– Are we as South Africans not open for blackmail by some who played a role and today feel entitled to dictate? Are we taking ‘struggle heroes’ too serious?
Listening to an interview of the debates on the status of the RSA constitution as conducted by Robin Kurnow of CNN with Adv. George Bizos, one cannot help but wonder if some people claim an inalienable right to know Nelson Mandela’s thoughts. Equally what is good for SA as a whole, only because they played a role?
Bizos claims that Nelson R. Mandela is a very sad man. Mandela according to Bizos is disappointed. Bizos fails to tell us the source of Mandela’s sadness or disappointment. We know Bizos as a jurist and individual is public about his views on the constitutional and judicial review debate. The same which we respect, yet these must not naturally be conflated as Mandela’s views. It appears that Bizos is still held captive for serving at one stage as one of a number of attorneys of Mandela.
If it is that former president Mandela is ‘sad’ and ‘disappointed’ – in what exactly is this sadness located, if indeed he is disappointed in what is this rooted? I ask these questions not of former President Mandela but from those who claim to speak either officially or unofficially on his behalf. I believe that Nelson Mandela as a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC has access to the existing leadership to share such ‘sadness’ or ‘disappointment’. Nelson Mandela has always conducted himself with such keen respect for the Movement that made him, his respect for such Movement as shared in his recorded work speaks volumes.
Bizos’ reminded us of the words of the scholar Manning Marable in his book on Malcolm X: A life of reinvention – who reminds us studiously “the great temptation for the biographer of an iconic figure is to portray him or her as a virtual saint, without the normal contradictions and blemishes that all human beings have”.
Nelson R. Mandela is on record for disassociating himself from this sainthood claim that some continues to invoke upon him at the expense of the ANC. The Mandela we know is a human being like all of us. As a member of the ANC he also understood the dialectical tension between dreaming of change and leading the charge for transformation, the same an ANC led administration since 1994 is making progress on with its equal success and failures.
It is my observation that there is a concerted, meticulously crafted myth in SA propagated that seeks to separate Nelson Mandela from the ANC. This flawed separation pits him in ‘sainthood’ as diametrically the opposite of an ‘evil’ ANC organisation. In this separation there is a further need to see the dawn of democracy as a Nelson Mandela project that which he in magic wand fashion dreamt up and magically was able to deliver.
The debate on the constitution cannot be a closed-ended one in which there are proverbial holy cows. It cannot be a debate in which some parts of the arms of state remain naturally above question and others necessarily the subject of suspicion. The debate on our constitution cannot be hushed into silence only because some for unholy reasons want to regard the constitution as sacrosanct. The debate asks from all of us to rise above pettiness and a parading fear based pre-occupation rhetoric.
Our constitution as powerful, historical and tone-setting initiative and document remains our hope and dream therefore a work in progress. Yet it equally asks of us to interpret and reinterpret constantly the nature of relations of the arms of state to give meaning and definition to its values and creeds. Such checks and balances – dialectical tension in the abundance of caution demands of neither of the arms of state to be hijacked by agendas that ill-serve the ideals of the hope of equality and the demand for transformation as a non negotiable.
If our democracy is under threat it is under threat from those who claim a right to maintain the status quo in class definition, economic disparity and land ownership definition as it depicts in 2012. This attempt to use the very constitution to counter the transformation agenda warrants condemnation. This maintenance of status quo as propagated by the self-appointed custodians of democracy is in defence of an Apartheid era, our collective history of suppression where democracy was a swear word.
For the record the attainment of freedom for all South Africans is and remains an ANC led process in which its leaders its people and those who believed in such vision from across all spheres were willing to lay down their lives. This organisation and its leaders must receive the credit and equal condemnation if it fails to deliver the democracy for which they were entrusted.
The debate on the constitution remains a healthy one, one in which we as South Africans must engage with an open mind and not out of fear. We need not approach this debate from the cheap vested corners, nor is this a naturally deduced attack on the judiciary, which has become shaped by the myopic “majority-gevaar” prism, in typical ‘swart –gevaar’ tactics of yesterday.
If democracy rules in SA it must respect the will of the people and we need not fear majority rule as the innate enemy of such democracy. From where a belief that democracy is only safeguarded by an opposition? From where the one sided conviction that we are fed in SA that the opposition holds the key and true prove of our democracy?
The defence of the SA constitution is not the arrogated right of a few who act as if they are the ordained gatekeepers and founders of the South African dream, but all of us. Asking questions and reviewing our constitution and its relevance for the transformation agenda must not be misconstrued in a heretical sense as diametrically opposed to the intentions of democracy but a normal outflow as we chart our common way towards the dream of equality.
An equality which for many sectors of our society exemplified in rural hinterlands, peri-urban communities and former townships remains a demand that must be answered. Our defence of the SA constitution must not be out of self interest and in disregard of the prevailing disparity of economic definition of the majority of the people of South Africa or service delivery failures. This constitution must deal with and answer why South Africa remains geographically owned by a minority. It must ask why the SA economy has remained an apartheid based economy in which a handful of permitted Africans share. It must ask what the tension between those who own and those who do not own mean. It must fundamentally ask what the rights of individuals mean in the bigger scheme of our historical background and how this relates to where we heading.
One may be forgiven to think the defence of the constitution is not at all times and honest pursuit by some for these believe those who hold political power as trusted by the masses necessarily constitute the enemy of the very constitution. An illogic that finds meaning in opposition rhetoric politics.
For the record no individual including George Bizos is the founder of our democracy, hence no one should be allowed to act as such founder, be he /she a politician, jurist, priest, academic, business baron, analyst, former political prisoner, former exile, former inzile, student, journalist, owner of media house or member of an opposition formation.
It is my view that we afford some people in our society too much respect and power that they uniquely feel entitled to dictate, even blackmail us in the name of our heroes. These act as arbiters of where we are in the course of the transformation agenda and share their views as the gospel because we afford them such space. This again has nothing to do with the enshrined freedom of speech right, but deals with the psyche of some who arrogate a right above others to dictate.
Saying this does not in the least negate the right of a Bizos or anyone to share his/her views, nor to question the role he/she played at a time historically, and even in a later epoch. However we must prove cautious to delink the so called ‘prima-donna’ status or ‘exaggerated role’ some have played for it blinds us to critique, question and challenge them in this epoch. It shuts us up to say, you wrong because we are constantly reminded what so and so did, in a specific epoch and we are to eternally prove conscious and indebted to this ‘exaggerated’ roles played.
History has shown these like all of us can be wrong in their assumptions, these like all of us are open to a change of heart. These like all of us are open to influences and sentiments (negative not excluded). These no different to all of us are not free from the entrapments of the ego of arrogated power, the same Lord Aton warned against a long time ago. We must pause and accept that not everything that proceeds from the mouths or pens of our ‘icons’ or ‘struggle heroes’ is the gospel. The question of struggle heroes remains a highly contested arena, but that is a debate for another day.
If Nelson Mandela is today sad, and disappointed as stated by Bizos on the subject of the constitution which is under attack we must ask who is the official spokesman to share that with the world? Is he quoted verbatim, or is he used to blackmail those who lead today?
If Mandela is sad and disappointed is it because he never expected a debate or assessment of the judiciary and the constitution on the road we had traversed in democratic pursuit? Perhaps the Mandela name that has enriched many is at times used to blackmail South Africans such blackmail is rooted in a foreign agenda.