One of South Africa’s leading evangelists says he believes the gospel profoundly affected Nelson Mandela‘s outlook as he re-entered politics after his years in prison.
Evangelist Michael Cassidy said Billy Grahamasked him to visit Mandela in 1992 in response to a letter Mandela had written to Graham after he left prison.
He said he personally took a signed copy of Graham’s book, Peace with God, to Mandela.
“I remember him telling me that when he was in prison he never missed Bible study or church service or Sunday nights. I was very impressed by that,” Cassidy said.
“I personally like to believe that the Christian gospel also informed his responses. It wasn’t just pragmatic politics. These were principles in his heart and soul and mind that he had come to believe were right,” he continued.
At Mandela’s request, Cassidy went to network with other church leaders to press for reconciliation, both before and after Mandela’s election in 1994.
“He was saddened that there were portions of the church that had given explicit or implicit support for the apartheid system and had legitimized it theologically,” he reminisced.
“But it was not lost on him that the church was a very important player in the whole process whereby apartheid was brought to an end,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy said Mandela wrote a letter to Graham saying he was touched by one of Graham’s TV broadcasts while in prison.
The man who served as a sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral Tuesday in Johannesburg was a total fake who “made up his own signs” and was “literally flapping his arms around,” experts say.
The international deaf community quickly took to Twitter and multiple media outlets to lambast the interpreter who they claim was not using any standard form of South African or English sign language.
Braam Jordaan, a deaf South African citizen and a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section, said the signer humiliated the deaf community with his ridiculous performance.
“What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all,” he told SBS. “What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela and the deaf community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”
Bruno Druchen, the national director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, and others who were offended by the fraud immediately took to Twitter Tuesday to blast the unidentified man.
It’s not clear how the interpreter even ended up on stage or what his credentials are. Wilma Newhoudt, a deaf member of the South African Parliament and vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf, said the man is not known to anyone in the South African deaf community.
According to SBS, his professional credentials are currently being reviewed by the Deaf Federation of South Africa. If he’s found to be unqualified, his appearance at Mandela’s funeral could constitute a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by the South African government in 2007.
In his commentary, he recalled that Reagan vetoed a House bill passing sanctions, only to have Congress override the veto. But Gingrich said, “Reagan’s critics are wrong to say his opposition to economic sanctions made him pro-apartheid. He disagreed with our group of activist Republicans in Congress over tactics, not over the aim of ending the institution. The President was absolutely committed to that goal, even if some of our other conservative colleagues were not.”
Gingrich continued, “Reagan ‘detested’ apartheid, as he wrote in his diary and said publicly, but thought sanctions would be counterproductive to ending it. In particular, he believed punishing South Africa economically would only have ‘hurt the very blacks we’re trying to help.’ This was a position Reagan shared with Gatsha Buthelezi, the head of the Zulus, among other black South Africans.”
Gingrich also pointed out that Reagan issued an executive order restricting military and official relations between Washington and Pretoria, and that he sent close aide William Clark to South Africa to express opposition to its system of racial segregation.
“There, as four Reagan biographers wrote recently in The Washington Post, ‘an unsmiling Clark told Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha to his face that the new president and administration abhorred apartheid,’ and ended up walking out on him,” Gingrich said.
Reagan later appointed Edward Perkins as the first black American ambassador to South Africa, Gingrich noted, saying that the “only modern equivalent might be appointing a woman ambassador to Saudi Arabia.”
“Reagan was not silent about the imprisonment of Mandela, either,” Gingrich wrote. “He argued in a 1986 speech that ‘Nelson Mandela should be released to participate in the country’s political process’ and counted this step as a ‘necessary component of progress toward political peace.’”
“This is not the record left-wing pundits looking to smear Reagan have been presenting,” he added.
PRETORIA, South Africa — Thousands of people lined up Wednesday to say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, whose body lay in state in Pretoria in the building where the anti-apartheid hero was inaugurated in 1994 as South Africa‘s first black president.
Several people fainted in the stifling heat as South Africans waited their turn to file past Mandela’s casket after family members, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities paid their respects at the imposing Union Buildings, perched on a hill overlooking the city.
