The year 2018 is not an ordinary year as we mark the centenary of an icon, the man who sacrificed his life for all to live freely in a democratic South Africa. Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary human being; he was our beacon of hope and an epitome of humanity and reconciliation.
He never lost hope when he was in the belly of the beast for almost three decades; he fought until the beast called apartheid vomited him out in 1990.
He was strong enough not to be chewed by the sharp teeth of the evil beast. The beast’s tripe was not strong enough to digest him and release him as a waste. He endured the unbearable pain that was inflicted by the evil regime.
The apartheid regime will go down in history as one of the cruelest treatments ever imposed on a human being since the creation of humankind. Even the cruelty of slavery does not come close.
Let us try to find out if South Africa is an ideal place for which the late former president was prepared to die.
His centenary comes at a time when South Africa is sitting on a ticking bomb waiting to explode at any time from now.
Our economy is not doing well; it is in a crisis. Our GDP has shrunk by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year. This has led to many job losses, exorbitant fuel increases and food prices.
Ours has become a country which is not conducive to economic growth.
The masses have run out of patience. They are exacerbating the situation by demonstrating violently. They burn the public places almost every day.
They have lost hope in the governing party which has been in power since 1994.
The governing party which was once led by this icon has become a shadow itself; it is in war with itself.
When ANC took over in 1994, we saw many positive changes in our country under the presidency of Madiba. There was the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, where the victims and perpetrators of apartheid came face to face to reconcile.
Mandela went on to use sports to reconcile the divided nation. This resulted in our national soccer team winning the AFCON competition for the first time in 1996. They went on to qualify for the World cup in France for the first time in 1997.
We will never forget it was Mandela who urged fellow black people to support Springbok our national rugby team. Rugby was a white sport back then. Mandela himself confessed that during the dark days of apartheid he would support any team that played against the Springboks.
It was a taboo for blacks to support rugby. Mandela took the initiative; he even wore the Springbok jersey.
During world cup final that was in our own country, we saw blacks and whites wearing Springbok jerseys sitting together at the stadium to support their team. In the end, Amabokoko won the world cup for the first time. We all celebrated one victory as one nation united in our diversity.
When Mandela’s presidential term ended in 1999, he supported his successor president Mbeki.
He stepped down peacefully unlike many African presidents who fail to embrace change.
During Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, the South African economy improved. He managed the highest economic growth in South Africa since 1980. His economic achievement was overshadowed by his “HIV denialism” which caused 300 000 deaths.
This will go down as the ugliest history during Mbeki’s tenure.
If this was not enough, we will never forget how the whole country was embarrassed by Mbeki when he slapped the late Winnie Mandela who was the president of ANC Women’s League when she bent down to hug him during the 25th anniversary of Soweto uprising.
This incident happened live on a national television. This demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that ANC was in war with itself. It was not a surprise when Mbeki was recalled by his own organisation before he could finish his second term.
When Jacob Zuma took over he was hailed as the people’s president. His charisma did not last long. His corrupt activities were exposed.
The writing was on the wall that Zuma’s disastrous presidency was gradually going down the drain, where it belonged when the Constitutional Court ruled against his favour regarding public protector’s report about Nkandla.
He started losing support from unlikely sources such as the church organisations, military veterans and ordinary members of society.
Our parliament became a laughing stock.
His downfall was imminent. Like his predecessor, he was also recalled by his own ANC.
Our country is currently under the caretaker presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa who is busy doing his best to revitalise the economy and the expropriation of land without compensation. Mandela’s centenary comes at a time when the masses have lost patience in governing party.
It comes at a time when the political opponents are trying to denigrate his name by labelling him as a sell-out. Personally, I do believe that Mandela made some compromises for the good of our country.
The dynamics were different back then compared to now in 2018.
South Africa was bleeding; innocent people were killed by the apartheid regime and Inkatha Freedom Party.
His compromises stopped the bloody war and saved many lives until we attained democracy in 1994.
We will never stop hailing Mandela as a hero until the end of time. I am proud that I have experienced Mandela’s presidency.
I will always cherish the day I passed next to his coffin when his body was lying in state. Instead of shedding a tear of sadness, I shed a tear of admiration of a life well lived.
I looked at him and proudly said rest in peace, my hero, we shall continue with your long walk to freedom with pride.
We still have a long way to go, but we are proud that he has laid a solid foundation for the prosperity of our country.
He once said, “ after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.
We will make sure that Mandela’s story is securely preserved for posterity.