We greet the 8th Anniversary of the passing of President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela with news of protest from Nkosi Dalibhunga’s burial place at Qunu. The community complains that they have not had running water for the past 8 months. Meanwhile barely 20kms away at Madiba’s birth place Mvezo Komkhulu there hasn’t been running water for the past 27 years since the dawn of democracy. As Shakespeare says in Hamlet: “There’s something rotten in Denmark.”
It’s as if we have already forgotten the powder keg of failed insurrection that was lit and erupted this past July 2021. Driven by grinding poverty, rampant unemployment and social discontent over land, housing and lack of access to economic opportunities; the embers of disruption are smoldering and alive.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been calling for hope and renewal since Nasrec 2017 and yet we have logged our worse Local Government Elections result since the dawn of democracy with the ANC dropping below 50% for the first time. What is amiss and where is the hope?
Undoubtedly, we have entered a new era with the dynamics of coalition politics coming sharply to the fore. However, the vultures and prophets of doom have a lot to do to explain their Armageddon scenario predictions. President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s ANC may be in deep trouble but it is far from dead or dying.
LGE 2021 was a shock but not entirely unexpected. Political analysts are at pains to explain that the ANC won an outright majority in 160 or so municipalities in comparison with the largest opposition parties the DA and EFF winning an outright majority in about 20 and 10 municipalities respectively. This requires a myopia of a special kind to justify the public presence and space that the official opposition occupies. That unfortunately is the nature of South African politics and not necessarily a bad thing.
The ANC remains a formidable force for change in South Africa but it better heed President Ramaphosa’s calls for renewal, rebuilding and restoring hope. We still have much of Tatomkhulu’s legacy in tact although revisionists pop up now and then with half baked theories of selling out, compromising the poor or other far-fetched conspiracy theories.
We give credence to these false narratives about Nkosi Dalibhunga and the future of the ANC and South Africa when we don’t listen to the people. LGE 2021 is now firmly in our past yet it is as if the penny has not dropped and for some its business as usual.
I listened to the impassioned pleas of our communities in Port St John on the eve of elections unhappy with the subversion of the ANCs new candidate selection process. By what logic do we appoint leaders that the community rejects. This is arrogance of the highest order and vitiates against everything Madiba and his generation of elders stood for.
Listening alone won’t suffice for as Amilcar Cabral reminds us in
“Return to the Source”: ‘Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. . .”
Our children will have no future if we do not step away from the fires of the July insurrection with a clear plan about what we must do about the underlying problems it highlighted. For one we know it was incited, orchestrated and fanned even as the flames flared. We owe South Africa answers or face the likelihood of a fatal recurrence.
There may well be those who prefer to knock holes into the hull of the ship to spite the captain and crew. President Ramaphosa and our ANC government have this reality to contend with as well as the imperative of rebuilding a ship on the high seas. President Mandela and his leadership collective intervened at a critical moment in our history to avert civil war and bloodshed. I thought of this as the failed July insurrection unfolded and I am on record saying ‘too little too late’.
We must honour Nkosi Dalibhunga’s legacy by doing a deep introspection as individual South Africans and as a nation. Yes there are conflicting interests yet the inevitable destiny awaits if we are lulled back into inaction, indifference or the dreaded silence. We either hold on firmly to the legacy of our founding father of the nation or there will be nobody around to hear “the rest is silence”.
We have been planning and talking for too long now. It’s time we act and act decisively. To have real impact is not to theorise. Our people are tired of promises. Hope doesn’t fill stomachs!
Nkosi Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council and grandson of famed South African President Nelson Mandela. Member of Parliament (MP) South Africa National Assembly. All articles by Nkosi Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela