Former South African President and anti-Apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela who has been suffering from lung infection finally gave off the ghost today, but what does the future hold for South African politics next.
Almost 95, Mandela was taken to the hospital on 8 June, his third of the year for yet another respiratory problem as millions of prayerful messages were sent and said worldwide for his quick recovery as the entire nation held its breath with nightly vigils.
The passing away of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner would be of great lost not only to South Africa but to the African National Congress, ANC, party in particular. The party has continued to drop its popularity and come under fire from disgruntled members as Mandela’s era faded out.
First, it was South African controversial, deposed, ANC youth league leader, Julius Malema that took the world by storm to launch his own political party. Next, it was another ANC backbone, Mamphela Ramphele who later unveiled her Agang Party with the blessing of Desmond Tutu, social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop.
These two political camp-switching have paved way for more debates on the future of ANC and South African politics in general after Mandela.
With President Jacob Zuma equally facing stiff criticism within and outside the party, ANC days might be barely counted. Next year’s presidential election would be pivotal and challenging for the ruling party that has enjoyed supremacy since Mandela was elected the first Black President in 1994.
While Mandela has been battling his lung infection in the Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart hospital, before being discharged and taken home, the million and one question many have be pondering all through, is how would all his millions of supporters and admirers across the world including even world leaders, cope living a life without Mandela as a source of inspiration and endurance.
Madiba, Tata, South Africa’s father forever
Even in his sick and fragile state, Mandela still commanded respect and admiration, especially for his patience and self-sacrificing effort to succumb to tortures and torments for 27 years in jail just fighting for the freedom of his own people.
A course, which he proudly said he was ready to defend even at the cause of his life.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
– Mandela’s speech in court when charged under the Suppression of Communism Act and facing the death penalty, 20 April 1964.
Luckily, Mandela did not die for his ideals. After 27 years in prison, according to FW de Klerk, former South African president, Mandela lived to lead his people to the non-racial democracy that he had envisioned – surely one of the most inspiring political sagas of any age.
As FW de Klerk who shared the 1993 Noble peace prize with Mandela chronicled, although his vision was broadly fulfilled with the abolition of Apartheid, yet Mandela’s 1964 vision remain frustrated.
As he pointed out, half the black population still live below the poverty line, with crime at unacceptable levels and 6 million South Africans are HIV positive.
“Mandela was unfortunately wrong when he said that, “political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another”. Sadly, political divisions are still based on colour. Whites remain economically privileged, but have virtually no say in the policies by which they are governed,”
– De Klerk writes in an analysis of Mandela’s 1964 speech in the Great Speeches of the 20th Century.
The questions would be many, the worries would even be multiplied, but the challenge would fall back on South Africans to sort out their differences and live on as a united nation for peace and prosperity. As one Kenyan said, South Africans would be indebted to hold firm to the unity that Mandela fought all his life to achieve for them. If they truly loved Mandela, then they must not fail him in any way at all.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994)