As you can see, this is not a letter. I’ve also ventured outside my normal rules for blogging, as I never blog about politics. But this specific little post has been brewing in my heart for a while. I need to get it off my chest…and then I realised: That’s exactly what my little blog is for. If anyone is really offended by it…I’m not about to apologize. This is my blog, and therefore I’m allowed to air my voice and my opinions here.
It’s a little something about South Africa’s beloved Nelson Mandela. Don’t get me wrong. I have respect for the man. He’s come a long way in his 93 years and he has indeed achieved many great things. He worked hard towards achieving equality for all, he uses his name to obtain funding for many great causes and on all accounts he seems to be a very nice guy. He loves South Africa, and for that too I want to give him credit. I think it’s great that South Africans can unite on his birthday and do something nice for their fellow countrymen…a noble cause indeed. And I applaud the initiative.
What does make me sad however, is the way that he is being romanticized. I watched a little piece on the news the other day. And some organization had taken a whole bunch of school children and organized a sleep over for them at Robben Island and they were telling them stories about Nelson Mandela and showing them where he was locked up and where he did hard labour, etc. And then the camera focussed on this little kid and he said: “when I listen to this story I get really angry with the white people. But (insert name of facilitator here) said we shouldn’t hold grudges.” This statement made me sad and angry all at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong. There were many things wrong with apartheid and everything around it. And I am by no means a racist, nor do I support any form of discrimination against anyone. But what everyone seems to forget is the fact that Nelson Mandela didn’t only go to jail for opposing the South AFrican government at the time. He was a terrorist and in many ways involved with the deaths of innocent civilians. It’s one thing to blow up military/police people during uprisings etc. it is quite another to kill innocent people. In fact, I recall him once speaking after his release, and he himself admitted that he was in a way responsible for terrorist acts and therefore it was right for him to be in jail. He will therefore NOT bear a grudge.
I look at all this fuss around Madiba and I weigh that up against some of the less than saintly things he did in his youth and I wonder how the families of his victims must feel. How much it must hurt them when he is labeled a saint and practically worshiped by some. Did he have a good cause? Sure he did. Apartheid was wrong no matter how you look at it. Does it justify the killing of innocent people? never! It is also here that I would like to point out to all those people who love to accuse SA of having a sordid past called Apartheid that SA was no worse than some other countries. The only difference between, say SA and the US was that South Africa dared to give it a name. Thereby making it a tangible thing.
It makes me sad to think that Madiba’s struggle is being romanticized and that people are not being told the full story. To be perfectly honest, I’m tired of all the hype. Yes, he has achieved many things, and I think South Africans in general owe him a big thank you. But that thank you is only owed to him for the latter part of his life. I’m so tired of the fact that only half-truths are being celebrated. I’m white, I’m proud of it, I was never part of any form of apartheid and I resent the fact that people forget that every story has two sides.
By all means celebrate his life. Celebrate what he has managed to achieve in the last 22 years. Celebrate the fact that he was able to leave his past behind him and focus on building a beautiful SA along with other amazing people. Celebrate the fact that he’s helping people. But don’t call him a martyr and a saint, for he is neither.
Maybe some of you will think I’m being stupid, some of you might even think I’m being racist and who knows what the rest of you think. All I know is that I’m tired of the fact that certain people are allowed to say whatever the hell the want, while others are forced to tiptoe around on eggshells. South Africa has changed in many ways, but until the pendulum swings back to a more balanced and central position we will not be able to reach our full potential. We live in an amazingly beautiful and generally incredible country. As South Africans we have overcome a great deal, and for that we should be proud of ourselves. But we still have long way to go and I pray that one day we will reach our full potential. And while Madiba will most probably no longer be alive to see us reach that point, I hope he’ll know what we’ve done and what we have achieved. He deserves to know that his hard work the last 22 years meant something.
So what’s the moral of the story? I think what I’m really trying to say is that I find it annoying that the story we share is only half a story. I’m annoyed by the fact that one man is put on a pedestal, in such a way that we try to sweep his wrong doings under a rug. If we’re going to tell our children the story, at least give them the full story, even the not so pleasant parts. Don’t call a man a saint and sanitize the truth to suit your own needs. Rather celebrate the full story. Because you know what? I find the person Madiba has become so much more amazing knowing where he came from. Mommy and Daddy Letters always taught us that not telling the full truth still makes it a lie. Personally I think they have a point. Just consider this. If we are feeding our children half-truths about our history, what kind of morals and values are we teaching them? And how can we expect to build ONE nation if we refuse to own up to the whole truth? What kind of a nation are we building if we build it all on lies and half-truths?