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