By afternoon the summer heat and lack of access to water and toilets caused several people to pass out and tempers to fray as mourners waited in line for their last chance to see the man regarded as the father of democratic South Africa.
“There’s a 5,000-strong crowd here. There’s not one mobile toilet, no water, there’s nothing for the people. People are becoming upset and frustrated,” said Ronelle Johnson-Hoskins, who had been queuing since morning.
Mourners, some carrying infants on their backs, were also turned away if they did not have an identity document, she said, something they did not know they needed.
The government said in a statement that identity documents were not required, and said the cut-off time for those hoping to view Mandela’s body had been reached by 3:30 pm, meaning many hundreds of people were likely be turned away.
Any perception that the government had mismanaged the logistics of Mandela’s lying in state could further infuriate South Africans, a day after President Jacob Zuma was humiliated by boos and jeers at the memorial ceremony.
The government also faced complaints it used a fake sign language interpreter for the memorial, who gesticulated gibberish before a global audience of millions and outraged deaf people across the world.
A spokesman said Pretoria was looking into the allegation.
Mandela’s death on Thursday at the age of 95 has brought an outpouring of grief and mourning in the country he led as president from 1994 to 1999, as well as celebration and thanksgiving for his life and achievements.
Earlier thousands of people lined the streets as the black hearse carrying Mandela’s coffin wound its way to the official seat of government from the capital’s main military hospital. The flag-draped casket was met by officers representing branches of the military.
“This is a significant moment for me and my children,” said teacher Thapelo Dlamini, 48, who had been waiting on the street for two hours with his two children to watch the cortège pass.
Among the first to file past Mandela’s casket were singer Bono, model Naomi Campbell and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, appeared to wipe away a tear as he passed the coffin.
“I want to see him. Even if I have to stand here for three hours, I want to see him. It’s my last chance,” said Habib Urehem, 66, a teacher of Islam.
South Africa’s social services postponed the launch of a call center for victims of gender violence, instead offering counseling for those distressed by Mandela’s death. Most calls had been about funeral details, though some callers wanted counseling for personal bereavements, a spokeswoman said.
In Pretoria, the mood was more sombre than jubilant, a marked departure from Tuesday’s memorial in Soweto, where the crowd danced and sang in the rain to honor Mandela’s memory and booed and jeered Zuma.
Mandela’s death has diverted attention from corruption scandals in Zuma’s administration, but it has also underscored the gulf between South Africa’s first black president, a towering figure of the 20th century, and its fourth.
Although South Africa has been transformed since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, it remains one of the world’s most unequal societies, plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment.
WORRYING SIGN FOR ANC
Although South African newspapers flayed Zuma on Wednesday, they also reprimanded the crowd for booing during the service to commemorate a man famed for his ability to reconcile and forgive former enemies.
The Star, Johannesburg’s main daily newspaper, ran “Zuma’s Humiliation” as its headline.
The Times newspaper said: “It is a pity that, on the day the world came together to pay homage to Nelson Mandela, large sections of the crowd at the official memorial service heckled and booed President Jacob Zuma.
“Not because our scandal-prone, often bumbling, president doesn’t deserve it – he manifestly does.”
The heckling of Zuma is a worrying sign for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as it heads for an election next year. But having won nearly 66 percent of the vote in 2009, the ANC is unlikely to lose its majority.
Zuma’s five years in office have been marked by scandal, feeble economic growth and social and labor unrest.
Mandela will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his ancestral home in the rural Eastern Cape province, 700 kilometers (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.
The village was blanketed in thick mist on Wednesday and the heavy rain had churned up mud roads, making them difficult for vehicles to negotiate.
But while the weather could cause headaches for the organizers, many South Africans were smiling. Tradition has it that heavy rain is a blessing, a sign of an esteemed leader being welcomed into the afterlife by his ancestors.
Separately, burglars broke into the Cape Town home of Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu while he was in Johannesburg to attend the memorial service for Mandela, a Tutu family spokesman said on Wednesday.
