Using Mandela’s name during campaign political opportunism

I NOTICED with great interest during the local government elections campaign that DA leader Helen Zille tried to revolutionise her party by using slogans and names of ANC heroes. This practice in South Africa’s politics and elsewhere in the world has been the preserve of the liberation movements.

The DA was never a liberation movement in practice and character.

 The swift response by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was equally interesting. He had a point when he asked why the DA was not calling its own ancestors, taking into account that the DA was an old organisation except that it had been constantly remaking itself.

It seems the bone of contention centres on the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Put in another way, who owns his legacy?

The debates on the meaning of Mandela and his legacy will continue to feature in the political discourse. What is of interest is the manner in which institutions and organisations are squabbling as to who owns his legacy.

 Not long ago, there were reports in the media about the alleged tension between the Nelson Mandela Museum in Umtata and the Mvezo Traditional Authority under the leadership of his grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, about his legacy as well

Dr Mamphele Ramphele wrote in one of the national newspapers that “Mandela the icon belongs to all South Africans as the father of this nation. He worked tirelessly to project himself as such, going to the extent of reaching out to those who opposed the political settlement he championed. Mandela can’t be appropriated by any sector of our population.

“Mandela was not just the president of the ANC, but also the president of South Africa. His legacy belongs to the state, which is bigger than any party including the ruling party.”

 Ramphele’s premise for her arguments troubles me intellectually, and runs the risk of causing damage to the young minds and those that do not understand the history of liberation in South Africa. I differ with her very seriously and she inevitably creates the impression that his legacy is up for grabs. It is not only misleading, but mischievous to suggest that.

 Another problem with her analysis is that it is not context rooted because it fails to take into account that the DA was wooing black communities to vote for the party. There is a tendency which is very common of separating Mandela from the collective including his own organisation.

Delivering his last speech as the president of South Africa in the National Assembly, Mandela pointed out poignantly, “If I have been able to help take our country a few steps towards democracy, non-racialism and non-racism, it is because I am a product of the African National Congress, of the movement for justice, dignity and freedom that produced countless giants in whose shadow we find glory”.

The move by the DA to use Mandela and other ANC heroes’ names during the campaign for local government elections was political opportunism in its extreme. It presented itself as a party that was willing to discard its ancestors for political expediency.

DA policies, from land reform programmes to affirmative action, obstruct transformation and stand in sharp contrast with what Mandela stands for.

Mpumezo Ralo, Port Elizabeth

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