Nelson Mandela

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others

Mandela…

To the world his death is the loss of a leader. Someone that remembered and lived for the people. Someone who fought for the rights of everyone no matter who or what they were. Someone who stood for peace first but with an iron fist and voice when needed. Someone who knew that to lead was to take a journey no one else was brave enough to take.

To the world his death is the loss of a friend. Someone who loved all people big and small, rich and poor. Someone who cared for everyone no matter who or what they were. Someone who knew that his love came with both a warm embrace and a stern word when we lost our direction. Someone who led from the front and guided us on the journeys we had to take but were too scared to take.

To the world his death is the loss of an inspiration. Someone who showed us how to love every single person in this world even those who don’t deserve it. Someone who taught us how to care for every single soul whether they needed it or not. Someone who inspired us to fight for peace when love couldn’t get us there. Someone who made us brave enough to take those journeys we were too afraid to face on our own.

To the world his death is the loss of an idea. Someone  that stood for everything that is good in this world. Someone that stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Someone who refused to be quiet when he saw a wrong.  Someone who knew to be a man was to stand for something good. Someone who stood up and protected us against the nightmares of this world. Someone who made us want to be better than what we really were. Someone who comforted us even when his own pain was too much.

To the world his death is the loss of Mandela. Bigger than anything else that walked this earth. A giant amongst men. A giant amongst all people. The giant who carried us on his back when the road was too tough. The mother who carried us in his arms when we needed just a little comfort and love. Mandela. King of kings. God amongst gods. Nelson Mandela.

To the world he is all Mandela.

To us South Africans he is Madiba. Our father. Our soul. Our Ubuntu. We are because he was. No, because he is. Our daily inspiration. Our voice of conscious. Our everything. Our South Africa. We walk in his shadow. We strive to be the people and nation he saw. We try to love the way he loved all of us. We try to be a little bit of him.

To me he is Tata. Father. Dad. Papa. Respect, honor, love, duty, responsibility and everything I have been taught about being me. The man I want to be is a reflection of him. Who I am to become. He is me and I am him. Because of Tata I am.

Goodbye Tata. Stay warm, Tata. Stay with us just a little longer. Just a little longer until we are brave enough. I love you. I miss you. My Tata.

Rest, my Tata. Sleep well, Tata. Tomorrow is coming. We will make you proud. I will make you proud.

Viva Mandela, Viva. Amandla Madiba, Amandla. Long Live Tata, Long Live.

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You know me. Pretty much a patriotic South African. Proud of our history. And deeply affected by Madiba – Nelson Mandela. I think the guy did an incredible job starting us off on the right track. Oh, we had a few other great leaders as well. But Madiba was our big daddy. Our Patriot. The John Adams of South Africa. The man who fought so hard to bring freedom to our little country down South. Just like John Adams and the other Patriots did over here in the US. (Oh yes, just like with the US, most of our subsequent leaders have been less “patriotic”, loved, reputable and effective as leaders than those original Founding Fathers.) So, I read with interest the recent flood of opinions regarding Nelson Mandela needing a special waiver to enter the US because he is still classified as a terrorist. As a South African I will refrain from commenting on whether he is a terrorist or not. That should be obvious. I will also refrain from blaming President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for this as that would be easy, but also opportunistic and a cheap shot. The fact is that President Mandela’s good friend President Bill Clinton had 8 years to undo this injustice. As did his partner Senator Clinton. I am more concerned with the policy behind this terror list and the message it sends to other “liberation” organizations and individuals across the world.

Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress that he belonged to, were put on the list because the US government supported the Apartheid regime’s classification of the ANC as a terrorist organization. This indicated support of the Apartheid regime by the US government – both Republicans and Democrats. Again, I will refrain from discussing the Apartheid regime. I think we can all agree that it was a regime based on one of the most unjust and oppressive political systems in modern history. Really, take it from me and the people who suffered and died at the hands of that regime, they were not a nice bunch of guys to be associated with. Trust me, your mother will be most disappointed if you hung out with them.