Some of us making statements and eulogizing Nelson Mandela have a deeper understanding of his value to the world because we shared a similar background with him as Africans born and raised in the values of traditional rulers who were lumped together and stereotyped by the British imperialists and colonial masters as “tribal chiefs” to use their exact words. Among my progenitors in Akure, for instance, was 38th Deji of Akure named Odundun Asodedero who ruled Akure with an iron hand from 1882 to 1890. He was known to have ordered his wife beheaded for innocently sharing a joke with him in the bathroom as I hinted in chapter 4 page 62 of my Lion King and the Cubs. Mandela like many of us born with the silver spoon in our mouths, to African Royalties, so to speak, are the inheritors of covenant sins which could have predictably prevented many of us from getting out of the box to see the world for what it really is and to thereby reposition ourselves for greatness like Mandela did.
Some of those chieftains and tribal chiefs or traditional rulers like the great Jaja of Opobo to mention one, were collaborators in selling some of their own people into slavery in exchange for gun powder and items like salt and other condiments brought to our shores by the early British colonial traders and explorers like Mungo Park in Nigeria and Christopher Columbus in Dominican Republic and much of the Caribbean and the new world. Mandela as a prince came from that kind of background. That he could break away from that past to do all that he did for South Africa despite his being persecuted and imprisoned for 27 years of his life without losing his sanity or getting embittered to the point of wanting to wreak vengeance on his oppressors and persecutors and their heirs in South Africa and other parts of the world, speak volumes about his uniqueness as a leader. The white world could try all they want. It is fair to say they can never fully appreciate or understand the place of Mandela in human history. They are all today singing Hosanna and some of them shedding crocodile tears because “an array of knives are bound to surface the day the elephant falls” and because success has many a parents, but failure is decidedly an orphan, if you get my point.
Few of the greatest lessons I am suggesting the whole world must take away from the awe-inspiring life and death of Rolihlahla Madiba Mandela is what this piece is all about. Many a tribute and eulogy have been paid or written on Mandela and a million more are still going to come as the whole world celebrates the greatest African of the 21st century whose final burial is planned for December 15, 2013. The whole world from beginning of creation has arguably had or known a million world leaders from Guinea Bissau to China and Vietnam and from Cape town to to the remotest town in the Tundra region of Canada, but among the few the world will never forget in a hurry is Madiba Nelson Mandela.
“The man now belongs to the Ages” as opined by the first black American Presidents whose political life has been impacted by Mandela. I am talking of Barack Obama whose formative years in politics were shaped or influenced by Nelson Mandela whose determination was to rescue his own people from the strangle hold of the an Apartheid government which was for many years connived at by all of the white world including America, the number one super power. The world would not forget that America, ins pite of her own colonial past, did not remove the name of Mandela from the long list of freedom fighters who were blacklisted by the West as terrorists by conventional wisdom until 2008 when it became clear to America that the Apartheid Regime was unsustainable given the world consensus against it. America had literally looked the other way before then totally ignoring or sweeping under the carpet the injustice perpetrated in South Africa by their own white brothers and collaborators who were bent on dispossessing Africans of their own Papa’s land as reminded us by late music idol, Sunny Okosu of Nigeria, one of the unsung heroes of Mandela’s freedom.
I see some correlation between the Mandela mystique and the proverbial story of the Elephant and the blind man who thought the elephant was a snake after touching or just feeling the long nostril of the elephant. By touching the body of the elephant, the same blind man had believed the elephant had to be a rock or a stone (Okuta rabata sa). By touching the feet, the same blind man had thought the elephant was a stone pillar. So what anybody is saying or writing is often a factor of the personal experience of that individual or what that individual is seeing or feeling at every given moment. By that token, any of the millions of the Johnny-Just-Come Mandela’s admirers around the world, right now, could be making the same mistake the blind man was making by his totally irreconcilable impressions or characterization of the elephant. My point is that perceptions of Mandela are bound to differ from one person or writer to another depending on which aspect of his life and legacies appeal to them. In my own case the greatest lesson Mandela has taught the world is really the only point I want to underscore in this tribute.
