Tag: Nelson Mandela

An African president’s Christmas wish list

You see, Africans are an odd bunch. Barack Obama is winning elections using Facebook and next thing every African politician wants to win elections by a landslide using Facebook. My friend and brother Kim Jung-un is putting a rebellious Uncle in his place and next thing AU Summits are full of nervous jokes about the endangered Uncle species. The Egyptians are gathering in Tahrir Square to pull Mubarak down and next thing elements in Nigeria are obsessed with turning every open patch of ground into a revolutionary square. South Sudan manages to earn its independence, next thing every hamlet in Tanzania is raucously debating colour choices for an independence flag.

Copycats – that’s the problem with Africa. We haven’t got minds of our own. We are always copying everything we see, good or bad. Treasonable uprisings, immoral music videos, Western sexual practices – nothing is above being copied by the youth of this continent.

In my country you now have a group who think themselves an African Tea Party. They think that by repeatedly falsely labeling me a Communist they can turn me into one.

Every time I speak of my commitment towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for my country, these disgruntled elements start to snicker. And then cartoons show up on the internet, thinly disguised caricatures of me proclaiming that what I actually meant by MDGs was  Murders, Drugs and Guns.

I let it go, because I am not a tyrant; I am a democratically elected President.

But it really does get to me. Because that is how people start getting ideas to throw a man out of power – it starts with anonymous comments on the blogs and snide cartoons on Facebook. Ask Brother Zuma to tell you how his troubles started, with the shower-head cartoons. Now see how much hate the man has to deal with because of minor renovations to his crumbling homestead.

If I go ahead and invoke state powers and order prosecution on the grounds of libel, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International jump on the case, desperate to justify their generous funding. They call me names. But I let it go, because I am not a tyrant; I am a democratically elected President – and by a landslide too.

My Nigerian brother, the democratically elected Goodluck Jonathan, once cried out that he is the most abused President in the world. Do you know what it must have taken for him to say that out loud? Do you know how painful it is to watch disgruntled elements distort your every word, make fun of you at every turn?

Look at Brother Uhuru in Kenya, also democratically elected, like me, who has to suffer the indignities of being treated like a common war criminal.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (L) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Pic: AFP)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (L) and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Pic: AFP)

If we continue this way, very soon no one is going to want to be an African Head of State. We will have no leadership, no government. And you know what that means. Chaos. Disaster. We will slip back into the dark ages.

I don’t want that to happen. Neither do you.

Therefore my wish is for Africa’s new generation of freedom fighters and activists to realise that the times have changed, and that the weapons that were perfected in the fight against yesterday’s tyrants cannot and must not be deployed against today’s generation of democratic statesmen. I know Brothers Goodluck and Uhuru, we are not Brothers Abacha or Mobutu, and we do not deserve to be treated like those men.

No we don’t. We are men who have an eye on the verdict of history. It has just dawned on me: now that there’s a Madiba-shaped hole in the heart of Africa, I would really like nothing more than to be the man of destiny to fill that space.

I have a lot more in common with Madiba than you’re willing to acknowledge. You look at me and think I’ve been President for X years – failing to understand one simple truth; that I’ve actually been a Prisoner all that time.

What you call the Presidential Palace, I call a Maximum Security Prison – without the hard labour of course, and with a few conjugal visits thrown in (when Her Excellency is not trying to avoid me).

I spend my days and nights holed up in this place, trapped by the endless “security reports” that say the streets are full of mobs of tweeters, snipers and revolutionaries; all rooting for my downfall, thirsting for my blood.

To evade them, I am forced to be a Prisoner.

I need to get out of this prison. Because Africa deserves another Nelson Mandela.

My long walk to freedom has now started. Someday soon, dear friends and comrades, brothers and sisters, I shall be free from these chains of duty and service to a most ungrateful country.

It is my fervent – and final – wish, that, at that time when I am cast out of this stuffy and joyless Prison into the exceedingly fresh air of freedom, my friend and Brother Mo Ibrahim will not have given up on his laudable idea of handsomely rewarding those rare African statesmen who do what needs to be done when the ovation is at its loudest.

Tolu Ogunlesi is a Nigerian journalist and newspaper columnist. He has written for the Financial Times, CNN, the London Independent, Al Jazeera and The Africa Report, amongst others. Between 2009 and 2011 he was features editor at NEXT, a Lagos-based daily newspaper. Follow him on Twitter.