On the other hand, the ANC was a peaceful organization for most of its history. It was established in 1912 in direct reaction to being excluded from having any political rights under the Union constitution of 1910. They remained an organization who believed in peaceful protest against the oppressive governments that gave no political rights to black South Africans. They did not even revert to violence when widows of black soldiers who died fighting in WWII received no pension whatsoever. It was only after 69 people were shot, mostly schoolchildren shot in the back, on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville that the ANC got banned for calling a national stay-away campaign. Note, still no violence called for by the ANC – just a stay-away. It was only after more murdering by the Apartheid government and the arrest of more than 2,000 people that the ANC took up the armed struggle against the Apartheid government – while they were banned from South Africa. Their “military wing”, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), was only established in 1961. They officially took up arms when exiled. They took up arms when their people got murdered, arrested and taxed to death and they were banned from being in South Africa to represent the oppressed in even a peaceful way. Remember this bit – people being taxed, not represented in government, no ownership, murdered and arrested left, right and centre AND their “party” being banned even though they are promoting peaceful resistance.

In short, the ANC was a peaceful organization for 48 years before they took up arms. And only after they got banned and people were murdered in public did they take up arms. And they continued this armed struggle against the Apartheid regime for the next 30 years. So yes, they were peaceful for much longer than what they were in the armed struggle. But still the US and many other Western governments declared them a terrorist organization. And before you get on your high horse – they only started taking in money and support from the old USSR when all those Western governments refused to provide them with any support against the Apartheid regime. Many, many years after they got banned and classified as a terrorist organization. A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

Let me put this in language and context you might get. A bit closer to home. Imagine you live in the US. Peacefully. Oh, there is a colonial power in charge, but you don’t care much for them. But then they start shooting your people when they protest against the unjust laws and taxes these colonial powers instituted against your people. And, of course, you don’t have full representation – only token representation. So after many years of continued oppression you say “enough is enough” and you stand up and have a big old war for independence. And you take support from anyone – even those who also have oppressive systems in place in their own country. Let’s say like asking the French monarchy for support even though they did not give their own people the rights you were fighting for and who were an oppressiveregime to their own people. Oh, wait – that happened here right? Imagine that, those Patriots who stood up against the British rule would have been branded a terrorist group if the current US application of the term terrorist was used by the colonial master back then. See, the ANC was like the Patriots back when you fought for your independence… And I for one will defend John Adams and anyone else who dare call them terrorists. They were freedom fighters on the side of the good and the brave. On the side of the oppressed. They were the good guys. They were the brave guys. Full stop. Not terrorists.

But the problem they would face today is that there is no clear guidelines on what will constitute a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US government.

So, does the US classify organizations based on their opposition to legitimate governments? No. As the case in South Africa highlights, the US government supported an oppressive regime and not those seeking democracy. It did the same in Angola and in Mozambique. It supported the warlords in both those countries who fought the legitimate governments. Governments who continued to win the popular democratic votes in elections from before, during and after the wars that ravished these countries. And, of course, the US supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and many Latin American dictators who were as oppressive as these African and Middle Eastern dictators. Yes, it was during the Cold War, but it still… The US build their partnership in the same way the ANC did – not being picky, but just picking anyone who will fight against the injustice they believe their own people will or are facing. Both picked dirty friends. And neither of them can claim that the other one had “worse” friends than the other. You willing to make a call on whether you would prefer the Taliban or a Communist? Not an easy choice is it? A bit like a pan and a fire choice I think. Hello pot, cheers kettle.

But it still leaves the question open – does the US classify organizations as terrorist if they take up arms against any type of government then? No. The US government is not averse to supporting organizations who take up arms. As mentioned before, they supported violent groups in Mozambique and Angola. And they have continued to do so – who can forget the call to arms of Iraqi’s during the first Gulf War? And the direct or indirect support for those who take up arms against oppressive regimes.

So what is a terrorist in the eyes of the US government? Who knows? And that has been the problem with declassifying Nelson Mandela as terrorist. We have no clear guidelines. How can we declassify someone when we don’t know the classification in the first place? It’s a bit like just building a road and seeing where it takes us. Or a railroad. And remember the big railroad bubble of 1893? This road is just waiting to blow up in our face and create panic.

At the very least we need to know what a terrorist is. I don’t mean some global definition we can all agree on. I am not that naive. All I can ask is for the US to have a clear definition. But there isn’t. Do yourself a favour – try and find a clear definition anywhere in the US laws. Too vague and too many loopholes. How can we win a war against terrorism if we can’t even define who or what is a terrorist? So far we have been more or less lucky. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were relatively easy calls. Sadam not so easy. And the more we go into this “War Against Terrorism” the more fuzzy it will become. I would really like Nelson Mandela to not be classified as a terrorist. And I really don’t want us to start a war against the next John Adams and his group of Patriots. He was a Patriot. And so was Mandela. Let’s not shoot at anything that moves. Not every shadow is a threat. Let’s know who we fight. Because how else would we know when we have won?