I listened with awe and amazement to one of such eulogies from a man who knew Mandela the best because they both come from the same country and generation. The man I am talking about is the retired Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, the great and eloquent Desmond Tutu another icon in South Africa who delivered one of the most powerful funeral orations I have so far heard on Mandela, following the announcement of his death, to the nation and the world by Jacob Zuma, the 3rd President of free South Africa. Mr. Zuma has followed on the footsteps of Mandela and Thabo Mbeki in that office. Bishop Desmond Tutu described Mandela simply as “the father of South Africa, a world leader and an iconic giant of compassion, magnanimity and reconciliation”. Mandela was ranked in stature with other reputable world leaders around the globe which include icons and avartars of Life like President George Washington (1789-1797), Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) Winston Churchill British Second World War Prime Minister from 1939- 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945), Harry Truman (1945-1953, Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961), JFK (1961-1963), Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), William Clinton (1993-2001) and of course our own Barack Obama from 2009 till now. The list must include not just politicians but non-political leaders in America and other countries around the world like the UK, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, Singapore, India, Pakistan, former Czechoslovakia and many others in the six continents of the world that time will not permit me to mention one by one.
I will be the first to point out that no country has a monopoly of great leaders. The white world who used to look down on colored people as inferior to the white race has been proved wrong by the emergence of Mandela on the world stage. Republicans in America who are hell-bent on de-legitimizing Barack Obama despite his impressive record in office had better take notice that another Mandela was clearly in the making in America and many more are still to come. It should now be crystal clear to the world, white or black, that skin color is no longer a barrier to conquering the human frontier. Given the right climate and education a black or Latino man from some of the remotest part of the world would give their white counterpart a run for their money in intellectual power as clearly proved in America by some distinguished Blacks, Latinos and other minorities who are able to match the whites pound for pound in every area of human endeavor. We are all capable of greatness regardless of our skin color. If there is one overarching lesson Mandela has thought the world, it is that point without any question in my mind.
That Mandela was a child of privilege in South Africa simply means he could easily have sided with the colonial masters and the powers that be in the Apartheid Regime if all he wanted was just comfort for himself and not the greatest good for the great majority of his people. He saw the value of education growing up close to one of the epic centers of poverty around Soweto and he struggled tooth and nail to educate himself becoming a lawyer and using that leverage to free his people from bondage with all the risks involved just like Mahatma Gandhi did in India. Mandela did it despite all the deprivation and solitary confinement he suffered in the hands of his Apartheid oppressors for 27 years in attempt to break his will and spirit. Rather than being broken, Mandela walked out of Robin Island a hero of the South African struggle without any feeling of bitterness towards his oppressors. He emerged with a determination to build a multi -ethnic country where the white and the blacks and the Indians would live side by side in peace and total reconciliation to achieve their full potential. He practiced all of the virtues Martin Luther King had preached or dreamed about. The big difference between Martin Luther King and Mandela was the fact that Mandela has had the good fortune of living long enough to actualize those dreams and to set the best example in selflessness and leadership the world has ever seen. I can see generations of youths all over the world who are inspired by the Mandela mystique to never give up on their convictions no matter the distraction they face. That was surely another lesson to take away from Mandela.
To be a leader you have to be willing and able to follow. Mandela taught the world a lesson on that as well with his relationship with his mentor and leader, the great Oliver Tambo and many of his comrades in arms like the great Walter Sisulu and others who fought with Mandela to finally liberate South Africa with help from the rest of the world. Mandela never failed to acknowledge the contributions of Oliver Tambo as leader of the ANC and the South African Liberation movement. He never failed to acknowledge the inspiration he himself has drawn from other world leaders like Mahatma Ghandhi and Martin Luther King and Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta to mention a few. He was a quick study on how not to overstay his welcome in power. He served only one term as President even though he could easily have remained in power for life if he had wanted to. Unlike Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mandela knew how to call it quits while the ovation was loudest.
His final burial funeral to be attended on December 15 by no less than 3 former American Presidents and the incumbent traveling together in Air Force One is a first in American history that only a Mandela was capable of bringing about. South Africa is going to be host to no less than 89 Heads of Government. It is going to be the largest number of world leaders, Presidents, Emperors, Kings and Queens who are all going to South Africa to pay Mandela their last respects. The Mandela burial would go down in history as the world’s greatest carnival if you can believe that. Not even the Queen of England or the Pope could match the assemblage of celebrities and royalties to witness the burial of arguably the greatest African of all times.
