The art of soiling brand Mandela
ONE wishes former president Nelson Mandela could respond to what some self-serving politicians say or do in his name.
Suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and President Jacob Zuma have been at each other's throats, claiming to know better what Mandela represents.
They claim to be true ambassadors of the Madiba brand.
It is reminiscent of the battle between former president Thabo Mbeki and Zuma ahead of the Polokwane conference.
As part of their respective campaigns to lead the party, Mbeki and Zuma claimed to be the best representatives of what ANC leader Oliver Tambo stood for. What would Tambo have done had he been alive and witnessing the ANC divisions? This was among the issues that both sides grappled with publicly.
Even IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has a lot to say about how he became a disciple of Tambo. But that's another matter.
Malema claims that his political strategies are inspired by Mandela's during his days as leader of the youth league.
Mandela was known for his militancy. He was impatient. He wanted change. He wanted military action against the apartheid state when the ANC initially had a different view.
Malema claims his 21st century version of radicalism is consistent with Mandela's during the 20th century.
His demand for economic freedom is in line with Mandela's demand for political freedom. His troublesome relationship with ANC leaders is in sync with the problematic relationship Mandela had with party leaders during his time.
Malema does not understand why Zuma and the ANC are subjecting him to disciplinary processes for doing what they should encourage or at least tolerate: emulating Mandela.
In anticipation of the confirmation of his suspension or expulsion from the party, Malema is telling his supporters to be as brave as Mandela was when he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the apartheid regime.
Malema is mistaken in thinking that he represents what Mandela stood for. He is far from being Mandela. He knows it.
But, he is trying to build a post-facto explanation to justify his actions that have brought him in conflict with his seniors.
The merits of disciplining him aside - it is after all more about Zuma's self-interest than the party's - Malema is wrong to claim to be following on Mandela's footsteps.
Firstly, although Mandela had campaigned for the nationalisation of mines, he later changed tune. In line with the circumstances of the time - increased globalisation of the world economy after 1989 - Mandela renounced nationalisation.
As Malema reads more and more books as part of his political science degree, he will learn more about the implications of the 1989 events, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. These are the events that broke the hearts of Blade Nzimande, Jeremy Cronin and many communists when it became clear that communism was untenable.
The Growth, Employment and Redistribution policy, which allowed for privatisation of state companies (not nationalisation of private ones) and was a swear-policy among communists, came into effect during Mandela's administration.
Malema's campaign to nationalise mines under the "freedom in our lifetime" slogan, which was allegedly inspired by Mandela, is therefore misplaced.
Secondly, Mandela's anger was clearly targeted at the apartheid regime. Malema's anger - whatever the motivation - is targeted at white businesses and his leaders in the ANC.
After his release Mandela broadly adopted a reconciliatory tone towards the business sector, although his relations with some of the white captains of industry was often cold.
Thirdly, although Mandela ran a law firm and he was known for being fashion conscious, he didn't own a business to the extent to which Malema does.
Even if he had wanted to, apartheid restrictions would have made it difficult. Malema, on the other hand, not only has business interests; he also does business with the state, via his company from which he earns dividends!
Enough about Malema. We have Zuma, on the other hand, who is apparently teaching Malema about what Mandela stood for. Zuma claims that Mandela used to humble himself to the ANC and has always made his points without being ill-disciplined.
It begs the question: when did Malema show signs of not being humbled compared with Mandela? When he called Helen Zille, the DA leader, a cockroach? When he said he would kill for Zuma? When he said Mbeki represented the African agenda better than Zuma?
Mandela had never said he would kill or die for any individual. Mandela had always committed himself to die for freedom on behalf of all South Africans - black and white.
His famous speech at his treason trial is testimony to this. When Malema said he would kill for Zuma, was that within the tradition of Mandela? What did Zuma do about it?
We all know the answers to these questions. It was all soothing to Zuma's ears back then, until the amateurish anger was turned to Zuma himself. And now there is a fight between the two about who best represents what Mandela stood for.
Mandela advocated for the freedom of the press, the independence of the courts and the supremacy of the Constitution - all of which are under threat under Zuma's administration.
Zuma has on numerous occasions also claimed to be following on the teachings of Mandela.
But the truth is he is not the person to deliver Madiba lessons. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
In fact, with the kind of views they both espouse, Malema and Zuma are soiling Mandela's good name.
The two, in their conduct and utterances, represent the opposite or what the new South Africa's founding president stood for.
Mandela is not in a position to speak for himself. He has retired. But it does not mean that he must be abused.