Opinionista Ejaz Khan 9 December 2013

MAN-dela of Steel

After a sad day watching and taking in all the happenings on the Father of the Nation and much-loved Nelson Mandela’s death, I followed that up by watching the latest in the Superman Franchise. My brain then synchronised the two somehow and, well, this is what I got.

In a land (now) infamous for poo throwers, self-circumcisions, xenophobic tendencies and tandoori chicken aromas in every town, it is hard to believe that here, there once lived a real-life superhero. The only ‘cape’ associated with him, though, was his place of birth, Qunu – situated in the Eastern… Cape.

He was Apartheid’s Kryptonite. His patience was ‘out of this world’. He wasn’t extra-terrestrial, but he was extraordinary.

Such was the effect of this man that on his release from jail after 27 years, that the powers that be looked to him to assist in fashioning a smooth transition of power. And he single-handedly orchestrated a symphony of unity and harmony.

People were expecting riots, and for the country to fall into chaos and madness, but he made it a time of joyous freedom, a time to unite, a rainbow nation to shine in all its glory, after the violent storm of Apartheid south Africa. He got us all to close the umbrella of the past and look forward to a brighter day.

He was extremely intelligent in the manner he went about his business – the peace market is not an easy one to master.

He very smartly used a universal language (Sport, not English) to bring different races together, and the Rugby World Cup triumph in ‘95 will always be etched in the memory of every south African, with a beaming Madiba standing next to a victorious Francois Pienaar.

Just as a clumsy Clark Kent would trip over furniture and say awkward, silly things to detract from any possibility of him being spotted as Superman, Madiba would hide his elevated global status at functions with his now well-documented self-deprecating humour. It was his way of keeping himself humble, or in the context of our theme, ‘down to earth.’

But putting the Superman theme aside for a time…

Mandela’s name, Rolihlahla, means “troublemaker”, yet it was he who brought about peace in a troubled land.

“Fight fire with fire,” they said. So he fought trouble with, err, more trouble.  The irony of this is not lost when we see Obama, Cameron and Tony Blair, war-mongers of note, talking kindly of a man whom the countries they lead/led called a “terrorist” up until as recently as 2008. Obama said that he modelled himself on Mandela, yet I do not recall Madiba invading countries illegally, nor, when he was president of South Africa, giving the go-ahead for drone strikes, killing civilians in Yemen, Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Obama spoke to Malala Yousufzai about her being attacked by so-called Pakistan Taliban, but he did not speak to Nabila Rehman, whose grandmother was killed by a drone attack in North Waziristan. Madiba would’ve spoken to both, highlighted the plight of both, and probably made the two girls best of friends.

Mandela fought for the liberation for Palestine and said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Obama shows no compassion as more and more illegal settlements pop up on Palestinian lands, and cannot travel on the same buses as Israelis. The Apartheid that Madiba fought against died in South Africa, but sadly, is still thriving in the occupied lands.

Many are still wondering why didn’t he take revenge after being imprisoned for so much of his life by a racist, brutal regime. But therein lies his greatest attribute: his power to forgive. He made forgiveness and reconciliation trend in a time before Twitter. People liked his ways and commented positively on him before Facebook was even imagined. Like a fresh picture on Instagram? Madiba was a Life Photo of what you see is what you get – no filters. In fact, some of his most famous photos are in black and white, which is quite fitting, don’t you think?

(Johnny Clegg’s Asimbonanga uMandela starts playing in your head now.)

So, these December holidays, when you’re walking on the awesome beaches on South African coastlines and not restricted to small sections based on the colour of your skin, remember Madiba.

When you’re watching a rugby game at Loftus and your name is Thabo or Ebrahim, and the guy next to you is named Piet, and “hy wou nie jou skiet” and “glimlag mooi met jou” – remember Madiba.

So many scenarios in modern-day South Africa to choose from. To all, remember Madiba.

Remember him, for, in his fight against Apartheid all those many years, he did not forget you. DM

Ejaz Khan is an award-winning Radio Content Producer, Avid Liverpool supporter, and sometimes tweets in his sleep. Interact with him on Twitter:  @ejaz_k



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