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Yes, South Africa is failing us. No wait. Not South Africa. The ANC. The ANC is failing us. Our government is failing us. Us – the people of South Africa. And it has nothing to do with Apartheid.

Let’s get this straight – their failure has nothing to do with Apartheid. Apartheid was a despicable oppressive system. There was nothing good about it. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Okay, maybe for the white South Africans it was a holiday camp. But for the majority of South Africans it was an oppressive system who gave them no rights – a concentration camp. No political rights outside of a failed red-herring joke of a homelands system. Ha! 13% of the land for 80% of the population. No right to ownership. You want land? Go and eat dirt. In your homeland. No right to economic wealth. The best jobs were reserved for whites. Ever wondered how all the top jobs were occupied by white faces? Now you know. Reserved parking only. South Africa was covered by one single sign that we saw on the benches and doors and busses every single day under Apartheid – Whites Only.

Oh I can go on and on about how bad Apartheid was. But I won’t. You should know that. If you don’t – go read the TRC document or any decent and recent history book. Or pull the bigot stickers off your eyes. If you liked Apartheid stop reading now. You won’t like the rest of this piece either. But neither will the ANC.

Make no mistake, we can blame Apartheid for many of the problems we experience in South Africa today. The legacy of Apartheid lives on. And the chickens are still coming home to roost. Only problem is that these bloody chickens don’t know the farm is under new ownership. But here – have a few of these on the side.

The education system in South Africa sucks. No surprise there. Under Apartheid the per capita expenditure for white schoolkids were 5 times more than for black kids. Oh, and the ratio between white teacher and white kids were about half of the ratio for black schools. Yes, they had separate schools, separate authorities and a separate curriculum. No surprise there. And due to the lack of adequate financing and training, teachers in black schools were generally less qualified than white teachers who had some of the best universities in the world. So what the hell did you expect to happen when Apartheid ended? That everyone will all of a sudden get the same education as traditionally white schools? A system change was needed and that takes time. Make the per capita expenditure the same, but you still had to rebuild the infrastructure of the traditional black schools and retrain many of the teachers – white and black – to get up to speed to a non-racial curriculum. And merge all the different education departments in South Africa and those in the homelands. No easy task hey? Imagine the largest corporate merger in the world – and instead of two make it about ten or more companies merging into one. So stop bitching. The education system is much better than under Apartheid for the majority of South Africans.

How about policing? Yeah! Under Apartheid the primary function of the South African Police Service (SAPS) was the suppression of political dissent. Stopping criminal activity, beyond that which directly threatened the white minority, was a much lower priority, and there were almost no tradition or expertise in criminal investigation in South Africa. Between 80 and 90 percent of criminal convictions were gained on the basis of confessions, obtained by what was called the “choke and talk” technique of police intimidation. Oh yes, and in 1994 they had to consolidate eleven Apartheid-era policing agencies into one. So, reform was needed while at the same time show the public it can actually reduce crime as well. Or, as a senior SAPS officer once said, “Police reform is like rebuilding a ship while it is in full sail during a hurricane”. No problem, hey Sherlock?

Okay, let’s see where to go next – last one. Healthcare. On the one hand we had a system that provided first-world healthcare to a small minority – provided by a well-resourced tertiary system. I mean really, we had the first heart transplant done in South Africa. On a white South African. Because only they had access to this level of healthcare. The rest? Let’s just say that they had very little health to care about in the first place. There were no basic or essential services provided in any structured way. So come 1994 – what did you expect? To continue to live the life of luxury while the majority remain dying from bad water and weather?

