South Africans worry about Mandela and his legacy


Mandela, who has been hospitalized since June 8, is in critical condition.

South Africans reacted with concern Sunday when they learned that Nelson Mandela’s condition had worsened to critical, and while some said they hope the former president and national hero recovers, they also said they are tired of the circus surrounding his illness.

“He’s old, he’s lived a great life, they should just let him go,” said Ronelle Du Toit, 27, branch administrator at a property company in Johannesburg. “Stop anticipating and asking for prayers to keep him alive. He’s 94 – how many people live to 94?”

“It would be better to prepare the nation for his death,” he added.

On Sunday, Mandela’s condition deteriorated and doctors “are doing everything possible” for him, South Africa officials said. Mandela has been hospitalized since June 8.

Professor Sarah Nutall of the University of the Witwatersrand said many South Africans are hurt over the way the former president is being treated by his family and the government.

“People are deeply disturbed about the small-mindedness of some members of his family,” said Nutall, a contributing author to The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela, due out next year. “Unlike (Martin Luther King) and Gandhi, he was not assassinated. We want to grant him the opportunity to die at peace at home.”

Last month, it was revealed in court that Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe Mandela and Zenani Dlamini, were trying to access the family’s trust of $1.3 million for themselves. Nelson Mandela has said the money was intended to last for generations.

Other members of the family have used the Mandela name in a 13-episode reality TV show, Being Mandela.

Less than two months ago, the governing African National Congress (ANC) was criticized on Twitter for taking a picture with a frail-looking Mandela. Some in South Africa accused the ANC of trying to cash in on the popularity of the former president as he recovered from pneumonia.

“The politicians have to let Mandela rest in peace. This guy did his job for the people,” said security guard Lebogang Jack, 33.

South Africans are already looking to a future without Mandela, including national elections next year.

Even if Mandela dies before the next election in 2014, some South Africans doubt it will have a major impact on the results.

“The ANC have a strong psychological hold on large segments of the population,” Nutall said.

Others say the ANC has given up on many of the values that Mandela stood for.

“I think that corruption and crime (are) the biggest disappointment to Mandela’s struggle and what he fought for,” said Kavisha Pillay, 21. “They let the dream down.”

Daryl Glaser, head of the political science department at the University of Witwatersrand, says Mandela will remain “a politically valuable” symbol for the ANC.

“Reverence for Mandela helps to cement the ANC’s popular legitimacy at home and bolsters its stature abroad,” he said. “South Africa’s future will be shaped in part by whether the ANC continues or repudiates Mandela’s legacy of economic pragmatism and racial reconciliation.”

Some hope that legacy will endure.

“I hope (his death) will invigorate social movements, especially against poverty,” Nutall said. “I hope that his death will reinvigorate that kind of activism among ordinary people.”



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