[Marxism] Disappointment in Successors to Nelson Mandela, a Revered Father of a Nation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 7 07:43:42 MST 2013

NY Times December 6, 2013
Disappointment in Successors to Nelson Mandela, a Revered Father of a Nation

MVEZO, South Africa — Adam Bhasikile’s day begins at dawn, always in the 
same way. Flanked by donkeys, she walks to the valley floor, collecting 
water for the family to cook, clean and bathe from the Mbashe River, 
which snakes around this hilltop village like a winding moat. It is an 
unending ritual that Nelson Mandela’s mother, who gave birth to the 
future president here in 1918, almost certainly performed as well.

More recently, Mrs. Bhasikile passes something else on her walk: a 
sprawling complex with gleaming porcelain toilets, showers and faucets 
that gush water with a flick of the wrist. The complex includes a 
cavernous meeting hall, a tribal courtroom and a private residence for 
the village chief. And not just any chief — the man in charge here is 
Mandla Mandela, favored grandson of Mr. Mandela.

But the truck that fills the water tanks at the Great Place, as the 
hulking set of buildings is known, does not stop at Mrs. Bhasikile’s house.

“That water is not for us; it is for them,” she said with a disapproving 
grunt as she walked up the craggy hillside, 40 liters of water astride 
each of her three donkeys. As for Chief Mandla, Mrs. Bhasikile is 
unimpressed despite his pedigree. “He is not like his grandfather,” she 

The disgruntlement among Chief Mandla’s subjects mirrors the 
disappointment many South Africans feel about the generations that have 
succeeded the heroes of this nation’s liberation struggle. Mr. Mandela’s 
death on Thursday in many ways is the end of the line for the cohort of 
leaders who carried the battle against apartheid from a lonely and 
seemingly hopeless struggle to an inevitable moral and political victory 
cheered by much of the world. Other lions of the struggle, like Oliver 
Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Joe Slovo, have been dead for years.

Perhaps inevitably, the following generations of leaders have struggled 
to live up to their legacy. Mr. Mandela’s successor as president, Thabo 
Mbeki, was roundly criticized for his resistance to broadly accepted 
methods of treating and preventing AIDS, a stance that added to the 
nation’s death toll from the disease, researchers concluded. South 
Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, has been under a cloud for 
years, investigated in corruption and rape cases.

Younger leaders like the firebrand Julius Malema have attracted a 
following among disgruntled, jobless youth, but his radical views and 
harsh criticism of older leaders got him expelled from Mr. Mandela’s 
party, the African National Congress. And the children of some families 
deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid — the Mandelas, the 
Tambos and others — have largely shied away from politics.

“In all of the great liberation movements there is the problem of 
producing great leaders to take over,” said William Gumede, an analyst 
who has written extensively about Mr. Mandela. “But in this case, there 
has really been a failure to pass the torch.”

Mr. Mandela is often called the father of the new South Africa, and he 
leaves behind an impressive legacy, even if the future of his metaphoric 
child, the Rainbow Nation, remains uncertain. But the story of his 
flesh-and-blood family has been marked by missteps, tragedy and neglect 
— a legacy of Mr. Mandela’s admitted failings as a husband and father 
amid the battle against apartheid and his decades of imprisonment.

His former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is a polarizing figure, as 
underscored when the bodies of two young men last seen severely beaten 
at her house 25 years ago were unearthed in Soweto this year. Their 
deaths were connected to the Mandela United Football Club, a thuggish 
group that she used as her security team. She would eventually be 
sentenced to prison twice, though she never actually served a term 
because one sentence was reduced to a fine and another was suspended.

Mr. Mandela’s daughters with Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela have also suffered 
in the harsh glare of the spotlight. One daughter, Zindzi Mandela, has 
long been a fixture in the tabloid press, the subject of stories about 
her penchant for lavish birthday parties and her extensive personal debts.

One of Mr. Mandela’s sons-in-law, Isaac Amuah, was charged with rape in 
2010. One of his grandsons, Zondwa Mandela, has been implicated along 
with a nephew of the current president, Mr. Zuma, in a deal that 
stripped the assets of a gold mine while leaving its 3,000 workers unpaid.

Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson, was at the center of a public 
battle with the more than a dozen family members in recent months over 
where three of Nelson Mandela’s children, and eventually the leader 
himself, would be buried, leading to court-ordered exhumations.

And a separate squabble over a trust fund that Mr. Mandela set up for 
his descendants has led to a tense fight between two of his daughters 
and one of his oldest friends, resulting in a bitter exchange of 
affidavits in which the Mandela sisters are portrayed as impatient to 
get their hands on the money set aside for future generations.

