Mandela: An “Icon” becomes ordinary at the hand of an ambulance.


–          Mandela became an ordinary ‘black’ albeit for a fleeting period of 40minutes –


I read with a sense of mixed emotions of how former President Mandela or as we affectionately refer to him Madiba in his clan name was left on the road due to the fact his military ambulance suffered engine failure. We are in graphic sense informed how he possibly could have died as a direct result of this unfortunate incident. 


The ambulance we are told suffered mechanical failure and another had to come. On the cuff, this is perhaps an ordinary thing for a vehicle to pack up anytime regardless of being serviced or not. Yet the possibility of engine failure when a former president or icon like Mandela is involved is unacceptable and completely abnormal. 


We read of how frantic Mrs Graca Machel became, rightfully for this is her husband her loved one and she no different to all of us never dream of this to visit on our families. 


You cannot but see that sensationalism crowns this unfortunate incident when we are treated to the diverse threats and potential fatal danger this occasion represented. Yet we dare not make light of the fact that someone is accountable for this occurrence. The servicing of military health transportation is someone’s key performance area. Someone who receives a monthly salary, answerable to senior managers to perform his/her duties in accordance with an agreed employment contract.


We are told how Madiba could have should have and ought to have died, when he did not. That aside, I want to ask did this incident not for a fleeting second render the  ‘Icon’ perhaps an ordinary “black” man? Did this moment not for a split second expose a wealthy man to the plight of the poor, the extraordinary to the mundane.


I firstly think it very unfortunate that something like this occurred to a person let alone an elderly person. At a time when most refuse to see Mandela as ordinary human being as this incident proves. Mandela who for some for less objective reasons remains the glue that keeps us together as South Africans. 


I am tempted to ask was this moment as recorded on June 8, 2013 not a moment of confirmation that Mandela is an ordinary person who like many fall prey to delayed or broken down ambulances services. We must collective express our disdain as to why the military ambulances are not in working condition, which remains a legitimate question. Yet this question does derive legitimacy from the status and iconic position of former president, a saint for some and a struggle hero for others, but mirrored in the reality of its daily occurrence in the lives of ordinary people.  


Too many loved ones in South Africa witnesses their family members, children and loved ones die, because an ambulance never arrived on time or was delayed even suffered mechanical failure. We will admit the presence of an ambulance in itself does not guarantee life. The right to access and obligation on the part of those entrusted with such responsibility is what is at stake for the ordinary citizen. A right often left naked when people are left to die when they deserved due medical care.


This unfortunate incident will become live ammunition to those who believe SA is spiralling into an abyss of anarchy. In which nothing functions and all that we have known is left in tatters. It is not my job to defend the wrong of an ANC led administration, thus I rather want to ask does this incident help us appreciate the value of citizens life immanent in the lack of basic amenities and services, as basic as an ambulance when it is needed most. 


Yet perhaps this equalizes Mandela to all other poor South Africans who are exposed to this form of ambulance trouble. On June the 8th the cold of the night chill was felt equally by thousands outside the warm embrace of heat of a home and a former president whom the world regard an Icon. The cold of the night was felt by one who symbolizes the epitome of struggle heroism. The same unfortunate ambulance incident I would never wish upon Mandela, yet I equally would not wish this on Mrs. Petersen of Tafelsig or Mr. Dlele in Cofimvaba, or Aunty Siena of Pofadder, Mr. Pretorius of Koekenaap. For in the many townships across SA, waiting on an ambulance often become the deciding factor between life and death. 


The state of Mrs Machel must never be downplayed, yet Mrs. Machel is not the only woman who was exposed to the reality of this unfortunate incident. Perhaps in the chill of that night the pomp and celebratory status evaporated and made way for the ordinary plight of thousands in South Africa equally exposed to a cold chilly night on a road in a dysfunctional ambulance. 


Before you rush to conclude my insensitivity to the plight of a former president, his concerned wife, first understand that I bemoan the agony of a 95 year old, a grandfather, a man deemed “black” and an ordinary soul. That is where I deliberately choose to focus my contention. One must strip Mandela from the extraordinary (the status, the supernatural iconic) and invoke the ordinary because that is where the ordinary citizen can interact with him and all those who share power. Perhaps if more of our ministers are exposed to the plight of the ordinary, they will have a better sense of urgency in serving those who mandated them.