I want to stress again that Mandela came from a generation of black Freedom fighters like Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gamel Abdel Nassir, Sekou Toure, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Oliver Tambo, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Walter Sisulu, Marcus Garvey, Medgar Evers, Ndabaningi Sithole and Thurgood Marshall to mention a few who were blackmailed, vilified and pilloried as terrorists by the white world because of their principled opposition to to racial bigotry. Mandela like Obafemi Awolowo and Kwame Nkrumah issued one of the most profound statements ever made by any leader that “Education is the most potent weapon to change the world.” I see his leadership genius and his shining example as his greatest contribution to Mankind. Not even Socrates the world’s greatest teacher could have matched that. Mandela has become a priceless jewel of inestimable value to the black race anywhere in the world.
There are a million things the world may not remember as hinted by Kenny Rogers in one of his once-in-a-life-time country music track, but the contribution of Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela to freedom and reconciliation in South Africa and around the world is one thing the world would never ever forget. Only the Urhobos of Nigeria in their colorful language would have captured the real essence and the true meaning of the Mandela exit from the world of mortals. “Ovie Kpor” the Urhobos would have said meaning “The King has died” In deed he has, and the world would forever live to remember that until another Mandela in the making makes his debut. As a shoo-in for that honor before I end this statement, it is my honor and privilege to predict and nominate another pride of Africa, the first black President of the greatest country on Earth and the Land of the Brave, “Isekosala” “Erediauwa” “Ataiyese” Barrack Hussein Obama. So help us God.
I rest my case.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,”-Nelson Mandela
The greatest black man, for me, died on 5th of December 2013.
Nelson Mandela was a hero to my generation. Ask anyone then, while growing up, who their hero was and you get a Nelson Mandela nine out of ten times. We grew up reading about him and his struggles to free South Africa from apartheid. We grew up listening to ‘free Mandela’ musics.
It is not a surprise that tribute after tribute have poured out from all corners of this world eulogizing Nelson Mandela. No wonder almost all the leaders of the world intend to be at his burial.
Madiba was just unbelievable. He had a heart made out of this world. Words cannot express this great man. He was not normal.
What sort of a man would go to the extent of almost laying down his life to liberate his people? Legend has it that he was offered a chance to go free, as long as he denies the ANC and the struggle to liberate his oppressed black people. This offer he refused! Even Peter denied Jesus for crying out loud. Normal people do not do that.
It is only Nelson Mandela who will forgive his oppressors. A normal man would pursue vengeance with all he has to make sure he pays back those who took away almost 30 years of his whole life. I am certain also that Tata forgave the western world-the same guys who labeled him a terrorist (The United States led by George Bush just removed him from the terror watch list in 2008 after Reagan included him since the 80’s) who now are at the forefront, today, singing his praises like no other. The same people who condoned apartheid because of trade links as well as South Africa’s gold.
Nelson Mandela hated oppression of any form. I have never seen a man who cared so much about people. He so cared about the ordinary man. He always spoke out when he sees oppression, no matter who you are. No wonder he said the United States of America doesn’t care for human beings when the US was about invading Iraq, insisting it was all about the oil. The war was going to take lives too-lives of the innocent.
He supported Libya and Ghadafi because he thought the UN sanctions against Libya was not really affecting Ghadafi, but the people of Libya. He was a man of peace. He craved world peace.
What kind of man relinquishes power voluntarily after just one term, when he had the chance to be in power till his dying days? I am certain South African’s would not have objected. That is unheard of in today’s world. Ask Mugabe to do that today and see what happens to you.
In fact where I come from he will be cursed by his people. He will be stoned if he dared to relinquish power. Nelson Mandela would still be president if he came from same place as me, I dare say. He would have been persuaded to steal and steal for his generation to come. But Madiba thinks differently. He is a man who considers the people. He must have thought what use it will be adding to the woes of the people by stealing them blind when he is set up for life by virtue of being an ex president.
Where I come from a former president has his personal staff, personal security (Police and SSS), vehicles, drivers, diplomatic passport for life, medical services both at home and abroad, vacation abroad, accommodation as well as telephone line (all for life)all paid for by the government. What else makes life worth living? It still beats me that they still go ahead and loot like there is no tomorrow while in power even while the people suffer.
The world has indeed lost a great man. Mandela is irreplaceable. Madiba is larger than life. Madiba was a man of the people. Madiba loved Women(great Men do). His sense of humor was next to none. Madiba was special and he deserves the accolades.