Wait – let’s do just a last few. Basic services like water, housing and electricity. Except for a few toilets build in the middle of nowhere, the Apartheid government did jack shit for black South Africans. Don’t tell me about the single line of electricity that ran into a selected township under Apartheid. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. It’s like saying that anyone can now sit on the bench in the park – but only whites are allowed in the park. Or that anyone can now swim in the sea – but only whites are allowed on the beaches. Sorry to disappoint you. The Apartheid system sucked. And nothing good came of it for the majority of South Africans. And we still live with the failure of that system. The sins of our fathers…

The end of Apartheid wasn’t just a change from one government to another. That would have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. No sweat. No problem. ‘n Boer maak mos ‘n plan. Geen probleem broe. Daasie kakkie want daasie kossie. It was a revolution. It made the fall of the wall in Berlin look like a walk in the park. And we had no money compared to them. The fall of the USSR – no problem. Here? Each and every law had to be rewritten (yes – we wrote more laws between 1994 and 2000 than any other country in the world). We had to merge ten to 15 departments into one for each group under Apartheid. We had to retrain people to serve and not kill. We had to reallocate budgets when South Africa was already an emerging market with extremely limited funds – comparable to Argentina and Egypt and India. Not the US or UK – that was the life of the whites in South Africa. We had to change from a limited healthcare system to one that provides primary healthcare to all South Africans. We had to change an economic system from inward looking to export-oriented. And all of that isn’t even half of it. We still had to get rid of institutional racism and go through the rebirth of a nation (thanks TRC – you got us closer). So don’t think it was a change in government. It wasn’t. It was changing from Nazi Germany (without any money or a world plan to finance rebuilding) to a free society overnight. Like that – “Snap!”. Now you see Apartheid – “Snap!” – now you don’t. Gone. Welcome to freedom – now let me turn your world upside down.

But still. I blame the ANC for failing us. Because they are. They are failing us. I don’t give a damn about how tough a job they had and have. I know the legacy of Apartheid. I know that it hasn’t been easy. I know what shit they inherited from the Apartheid regime. I don’t blame them for not building enough houses. I don’t blame them for not creating enough jobs. I don’t blame them for the violence and crime. I don’t blame them for the kids failing school. I don’t blame them for not building the clinics fast enough. Because all of those things are better than under Apartheid for most South Africans. But I do blame them for failing South Africa. And failing us – the people of South Africa.

I blame them for creating a false hope. I blame them for promising us a better government than what they have become. They are not a bad government. They are just a government. Making bad choices. And making good choices. A mix bag of some good stuff and some bad stuff. Like other governments.

The arms deal and corruption? Nothing special. Bloody hell, they actually dealt with it better than others. Finding Tony guilty and sending him to jail! The Chief Whip of the ruling party! Can you imagine the UK or US doing that? Here Dick and Halliburton was so closely linked but no one blinks an eye – never mind investigate. Or Blackwater and their backhanders. And the UK? The UK government refuses to investigate the bribery that took place in the arms deal with the Saudis. Why? Because it will “threaten national security”. So, sorry people, the ANC is no worse than other governments. They all fail foreign policy. You think Mbeki and Zimbabwe is bad? Have you heard anything from the US on the Saudis who have one of the worse human rights record in the world? No, sorry people, the ANC is no worse than other governments. They are just like them. And that is why they are failing us.

We believed naively that the end of Apartheid meant the start of a super-government. That our government is above other governments. More just than any other. They are better then the best. The most human of all humans. The fairest of them all. They lied to us – without saying a word. They made us believe in a world that is better than any other.  We somehow believed that we are the chosen people. And our government who gave us our freedom will somehow give us the freedom of our souls.

And when we had Mandela we actually entrenched that belief. A South Africa where miracles happen when Madiba snaps his fingers. Our “Special One”. The one who brings hope, love and peace to all. We love him. We truly love him like no President or leader is loved. And that is right. Because he is like no other. He is our Madiba. But still they failed us.

They failed us because they made us believe that we are somehow better than others. That somehow they will be better than others. They failed us by being just another bloody typical government. Like all others. That is their failure. For being too normal. And we were the suckers for falling for it in the first place.

Sorry South Africa – welcome to the world. You are now just as normal as the rest of the world. With a government that sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. Nothing special. Not what the ANC promised us. But still – just a government like all governments. And just a country like all countries. We are not special. We are just people. Just a country. Just South Africa. Like anyone else. Just normal. Normal. Normal at last.

