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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 THE NATURAL INSTINCT OF YOUNG PEOPLE OF ALL RACES IS TO BE AND DO GOOD – ALL IT TAKES IS TO LET THEM BE FREE.

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Following after Nelson Mandela | 1918 – 2013

 

Generation Born After Apartheid Sees Mandela’s Fight as History.

 

Born Free: The future of South African politics may depend on the generation born after Mandela.

 

 

JOHANNESBURG — Sitting in her comfortable suburban living room 45 minutes east of Johannesburg, Nokuthula Magubane, 18, was doing something close to unthinkable to older generations of black South Africans: She was affectionately praising Afrikaans.

“Afrikaans is such a laid-back and beautiful language,” she said. “You can just sit back, relax, speak your Afrikaans and be happy.”

Mandatory instruction in Afrikaans during apartheid was one of the sparks that set off the Soweto student uprisings of 1976. Hundreds of young people, many younger than Ms. Magubane, were killed. Countless others chose to abandon education rather than receive instruction in what they considered the language of the oppressor. It was a seminal moment in the struggle against apartheid, and the day of the uprising, June 16, became national Youth Day in the new South Africa.

But to Ms. Magubane, “At the end of the day, Afrikaans is just a language.”

Such feelings are common among members of Ms. Magubane’s generation, known as the born frees because they were born after the end of apartheid, or just before it ended, and are too young to have many memories of it. And while they certainly know Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, it is almost impossible for them to grasp what it was like to see him emerge from prison in 1990 and become president in the nation’s first fully democratic elections four years later.

The born frees make up a huge segment of the population — about 40 percent, according to census figures — and their many critics among older South Africans contend that they are apathetic and apolitical, unaware of the history of the struggle that made their lives better.

But the born frees have another name as well — the Mandela generation — and they insist that their determination to look to the future and not the past is the greatest tribute they can pay him.

“Yes, we were oppressed by white people; yes, it happened; yes, it hurt,” Ms. Magubane said while Mr. Mandela was still clinging to life. “But let us forgive each other so that we can move on fully and contribute fully to the South Africa we want to see in the future.”

Akhumzi Jezile, a 24-year-old producer, television personality and speaker, says the born frees are portrayed as apathetic because they do not respond with the same emotion, or in the same numbers, as the Soweto generation does during Youth Day marches and similar remembrances.

“It’s not a matter of not understanding apartheid; it’s just a matter of us having different challenges,” he said. “I think the feeling that the born frees are ignorant comes from an older generation that sees a youth that doesn’t react the way they do. But that is normal. We didn’t live it, but we have a vibrancy. We are fighting our issues.”

He pointed to education campaigns led by young people to fight the scourges of substance abuse, crime and H.I.V. infection.

“The generation of 1976, or the generation before us, had different challenges,” he said. “We cannot talk about apartheid every day forever.”

Many, though certainly not all, of the born frees’ attitudes differ markedly from those of older South Africans because their experiences are so sharply different. Young people, for instance, are more likely to socialize with people of another race, according to the Reconciliation Barometer, a yearly gauge of public opinion.

“It seems young people may be developing deeper relationships across historic dividing lines, beyond just interaction,” the 2012 Reconciliation Barometer reported.

They are also less likely to have faith in political leaders, and less likely to blame apartheid for South Africa’s current economic and social inequality, according to the Reconciliation Barometer.

And despite the warning from Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of South Africa’s powerful confederation of trade unions, that South Africa’s young are a “ticking time bomb” because of the unemployment and poverty rates they face — twice as high as in the general population — born frees are overwhelmingly optimistic, the Barometer and other surveys have found.

Indeed, their generation in other countries — often known as millennials elsewhere — also tends toward optimism.

Even young people from impoverished townships display a heady enthusiasm, though for many life has changed little in material terms since the end of apartheid, and unemployment is worse.

“Now there are no boundaries,” said Miles Mabaane, 18, a resident of Vosloorus, southeast of Johannesburg. “We young people have the potential to come up with new strategies of how to save the country, how to do things better, how to accommodate everybody in this country.”

While older South Africans complain about born frees not acknowledging the past, some born frees complain about their parents’ trying to hold them “captive” to it.

