Friday, July 17, 2009

Nelson Mandela Turns 91

Nelson Mandela Turns 91

Mandela in Video

Mandela Cartoons

Mandela: The Struggle Years Posters

Time to close the gap

EDITORIAL - Jul 17 2009 06:00

Nelson Mandela is 91, his athlete's body is frail and he has all but disappeared from public life.

As an icon, however, Mandela is more robust than ever. The gilded and the glamorous are gathering in London and New York to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, and at home there is saturation coverage of the day and of his foundation's initiative to get South Africans to set aside 67 minutes for community service.

Perhaps it is not surprising that, at an awkward and uncertain moment in our transition, when the ship of state seems to be drifting leaderless into the future, we turn to a figure whose legacy is a lesson in clarity of vision and purpose. That is the case just as much in global capitals, roiled by economic turbulence, as it is here.

Madiba has, in a sense, returned to centre stage in our national imagination because we need him. But there is an unattractive side, too, to the uses to which we put him.

The tussle with the ANC over who can properly claim to be heir to his legacy is not just a demonstration of its renewed power, but of what people are prepared to subject the man to himself as they grasp at his mantle.

It was most clearly demonstrated when he was flown to the Eastern Cape to endorse President Jacob Zuma ahead of the April elections. It was evident, too, in the election to Parliament of his less-than-impressive grandson, Mandla.

The parade of stars outside his Houghton door hoping to borrow a little of his light can seem to reduce him to a fairground attraction just as surely as the awful grinning statue that presides over the high-end retail ghetto of Nelson Mandela Square.

Fortunately he outshines all of that -- in the extraordinary resonance of his speeches from the dock, the force of his charisma shining through photographs more than half-a-century old and, most remarkably of all, his emergence from prison in 1990 as a statesman fully formed. Even after he quit office, his activism on HIV/Aids stood in sharp rebuke to the madness of Thabo Mbeki's denialism.

That is the force that we must harness, not by wheeling our living icon out for the rich or the politically needy, not by genuflecting at his feet, but by measuring the potential difference between what he stands for and the place we find ourselves in, and putting that voltage to work.

Here is a man who was born just five years after the implementation of the 1913 Natives' Land Act and who has lived to see the colossal failure of the state's redistribution policies; who helped to radicalise the ANC of the 1940s through its Youth League and who has lived to see Julius Malema claim that legacy; who was chief volunteer during the defiance campaign and who has lived to see service delivery protests across the country; who brought us freedom while other liberation heroes -- such as Robert Mugabe -- were stealing the fruits of revolution. All that is cause for sadness and for anger.

There is cause for celebration, too, of course, in a culture of tolerance and human rights, in new houses springing up around our cities, in law courts where the young Mandelas of today can exercise their talents in full. It is in the distance between that anger and that joy that we celebrate Madiba's birthday -- not as a commemoration but as a command to close the gap and to realise the future that he has bequeathed us.

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

Mandela Day aims to shape legacy of global icon


As Nelson Mandela turns 91 on Saturday, his family and his charitable foundation are trying to harness his iconic status around the globe to promote community service on his birthday.

Celebrities and politicians will also be holding concerts and other celebrations from Johannesburg to New York.

But as South Africa's first black president ages, those closest to him are trying to turn his name's magic appeal into an annual "Mandela Day" of service while preventing it from becoming over-commercialised.

"The focus is on community service, picking up the one element of Mr Mandela's legacy that should apply to us all, and that is service to mankind," said Ruth Rensburg of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Organisers are asking the public to dedicate 67 minutes to an act of service to others, a minute for every year since Mandela took up the struggle for equality in South Africa.

Mandela's eldest grandson and chief of the Mandela clan, Mandla Zwelivelile Mandela, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) he will spend the day in the Mvezo village, where his grandfather was born, cleaning the graves of his great-great-grandparents.

The younger Mandela said his grandfather, just two weeks ago, came to the village to remind children of the collective struggle against apartheid rule.

"He said: 'There is no leader that exists alone. I existed with ordinary men and women of this country who sacrificed more than I ever did and they just chose me to be the face of this campaign'," said the grandson.

He said Mandela Day should "pay tribute to the collective effort of leadership" that helped bring democracy to South Africa and "be able to plough back to communities where we came from."

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, emerging in 1990 committed to democracy and negotiating a deal that led to universal suffrage and the country's first black presidency, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Mandela has officially retired from public life, but his name, image and presence are still sought after, with celebrities wanting to meet him and the African National Congress seeking his continued endorsement.

Great concern

Mandla Mandela, whose father's death of Aids in 2005 prompted the former president to speak out against the stigma of HIV/Aids, is at the centre of a battle for the leader's legacy.

This year he denied reports that he sold the television rights to his grandfather's funeral to the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Mandla told AFP the rights to his grandfather's name and how it is used was of great concern to the family, warning Mandela Day itself risked "losing its purpose".

"Now people are already seeing this as a profit-making scheme and doing their own initiatives to reap rewards out of this."

Rensburg, of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, says Mandela's intellectual property is in safe hands and was monitored around the world, and stopped where necessary.

A London art gallery has come under fire for displaying prints of artwork that the exhibitors claim were signed by Mandela. His lawyers say the signatures were faked.

"My serious concern is what becomes of the name after the old man has come and gone," said Mandla.

"We currently see that name commercialised, seeing my grandfather printed on coins and things. It is for us as a family to really become active participants as to what we desire for my grandfather's legacy to become." -- AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

No comments: