In his quest for peace, Nelson Mandela helped gatekeep apartheid legacies in South Africa

South Africa is burning at the moment. Strife and instability in their universities while foreigners are being burnt alive. Black South Africans are at the moment a melting pot of seething anger, bitterness and desperation. They want answers. They are desperate to blame someone, something for their woes. Foreigners are an easy target to terrorize and take out their anger on.

But in reality, South Africans have only one man to blame. The late Nelson Mandela. In my opinion Mandela, in his quest for peace, helped reinforce and gate-keep apartheid legacies in South Africa. My opinion is derived from both my intellectual wealth but also a close look at Nelson Mandela before and after prison.

Before he is sent to prison we see an outspoken, vibrant and energetic young man who is prepared to dislodge apartheid at all cost. He begins his journey with peaceful citizens meetings and demonstrations. But the apartheid government does not budge and ignore all these efforts by black South Africans to engage peacefully. Then things take a new twist. Nelson begins orchestrating and organizing various bombings in a bid to put pressure on the apartheid government. These bombings consequently lead to the apprehension and incarceration of Nelson Mandela. He is sentenced to 27 years in prison.

In my view his incarceration was the beginning of the end of the only most robust effort to dislodge apartheid in South Africa, to date.

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27 years later, due to international pressure, the apartheid government led by FW de Klerk pulls Mandela out of Robben Island and parades him as a symbol of peace. Nelson Mandela, in my view, is at this time a tired, old and weary man. A shadow of the gallant cadre and son of the soil who was sent to prison. He is, for the apartheid government, the right person to toss around and put pressure on to forge a delusional reconciliation and peace process. I have over the years called it the delusional South Africa peace project because it was not conducive for an aggressive reform and redress process which was needed at the time.

What this peace project did was to keep white supremacy legacy intact.

The only thing that blacks attained was freedom of movement and an illusion of inclusion. But the truth is that none of this inclusion ever happened in reality. Now, even after Madiba’s death, his peace dream that never was has thrust South Africa into turmoil. Blacks are still disdavantaged, poor, hungry and education is not within their full and fair reach. Its expensive and the job market is characterised by unequal opportunities in favour of white people. I lived in South Africa for 5 years I am saying this from lived experience.

When Madiba came out, he should have addressed policies and institutions which had put in place by the apartheid government to disenfranchise South Africans. Chief among this was education. Primary, high school and tertiary education. Instead he was tricked and convinced into believing that South Africa needed to heal and move forward. How do a people heal from something that has not been addressed?

Robert Mugabe did the most phenomenal thing in Zimbabwe on the other hand. Soon after being elected into power, he made sure he created a robust and affordable education model. He confronted the exclusion of black Zimbabweans from education. The result is a 99 percent literacy rate and an intellectual level that has helped the country to keep lowest levels of crime and other social ills at bay.

The baseless claims by black South Africans today that Zimbabweans and other foreigners are taking their jobs is idiotic and fallacious. Foreigners own mostly small businesses in South Africa due to their high levels of education. They are able to manage and run the these small business profitably. No one is stopping the black South Africans form doing the same. South Africans want to run around burning other people out of jealousy but in fact it is their country and no one stops them from venturing into the same endeavors that other Africans are doing in their country.

In short, South Africans, should not blame Zimbabweans or Somalians or whatever other Africans. They should blame Nelson Mandela. He proffered an illusion of a new South Africa without clearing up the old one.


*Edinah Masanga (@EdinahMasanga) is a Journalist, Speaker, Gender and Media Rights Advocate, Founder  of Women Empowerment Foundation Scribes Africa:*

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