“We are constantly reminded of what happened directly by those who were involved in the struggle — as a means of keeping us loyal, they brainwash us by continuously reinstilling fear about what the ‘white man’ has done, about how much pain was caused, how much suffering their generation suffered,” wrote AkoLee, a blogger who says she was 6 in 1994, when Mr. Mandela became president. “They say we are ungrateful for not thinking the same way they do, for questioning what the ‘black man’ is doing.”

One popular hip-hop artist in South Africa who goes by the name HHP — pronounced “double H P” — seemed to sum up the experiential disconnect between the generations in a song called “Harambe,” which also shows a clear appreciation for the sacrifices of the previous generations.

“I’m not the political type,” the song says. “Not the type to fake an image for the sake of this whole consciousness type. Never been called a Kaffir before. Can’t imagine seeing 10 cops and dogs charging through my front door. Can’t say what tear gas smelled like. Can’t even imagine what a rubber bullet on your back felt like.

“But it’s because of you that I don’t speak Afrikaans today. I have chance today.” The song continues, “Because of you the black youth of today is emancipated.”

Researchers warn that the born frees’ hopefulness could sour once their expectations of a better life are not met.

“Without more effective and sustained job creation, and soon, a mismatch between these expectations and the capacity of the economy to absorb young people is inevitable, and will have consequences,” the Reconciliation Barometer said.

Many measures of inequality are just as a bad, or worse, for the born frees than for previous generations. “Many born frees face the same, if not greater, levels of unemployment, poverty, inequality and hopelessness as their parents,” wrote Robert Mattes, director of the Democracy in Africa Research Unit at the University of Cape Town’s Center for Social Science Research. Polls show they just do not know it.

The born frees, both in the townships and in more affluent suburbs, say political leadership has failed them. Opposition parties have tried to tap into a growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress, so far with limited success.

“The A.N.C. doesn’t really hold the appeal it had for our parents, but neither do the opposition parties,” said Lerato Moloi, acting head of research at the South African Institute of Race Relations.

Most black South Africans 20 years ago would not have recognized the life that Ms. Magubane leads. A third of her friends are white. She has known many of them since she started school. She calls her white choir leader “Tanni Christine,” or “Auntie Christine” in Afrikaans.

As for Mr. Mandela, she said: “We have seen his example, and now we’re going to follow it. We’re going to take it one step further into the future, and we’re going to build the South Africa that he would have loved to see.”

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QUOTATION OF THE DAY

“Yes, we were oppressed by white people; yes, it happened; yes, it hurt. But let us forgive each other so that we can move on fully and contribute fully to the South Africa we want to see in the future.”

NOKUTHULA MAGUBANE, 18, of South Africa.

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THEN ALSO:

Disappointment in Successors to Nelson Mandela, a Revered Father of a Nation.

 

Per-Anders Pettersson for The New York Times

A family outside its home in Mvezo, South Africa, where Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson of Nelson Mandela, is chief.

MVEZO, South Africa — Adam Bhasikile’s day begins at dawn, always in the same way. Flanked by donkeys, she walks to the valley floor, collecting water for the family to cook, clean and bathe from the Mbashe River, which snakes around this hilltop village like a winding moat. It is an unending ritual that Nelson Mandela’s mother, who gave birth to the future president here in 1918, almost certainly performed as well.

More recently, Mrs. Bhasikile passes something else on her walk: a sprawling complex with gleaming porcelain toilets, showers and faucets that gush water with a flick of the wrist. The complex includes a cavernous meeting hall, a tribal courtroom and a private residence for the village chief. And not just any chief — the man in charge here is Mandla Mandela, favored grandson of Mr. Mandela.

But the truck that fills the water tanks at the Great Place, as the hulking set of buildings is known, does not stop at Mrs. Bhasikile’s house.

“That water is not for us; it is for them,” she said with a disapproving grunt as she walked up the craggy hillside, 40 liters of water astride each of her three donkeys. As for Chief Mandla, Mrs. Bhasikile is unimpressed despite his pedigree. “He is not like his grandfather,” she said.

The disgruntlement among Chief Mandla’s subjects mirrors the disappointment many South Africans feel about the generations that have succeeded the heroes of this nation’s liberation struggle. Mr. Mandela’s death on Thursday in many ways is the end of the line for the cohort of leaders who carried the battle against apartheid from a lonely and seemingly hopeless struggle to an inevitable moral and political victory cheered by much of the world. Other lions of the struggle, like Oliver Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Joe Slovo, have been dead for years.

