This year sees the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, and people including president Cyril Ramaphosa and US ex-president Barack Obama took to the podium at Wanderers Stadium to sing his praises and discuss his legacy.
But while Nelson Mandela was once widely considered a liberator and a hero beyond reproach, the idea that he sold out the struggle against apartheid by making concessions that granted the majority of South Africans political freedom without financial freedom is increasingly popular.
Julius Malema has been at the centre of this shift in thinking. Speaking in 2016, he clarified that while he doesn’t exactly feel that Mandela sold out, he does feel that the South African struggle icon only took the country to the brink of freedom and that economic emancipation would still need to be achieved.
Malema is seen as more of an acolyte of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, late struggle icon and “mother of the nation” Winnie Mandela. She was a mother figure to him both before and after he left the ANC. His farewell speech at her memorial took members of the ANC to task for having sidelined and betrayed her.
Winnie herself was at the forefront of the re-evaluation of Nelson’s legacy, telling UK’s Evening Standard in 2010 that “Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”
Some on social media have discussed what they see as a “cult” surrounding Mandela’s personality.
Some feel that Mandela sold out to “White Monopoly Capital” by making too many economic concessions.
I've asked the same Same question over and over again. There seem to be some personal cult highly Perpetuated by WMC as a thank you gift to Mandela's Legacy for blinding us into a nonexistent democratic despensation.
— Fortune Fano (@fortunefano) July 14, 2018
Others have pointed out that Mandela himself always said that the struggle was successful because of the role of South Africa’s majority rather than the efforts of just one man.
From where I have heard him speak and even in “Long walk to Freedom” Mandela always acknowledges that he was not the only one who played a role in the fight against apartheid. The functional purpose of “the cult of Mandela” serves who kahle hle?
— #BlackLivesMatter (@LaSukuta) July 15, 2018
As one Twitter user pointed out, Ramaphosa in his speech today mentioned that Mandela himself never liked being treated as “perfect”, and viewed himself as a flawed human being rather than a saint. Another Twitter said the problem is not Mandela the person but rather the way his legacy is “shoved down our throat”.
— Maryke Vermaak (@MarykeVermaak) July 17, 2018
— Dawood Dlamini (@Dawood_Dlamini) July 17, 2018
One Twitter user, taking exception to allegations that our beloved ex-President sold out, feels that those who accuse him of this may be “on something”.
Regardless of what this particular user may think, the idea that it is white people behind Mandela’s enduring “brand” is one that appears to be gaining traction.
Don’t sleep on what white people can create when it comes to brands.
Mandela the brand is a product of rebranding
— Culprit (@CulpritEnter) July 17, 2018