Free at last…

___________________

Note: We still have biltong, Simba chips, Stoney, boerewors, Liqui-Fruit, mopani worms, afval, Marina braaisalt, Marmite, putu, bobotie, sosaties, Top Deck, Cream Soda, Castle, koe(k)sisters, beskuit, vetkoek, pannekoek and Peck’s to name a few – okay, drop the afval and mopani worms. And I haven’t even started on the Rugby World Cup or Kaizer Chiefs (I am an Ajax CT supporter but acknowledge power). If we lose that we are stuffed. Then we won’t be able to even brag about the bloody food or sport anymore. And then we have nothing but a cute accent, good looking people, Table Mountain and crap music. Hey wait. Apart from the music the left-overs aren’t that bad either. I’ll just blame the music on Apartheid or the ANC. You pick boeremusiek or kwaito – blame it on the boogie… man.

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Jeez. (Maybe this is the wrong reference for this piece, but anyway.) Really. Get over it. I got a “nice” comment saying that my support for Obama is supporting someone who is pro-war, pro-Zionist, and pro-corporate. Get off your high horse. Someone have an opinion that is different from yours and you are on it like white on rice. Let me tell you, mate. Before you start telling people they are anti-this or pro-this. Just take a deep breath and make sure you aren’t doing what you accuse others of doing. Being a bigot yourself. You are playing the politics of Bush here. Yes. Sorry to tell you. You are. You two are like peas in a pot. Smoking pot. BFF. Let me translate for you – as you obviously need a bit of help in getting translation services. Hell (no pun intended), you shouldn’t really ask me – I am not even English. But I’ll give it a shot. You know me – I am always willing to give it a go. Hum, just keep your shot pointed in the other direction thank you.

You are either for us or against us.” Remember those words? Remember? Remember who said that before invading Iraq? Remember! And what did we say then? We said, “Hey buddy, just hang on for a moment. Just because we condemn the terrorist cowardly acts of 9/11 doesn’t mean that we agree with you invading Iraq. And even more important – it doesn’t mean that we supporting the other side either”. We didn’t believe he was right to invade Iraq. But we also didn’t support Sadam and his murderous ways of dealing with “his” people either. Caught between the devil and a damn hot place if you ask me. Bloody hell. Heads you win, tails I lose. And you get to flip the coin as well. We just stood there staring. we knew we got sold snake oil. But we couldn’t believe you and Bush did it while we were awake. Sold us bloody ice in Alaska.

It’s like watching a soccer match between Everton and Manchester United. And someone shouts from the stands, “Hey, you! Who are you supporting?” You know what? I am a Liverpool supporter. I shouldn’t be there in the first place. But there is no way I am going to pick sides. And just hang on for a minute before you say that it isn’t the same as soccer. Let me introduce you to the wise words of Bill Shankly (the greatest football manager to ever walk this earth) – “They say football’s a matter of life and death – but it’s more important than that“. No way am I going to make a choice between the Toffees and the Red Devils. No thanks. I am going to focus on winning the Champions League with Liverpool. Again. The Champions League of peace.

On a more serious note. You have an opinion – and I’ll give you one of mine for free. Don’t try to make my world black and white. It isn’t. I am not for you and I am not against you. I am not anti you and I am not pro you. I am grey. I am from this world. Warts and all. But this isn’t your world, baby. This is our world. Sorry to tell you that. This world is for people. Grey people who just don’t give a damn about your views. But we care a damn about your actions. Because that is where we come in. That is when we suffer.

We might not care about your “pro” or “anti” views. But we have to pick up the pieces after you. You and your “black and white” world. You and your “friends” who view this world as “for me or against me”. Yes you. I am talking to you. We have to clean up after you. Because we are the ones who will have to go to the people who suffer after you kill each other. In the name of “for” or “against”. We don’t give a damn about what you might think of us. And we don’t give a damn what you think of the world. You know why? Because we have to clean up your crap. The crap you leave behind when the “for” fight the “against”.

And in the middle are people who are just trying to make a life for themselves. But they can’t. Because you are “for or against” and you and your friends/enemies force them to chose while facing the barrel of a gun. And you teach the children to hate as well. You make them see the world as black and white. You make them “for or against”. And we have to come in after you and your friends/enemies killed each other and help the people who have been stuck in the middle. The people who get hit by those rockets you and your friends/enemies launch at each other. And they fall on the people going to markets. Going to weddings. Going to funerals. Going to birthday celebrations. Going to worship. Yes. We have to clean up your sh*t when you are done and go back in hiding. I don’t care what you say or what you think. Not while you try and force the world into “for or against”. And most of us just want to pick the “or”.