Perhaps inevitably, the following generations of leaders have struggled to live up to their legacy. Mr. Mandela’s successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, was roundly criticized for his resistance to broadly accepted methods of treating and preventing AIDS, a stance that added to the nation’s death toll from the disease, researchers concluded. South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, has been under a cloud for years, investigated in corruption and rape cases.

Younger leaders like the firebrand Julius Malema have attracted a following among disgruntled, jobless youth, but his radical views and harsh criticism of older leaders got him expelled from Mr. Mandela’s party, the African National Congress. And the children of some families deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid — the Mandelas, the Tambos and others — have largely shied away from politics.

“In all of the great liberation movements there is the problem of producing great leaders to take over,” said William Gumede, an analyst who has written extensively about Mr. Mandela. “But in this case, there has really been a failure to pass the torch.”

Mr. Mandela is often called the father of the new South Africa, and he leaves behind an impressive legacy, even if the future of his metaphoric child, the Rainbow Nation, remains uncertain. But the story of his flesh-and-blood family has been marked by missteps, tragedy and neglect — a legacy of Mr. Mandela’s admitted failings as a husband and father amid the battle against apartheid and his decades of imprisonment.

His former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, is a polarizing figure, as underscored when the bodies of two young men last seen severely beaten at her house 25 years ago were unearthed in Soweto this year. Their deaths were connected to the Mandela United Football Club, a thuggish group that she used as her security team. She would eventually be sentenced to prison twice, though she never actually served a term because one sentence was reduced to a fine and another was suspended.

Mr. Mandela’s daughters with Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela have also suffered in the harsh glare of the spotlight. One daughter, Zindzi Mandela, has long been a fixture in the tabloid press, the subject of stories about her penchant for lavish birthday parties and her extensive personal debts.

One of Mr. Mandela’s sons-in-law, Isaac Amuah, was charged with rape in 2010. One of his grandsons, Zondwa Mandela, has been implicated along with a nephew of the current president, Mr. Zuma, in a deal that stripped the assets of a gold mine while leaving its 3,000 workers unpaid.

Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson, was at the center of a public battle with the more than a dozen family members in recent months over where three of Nelson Mandela’s children, and eventually the leader himself, would be buried, leading to court-ordered exhumations.

And a separate squabble over a trust fund that Mr. Mandela set up for his descendants has led to a tense fight between two of his daughters and one of his oldest friends, resulting in a bitter exchange of affidavits in which the Mandela sisters are portrayed as impatient to get their hands on the money set aside for future generations.

Makaziwe Mandela, Mr. Mandela’s eldest daughter and one of the relatives in the legal fight, told The Daily Mail in October 2010 that “I have none of the simple memories other children have with their fathers, the day we went swimming together, or for a picnic or camping. No, no, no, nothing.” She continued: “I’ll be sad when he’s gone, but he hasn’t been a constant presence in my life.”

Two of Mr. Mandela’s granddaughters are appearing in a reality television show chronicling their lives as young professionals and inheritors of the Mandela legacy. The show was widely mocked when it aired in South Africa.

Mr. Mandela was aware of his failings as a husband and father. “I led a thoroughly immoral life,” he writes in his autobiography, without fully explaining.

“To be the father of a nation is a great honor, but to be the father of a family is a greater joy,” Mr. Mandela wrote. “But it was a joy I had far too little of.”

His children have often been at odds. When his son Makgatho died of AIDS in 2005, relations were so strained that some of his siblings were not allowed to sit with the body during the traditional mourning period, according to the book “Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years,” by David James Smith.

Unlike the descendants of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, another prominent family, Mr. Mandela’s descendants have largely shied away from public service, mostly avoiding politics. One daughter from his marriage to Mrs. Madikizela-Mandela, Zenani, serves as ambassador to Argentina. And his grandson Mandla has reclaimed the Mandelas’ place in the ruling family of the Thembu clan of the Xhosa people, to which Mr. Mandela belonged.

Mandla Mandela’s rise was a great source of pride for Mr. Mandela, who wrote of the pain of his father losing his chiefdom after a dispute with colonial authorities.

