There is this crazy thing about the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday and the exaggeration of his role in the South Africa’s struggle for liberation. There is also overemphasis on the issue of the 67 years he put in the struggle.Some of his fellow comrades, like Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu, who were incarcerated with him on Robben Island, put in more years than Mandela in serving humanity. Anton Lembede, Ashby Peter Mda, Zeph Mothopeng and Oliver Tambo were involved in the struggle for liberation long before Mandela. Now what is so significant about Mandela’s 67 years in the struggle? The Western media, UN and Mandela foundations and charities set up after his retirement in 1999, are in the forefront of promoting this Mandela Day. The Western media sets the agenda for us and also decides for us who our important heroes are – the hierarchisation of struggle heroes.
According to the Western media, UN and the Mandela foundations and charities we should all forget the imperialist brokered sellout deals Mandela clinched in secret with representatives of Apartheid regime. They also want us to be in a permanent state of amnesia concerning the accusation against Mandela by his former lawyer, Ismail Ayob, that Mandela did not pay tax from the proceeds of his books sold abroad. The South African Revenue Services did nothing about these tax defaults to this day. Ayob also suggested that there are other trusts for individual Mandela children. Ayob was a trustee of the Mandela trusts. When there was a fallout between Mandela and Ayob after it emerged that Ayob had allegedly cashed in on the Mandela name, the much vaunted reconciler was said to have told a number of friends that, “I want Ayob imprisoned”.
One of the South African Broadcasting Corporation radio stations quoted a Movement for Democratic Change spokesman go along with the Mandela Day celebrations. Does the MDC suggest that Mandela is more important than, for example, the founder of the Organisation of African Union in 1963, Kwame Nkrumah, and other African and Diasporan leaders such as Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral and Marcus Garvey to deserve an international day set aside in his honour? Charity begins at home and the MDC must first honour Herbert Chitepo and should demand that their government prosecute the killers of the man who led ZANU before Robert Mugabe and the first barrister in Southern Africa, Herbert Chitepo. Chitepo was killed in Zambia on 18 March 1975 by a parcel bomb which exploded underneath the driver’s seat of his car.
The people of Botswana also have their heroes like Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete, born 24 September 1899, and the first commoner to acquire university education which he used for the upliftment of his people. His pioneering political work as leader of the Bechuanaland/Botswana People’s Party is overshadowed by his work as an outstanding composer. He wrote Botswana’s national anthem and appears on that country’s twenty Pula note. When Mandela was born, Motsete was already involved in working towards the improvement of people’s lives. In 1932 Motsete went to teach at Tigerkloof in Vryburg where the first two Presidents of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama and Dr Ketumile Masire went to school. Is it therefore not silly for people of Botswana to revere Mandela more than Motsepe as if to suggest that the people of Botswana were waiting all these years to revere Mandela?
There is also the first President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama who was instrumental in the formation of the Southern Africa Development Coordinating Conference in the 1970’s who was a very eloquent speaker. And there was the erudite founding President of the Botswana National Front Dr Kenneth Koma who was intellectually far superior than Nelson Mandela and genuinely committed to the cause of the poor and working class.
Intellectually Nelson Mandela did not match Lembede, the founding President of the ANCYL in 1943, his deputy Mda and PAC founding President Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. Why is there such an obsession about Mandela? The Western world has its hidden agenda. It could be that like in religion they want to deify him in order to use his carved image to control and manipulate the masses for their own benefit or to take our focus away from Mandela’s imperialist-brokered sellout deal and the fact that he amassed wealth for himself, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and tax evasion charges his former lawyer accused him of.
By Sam Ditshego