I just wish the world (especially where I come from) would reflect and stand for all he believed in…and more.
Nelson Rolihllahla Mandela, the man fondly called Madiba, fell into an eternal sleep on Thursday December 5th, 2013. He lived a life dedicated to struggle against injustice and racial discrimination. Today, the world mourns the man described as “a giant of history” and “one of the greatest leaders of our time.” This Mandela, the man the whole world has stood up for since Thursday night when he breathed his last, was once labeled a ‘terrorist’ and confined to the most hellish part of the world. It is ironic that the most colorful memorial service I have witnessed in my lifetime is for a man the world powers once connived and plotted against. I hope this important lesson of history will not be lost on us.
Mandela is not so honored by people of goodwill the world over because he spent 27 years in prison. He is not so honored today because he fought for freedom, equality and justice. Mandela is not receiving posthumous encomiums simply because of his dogged commitment to an end of apartheid – a struggle he devoted his life to, and for which he was prepared to breathe his last. In my opinion, the most important virtue of Madiba was his great power to forgive. Mandela not only forgave, he set the nation on a genuine course of unity and reconciliation. He admonished South Africans to look forward rather than backwards. With his message of unity, truth, and reconciliation, he singlehandedly helped the nation avert what would have been a devastating civil war
In the legendary story of Mandela and the socio-political transformational history of South Africa there is a great lesson of ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’ of nation building for other African nations, especially Nigeria. If Mandela had come out of prison bitter for his unjust 27 years incarceration, the world today most probably would not have united in paying homage to the great man that he was. If Madiba had come out of prison spewing ethnic hate and political divisiveness, Africa and indeed the whole world arguably would have been a different place today. If Mandela had come out of prison determined to wager revenge against real and perceived enemies of the anti-apartheid struggle, those whose brutal execution of the inhuman racial segregation policy saw thousands maimed and many more unjustly killed, South Africa still would be a killing field today, and the entire African continent would be engulfed by the flaming conflagration.
We Nigerians need to re-chart a course for the future. That future must be devoid of the current persistent penchant for ethnic and religious sororification at the slightest provocation. It is very insane, and clearly anti-progressive, to define any Nigerian by either their ethnic origin or religious affiliation. It is time we start honoring Mandela’s legacy by looking forward. As a nation, we have what it takes to be great. What we lack is the unity of purpose to drive our achievement and help give vent to our creativity. We are like a broken broom the frond pieces of which need to come back together to be effective at sweeping. To actualize Nigeria’s potentials and realize progressive dreams of greatness, we not only need to look beyond the hurtful aspects of actions or inactions of ethnic figures of our nation’s history, we also have to forgive the sad events of our nation’s past.
Nigeria as Mandela’s ‘Baba’sinku’
Ordinarily, Nigeria should have played greater role in the funeral and memorial events for Nelson Mandela. Nigeria was supposed to be at the center-stage of events honoring the departed great. In fact, we were supposed to host the world on behalf of South Africa. But did Nigeria deserve a Baba’sinku honorific at the memorial service?
The Baba’sinku in the Yoruba culture is the Mourner-in-Chief or a Director of Socials at funeral events. A Baba’sinku is never appointed based on socio-demographic criteria; his appointment is usually an affirmation of his honorable standing; an official acclamation that his lifestyle perfectly mirrors the personal philosophy and worldview of the departed. Oftentimes the departed himself chooses his own Baba’sinku even before his death. At other times, the departed’s close relatives and children determine who the cap of the Baba’sinku honorific truly fits.
Nigeria’s insipid recognition at the Mandela funeral has generated so much social media and private gathering debates. Most Nigerians expected that given Nigeria’s official stance against apartheid and our great role in interring the body and soul of that infamous policy, Nigeria should have received more commendation and recognition at Madiba’s memorial event. In a beautiful piece titled “On the Purported Slight of Nigeria at Madiba’s Funeral,” Pius Adesanmi undertook a historical reminder of several instances of Nigeria’s slighting by those who benefitted from Nigeria’s large-heartedness. I agree with him that there is a real connection between the state of affairs at home and the disrespect abroad. Honor is never bought with money nor acquired with gifts; it is earned. I do not think that those who failed to recognize our contribution to Africa’s ride to greatness are ingrates. We need to reflect inward in our honest quest to understand what went awry.