Mandela film gets three Golden Globe nominations

A film about the life of former South African president Nelson Mandela titled Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom received three Golden Globe nominations on Thursday.

The nominations were announced in Los Angeles, the company that produced the film, Videovision Entertainment, said in a statement.

Idris Elba, who plays Mandela in the film, was nominated for Best Actor and the film’s music composer, Alex Heffes, scooped a nomination in the Best Original Score category.

Irish rock band U2 was nominated for the Best Original Song for Ordinary Love, a song written specially for the film.

The film’s producer Anant Singh said it was an honour to have received three Golden Globe nominations. This was a first for a South African film.

Elba also received a nomination for Best Actor in a Mini-Series made for Television for his role in the television series, Luther. “We congratulate Idris on his amazing performance in the film and his double nomination, and we congratulate Alex and U2 on receiving this recognition,” said Singh.

The 2014 Golden Globes take place on Sunday 12 January.

Step up in honour of Madiba, South Africa

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

For far too long, as a nation we’ve watched our father, Nelson Mandela, cling to life even when there was so little life left to cling to. I remember being shocked by how disoriented and shrunken he looked during the 2010 World Cup. But he’s had a full, rich life, I reasoned. His service to our nation, remarkable.

Yet, he clung to life for another three years because, as a nation, we would not let him go. We needed him still because he had become, over these last 20 years, an embodiment of the force that keeps us moving forward, however haltingly. He had come to represent our Hope.

Without it we feared we would not withstand the protracted, agonising birth of a vibrant democracy. He was a symbol of the triumph of the will of the people over oppression and indignity. A symbol of courage. A symbol of the power of forgiveness. A symbol of the resilience of the human spirit and a reminder that the desire to succeed should always be matched by a determination to stand up again each time life brings you to your knees. However deeply divided we may be as a nation, on one matter we remained united. The day this rich African earth, with its rolling hills and much too wide sky welcomed Nelson Mandela to its breast, was the day we as a nation were blessed.

His passing will see many voices raised in lament, and as many raised in celebration of his life. It will see a near beatification of the man. The adoring voices will finally dull enough for us to hear the murmurs of dissent. The voices that decry. That avow his role in our continued suffering. That is the point that you and I, who value his contribution and understand just how much he has made possible for each of us, need to remember: that while Nelson Mandela was at the helm, he had with him an able crew. South Africa’s slaying of the Monster of Apartheid was not a one-man show. His achievement could never have been possible without the contribution of millions of South Africans.

As a nation, WE made it happen.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

His death comes at a crucial time in our history. We’re an angry nation. Disillusioned. Divided.  Nkandla continues to sour our mouths. State coffers continue to be plundered while millions still live in near inhumane conditions. Many of us view our unstatesman-like president as little more than a moron. Elections loom, like a bank of angry clouds on the horizon. We’re plagued by uncertainty and more and more, we have the sense that South Africa is roiling. One small catalyst away from a massive implosion.

It is moments like these that, throughout history, have birthed leaders. True leaders. Sons and daughters of South Africa, step up. The shoes you have to fill are massive, but as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Volcano drum majorettes perform in honour of Nelson Mandela on December 7 2013 outside his home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)
Volcano Drum Majorettes perform in honour of Nelson Mandela on December 7 2013 outside his old home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)

Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba. A nation mourns, but we shall celebrate your legacy by fighting the good fight. For you. For ourselves. And for the generations to come. Your courage lives on in each son and daughter of South Africa.

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”

Saaleha Bhamjee is a writer, social media addict, confectioner and mother of five from Benoni, South Africa. She is a columnist for The Review, an East Rand publication. Visit her blog here. 

What Mandela means to me, a Zimbabwean

“S’khokhele Nkomo, s’khokhele Nkomo! S’khokhele Mandela, s’khokele Lorryhlahla!” (Lead us Nkomo, lead us! Lead us Mandela, lead us Rolihlahla!) we sang at the top of our squeaky voices. Up and down the maize field he made us march, brandishing our little hoes for Kalashnikovs. Our commander was my eldest brother Jabu and he did not tolerate slackers. No raspberry drink or a piece of bread for lazy “gorillas”, which is how we pronounced guerrillas. This was the early 1970s in our village in the then Selukwe District of Rhodesia. My young siblings and I had no idea who Joshua Nkomo and Nelson Mandela were, but they sounded and felt extremely important to big brother and our mum. She was an extremely shy woman. In fact, this was the only time I remember her ululating in public.