I have enough sh*t to worry about in this life. How those people who suffer will get through the day. How we can help them survive while you fight your wars with your friends/enemies. And then I have to face my daughters and tell them that this world is okay. That they must have hope and love. That they must not hate or despair. And sorry, buddy. I won’t let you lie to her. I won’t let you do that to her. I have been there and I promise you – it is not a nice place to be. I wish my wife will allow me to swear in this blog, because I want to saw something. What you can do to yourself while I have to cry when I look at my girls and hope and pray they have a good life. A life where they don’t have to face you and your corrupt little mind of back and white.

We in South Africa were on the brink. On the brink of killing each other until no one was left. And somehow we managed to turn it around. We just stopped and looked at each other and said, “This is stupid isn’t it? Killing each other”. But then we had leaders who could see through all the madness. See through the ideologies that was trying to kill our people until no one was left. Thank God for FW and Madiba. Two old wise men who just stopped. They just stopped the madness for a moment. We still have issues. We still have problems. But we can at least see the road ahead.

Here is what I am for. I am for peace – no matter what. I am for the people who suffer because of your hatred – no matter what. I am for love – no matter what. I am for hope for a better world – no matter what. I am for change – no matter what. I am for celebrating our differences – no matter what. I am for us – no matter what. I am for my wife and kids – no matter what. I am for living – no matter what.

Here is what I am against. I am against war – no matter what. I am against people who make war because they know no love – no matter what. I am against hate – no matter what. I am against this world where people are divided by despair – no matter what. I am against things staying the same – no matter what. I am against differences dividing us – no matter what. I am against those who divide us – no matter what. I am against death – no matter what.

No matter what.

So take your “for and against” and your “pro” or “anti” ideological baggage and put it where the sun don’t shine. I made my choice. You made yours. And I ain’t joining. But I’ll come pick up the pieces and bury the dead when you are done. Always have and always will. And Obama will stand next to me. And so will Madiba. And so did Gandhi. And so did Martin Luther King Jr. And so did Biko. Peace to you brother. Peace. I follow their footsteps. We’ll leave a path – follow the footsteps of love and the path of peace. You can follow if you want. But you won’t. Because that is one “pro” you can’t stand. Or can you? I bet you can’t. Hate and war is so much easier. The path of the coward.

Jeez. I promised myself I wasn’t going to get angry. So much for that. I’ll go hug my kids and my wife and remind myself why I get like this. This is their life these people are gambling with. And sorry. I am pro my wife and for my kids. And pro the people of this world who get caught up in the middle.

That’s it.

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Let me be honest here. I am not a fan of Mandela. No. It would be an understatement to say that I am a fan. He means way more than that to me. So much more. He is Madiba. He is the “father”.

The father that inspires me. Inspires me to be the best I can be for others. The man who showed me that one person can make a difference. A difference that is good for others and oneself.

He is the father that made us a nation. A flawed nation, but a nation nonetheless. Like any good father he loves us for who we are and who we can be. He disciplines us when we are wrong, but he loves us unconditionally. We might rebel every now and again, but we know we are his children. We know because he served us for 27 years while in jail. Never waivering in his belief that we can and should be better than what we were. And we don’t always know why he loves us and cares for us. But he does. He loves us warts and all. Like a father should.

He reminds us of our place in the world. He made us part of a larger family. Reminded us of our place in this world. Our responsibility to others in this world. Told us to take his family motto of love to the world. To never be quiet when we see injustice done. No matter what the consequences might be. And the world loves him for this. The world that believes in love, peace and responsibility.

He is ubuntu. Believing in others more than himself. Serving others and caring for others not because he has to but because it is what makes him Madiba. Like breathing. He just does what should be done. No hidden agenda. He is because others are. He is us – the us we want to be.

To call me a fan would be an understatement. Get it?

So why do I even start comparing Obama to Mandela? I don’t know. I have been watching him and listening to him. And something in him spoke to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I think it is because he reminds me of my own father – Madiba.

And not just because they look alike. Yes they do and it has nothing to do with them both being black. They have the same shaped head and thin long jaw. No wait, it’s the mouth and the eyes. Those mouths are the same – just look at those lines next to their mouths. It is a carbon copy of each other. It comes from easy laughs and smiles. And the eyes. Notice how they look at you when they talk to you. They look at you and you can see in their eyes that they actually believe what they say. Of course it helps that they are also build the same. Lean and tall. But I think the younger Mandela would take out Obama in a fight though – just look at those early boxing photo’s. But they look the same.

