Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

29 April 2014

South Africa: Analysis - Invoking Nelson Mandela's Legacies As We Celebrate Democracy

analysis

Nelson Mandela, generally viewed as the embodiment of South Africa's democracy, was not always the genial, open-minded fatherly figure whose smiling face is associated with the hopes that many cherished for the new South Africa.

As the titles of Mandela's books indicate, his life comprised a series of journeys; the first being called No easy walk to freedom (borrowed from Jawaharlal Nehru) and his autobiography, Long walk to freedom. The notion of a journey figures prominently in mythology, especially associated with masculine heroism. Mandela's journeys entailed both changes in his physical location but also his status in life; married, divorced, remarried, training to be counsellor to a future Thembu king, runaway to the Witwatersrand, country hick on the Rand, dapper lawyer, boxer and militant political actor.

Mandela sees himself possessing full freedom in his early life in Thembuland where he encountered few whites, but from the 1940s he learns otherwise in Johannesburg. In the 1950s he and other ANC leaders operate partly legally and partly outside the law. He leads the Defiance campaign of 1952 and is in the forefront of the M-Plan to prepare the organisation for operating underground. When placed under restrictions, he continues his...

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