After the umpteenth denial of my favourite drink, I just had to ask: “But who is this Mandela? Isn’t Nkomo what we call our cattle?”

The shock on Jabu’s face was indescribable. How could I not know? These two men were going to free us. Free all of us black people.

“From what?” my junior primary school-going-self was not bound by anything.

“From all of this! All of this!”

His arm swept across the entire universe in front of us. I nodded my not-so-small head. That sounded simple enough. If anyone could liberate me from hoeing the maize, carrying firewood each Thursday and fetching water from the brook too early in the morning in June, then that was alright. Nkomo and Mandela peered at me every day from Jabu’s little notebook. They had to be kept hidden in case the police and our father discovered them. Father did not like any talk of politics in our family.

Then vice-president Joshua Nkomo greets Nelson Mandela on his arrival in Harare on February 13 1997. (Reuters)
Then vice-president Joshua Nkomo greets Nelson Mandela on his arrival in Harare on February 13 1997. (Reuters)

Forward to the early 1980s. I was now in secondary school. The name Nkomo had become synonymous with political ‘dissidents’; bad losers who wanted to prevent the rest of Zimbabwe from enjoying their independence. The mass media said Nkomo was bad, our lecturers at university also said he was a dissident. Jabu had already given up asking Nkomo to lead us anywhere, and was focusing on his football career instead. It was said Nkomo was not the one who had led our armed struggle for independence and freed us Zimbabweans, but the other one. I had never heard of this other one in the 1970s. We certainly didn’t sing about him on mummy’s maize patch.

Mandela was still around though, this time in colour! There was his smiley face, with the trademark dharakishon (hair parting), on his head. I learnt he was in prison. Suffering to free the people of South Africa. A few dozen of them were in my class at the University of Zimbabwe. They told me their stories. Sechaba’s father had been killed in prison, Linda’s mum beaten to death after a demonstration, Hlubi’s brother believed kidnapped and or killed by the police.

I cried each time I watched a play put on by the drama department. I read the news, books and watched television shows about Mandela and the other freedom fighters all for myself. This time I could toyi-toyi with meaning, not just because I was afraid of missing out on raspberry juice. We marched in solidarity with the youth of South Africa on June 16. Mandela’s birthday was a key feature on my calendar. On Africa Day we held vigils in Africa Unity Square in Harare. On October 7 1988, I almost lost a limb pushing and shoving to get into the stadium for a human rights concert held to call for an end to apartheid. Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour performed. I voraciously read every speech and watched every bit of footage of Mandela’s wife, Winnie. I liked her wigs, which looked exactly like my mum’s. She spoke fearlessly. Beautifully. I admired her. Sometimes I forgot about Mandela; Winnie represented him.

We Zimbabweans closely followed the story of Mandela and apartheid, not just out of neighbourly curiosity. Zimbabwe supported the anti-apartheid movement, provided support and arms and gave refuge to ANC members. Just as others had done for us. As a result, there were several fatal bombings in Harare in the late 80s by South Africa’s apartheid government.

Mandela no longer felt as remote to me as he had back in my childhood. At last I began to appreciate what my brother had tried to teach me all those years ago. I rooted for Mandela and his people to achieve what we had in 1980. He was going to lead ‘us’, to freedom, and I felt led by him. The South was no longer another country.

He was released from prison on February 11 1990, a day before my 25th birthday. There he was, just as I had imagined him, his face still as kind as I remembered. Winnie was at his side, in that wig! I did no work that day or the few days after that. I was free, too.

Nelson Mandela and his then wife Winnie raise their fists upon his release from prison on February 11 1990. (AFP)
Nelson Mandela and his then wife Winnie raise their fists upon his release from prison on February 11 1990. (AFP)

Fast forward to the 21st century. Nkomo has been dead since 1999, removed from this earth and largely airbrushed from history. He only gets dredged out when we need to use his name for present expediency.

And now, Mandela is gone. Each time I saw him and other older freedom struggle leaders of his generation on television, I simply thought of my dad who is now in his 80s. I wanted to rush and give them their bedroom slippers, a nice dressing gown, and a warm cup of cocoa. I am sure Mandela got that when he retired – unlike Nkomo who worked till he dropped, and others who don’t seem like they are ready for that warm cocoa yet.