Make no mistake – not everyone will like Obama. And that is a good thing. Mandela wasn’t liked by everyone. Not everyone in this world saw him as the peacemaker. They kept him in jail dude. How could they like him when he told them that what they did were wrong? People have ego’s and self-interest to look after. And Mandela challenged those. Of course you can’t find those people anywhere now. They just don’t exist anymore. Denying that they ever disliked him – except behind closed doors. They are gone – just like those who hated Kennedy and MLK when they were alive. They just hated Mandela for what he stood for. Someone who asked them to be better than what they were. Asking them to change and get out of their comfort zone. And those same people will hate Obama and what he stands for. Asking people to change and be better than what they are. And many of those people who hated Mandela were those in power. Those who benefited from the system. And those would be the people who will hate Obama most. People who benefit from the system. And those who are trying to tell people that the system benefits everyone. Of course they are wrong. Some people benefit more than others. And some people have more power than others. And those in power will hate Obama the way that Mandela was hated by the Apartheid regime. They don’t want change because they are happy where they are – in charge and in it for their own benefit alone. You watching Washington? But great leaders don’t waver just because people don’t like them. Mandela didn’t and Obama shouldn’t. Stick to the plan. Stick to what your heart and mind tell you are the right things to do. Those who hate you today will be quiet tomorrow.

Don’t expect Obama to be perfect though. Mandela wasn’t. Mandela made some huge mistakes. Just look at his original position on HIV/Aids. That was a big mistake. And Obama will make mistakes. Who doesn’t? Show me a leader and I will show you mistakes. But great leaders will overcome this and learn from their mistakes. It is not the mistakes that counts, it is how you respond once you realize that you are wrong. Leaders make mistakes. Great leaders learn from them and work through their mistakes.

I don’t get the “Obama is a great speaker” bit that Hillary is trying to sell people. He isn’t. He stutters and don’t have an easy flow. But he is great at saying the right things. That’s why they care about what he has to say. That’s why they listen. Because he doesn’t talk to them, but with them. People can sense that when he talks. He means what he says and it matters. Mandela was the same. He was the worse speaker you can think of. Same stuttering and lack of flow. But people listened because they knew that what he said mattered. Because he was talking with them. And they could feel that he meant what he said. They knew that they were in the presence of something great. They knew that they were in the presence of someone who will make them better than what they are. That was Mandela and that is Obama. They talk with us and about us. In the same fallible way we talk.

Great leaders lead. They are born to do this. They didn’t decide one day to become this leader. They just lead because it is their destiny. They will tell you that it will be difficult to go where they want to go, but that the end would be better. They don’t try and tell people about every policy and every detail of how they will govern. No. They paint people a picture and tell them to follow. And the most difficult part is when they have to take people to places where they don’t want to go. Outside their comfort zone. Mandela did that a few times. When popular leaders tried the populist routs and targeted the white communities. They shouted slogans like “kill the farmer, kill the boer” and “one settler, one bullet”. And Mandela stood up and berated them in front of everyone. Asking them who is the leader? Who will lead people to a better place? That it is easy to shout slogans, because it spoke to our worse fears and thoughts. But that real leaders go forwards and take people with them – sometimes kicking and screaming. I know. I was at some of those rallies. And Obama does the same. He berated the Clintons because they were starting to do the populist thing – insulting Obama and trying to drag him into a bit of mud slinging. And he almost fell for it. He almost got involved in their fight. But he remembered what this was all about. It’s about America and the future, not about Obama and the Clintons. And he berated them because that is not the way you lead. That’s the way you herd cattle, not the way you lead.

Mandela always put people first. He told us that South Africa is about the people in South Africa. No matter where they come from or the color of their skin. It was always people first. And we could sense that. We could sense the way he cared was something we have never experienced before. That he cared more for his people than he cared about himself. That it was about you and not him. And I hear that and see that in Obama. That this is about the American people. No matter where you come from or who you are. This is your time. This is the time for Americans to take America back. To take it back to the place that we all love. Yes, we all love. Because no matter where you are, people across the world loved America and what it stood for. But we haven’t had that America since Kennedy died. It’s been all politics since then. Every President trying to leave a legacy. And the easiest way that those Presidents got their legacy was through wars or paying people off through tax breaks or aid. They forgot what America stood for. And in Obama we see the opportunity to take America back to the place that we all inspire to become. The land of the free.

