Categorized | Features, General, Local

MANDELA: MANNER OF MAN

By Howard A. Fergus

Nelson MandelaThe global outpouring of homage mixed with sadness on an unprecedented scale, must not obscure the events that birthed Mandela. It was the savagery of discrimination in its worse form (Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair rightly calls it madness). We must not forget Sharpeville where in 1964, 69 black protesters were massacred, shot in the back with another 400 wounded, including women and children, to cite just one incident from the demonic culture of apartheid. Nor should we forget the long, lonely 27years on Robben Island which were part of the long walk to freedom.

It is important also to recall and celebrate comrades in the struggle such as Winnie Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni and even Steve Biko who was murdered in police custody in 1977. These are also part of the triumph. Thus it was man’s inhumanity to man that produced and summoned onto the world’s stage via South Africa one of the most human of men. I insist that he was unparalleled in the twentieth century and unreachable in ages to come.

World leaders whose countries have been indifferent to apartheid cannot now ignore the whirlwind of applause that is blowing about South Africa. It is both politic and reasonable to recognise this hero of forgiveness and reconciliation who is nothing short of a colossus beside whom many leaders look petty and pigmy. He is simply a great spirit transcending Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar of whom it is written: “His life was gentle and the element/ So mixed in him in him that Nature might stand up/ And say to all the world: ‘Here was a man’.

Mandela, a far greater than Julius Caesar, is here. He is great, even godly in his forgiveness and liberation. In liberating his race he liberated racists and as he rightly said, he gave dignity to the white man. And let us be clear: he was tough and courageous. He was a pacifist but he was not passive; he could be calm but he also condemned when necessary, as he did the action of Bush and Blair when he thought they got it wrong over Iraq. He was a realist also. Reconciliation was morally and philosophically sound, but it also underpinned a sensible strategy for the social and economic development of the country. A flight of capital and skills would not help; he understood realpolitik.

We should not be surprised at voices that will arise to demonise Mandela with tired epithets like ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’. “Some men are never at heart’s ease when they behold a greater than themselves”.  And he admitted he was no saint either. He was but man and yet the measure of them all and a moral compass for leader and for us ordinary humans.

Reconciliation and liberation are still a relevant legacy in a divided world where oppression is still rife. The work is not over not even in South Africa. I end with a quotation from one of my poetic pieces on Mandela: “I will light a bonfire/with my pen. A barrel of pride/ for you Mandela/ Paint your knowing smile/like a fragrant fire/for greener trees in new morning /lighting blacks in all the world.”  What manner of man is this, that east and west revere him?

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Howard A. Fergus

Nelson MandelaThe global outpouring of homage mixed with sadness on an unprecedented scale, must not obscure the events that birthed Mandela. It was the savagery of discrimination in its worse form (Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair rightly calls it madness). We must not forget Sharpeville where in 1964, 69 black protesters were massacred, shot in the back with another 400 wounded, including women and children, to cite just one incident from the demonic culture of apartheid. Nor should we forget the long, lonely 27years on Robben Island which were part of the long walk to freedom.

It is important also to recall and celebrate comrades in the struggle such as Winnie Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni and even Steve Biko who was murdered in police custody in 1977. These are also part of the triumph. Thus it was man’s inhumanity to man that produced and summoned onto the world’s stage via South Africa one of the most human of men. I insist that he was unparalleled in the twentieth century and unreachable in ages to come.

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World leaders whose countries have been indifferent to apartheid cannot now ignore the whirlwind of applause that is blowing about South Africa. It is both politic and reasonable to recognise this hero of forgiveness and reconciliation who is nothing short of a colossus beside whom many leaders look petty and pigmy. He is simply a great spirit transcending Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar of whom it is written: “His life was gentle and the element/ So mixed in him in him that Nature might stand up/ And say to all the world: ‘Here was a man’.

Mandela, a far greater than Julius Caesar, is here. He is great, even godly in his forgiveness and liberation. In liberating his race he liberated racists and as he rightly said, he gave dignity to the white man. And let us be clear: he was tough and courageous. He was a pacifist but he was not passive; he could be calm but he also condemned when necessary, as he did the action of Bush and Blair when he thought they got it wrong over Iraq. He was a realist also. Reconciliation was morally and philosophically sound, but it also underpinned a sensible strategy for the social and economic development of the country. A flight of capital and skills would not help; he understood realpolitik.

We should not be surprised at voices that will arise to demonise Mandela with tired epithets like ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’. “Some men are never at heart’s ease when they behold a greater than themselves”.  And he admitted he was no saint either. He was but man and yet the measure of them all and a moral compass for leader and for us ordinary humans.

Reconciliation and liberation are still a relevant legacy in a divided world where oppression is still rife. The work is not over not even in South Africa. I end with a quotation from one of my poetic pieces on Mandela: “I will light a bonfire/with my pen. A barrel of pride/ for you Mandela/ Paint your knowing smile/like a fragrant fire/for greener trees in new morning /lighting blacks in all the world.”  What manner of man is this, that east and west revere him?