as far as one can see, who seem worthy.

Madiba achieved so many things that seemed humanly impossible, notably the ability to forgive those who made his life and that of his family hell on earth. The man the apartheid Government told everyone was a dangerous terrorist, not only forgave, he wanted all of us who perceived ourselves as the victims of apartheid to forgive. He also challenged the whites to reconcile with blacks.

During Madiba’s presidency many rural areas received electricity and clean running water for the first time, and he introduced feeding schemes in schools for children from poor families. His tremendous concern and care for others was born out of a genuine love for them.

Mandela had two unsuccessful marriages, one of which I’m convinced would have survived had he not been determined to see his people liberated. He did not achieve everything he wet out to do. Within the impossibly limited timeframe he had, he struggled with his beloved political party the African National Congress (ANC) to resolve the two thorny issues of economic justice and land reform.

Despite a growing black middle class, recent statistics show the number of poor black people is still unacceptably high and the gap between rich and poor is growing at an alarming rate.

And although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did a lot of good in a short space of time, there is still work to be done, especially in small towns and several other pockets of South Africa.

The soul of the ANC has been sold to highest bidder and corruption is rising daily. The magnanimity of Mandela and a whole generation of leaders like Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, is conspicuously absent in today’s leaders. The scramble for state resources and selfish gains render the poor poorer. Kleptocracy, nepotism and corruption have crept into the marrow of today’s leaders, many of whom have discarded the values that guided Mandela’s generation.

Why can we not see Mandela’s example emulated by those who claim to love, respect and want to maintain his legacy? It is a great loss for our South Africa, for Africa and the world. One can’t help but thank God for the gift of such a selfless leader and a generation of men and women of their calibre. One hopes his dream of justice, unity, freedom, care for others, reconciliation and humility persists in many leaders to come.

Fr Rampe Hlobo SJ is a Jesuit priest based in South Africa

What do you think?


You can post as a subscriber user ...

User comments (4)

Comment by: Nono Modikwane
Posted: 12/12/2013 18:00:56

Thanks Fr. Rampe for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s a pity that there are still people like Anthony who are still obsessed with communism. Communism, like capitalism, is neither sin nor virtue. So whether Mandela embraced communism, which in reality he did not, is neither here nor there. Concerning Mandela’s position on abortion, we in the church can justly disagree with him. But we are in no position to judge him, unless we take the hypocritical conservative American Catholic position that endorsed George Bush even though he spread war and killing of people, simply because he was anti-abortion, and condemn Mandela, who embodied many of the Gospel values such as peace, reconciliation, love of enemy, and human decency, simply because of his political parties’ position on abortion. If, in sharing and celebrating God’s grace that we have experienced with his servant Madiba and want to emulate his demeanour, Fr. Rampe and some of us, are happy to be characterised as “respecter of persons, swept away by a personality cult”. We are proud of this son of the soil, son of Africa, icon to the world. God Bless Dalibunga. Even great saints, which Mandela is not, we hold in high esteem not because they were without flaws, but because their commitment to the values of God’s kingdom shouted much louder than their human

Comment by: Jim McCrea
Posted: 11/12/2013 20:30:22

Anthony: your fixation on Mr. Mandela's position regarding abortion seems to be a blind spot in your acknowledgement of his stunning achievements while in prison and then after his release. Many people joined the Communist Party in a variety of countries for their own reasons. I would not condemn Mr. Mandela's membership in light of the social and political conditions to which he was subjected in his lifetime of apartheid dominated South Africa.

Comment by: Anthony
Posted: 11/12/2013 17:36:36

"Orchestrated 'black on black' violence? So that would be the kind orchestrated by Winnie Mandela in her advocacy of necklacing, would it?

Comment by: Anthony Ozimic
Posted: 10/12/2013 14:03:58

This Jesuit has allowed himself to become a respecter of persons, swept away by a personality cult. His account totally ignores Mandela's pro-abortion record and his position in the South African Communist Party's Central Committee (admitted last week by the pro-abortion ANC) http://spuc-director.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/god-rest-nelson-mandela-his-record-on.html

  Loading ...