‘This would have broken Madiba's heart’
Granddaughter talks about what Mandela might have thought about SA today - and what he would have done in Zuma's shoes
As the ANC celebrated Nelson Mandela’s centenary, his eldest granddaughter said she had no doubt that Madiba, had he been in President Jacob Zuma’s position, would have made a decision for the good of the country and to avoid tensions.
While Ndileka Mandela admitted that it would be presumptuous to say how he would have reacted, she referred to the icon’s own words, in the book Dare not Linger by Mandla Langa: “Good leaders fully appreciate that the removal of tensions in society, of whatever nature, put creative thinkers on centre stage by creating an ideal environment for men and women of vision to influence society. Extremists, on the other hand, thrive on tension and mutual suspicion.”
Mandela gave 67 years of his life to the ANC, including 27 spent in prison. But Zuma’s presidency has been plagued by corruption scandals, including state capture involving the Gupta family, probably the ANC’s worst PR nightmare.
The State of the Nation Address has been called off and the newly elected ANC leadership has been hard at work trying to resolve the impasse over Zuma’s future since Ramaphosa took over the reins at the party’s 54th national conference.
A special ANC national executive committee meeting is scheduled for Monday at the St George Hotel in Irene, Pretoria.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that Ramaphosa is “trying to secure President Jacob Zuma’s co-operation in the state capture investigations by putting a possible plea-bargain deal on the negotiating table. As part of the secret talks to ensure Zuma’s resignation, the ANC president wants Zuma to help the police and prosecuting authorities nail the perpetrators and primary beneficiaries of state capture: the Gupta family.”
Ndileka said the South Africa is gripped by tension, and that the atmosphere would have distressed Mandela.
“In many instances granddad made decisions for the better good of the country. I have no doubt his decision would be to avoid tensions,” she said.
“It would really sadden him. He lived for the better good of his country and to see what is happening would break his heart.”Ndileka said her grandfather’s words in Dare not Linger resonate with the current situation. “It is situations of this nature that some former freedom fighters run the risk of forgetting principles and those who are paralysed by poverty, ignorance and diseases; some then start aspiring to the lifestyles of the oppressors they once detested and overthrew.”
Ramaphosa launched the Nelson Mandela centennial celebrations on the Grand Parade in Cape Town on Sunday which was attended by thousands of people. This is the iconic spot where Ramaphosa, then a trade union leader, held the microphone for Mandela on February 11 1990, shortly after his release from prison. Here, the seed that would blossom into South Africa’s democracy was planted.
“I was not physically there when he walked out of prison as a free man, but watched it on TV from Medunsa. Words cannot articulate exactly what this day means to me,” said Ndileka.
“The day was a confirmation that he was a free man.”
Ndileka said Ramaphosa was her grandfather’s choice to succeed him. In Dare not Linger, Mandela said he wanted Ramaphosa to become his deputy to avoid the notion that “the Xhosas are monopolising power”.Ramaphosa sang Mandela’s praises on Sunday. But he skirted the matter of Zuma, saying “we are currently engaged in discussions around the transition to a new administration and specifically to resolve the issue of the position of the president of the Republic of South Africa”.
He emphasised that the party leadership should put the interests of South Africa first.
“In defence of Madiba’s legacy, we will continue to wage a relentless war against corruption and mismanagement of the resources of our country,” said Ramaphosa.
“Nelson Mandela was totally committed against corruption, against theft, against robbery of the assets of our people. We will continue with his legacy of fighting corruption and making sure that those who are corrupt and steal from the poor are brought to justice. We will at the same time continue to resist any form or attempt to capture our state institutions for the enrichment of a few.”Ramaphosa said the ANC will also hasten to resolve the land issue and find innovative ways of growing the economy and creating jobs for young people.
The SACP, on the other hand, did not hold back.
The party’s Western Cape secretary, Benson Ngqentsu, called for the arrest of the Guptas, and for Zuma’s head.
“The longer you keep President Zuma the worse for our people and the ANC. The ministers linked to the Guptas must go, the Gupta brigade must go. It is time,” said Ngqentsu to applause.
“In the Western Cape trains are not functioning. We are not bewitched; it is the friends of Jacob Zuma. They stole Prasa, Eskom and SAA from us. We will have a problem if in your negotiations you say Zuma must not be prosecuted. He must use his own money to defend himself.”