Much longer walk to freedom

Mandela's statue, Parliament Sq, London

Mandela’s statue, Parliament Sq, London

When the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, visited South Africa House following Nelson Mandela’s death he was jeered by people queuing up to sign the book of condolences.

They were fed up with politicians of his ilk who were falling over themselves to be associated with Mandela in the hope that some of his stardust would settle on them.

To be fair, Johnson is not worst hypocrite. Far bigger fish than him shamelessly jumped on the Mandela bandwagon, even though they are responsible for policies that Mandela himself would have deplored.

He publicly criticised Tony Blair for his illegal invasion of Iraq but this did not stop Blair popping up on the airwaves and gushing about his friendship with him.

Of course, he was given the opportunity to do so by broadcasters, who declared that Obama was the only show in town at Mandela’s memorial service and failed to see the irony of America’s drone chief lecture the world on the need for Mandela-like peace and reconciliation.

Earlier on, they also lined up former apartheid leaders and functionaries to sing their praises of Mandela.

We were expected to accept these one time fascists in the same spirit of magnanimity as Mandela did, although of course he had no choice but to negotiate with them.

They in turn must have breathed a sigh of relief that Mandela and the ANC, once in government, left corporate South Africa in tact. While a wealthy black elite has been allowed to emerge, whites continue to have the best houses, the best land and the best jobs while too many blacks live in poverty.

Truly, Mandela can be considered a liberation hero for the role he played in dismantling apartheid, for the great personal sacrifices he made and for the generosity he displayed in victory. There are not many people who could be incarcerated for 27 years and emerge with their heads high and their principles in tact.

But had he been able to withstand the pressures of international finance and launched a redistributive economic programme, not to take revenge on South African whites but in the spirit of justice and equity, I am sure Mandela would not occupy the pedestal he does today.

South Africa would have been cast out in the cold like Cuba and faced all kinds of destabilising influences. Still Mandela, as a man of principle, must surely have gone to his grave deeply regretting that only the first part of his vision had not been attempted, and he ended up being toasted by friend and foe alike.

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