This unfortunate incident that may had had gave ramifications ensembles the story of many others in Mzansi of many similar colour shade who die only because an ambulance was too late, delayed, broke down and or  was never dispatched.


I deliberately refuse to be imprisoned by the myopic and iconic status or the Mandela status in the ambulance that is a misplaced focus. I insist on seeing an ordinary man done and injustice that in one night became equal to thousands more of the same fate. These bereft of his access, opulence, opportunity, luxury, privilege and standing. The same no journalist will ever write and inform u about simply because their lives do not matter. 


Perhaps the 40minutes on the roadside reduced the “icon” to an ordinary in most cases “black” person confronted by ambulance problems that so easily could have ended his life. Could this unfortunate incident communicate a message in symbolism of the critical challenges we as a nation remain confronted with in a democracy we often celebrate if not worship for the wrong reasons. 


In fact, did this moment reduce Mandela again to the no status he had before some for their own political expediency define him in a prism of Icon? Did this moment bring Mandela again back in the sphere for the ordinary amongst us in the trenches fighting to survive the challenges of this hour? Mandela the ordinary who during his presidency was willing to appear in a court when the late Louis Luyt former supremo of SA Rugby demanded he answers a case.  


Did this moment sober us all to the many challenges we are confronted within SA? Challenges less understood in opposition politics but lived experiences by the masses that deserve much more.


Perhaps Mandela became ordinary in identifying fully with the agony and plight of many others. Is this not the true legacy of Mandela? Thanks Madiba for in your state of frailty, recurring sickness an old age you once more identified with the true poor, the true needy those who cannot speak for themselves and remain often failed in basic service delivery.

Perhaps as unfortunate as this incident reflects it may be necessary to remind us of the plight of the ordinary.


C.N.S Ramalaine 

Independent Commentator 


Is Marikana – Enquiry a potential running tap or an industry in the making!

– Who stands to benefit materially from the Farlam Commission?-


This morning we awake to the news that Advocate Dali Mpofu is warning that today may be his last day representing the Marikana victims & families before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry. Advocate Mpofu told the Farlam Commission of Inquiry that due to financial constraints, Friday could be his last day representing the miners injured in the incident.

At the heart of the warning is the issue of finance or otherwise money nothing else but money. I am not privy to how much the entire Farlam Commission will in its totality finally cost the public yet I shall dare to advance that the final script for the Farlam Commission at this stage as some of us speculated at its inception is a foregone conclusion .

The Farlam Commission will conclude with a set of recommendations in which no one is ultimately charged or found liable criminally. The findings will be against the three key parties (mine-management, the workers, and the police). It does not take rocket science to decipher that all three parties regardless are complicit. Regardless to how dramatic days may unfold in what is often a testosterone driven show of flexing muscle. In the end, all three parties will stand guilty for their conjoined and complicit roles in this tragedy that visited upon the collective conscious of Mzansi.

We may never make light of the fact that in the week of August 16, 2012, 34 African lives were destroyed and more wounded due to the role of workers, police, and management. Notwithstanding the elaborate and well-structured dispute platforms for typical labour challenge South Africa presides over, we had the unfortunate incident of a Marikana 2012.

In some circles, we have heard veiled threats of, God forbid, another possible Marikana 2013, if the unfolding and highly sensitive labour issues around the mining sector are the base. The turbulence in this sector with its volatile organised labour context has in recent days impacted negatively on the greater economy and yet the final chapter in this episode is not written.

We are all in concert Marikana 2012 remains an avoidable tragedy in our post-apartheid context that needed not to happen. Yet occurred when due process in dispute resolutions was abandoned giving opportunity for violence and mayhem, which led to unnecessary African life loss.

Workers may strike as a right yet striking workers cannot exercise such right armed to the teeth with pangas and guns in the hope of having a labour issue resolved.

