“Africans have failed Mandela in many ways. Inviting the Chinese dictators to honour the great man is just one of those faults. However, in merchandising Mandela to the world as a fashionable fetish, the rest of us have also let him down.”
The Toronto Sun
So much has been written about Nelson Mandela it would be an exercise in futility to add to the accolades being showered on the last of the great African statesmen, who fought European colonial rule and white supremacist doctrines.
As children in the 1960s, the names of Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah and Sam Nujoma rang in our ears. They were warriors and messiahs, who we believed would free blacks from centuries of European and Arab subjugation.
Mandela at that time was still relatively unknown.
From 1960 to 1962 the outspoken communist resided in Oujda, Morocco, where he would receive military training and meet the future presidents of Algeria — Ben Bella and Houari Boumediene, themselves fighting French colonial rule.
While Lumumba was killed, Nkrumah toppled, and Nyrere retired, Mandela came out victorious.
In triumph, and despite being a non-religious Marxist, Mandela would commit the ultimate Christian act of not only forgiving his enemies, but embracing them with a smile that became iconic.
But the promised African Renaissance never came. Even after the magnanimity of Mandela, Africans have let down their leaders.
While the western media was in a frenzy of blanket coverage of funeral plans and planeloads of world politicians were flying in to claim ownership of the great man, a slaughter was taking place in the Central African Republic.
There, Africans are killing Africans in a black vs black bloodbath that flies in the face of everything for which Mandela stood.
While a parade of global pundits lectured us about Mandela’s legacy and his fight against white minority rule, they seemed to have missed the irony that on the very day the anti-apartheid leader died, the French army was flying into Bangui, in the heart of Africa, to prevent African Muslim militias from killing African Christians.
It seems 400 slaughtered Africans were just a minor irritant in the ongoing merchandising of Mandela, who, like Che, will soon be everywhere on T-shirts and more fashionable attire, with scant respect paid to his message of rising above one’s own race and religion.
Then we had the Mandela Memorial on Tuesday where the South African government saw fit to have Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao address the rally, despite the fact Chinese President Xi Jinping chose not to attend the service.
China honouring Mandela? A country where blacks suffer from violent institutional racism and that has been occupying Tibet since the 1960s? Where dictatorial one-party rule keeps dissidents in prison?
Speaking at the memorial service, China’s vice president had the audacity to say, “For all his life, he (Mandela) had strived for the liberation of African nations, championed the dignity of the African …”
Dignity of the African? How about in China, comrade?
Josette Souza at the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, in an essay “Anti-Blackness in China” wrote:
“After living through Chinese anti-black behaviors and attitudes and studying racism for the last 2.5 years, I can say that it certainly walks and talks like a racist duck, and you know how that saying goes …”
However, in merchandising Mandela to the world as a fashionable fetish, the rest of us have also let him down.