The struggle is thy life

July 18, 2010, marked the first Nelson Mandela International Day. Nelson Mandela, an inspiration for many people around the world, turned 92 on Sunday. Last year the UN General Assembly declared July 18 as Mandela Day to celebrate the Nobel Laureate’s efforts and contribution in conflict resolution and promoting racial harmony. The UN resolution recognised Mandela’s “leading role in and support for Africa’s struggle for liberation and Africa’s unity, and his outstanding contribution to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa.” Mandela is revered as someone who fought for the rights of his people and against the apartheid in South Africa. His struggle against apartheid in his country culminated in a great historic victory. He was imprisoned by the white minority government in South Africa for being an anti-apartheid activist. After being jailed for 27 years, Mandela led the African National Congress (ANC) to pave the way for a multi-racial democracy. A new South Africa was born as a result and Mandela became its first black president in 1994.

South Africa’s apartheid regime was based on the notion of ‘white supremacy’ but at the core of it was an imperialist design. South Africa is a country rich in natural recourses, especially precious minerals, gold and diamonds. The country was a victim of settler colonialism, resulting in racial segregation. The official policy of apartheid was introduced after the 1948 elections by the National Party government, which was minority rule by white people. Many black people had to become citizens of Bantustans – tribal self-governing homelands that were part of territories set aside for the blacks as part of the policy of apartheid. It was in this backdrop that Mandela rose to challenge the apartheid government and was subsequently jailed. He defended himself in 1964 at the Pretoria Supreme Court when he was being tried for treason in these words: “We [Africans] want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent…This makes the white man fear democracy…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

Mandela’s presidency heralded a new era for South Africa, but did he really achieve what he fought for is a question worth pondering over. The ANC is not a monolithic party; it is a conglomerate of black nationalists, communists, trade unionists and even whites, thus representing a nationalist broad front. What the party has failed to achieve in a post-apartheid South Africa is economic equality, something the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) fought for. South Africa may be a developed country in the African continent because of its wealth, but by and large it has become part and parcel of global capitalism. Global and local corporations were the only beneficiaries after the apartheid apart from the white folks who were the original rich elite and a section of the new black elite who are guilty of being coopted by the capitalist system. The political structure is such that is has only put a stop to inhuman practices by the whites against the coloured but the economic situation is such that it could lead to a new class war. Mandela’s prestige is the only reason that his dissidents and opponents do not openly voice their concerns but a time will come when those residing in the countryside will challenge the privileged urban class. The contradiction between the poor black people and the new political elite can be felt all around South Africa. Mandela once proclaimed that he was against both white and black supremacy. The new South Africa is an amalgamation of both at the moment. If the South African rulers really want to pay a tribute to Mandela’s sacrifices, they should wage a struggle against capitalism and fight for social and economic equality.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

Umair said…
Just came across this blog. Very incisive and well-written.

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