Police needed to prove more circumspect properly briefed, led by qualified leadership equipped in implementing a proper response for crowd control.

Mine management needed to anticipate the end game and proved sensitive to find proper solutions answering the multi-faceted challenges confronted by the mineworkers. Mine management should have anticipated the threat of life loss.

The aforementioned pretty much devoid of all technical legal jargon will be the ultimate findings of the Farlam commission.

That aside the sad reality is this, is it possible that Marikana is becoming an economy, in and of itself. An economy built on the pain of victims. Victims who quite possibly may remain victims for life (only because justice may never be theirs). Victims who may never benefit because it appears the legal counsel are the new victims because they will walk away with the money that the surviving members are to share.

Is Marikana not an economy and a proverbial running tap in which money is flowing, however on the wrong side? Will the justice the surviving victims seek remain deferred? Who will be richer after Marikana enquiry? Is legal counsel the correct epicentre of the Marikana enquiry for the right reasons?

If Marikana exists, does it only exist with the paradigm of finding against one group of the three and for what reason?

Can the public know how much the legal counsel is paid? How many more months the Farlam Commission will sit to conclude on what we already as the public can see it will find? I guess we have a right to know how much legal counsel is paid for each day it sits on behalf of the victims.

Advocate Mpofu and all legal counsel how much of your defense on behalf of the victims is purely inspired by the potential industry Marikana is becoming.

When we ask these questions, it in no sense is to deny the true victims access to the best, it is to ensure the best don’t go to the legal counsels but find its due and proper way into the wrecked lives of surviving victims.

As simplistic as this may sound it appears a better solution is to pay out all this money to the actual surviving members, instead of legal counsel. Yet I know there are those who will shout what do you know about legal processes? To them I shall softly say I know this, too often the victims remain victims when legal counsel walk away with the spoils.

Clyde N. Ramalaine

Independent Commentator

COSATU, beset by personality politics – lost focus !.

COSATU, beset by personality politics- snuffing life out of it.

–          What has COSATU become, in whose mouth is it speaking –


As this much-publicized COSATU CEC sits, for some it is a decisive moment immanent as reported in the fate of its general secretary. 


One would have thought the central issue for the CEC is the impending challenge of an organised labour fraternity tearing at its seams in self-destruct. 


There are those who for their own reasons almost demand and expiry date to the Tripartite Alliance. 


For some COSATU is today a voice of opposition from within the Alliance, something the Alliance cannot afford. Yet there are many who think COSATU has become embroiled in party politics at the expense of the workers interest and agenda.


The latter argument holds a dialectical tension in that to argue COSATU is involved in party politics as a new emerging phenomenon, is not a completely honest assertion, for COSATU throughout this democratic dispensation of ANC led governance has always played an active role in party political dimension be it the ANC or SACP. It is an existence of co-interdependence where often party political leadership manifest in COSATU and vice versa. This at times renders the lines blurred particularly since dual membership is an accepted practice and reality. 


Is  the current focus on the person of the general secretary either in defence of staying or demand of removal not erroneously confusing COSATU issues in personality definition? Irvin Jim of NUMSA is vocal in defence of the Vavi, equally Frans Baleni of NUM, is emphatic that no one is above question or scrutiny. 


Is it wholly unfair to the general secretary to accost him some blame for the current factionalised context? 


Is it possible that Zwelinzima Vavi as general secretary is directly the cause of the status of COSATU as a personality driven Organisation? 


What has happened to the workers struggle, the workers causes the workers issues and workers agenda?


Perhaps Vavi like all present COSATU leadership including COSATU president  Sdumo Dlamini must collectively own up  for the current state. A COSATU marked by glaring factional infighting weak and staggering in many instances is unequivocally the legacy of this leadership in which proving your personal and political  weight is the order of the day.


The numbers of Unions (Sectors) that have registered their displeasure with the sitting general secretary, is remarkable, leaving one to ask, will Vavi if it comes down to a vote survive?


 Vavi, often portrayed by the media as the antithesis of a generally accepted corrupt ANC, almost in darling fashion the patron of anti-corruption is seen in some circles as a victim yet others claim him a villain who has meticulously gone about dealing with others while covering himself in proverbial robes of honour. 


