Hardly a day goes by without someone asking me about the legacy of my grandfather President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. I invariably respond by saying he lived a full life living the legacy of his father Mphakanyiswa Gadla and his grandfather before him Mandela whom we trace our surname from. Nkosi Dalibhunga would often chuckle when people called him Mandela and would retort that his grandfather was Mandela.
As I reflect on the 7th anniversary of his passing I am struck by the thought that he was a man of such great faith and that helped him to survive all the tribulations from his early childhood down to his last days. It reminds me of what the great evangelist Billy Graham said: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” His was a legacy of character and faith indeed.
Madiba left us a larger than life legacy but he always maintained that it was built on the edifice of those who went before him who for centuries carried a proud family history generation to generation and that he was only a humble recipient and beneficiary of a very long tradition. That is the story I tell my children Mandela and Rolihlahla named after their great great grandfather and their great grandfather respectively. They have to understand our legacy lies not merely in a name or relation to great people, it lies in upholding the values, building your character and identifying with the causes of international solidarity with the poor and suffering masses of the world that made uTatomkhulu a global icon for human rights, justice and peace.
To his credit he not only lived his legacy but instilled it in us that your life is worthless if it is not spent in service to others and striving to uphold the dignity and fundamental human rights of others. He drilled it into us that when you are called to serve the nation or the people you have but only one option to respond: where and how?
Today, President Nelson Mandela is feted by friend and foe alike and it is not born of expediency but rather of a profound recognition that regardless of a man’s standing in society, nobility or lineage; In the end what counts is how you touched the lives of others and what story generations to come will tell about you.
I often tell those who quiz me about my own legacy and what it’s like to walk in the giant footsteps of so great a man; I don’t walk in his shadows, I am his heir not only by virtue of his bloodline but moreso because of the values he instilled in us and the passion of the great causes I also identify with; building the country of our dreams, fly the flag of Palestine the greatest moral issue of our times, standing ready to fight for the liberation of Western Sahara the last colonial outpost on the African continent and being a voice for the voiceless people of Kashmir, and wherever there is human suffering.
Cde Che Guevara said that the people are their own best liberators. This was true for Cuba at the height of its revolution as it is true in South Africa today. When we reflect on Nkosi Dalibhunga’s legacy and what he would have done under the challenging circumstances we face today, he would undeniably resort to his great faith in our people’s ability to be instruments of shaping their own destiny. “Every day I smile because ordinary South Africans are building a new dawn,” he said. Yet we are challenged by a yet untransformed society in terms of power relations, wealth redistribution, endemic poverty, unemployment and growing land hunger. Something must give the centre cannot hold.
We cannot play Russian roulette with our country’s future and Madiba had an unwavering faith in the ability of ordinary people to make a difference. This requires that we don’t cede an inch to corruption whether that is stealing that hour from the teaching schedule of a class or a public servant sitting bags packed and ready to sneak out of office at 15:30 daily; a traffic officer soliciting money for a coke or a corrupt procurement officer bending PFMA procedures to benefit his friends or benefactors. We must all wage a war on corruption and the greatest corruption of all is the legacy of minority monopoly on wealth and land usurped over three and a half centuries of colonial plunder and neo-colonial apartheid.
The sons and daughter’s of our beautiful country still identify with Nkosi Dalibhunga’s extraordinary legacy and so do millions around the world; in the most densely populated metropolis and the most remote rural village the name Mandela is still recognized and still has strong currency. He is still the beacon of hope for millions and many look to his legacy for guidance, inspiration and deliverance from seemingly intractable situations.
UTatomkhulu spent his formative years in Mvezo and I grew up in Cofimvaba and this has unmistakably shaped our lives as much as it has informed our concern for the plight of the deep rural communities of our country where the blight of skewed under development, lack of infrastructure and poor access to economic opportunities abounds. I make an effort to ensure my children get to experience the simple joys of rural life but also not grow up impervious to the chasm that separates life in the village from the privilege of urban living. I am pained by the ongoing discrimination against rural folk and the added burden faced by women in rural areas. The ULTRA Bill passed by parliament this week is a case in point removing discrimination against women on traditional rural lands and addressing the vulnerable situation that many farmdwellers find themselves in respect of security of tenure. This is the stuff that legacies are made of as we begin to undo the evils of our colonial and apartheid past.
Often when I walk the undulating hills surrounding Mvezo Komkhulu I reminisce about the many hours spent walking with my grandfather and retracing our steps back in time. If these hills and ever present aloe shrubs could talk they would tell many tales of the struggles of a humble rural village that gave birth to one of the greatest icons of humanity and certainly the greatest of our time. In the distance we would stare at the many hills on the vista and the long road that still lies ahead.
As the day approaches on which we laid Nkosi Dalibhunga to rest, we remain cognizant of the fact that his dreams of national reconciliation, nation building, and social cohesion lives on and that as a collective we are his heirs and the bearers of his great legacy.
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