Makaziwe Mandela, Mr. Mandela’s eldest daughter and one of the relatives 
in the legal fight, told The Daily Mail in October 2010 that “I have 
none of the simple memories other children have with their fathers, the 
day we went swimming together, or for a picnic or camping. No, no, no, 
nothing.” She continued: “I’ll be sad when he’s gone, but he hasn’t been 
a constant presence in my life.”

Two of Mr. Mandela’s granddaughters are appearing in a reality 
television show chronicling their lives as young professionals and 
inheritors of the Mandela legacy. The show was widely mocked when it 
aired in South Africa.

Mr. Mandela was aware of his failings as a husband and father. “I led a 
thoroughly immoral life,” he writes in his autobiography, without fully 

“To be the father of a nation is a great honor, but to be the father of 
a family is a greater joy,” Mr. Mandela wrote. “But it was a joy I had 
far too little of.”

His children have often been at odds. When his son Makgatho died of AIDS 
in 2005, relations were so strained that some of his siblings were not 
allowed to sit with the body during the traditional mourning period, 
according to the book “Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years,” by David 
James Smith.

Unlike the descendants of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, another prominent 
family, Mr. Mandela’s descendants have largely shied away from public 
service, mostly avoiding politics. One daughter from his marriage to 
Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela, Zenani, serves as ambassador to Argentina. And 
his grandson Mandla has reclaimed the Mandelas’ place in the ruling 
family of the Thembu clan of the Xhosa people, to which Mr. Mandela 

Mandla Mandela’s rise was a great source of pride for Mr. Mandela, who 
wrote of the pain of his father losing his chiefdom after a dispute with 
colonial authorities.

But Chief Mandla has been surrounded by controversy. He decided to 
destroy the ruins of the hut in which Mr. Mandela was born and replace 
them with a replica, angering preservationists and officials at the 
Nelson Mandela Museum. His messy divorce fight with his wife, Tando, 
tarnished his image when she testified in court that he had abused her 
and cheated on her.

Chief Mandla’s second wife — South African traditional law allows 
polygamy — gave birth in 2011 to a son, who was presented to Mr. Mandela 
as a great-grandson. But in 2012 Chief Mandla denied that the boy was 
his, accusing one of his brothers of fathering him. Meanwhile, he had 
taken a third wife, in defiance of a court order issued in connection 
with his divorce from his first wife. In the deeply traditional society 
here, his behavior has not sat well with residents.

Chief Mandla also quietly had the bodies of his grandfather’s three 
children disinterred from a family graveyard in Qunu, where the elder 
Mr. Mandela grew up, and reburied them here in Mvezo. This was widely 
perceived as an attempt to ensure that his grandfather would also be 
buried in Mvezo, despite his expressed wish to be buried in Qunu. A 
judge ordered that the bodies be taken back to Qunu for reburial.

Mvezo sits in the poorest of South Africa’s provinces, the Eastern Cape, 
almost entirely a so-called Bantustan during apartheid. These 
quasi-independent regions were homelands for blacks, who had no 
citizenship in the South Africa ruled by whites.

These areas were badly neglected, a legacy that remains throughout the 
Eastern Cape — in its dilapidated schools and hospitals, its crumbling 
roads, its isolated villages.

In his autobiography, Mr. Mandela described the leadership style he had 
learned from the king of the AbaThembu. “I always remember the regent’s 
axiom: A leader, he said, is like a shepherd,” Mr. Mandela wrote. “He 
stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon 
the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed 
from behind.”

But few here see the younger Mr. Mandela as following in his 
grandfather’s footsteps. “I must tell the truth, Madiba brought people 
together,” said Noluzile Gamakhulu, a resident, referring to Mr. Mandela 
by his clan name. “Mandla is very far from the old man’s way of doing 

Of course, few people could measure up to the elder Mr. Mandela — a 
Nobel laureate and beloved figure. But the disappointment echoes a 
broader disenchantment with the inheritors of the liberation struggle. 
Victoria Msiwa, 84, whose grandfather was Mr. Mandela’s teacher, said 
that the younger generation had spoiled the country, leaving her oddly 
nostalgic for the quiet certainties of the apartheid era.

“When I compare what we grew under to what is today,” she said, her 
voice trailing off. “I don’t make out a difference. People say we are 
free, but we cannot walk around at night.”

Her tractor was stolen by thieves two years ago.

“Look at this, we have burglar bars, here in this rural area,” she said. 
“The analysts can say if this is better. I am old. I am tired.”

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