A land of hope. Mandela gave us that. He gave us hope for a better tomorrow. A better tomorrow for us and our children. He showed us that we can be better than what we are. That we can have a better tomorrow. That it won’t always be easy. But that we can have a better tomorrow through hard work and a steadfast vision. Mandela gave us hope for a better South Africa. And we are better. Better than at any stage in our history. Not perfect. Just better. And that’s the hope. We are not stupid. We know that life will never be a walk in the park. That’s life. We live and learn. And hope we have more enjoyment than struggles. But it is a hope of a better future we can believe in. Not a false hope of a perfect future. And that’s what Obama is giving America. Hope. That is the most powerful thing that he is giving America. Hope for a better future. And the difference is that it is not only a hope we can believe in, but a hope that we know he believes in. Politicians always try to give us hope. But we are not stupid. We can hear in their voices that it is a hope they are trying to sell us. Not a hope they believe in. But Obama gives America a hope he believes in. He is painting a picture, not trying to sell an empty hope.

And of course Mandela was all about change. Change in the type of leader we had and change in the type of government we had. Obama won’t have to change a whole political system. But in a way his challenge is even more difficult. He doesn’t have the opportunity to get rid of all the old dead wood in government. No, they will remain in power. But he has to fight them day in and day out. Get them moving – kicking and screaming. But he can do it as long as he stays true and he remains open and honest with the American people. But change will come. The real benefit of change in Washington will most likely only come after he has left office. When the new breed of leaders come through. Those who saw this path of Obama and decided to take change to Washington. But Obama will plant the seeds and we will continue to eat the fruit when he leaves.

And like Mandela Obama will have very little experience in running a country. Leaders don’t need experience. They just need to employ the right people to make it happen. They paint the picture and others will make it happen. Mandela had no experience. 27 years in jail does not give you any experience to run a country. But he is the greatest leader the world has seen since Ghandi. And talk about Ghandi – what experience did he have? A bit of traveling in South Africa? And Churchill? He was a journalist in South Africa before he took up politics. And the same with Kennedy – not a lot of experience for such a young man. Great leaders are born, not made. Experience is needed for a Vice President and the Generals. Not for those who must lead a country.

In a way experience can be counter to what we really need. It muddies the water and creates white noise. You want someone to have experience in Washington where all the problems are? That just makes them part of the problem. Not the solution. Did you want experience when you got married? No, you just wanted someone to love you and help you figure out this complex world. Love was the only experience you wanted. Obama has just the right amount of experience in Washington to know that it doesn’t work. And that he should do this before he gets sucked into that system as well.

Obama is America’s Mandela. He speaks with us and not to us. He gives us hope we can believe in and not a packaged hope ready for a quick sale. He gives us a future we can believe in and that he believes in. He gives us back our rightful place in the world, not one forced upon us and them. He gives us leadership to take us where we need to go, not always where we want to go. He gives us belief in us as people because he believes in us. He gives us the experience of leadership, not the leadership of the status quo. He leads us, but don’t herd us. Most of all. He gives us the inspiration to be better than what we are. He inspires us to be better than what we are and better for each other. He has shown us a future we can believe in. A future where America is free. And an America we and the world can love again.

We used to shout slogans whenever we saw Madiba. It was our way to honor him. Viva Mandela, viva. Long live, Madiba, long live. Viva Barack, viva. Long live, Obama, long live.

Note: If Obama is Mandela does it make Hillary Mbeki? Yes. Like Mbeki she will be loved by some and hated by others because of her ideological bias and political baggage. She will divide people more than bring them together. And like Mbeki she will reflect the old school politicians. Those with ties to the past leadership and ties to the political system. Those with the experience of doing nothing. Those who the system say they hate, but love because nothing will really change. But like Mbeki she will be a good manager of government. But it will be a government of limited change. Only change around the edges. A few policies and practices. But not change of the system that created the problems to start off with. And like Mbeki she will not give us hope or inspire us. She will manage the country and do no worse than other Presidents. But you won’t look back and remember her in the same way you will remember Kennedy, Ghandi, Madiba or Churchill. Your children will look back and learn about her. But as a President that did good things and bad things. Not as a President that defined who we are and who we can be. But with Obama you might. You stand a chance. With Obama you might actually make the world believe in itself again.

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