Madiba lived, and is today honored for, his time-tested stand on the side of justice, equality, and progress. His Baba’sinku must be known for and be committed to same beliefs and even greater ideals. Baba’sinkus don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk as well. With a dismal human rights record, high level private and public sector corruption ranking, decomposed public infrastructure, alarmingly high mortality rate, Nigeria possessed no laurels worthy of recognition as Mandela’s Baba’sinku. With a bill to gag social media criticism of government’s ineptitude awaiting a third reading at the National Assembly, Nigeria will fare best as a Baba’sinku at the inevitable memorial of the likes of Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Teodore Obiang Mbasogo of Equitorial Guinea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Joao Bernard Vieira of Guinea Bissau, Yahya Jamme of Gambia, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, and other anti-Mandelianism misleaders in Africa who have turned their countries to personal fiefdoms.
President Obama must have been talking to Nigeria at the event when he noted, “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.” With a statement by President Jonathan that “we must all fight against the vices Mandela fought for [against]. Mandela fought against oppression. If we continue with discrimination against people, then of course we have no reason to celebrate Mandela,” Nigeria would have done a greater honor to the memory of Mandela by sending no delegate to the memorial event in South Africa.
A handshake between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro stole the show at South Africa’s memorial for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a resonant tribute to a man who brought old enemies together and straddled ideological divides and eras.
The gesture will not exorcise the Cold War ghosts haunting the Florida Straits, but it would have delighted Mandela, who was nothing if not loyal to old revolutionary allies like Raul’s retired elder brother Fidel, who at 87 was too old to attend the memorial.
Had they been alive, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would also have been at the Johannesburg stadium where world dignitaries joined tens of thousands of South Africans paying emotional homage.
During his long career and even in the final years before his death on Thursday, Mandela, 95, maintained unswerving loyalty to veteran revolutionaries shunned by the West such as Castro, Gadhafi and Arafat, who had supported his lifelong fight to overturn apartheid in South Africa.
After he became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Mandela defended these political and personal allegiances, testily rejecting pressure to cut off ties with figures and regimes viewed as pariahs by many in the West.
“The enemies of the West are not my enemies and I’m not prepared to be dictated to at all by anybody,” Mandela said in 1996, defending invitations to Castro and Gadhafi to visit him.
“I’m not going to take advice as to who my friends should be,” he added, saying he was under pressure from at least one global power to break off ties with these anti-U.S. leaders.
The tsunami of tributes pouring in since his death has elevated the former African National Congress freedom fighter to the level of a modern-day saint, obscuring a historical truth some may find uncomfortable.
“We mustn’t forget he was really, and remained, a leftist militant radical cast in the mold of 1950s and ’60s Third World liberation,” said Stephen Ellis, an Africa expert and professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.
He said Mandela and South Africa’s ANC imbibed deeply of the pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban ideological influences that drove liberation and independence movements in Africa in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
Reflections of this pan-African Third Worldism show up in South Africa’s foreign policy to this day.
“The ANC, in its foreign policy, still sees itself as fighting for the liberation of the Third World,” Ellis said.
At the time when Fidel Castro’s revolution was inspiring radicals and liberation groups in Africa and Latin America, Mandela’s arrest in 1962 and his jailing for sabotage and treason in 1964 locked him away from the world.
“He was in a deep freeze for 27 years,” said Ellis.
When Mandela walked free from prison in 1990, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union was on the way to disintegration. But his worldview, formed in an earlier time, still saw Castro, Gadhafi and Arafat as fellow freedom fighters struggling to forge a different world.
So while Western leaders like U.S. President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Tony Blair embraced Mandela as an uplifting icon of the post-Cold War planet—setting up the fuzzy modern celebrity cult that envelops his image—the South African made a point of honoring his and the ANC’s older allegiances.
He had signaled this clearly in 1991 when he paid a three-day visit to Cuba to thank Castro and the Caribbean island for its support in the fight against apartheid—a conflict which included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola.