I wish I had had the chance to sit on a cushion at Mandela’s feet and ask him: The Queen or Mrs Thatcher? What was with that hair cut? Boxing, seriously man? Did you miss Winnie? Otis Redding or Don Williams? Tambo or Sisulu, and don’t give me the political speak, which one did you really like? It would be just an ordinary conversation with an ordinary man who had extraordinary experiences.

I will always remember his kind face and his good leadership. (Reuters)
I will always remember his kind face and his good leadership. (Reuters)

I think of Mandela, Nkomo and other men of their generation as reminders of where we have come from. I celebrate them, their often forgotten wives and their children. These men embodied our long and painful liberation struggles. They brought us this far, they’ve had their time. Mandela gracefully handed over the reins to the next generation and stepped away from public life over a decade ago, yet he will remain in my memory and consciousness forever. He gave me, a black Zimbabwean and African woman, something to hold on to; to believe in. He was a good leader. I will always remember him and speak of him in this way to my granddaughters when they grow up; casting him not as a man with mythical or saintly qualities, but a mere mortal like the rest of us. And I’m sure they won’t raise a quizzical eyebrow and ask: “Are you sure, Gogo? Did he really do all those things or are you exaggerating?”

I was freed from carrying firewood and fetching water from miles away and, thankfully, from toyi-toying on that barren maize patch! Thirty and some years later, the blood still rushes through my head each time I watch old footage of “gorillas” singing liberation songs. I get goose bumps when they sing “Sikhokele Nkomo! Sikhokele Rolihlahla”. When I sing it now, it’s still “Lorryhlala”, deliberately, for a good giggle. I doubt Mandela would mind.

Everjoice J. Win is a Zimbabwean feminist and writer.

African presidents, AU pay tribute to Mandela

The African Union mourned the passing of South Africa’s liberation leader Nelson Mandela on Friday, ordering its flags to fly at half mast as it praised a “pan-African icon”.

“Mandela has fought a good fight, and bowed out with great reverence,” said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union Commission of the 54-member bloc.

“His passing on is a great loss to his family, to our continent and indeed to humanity itself,” Dlamini-Zuma added, herself a South African and the former wife of President Jacob Zuma.

Mandela died late Thursday aged 95.

“Madiba, as he was fondly known, symbolises the spirit of pan-Africanism and solidarity in the struggles of humanity against apartheid, oppression and colonialism and for self-determination, peace and reconciliation,” she added.

Nelson Mandela. (Pic: AFP)
Nelson Mandela. (Pic: AFP)

In Ghana, President John Dramani Mahama hailed Mandela as “a man of peace and tolerance” and “the man who sowed unifying peace in South Africa.

“Mandela was an icon, not only of hope, but also of the possibility for healing, Mahama said in a statement. “His utilisation of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonisation, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion and forgiveness must play a role in governance,” he added.

“The world has lost one of its greatest citizens,” Tanzanian President Kikwete said, calling Mandela “a voice of courage, a source of inspiration and a beloved leader to us all.” The East African nation has declared three days of mourning for the former South African leader.

Kenyan deputy president William Ruto said that with the death of Mandela, “the world has lost a moral example of selfless leadership”.

“The African continent is poorer without Madiba,” he told The Standard newspaper. “We are mourning a father to multiple generations of Africans. Madiba was a shining example that we should all emulate.”

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said: “Mandela will always be remembered and honoured by all mankind as one of its greatest liberators, a wise, courageous and compassionate leader, and an icon of true democracy. Mandela’s death will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent.” Jonathan also declared three days of national mourning for Mandela.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall said: “We have lost a giant, one of the greatest figures in contemporary Africa. No man of our time has given so much for the cause of his people, for Africa, and for the good of mankind. Nelson Mandela taught us courage, strength, forgiveness. He showed us that a human being could be better.”

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said in a tweet: “Madiba, South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, passes on. But what is certain is he will continue to live in the hearts of many of us. Rest in peace.”

UPDATE:  Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe called Mandela the great icon of African liberation, freedom fighter, a beacon of excellence and a humble and compassionate leader. His delayed message of condolence was delivered on Saturday, raising speculation that Harare was reluctant to recognise Madiba’s legacy. Read more here.

– Mail & Guardian, Sapa