But Chief Mandla has been surrounded by controversy. He decided to destroy the ruins of the hut in which Mr. Mandela was born and replace them with a replica, angering preservationists and officials at the Nelson Mandela Museum. His messy divorce fight with his wife, Tando, tarnished his image when she testified in court that he had abused her and cheated on her.

Chief Mandla’s second wife — South African traditional law allows polygamy — gave birth in 2011 to a son, who was presented to Mr. Mandela as a great-grandson. But in 2012 Chief Mandla denied that the boy was his, accusing one of his brothers of fathering him. Meanwhile, he had taken a third wife, in defiance of a court order issued in connection with his divorce from his first wife. In the deeply traditional society here, his behavior has not sat well with residents.

Chief Mandla also quietly had the bodies of his grandfather’s three children disinterred from a family graveyard in Qunu, where the elder Mr. Mandela grew up, and reburied them here in Mvezo. This was widely perceived as an attempt to ensure that his grandfather would also be buried in Mvezo, despite his expressed wish to be buried in Qunu. A judge ordered that the bodies be taken back to Qunu for reburial.

Mvezo sits in the poorest of South Africa’s provinces, the Eastern Cape, almost entirely a so-called Bantustan during apartheid. These quasi-independent regions were homelands for blacks, who had no citizenship in the South Africa ruled by whites.

These areas were badly neglected, a legacy that remains throughout the Eastern Cape — in its dilapidated schools and hospitals, its crumbling roads, its isolated villages.

In his autobiography, Mr. Mandela described the leadership style he had learned from the king of the AbaThembu. “I always remember the regent’s axiom: A leader, he said, is like a shepherd,” Mr. Mandela wrote. “He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

But few here see the younger Mr. Mandela as following in his grandfather’s footsteps. “I must tell the truth, Madiba brought people together,” said Noluzile Gamakhulu, a resident, referring to Mr. Mandela by his clan name. “Mandla is very far from the old man’s way of doing things.”

Of course, few people could measure up to the elder Mr. Mandela — a Nobel laureate and beloved figure. But the disappointment echoes a broader disenchantment with the inheritors of the liberation struggle. Victoria Msiwa, 84, whose grandfather was Mr. Mandela’s teacher, said that the younger generation had spoiled the country, leaving her oddly nostalgic for the quiet certainties of the apartheid era.

“When I compare what we grew under to what is today,” she said, her voice trailing off. “I don’t make out a difference. People say we are free, but we cannot walk around at night.”

Her tractor was stolen by thieves two years ago.

“Look at this, we have burglar bars, here in this rural area,” she said. “The analysts can say if this is better. I am old. I am tired.”

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Mandela’s African National Congress was once deemed a terrorist organization by both his home country, South Africa, and by the United States. And America’s view of Mandela and of South Africa’s system of apartheid cannot be whitewashed, even as we now venerate Mandela in death. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher plainly bad-mouthed Mandela to her permanent discredit.

As Noam Chomsky wrote in his 2010 book “Hopes and Prospects”:

“Through the 1980s, U.S. trade with South Africa increased despite the 1985 congressional sanctions (which Reagan evaded), and Reagan continued to back South African depredations in neighboring countries that led to an estimated 1.5 million deaths. As late as 1988 the administration condemned Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as one of the world’s ‘more notorious terrorist groups.’”

{It was only recently that US Congress removed the last traces of its anti-ANC and anti-Mandela decisions. Now three or four US Presidents will go to South Africa to celebrate Mandela’s life.}

Be brave. Courage is not required to execute that which is easy or convenient.

As the Texas progressive author and agitator Jim Hightower once put it, “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

Courage is drawing up your shoulder and pushing into the resistance. Courage is doing what is unpopular or dangerous or discomforting because, even if you must do it alone, it is the right thing to do.

As Mandela put it: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” We all feel fear. In fact,  fear the person who claims that he or she does not. But fear withers under the heat of righteousness. It cannot spread when it is cornered by those of noble conviction.

Remember that no one can divest you of your basic humanity without your submission and allowance. Discrimination and injustice are insidious, virulent scourges that the world is working hard to remedy, but they remain stubbornly resistant to complete eradication. Even as we labor to be rid of them, let us all retain our resolve and rise up in our dignity.

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