“Cuba is our friend,” he said emphatically, drawing applause in Havana but howls of outrage from anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in Miami who continue to view him with hostility.
“We are now being advised about Cuba by people who have supported the apartheid regime for the last 40 years,” Mandela said sarcastically then about the United States. Fidel Castro sent Mandela rum and cigars on his birthdays, even though the aging statesman did not smoke or drink hard liquor.
For Gadhafi, too, who was seen by many in the West as a crackpot dictator, Mandela maintained an unflinching loyalty to a man he called “brother leader” before he was killed during a Western-backed revolt two years ago.
Mandela played a crucial role in persuading Gadhafi to surrender two Libyan suspects in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, which killed 270 people and led to United Nations sanctions against Libya.
He visited Libya in the face of stern U.S. criticism and even decorated Gadhafi with South Africa’s Order of Good Hope.
“Madiba had friends who were frowned upon, but you have to honor their relationship,” said Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s former personal assistant, calling him by his clan name.
“It was important to him even in later years to remain loyal to the people who supported him and the ANC,” she added.
That loyalty also extended initially to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe; Zimbabwe was one of the states that Mandela first visited after his release from prison in 1990 to offer thanks for its support for the ANC’s liberation war.
But relations between two of the grand old men of Africa’s freedom struggle went sour once Mandela stepped down in 1999 after a single term in office while Mugabe, buffeted by falling support, economic crisis and popular anger over a costly intervention in a Congo war, hung on term after term.
Finally, even Mandela joined the criticism of Mugabe, lamenting “the tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, present at Tuesday’s memorial, did not flinch from swiping at the halo of the global icon when he criticized Mandela in an interview in June for being “too saintly, too good” in the way he reached out to South Africa’s whites.
For many though, Obama’s hand to Castro on Tuesday will validate Mandela’s gift for “speaking with the enemy.”
“He shook hands with the apartheid enemy when everyone advised him not to,” said former aide la Grange.
“The way you approach a person determines how that person treats you,” she added. “If we just adopt that in our lives, it makes the world a better place.”
The Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants said, “If the President was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba,” The Hill reports.
“It remains clear that Cuba is the same totalitarian state today that it has been for decades. This totalitarian state continues to have close ties to terrorist organizations.”
Rubio has been an outspoken critic of the Castro regime, claiming that it sponsors terrorism abroad and within Cuba as well. According to The Hill, he’s also been critical of the Obama administration in the past for reducing restrictions on travel to Cuba, which were enacted as part of an economic embargo during the Cold War.
The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Cuba in more than 50 years. Raul Castro took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008.
The handshake Tuesday between an American president and a post-revolutionary Cuban leader was the first since 2000 when Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro met at a United Nations function in New York. The brief Clinton-Castro encounter came 41 years after Richard Nixon, then vice president, met with Fidel Castro shortly after he took power in 1959.
At the Summit of the Americas in 2009, Obama shook hands with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who called the U.S. “the biggest menace to our planet.” That encounter was heavily criticized at the time by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
On his way up to the podium to give a eulogy to Mandela, Obama also shook hands with Zimbabwe’s tough ruler Robert Mugabe and gave a hug to Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, who has been fiercely critical of the U.S. government over the National Security Agency spying scandal, according to NBC News.
A White House official said that the Castro handshake “wasn’t a pre-planned encounter,” and pointed out that it was in keeping with Mandela’s struggle for peace and freedom based on basic human rights.
“Above all else, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela, and that was the president’s singular focus at the memorial service,” said an official. “We appreciate that people from all over the world are participating in this ceremony.”
But the criticism of the president’s actions appeared to be spreading through a series of angry comments via Twitter.
‘He’ll stop at Lenin’s tomb, lay wreath at Hitler’s bunker on way home,” said Twitter enthusiast.
Former President Jimmy Carter, however, sought to put the handshake in perspective, telling CNN that he believes it was “something significant.”
“I hope it will be an omen for the future,” he added.
If bonds were made between the nation’s leaders and political foes, it wouldn’t be the first time a long flight has served such a purpose. The first President Bush and President Clinton reportedly became friends when the two former presidents traveled together to Asia following the 2005 tsunami.
Former President Gerald Ford and Carter created a similar bond in 1981 when they endured a long flight to attend the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.