Africa · South Africa

Mandela’s South Africa

Here’s a striking diverse set of opinions about Nelson Mandela from his countrymen. Most of it is positive, but it starts off with an angry, disillusioned young man who has a strikingly different feeling about Mandela. I’m no stranger to hearing some negative opinions about Mandela, both personally and from reading. There are some who think he “sold out” his black countrymen to the whites, mainly because Mandela tried to be pragmatic and not forcibly take wealth, property or companies from the whites. This meant that even with the removal of apartheid, the economic elites continued to be elites and the majority of sectors like banking and construction remained in the hands of whites. This also meant that South Africa avoided the fate of Zimbabwe during the past decade, when Robert Mugabe ordered armed invasions of white-owned farms.

Going back to the angry young black man, I can understand where his anger comes from but I think it’s very misguided. Mandela should not be blamed for everything and it’s foolhardy to think that even as great a person as he could do things like eliminate poverty just like that.

The Atlantic takes a look at the tough question of what’ll happen next to South Africa. One white South African is so worried that the country will go berzerk on whites after Mandela dies that he’s amassed an arsenal. Others have a chilling view with a pragmatic intention – “there are those who actively wished Mandela dead. The deification of Saint Mandela, they say, reveals just how deeply racist most white South Africans are—they only respect “good blacks.” Others believe his death will clear the path for us to have the really tough discussions that are so crucial in South Africa right now.” There is a certain logic behind these dark thoughts – with Mandela dead, South Africa and its ruling ANC party may find it more urgent to tackle serious problems facing it, as they’re unable to take comfort in Mandela and live off of his glory.

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2 thoughts on “Mandela’s South Africa

  1. Thank you for yet again introducing some thought-provoking articles. They reflect so many people and themes that haunted me the 7 months we were there…. A friend emailed me yesterday saying, “Don’t you wish you were still in SA? How fascinating it would be to be there during the funeral!” All I could think was, “But it’s so much more complicated than that.” These articles frame a few of the issues eloquently.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Bobbi. It is definitely interesting and tragic how the situation within South Africa is compared with its Rainbow Nation world image. I mean, a lot of it is true in terms of the diversity and culture, but there’s a lot of negativity and anger. I like the country a lot, but as you say, it is very complicated.

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