An insult to Mandela
AS JULY 18, Mandela Day, nears and people are getting ready to do yearly charity work in honour of his legacy, I cannot help but ask whether it is justified to celebrate and honour Nelson Mandela's convictions, ideals and legacies in the way we have been doing, that is through little cosmetic charity activities.
Of course, July 18 has been declared an international day and we all know that Mandela is the world's greatest statesman, a man who sacrificed all he had, his future, freedom and family to fight for a free South Africa.
A man who was determined never to surrender but rather die for as long as the world and its people were not living in peace, harmony and have equal opportunities irrespective of race, gender and creed.
Is our celebration activities on this important day of Mandela Day in line and a true reflection of what he stood, fought, was jailed and willing to die for?
In his message prior to his life sentence in the 1964 Rivonia Trial - a message he repeated immediately after his release from jail in 1990 - Mandela clarified his ideals and convictions when he said that he "fought against white domination and black domination". He said he cherished a democratic and free society where all persons live in harmony with equal opportunities - an ideal he wished to live for, and if need be, to die for.
This message made it clear that Mandela risked his life not for one dominating race or class to bluff the other, that is poor and disenfranchised, by giving the latter some dirty and old clothes they themselves they no longer need or some little food, painting of orphanages houses as the so-called Mandela Foundation seem to promote.
But that he fought against domination of one race, gender or class against the other and, more importantly, for a peaceful world and a society with equal opportunities.
What is further clear is that unlike Mother Theresa, Mandela did not believe nor was he willing to die so that the world is reduced into a charity spectra where a particular race or class oppresses another and one day in a year patronises them by doing cosmetic and insulting activities like giving them some dirty, unwanted clothes and little food.
Mandela fought, was jailed and even willing to die for a just nation and world as well as a society with equal opportunities, a world of harmony and peace.
The people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Palestine are still being slaughtered like chickens. South Africans are still widely divided on racial lines and we remain the most unequal society in the world.
Mandela's ideals are therefore far from being achieved and those who claim to believe in him should use every opportunity, especially his birthday, to pursue these ideals that took away 27 years of his freedom.
So instead of doing these charitable and public relations activities aimed at nothing but playing to the gallery, while failing to change the painful world, we should celebrate Mandela Day through activities of real life and condition-changing material.
We must amass our collective power, march and demonstrate against those who continues to use their race and class to dominate the weak and poor.
We should be mobilising all necessary and available resources to continue fighting for a world that is what Mandela was willing to die for, a society with equal opportunities.
The current horrific statistics on inequality, poverty, under-development, unemployment, corruption and crime should be used as our rallying point to celebrate Mandela's birthday by waging a battle for a better life for all.
For as long as the ideal world that Mandela fought for is still such a far-fetched, Utopian reality, we should use July 18 as a moment to rise from slumber and confront the evils of progress through utilisation of our collective power and strength.
We should use that power to challenge the powers that be who have made it their daily business to practise anti-Mandela ideals by perpetuating a world that promotes mass killings of one nation by the other, unjust and unequal world and society filled with poverty and racial domination and oppression.
This day should be used by the majority who are yet to see the fruits of the 1994 democratic breakthrough as a platform to demand the eradication of corruption, crime, poverty, unemployment, under-development, unequal distribution of land and wealth, racism and sexism.
It is therefore an insult to Mandela's ideals and sacrifices if we continue celebrating a birthday of such a great revolutionary as if he was just an attention seeker, obsessed with activities that were aimed at maintaining a painful status quo of oppression of one race, gender and class by the other than change the world for a better one and better society.
- Luther Lebelo is chairman of Liliesleaf Farm Branch-ANC in Midrand. He works for the South African Revenue Service