It has become increasingly blurring to understand when Vavi is speaking on behalf of organised labour and or when he is campaigning in political sense with a paradigm of greater significance. 


One is forgiven to conclude, the COSATU general secretary has come to realise he has his “own constituency” from where he may launch a semblance of a political campaign or even a structure. Let us not forget it was Vavi who told us Helen Zille  of the DA pursued him to join forces, the same he rejected.


The point worth considering is why the DA leader felt so comfortable to approach Vavi. From what wells of comfort did she drink conclude her politics resonates with him. We know Zille has made overtures to anyone and thing that remotely resembles distaste and hate for the ANC. It is common knowledge that Helen Zille is smitten with the idea of oppositionalism as a defining trait. Yet again, we must ask why the DA and its leader felt comfortable enough in political ideology to attempt the claimed overtures or as a Vavi puts its “pursuing ” of the opposition party of the general secretary of COSATU a member of the Tripartite Alliance that defines ANC leadership? 


If COSATU is under threat of becoming irrelevant as warned by the ANC Secretary General  in a recent comment, where lie the roots for this? 


Can we conclude we are dealing here with the resultant effect of worker-issues abandoned for personality power- politics?  


The rise of AMCU notwithstanding the claims and counter claims of many on both sides for obvious reasons may directly be attributed to the very wrongful focus of a complacent COSATU leadership in which a contest for attention in loudmouthness has come to define power. AMCU as an organised labour fraternity may  be labelled in  process as flawed yet no one can argue its  existence. AMCU cannot be wished away. Furthermore,  there is reason to suspect it will continue to grow especially since the current NUM complacency breaths fertile soil for its growth. 


NUM, with as great a history in organised labour sector cannot simply just accuse AMCU in process formation sense, neither can the politics of third forces be they local or of international making with extra deep pockets be purely blamed. NUM must lay its hand in bosom and admit it became complacent assuming a right of existence beyond serving its members. The shedding of more than 40000 members regardless whether one may argue the process, does not alter the fact that NUM is haemorrhaging in this season.



 This emergence of an AMCU, and other similar formations in what was previously unilaterally defined as NEHAWU territory must not be seen in isolation and may rear its head in NUMSA or any other environment, perhaps pointing to a rethink in the greater COSATU. COSATU, cannot afford to be complacent but must be much more vigilant in its drive to deliver the workers stake. 


Again, one shall ask perhaps a rhetorical question, if COSATU, is finding itself at odds internally, is it not because the workers struggle became the power platform of individuals who politically trades in the name of the workers for their own interest.


COSATU Federations appear to have  forgotten its strength is consolidated in the body of a COSATU. The new norm is the  throwing around of proverbial weight individual – federation weight. This is firstly misplaced emphasis and secondly fuelling the belief that the organisation  is in disarray. This new attitude lends itself to claims that there appear a vacuum in  misunderstanding the original intent for its formation. 


The signs for a confused factional workers entity are visible in the utterances by federation leaders engaging non-worker related political battles wrongfully defined in personalities- the workers remain the losers not NUM, NUMSA or NEHAWU or the bigger COSATU. 


COSATU must admit it is losing the heart of the workers struggle, the reason for its existence rendering it potentially without mandate.


In the end it is not wise to remove Vavi, at this stage for it would merely exacerbate the factional dimensions and fuelling an entrenched disunity. 


Hence, Vavi will survive but less because he is as “big” or has this groundswell workers support as some analysts may hold, but simply because the ANC is not interested in making anyone victims in an epoch of election preparation where all and every support is needed. 


There clearly  a bigger interest and this interest of COSATU hegemony should remain paramount for the Alliance sake. 


We will be fooled to expect that as the CEC draws to its close and the smiles and hugs are extended all is well in COSATU, for ego politics will in my view prove simmering oft busting unprotected when limelight becomes to challenging to resist. 


In the uprun to the 2014, general elections we must expect the flexing of ego political muscles at times misguided, at times involuntary other times utterly confused for the workers- interest will remain a backbencher for those who for whatever reason tasted power and its tantalizing affects. 


Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Independent Commentator.


Historic SA Land Ownership : A deafening silence in our media!


– Questions to our media community and those who  know-


Land is a sensitive issue, and remains defined in racial tension. It is sensitive since almost two decades in our acclaimed democracy it still dictates a skewed apartheid based ownership. Furthermore, such ownership in this epoch comes defended by a constitution, which we in blackmail-sense are warned not to tamper.


Land is a sensitive issue because the masses still do not own what is rightfully theirs. Land is a sensitive issue simply because they do not make it anymore. 


If this subject of land is so important, why is it not covered and reported on with equal intensity and ferocity it deserves.


Where are the objective studies, investigative research papers, and information on how land was acquired in South Africa particularly by those from European descent? Why do these not filter through our sources of media even in this critical season when contemplation of land claims reopening is tabled? Why do these not make headlines?


Why is it that no media house, investigative journalist, or editor regardless of colour has any interest or appetite to inform the South African populace on the subject of a historic land ownership? Is there an agreed silence exemplified in a somewhat herd-mentality that this subject matter in its naked sense is a taboo, if so why and in whose interest? 


Instead of dealing with this subject, we rather have an estrogenic inspired tussle between a Ferial Haffajee (City Press) and Phylicia Oppelt (Sunday Times) tangled in a sling match as to who is the real prima-donna in print media. 


Sisters, need I remind you, you are both not “white,” and according to the current definition of land ownership in South Africa you are part of those who do not own. You most probably in ancestry are victims of the real land grabs, why the silence when you hold these powerful positions? 


Can you unleash the same vigour (with which you pull each other’s hair in the usual high-school girl drama) into issues of substance and leave the sideshows that came to define both of you? 


Can we hear the objective commentary on land? Certainly, this is a priority, particularly since the SA Constitution Section 25 inherently defends the right of ownership. The same currently used as a legitimate defence of ownership irrespective of history before this history. 


It is amazing that this subject matter is yet not finding its way into our collective mainstream discourse. In whose interest is it that this subject remains reduced to the periphery of our public engagement?


Let us know how vast tracts of land, farms etc., came into the possession of those of European descent? Land was stolen from before 1652 right up until the dawn of our democracy. Land remains stolen regardless to what the constitution may advocate. We must first deal with this grand-scale theft if we meaningfully hope any attempt at addressing the parity of equality in which we all must claim our equal and common humanity.


Can those who “own” unequivocally tell us how, when, from whom, at what price they or their forebears acquired land, the same the SA Constitution now defends? 


No land was brought here on any ship. No land was carried here on an ossewa. No land was brought in by osmosis.  


It cannot be that Zimbabweans are accused of land grabs, when the land always belonged to the Zimbabweans. If anybody stands accused rightfully of any form of land grab, it is the coloniser who it  “acquire” by means still not known land they did not originally own. In fact, who coins terms like ‘land grab’ that Africans willy-nilly regurgitate and embrace? 


Instead, print media spent time and effort on denigrating an ANC government every day. The ANC must shoulder responsibility and own up for the many challenges the post- apartheid era brought.


Yet this national issue is left in abeyance lulling us all to accept this question as irrelevant, out of order and predating the Constitution, which today supersedes everything, rendering historic land ownership, therefore a non- issue. 


It is a darn shame that “black” journalists are uniquely obsessed in this era to uncover ANC rot (rightfully) yet this rot of stolen land fabricated ownership is not investigated. It appears not the interest of any journalist let alone “black” journalists to engage this issue.


We are fed a diet on Anti-ANC diatribe oozing in our daily and weekly newspapers in abundance dictating a narrative of “blacks” as incompetent to govern. The truth is “whites” fundamentally don’t believe any “black” can successfully run this country. That is the prevailing narrative in our democratic era. A narrative in which some believe they are the natural custodians of our democracy. 


I shall ask again that print media and all forms of media please inform us about the true history of ownership of land. Run series upon series on this educate us. We the public want to know. 


Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

    Independent commentator