Mandela wasn’t perfect, but he was no sellout

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‘I HAVE fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and a free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and see realized. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,’ said Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a former political prisoner who would go on to become a global hero.
Mandela was a natural humanist. He was prepared to die for both the black man and the white man. He didn’t see people as black or white, Zulus or Xhosas, but as equal human beings. And he understood that South Africa is not the Garden of Eden where man was created. He understood that its entire people have migrated there from somewhere.
But despite outlining his vision for a non-racial South Africa, he was still sentenced to life in prison. At one point, Mandela was offered freedom by the apartheid government in exchange for denouncing the struggle, but he refused choosing to remain in prison instead. So, was this man really a sellout? Did he become a sellout before or after he took power?
Mandela was not a saint. But he was also not a greedy monster who sold away his people. But surprisingly, there are now some disgusting comments about Mandela. Some fake populists and even a dictator have called Mandela a sellout. So, one might ask where the proof that he was a sellout is. What was Mandela supposed to do?
Was he supposed to confiscate white people’s houses, businesses, cars and shoes and distribute them to the blacks? Is it wise to give a car to a man who does not know how to drive, understand the road signs and does not even have money for fuel? If Mandela were to confiscate the land from the whites, what about those who lost their land during the Mfecane or Difaqane madness?
Our lives begin to end the day we allow the powers of insanity to defeat the powers of wisdom. Let us understand that madness can’t cure madness. Only wisdom can cure madness. The sins of the past are too complicated to overcome with a big hammer. We must stop blaming other people for what we don’t have. You can’t blame Adam and Eve for not creating toilet paper or a smartphone; you just create one. We should not behave like coward hyenas that just want to eat meat while they don’t want to hunt.Advertisement

The time is now ripe for South Africa to address the land issue and poverty. South Africans are not poor because of Mandela, but because of poor leadership and, to a certain extent, due to their love for unnecessary luxury items. Mandela was not a man who thought with his mouth but with his brain. He inspired his people to destroy apartheid. Now, it is up to us to completely destroy the shadows of apartheid wherever they might be.
Some of those who are calling Mandela a sellout are the worst sellouts themselves. When Julius Malema was the ANCYL President, he became a walking shop. He bought expensive wrist watches. He flew to Mauritius just to dance and pop expensive champagne. He lived a good life on the spoils of corruption. He flew business class and wore more expensive clothes than Bill Gates. He swam in the rivers of milk and sailed in the lakes of honey. And he became so fat that even a pig would have advised him to watch what he eats.
The difference between Mandela and Malema is huge; but one stood out. Mandela was prepared to die for his people, while Malema was prepared to kill his own people for Zuma, the man who could be mistaken for a street sperm bank. When you want to kill for a man, you are a total sellout. Today you kill for Zuma, tomorrow you will kill for the Guptas and the list just goes on and on. A true leader does not kill/die for another man; he kills/die for an ideal.
Across the Limpopo River, the ‘napping’ dictator has no kind words either for Mandela after waking up from his usual nap. He prides himself in empowering his people. But if he had really empowered his people, then we would all be flocking to his country in search of employment; not the other way around.
The ‘napping’ dictator cannot be compared with Mandela either. Mandela was not feared by his people. He was loved and adored. When Mandela was sick, he was treated in his own country where he died. Madiba was humble both in life and death. He was buried at his ancestral Qunu village, not at the so-called hero’s shrines as is the norm all over Africa.
The ‘napping’ dictator is a kind of a leader who would fly abroad to seek treatment for a toothache. He is the kind of leader who would fly abroad to buy a toothbrush or a shoe brush. His wife is the kind of a person who would travel abroad to buy toothpicks, teabags or just an extension cord. And his sons are the kinds of people who would fly abroad just to buy ice cream or condoms.
The ‘napping’ dictator used the land invasion to survive politically and to win voters, but not really to empower his people. If he was so serious about giving land to his people, why did he order operation Murambatsvina where thousands of his people lost their houses? The ‘napping’ dictator is claiming to be building a road to heaven. But he is using the materials for the road to hell. 
In a race of donkeys, even the slowest horse would always come first. So, the dictator is not the best leader either. If there is one thing that he should pride himself for, perhaps, it is being the oldest dictator in the world. That is a record worth an Oscar’s Award. His country is run like a dog club, where only the strongest dog enjoys the bones.
Every dog barks at home. A dog that barks far from home is considered a mad dog. So, the dictator must leave Mandela alone and concentrate on fixing his broken country, or resign. In the end, it is better to be led by a wise mouse than to be led by a foolish elephant.
It is plain clear that the ‘napping’ dictator is suffering from leadership fatigue. He is old. He is tired. He is so frail he can’t even kill a mouse. And he is so old now he appears to be evolving into something else. But still he does not want to retire.
He killed and starved his own people in order to stay in power. And his country seems to be run by two people from the bedroom. Now his country is so hopeless even a monkey would migrate out for greener pastures. Most of his compatriots can’t even afford a bicycle.
We should be honest with Mandela. Just because you don’t understand him does mean he is a sellout. Some are saying that Mandela was too soft, too nice, or that he was a coward. But I totally disagree. He was the toughest man of our time. He would apply his mind where we don’t understand him. But he would also apply his muscles and fight where he thought that it was the only option. Mandela was like a bee. It makes sweet honey. But it could also sting hard when angry, or provoked. He was not scared to become a martyr.
Instead of bashing a man who can’t defend himself from his grave at Qunu, we should instead celebrate what he taught us and live for the values that he stood for. We are all humanists. But now we are just confused and forget our purpose on earth. We think that our purpose on earth is to accumulate wealth, to hate and to be famous and powerful at the expensive of others.
Mandela has taught us that love is the greatest equalizer. When we love one another, we share what we have. So, to those who are saying that Mandela was a sellout, perhaps they need to go back to school. But I wonder if a person like Malema and the ‘napping’ dictator would be able to pay attention during lessons.
Nevertheless, rest well Mandela. You have done your job.
Salom Shilongo is the author of the book, ‘The Hopeless Hopes’. Email: