Mandelaism and Gandhism: Other side of the South African Legacy

Suraj Yengde

Published in Issue V, April 2014

This article reports the event of the Mandela’s death and his surviving legacy in South Africa. The memorial service which was expected to be the biggest memorial service on earth was turned somewhat failure with a limited presence of South Africans. This article investigates and asks the question what failed people from attending the memorial service and paying a last tribute to the father of their nation? Was it the harsh rain, or a distant venue or losing faith in the ruling ANC party or Mandela himself? Moving further it takes an overview of Mohandas Gandhi, then leader of Indian Congress in South Africa who fought for the Indian rights leaving aside key players of the South African politics. And finally, this article asks, is Mandela a revered figure in South African politics or a political coin sold in the International political market for personal gains. This article attempts to introduce other side of the South African legacy of two prominent and well-known leaders of age who are admired in the world as much as in their own country.

As the world bids farewell to Nelson Rohilala Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of the world and South Africa (SA), there remains few contested topics of his life and legacy. His achievement in the form of political freedom is always a footnote to the great debates of world leaders. Mandela is mentioned in the speeches in an admiration to recognise his great political struggle. Over the cruising debates on the Mandela legacy, his memorial service was attended by thousands despite the heavy torrential rain that came unexpectedly in Johannesburg. Mandela’s memorial service was expected to be the biggest ever attended by people on earth, after Winston Churchill’s, but to the fate it appeared different. The calamities within the political spheres of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party clouded over the issues of corruption, presidential palace 250 million rand scam and the e-tolling were few issues that flamed the agitation within the still alive masses of the new democracy. Apart from the political glimpses, weather conditions added the taste of absents to the masses. As the world was watching the “Mandela Magic” and his memorial service attended by over hundred heads of the states and South African government officials; the orange seats in the front of the FNB were still vacant, which could have occupied few thousands. Sadly the rain drama just washed off the expectation. Additionally, in other stadiums such as Ellis Park Stadium where I attended and in the Pretoria Stadium there was turn out of around 200 and 10 attendees respectively. The reason behind this was, unexpectedly, a hover of judgments passed by the political analysts. However, the debate is not whether people attended in thousands or not but the real issue lies over  losing trust in the Mandela spirits, or the “tainted” ANC.  The South African state honoured Mandela by having a long mourning period during which every state party and the non-state entities lauded their voice to celebrate Mandela’s life. Leading newspapers and media outlets were busy with long page advertisements of thanks giving to the great leader. In a deliberative attempt to “boo” the President of the South African Republic, Jacob Zuma, in the guise of International community, this article attempts to examine the negativities surrounding the Mandela legacy and probing cases of overemphasised judgment over the political factions. Analysing why does Gandhi stand unilaterally to the achievements of historic personalities like Dr. Martin Luther King and Mandela.

Mandela Breath Last

It was Friday when I was awakened by a message from a friend who stays opposite to Mandela’s house in Houghton area in Johannesburg. She said, “police blockade, women crying loud. It is such a sad morning” I was not sure of her uncompleted text, so I enquired again and she confirmed that Mandela has passed away. Reading this, I wanted to see the glimpse of the outside world, the working class who were rushing to their offices in the early hours of the day. There was no sense of excitement but also there was no serious grief. People were walking in the normal pace without losing the control of the sad news. Mandela died, and it was now the celebration of his life and legacy. I went to attend the university memorial service that conferred Doctorate to Nelson Rohilala Mandela. The following day I attended the inter-faith memorial service at the Nelson Mandela Foundation and visited his home in the Soweto area (predominantly “blacks only” area during Apartheid), his ‘Mandela House’ at Vilakazi Street. I then attended the memorial service at the Ellis Park Stadium. Based on the observations of these visits I will paint the scenario of the happenings and in the final part analyse Mandela’s unappreciated legacy by the South African youth.

Nelson Mandela Foundation

It being Sunday, the inter-faith council founded by Nelson Mandela organised an inter-faith prayer memorial. Rabbi’s, Maulana’s, Pandits and Bishop’s garnered the ceremony encouraging the people of the South Africa to unite and conquer the dreams of TATA Madiba, as they call him in love and appreciation. TATA means father in Xhosa language, and Madiba is his Xhosa clan name. People referred him variously, but TATA meant a great deal to the South Africans. Nelson Mandela is the father of the nation and a founding father of the democratic South Africa. During the inter-faith offerings, I was joined by my South African Indian group of youngsters. In this ceremony, ex-Minster of Human Settlements Mr Tokyo Sixwale who was a Robben Island prisoner for 15 years where Mandela was jailed for 18 years, presented the ideas and experiences of being with Madiba. He mimicked Mandela and asked the people to grace the humour. He said, for Madiba it was humour that took him over the pains of those years in prison. Adding to the knowledge of South Africans he embraced the legacy of Mandela urging the South Africans to continue with the spirits of Mandela. People took this occasion as a celebration and not grief. Audience were asked not to be in a sombre state, rather acknowledge the great life of TATA Madiba. His life was a celebration for South Africans with traditional gestures, revolutionary songs and tribal rituals followed accordingly.

In the same event, veteran freedom fighter and a Robben Islander for 18 years Mr Ahmed Kathrada of Indian origin was received with standing ovation. He shared the views of racial equality and solidarity. He referred to the unfortunate incident of the South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani’s murder in 1993. Chris Hani was a revolutionary and a communist to his heart that had a following all over South Africa. He was a leading figure in the revolution, especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Chris Hani was shot dead by a right wing Polish immigrant Janusz Walus to curb his growing influence. This incident took place during the tough negotiation process to end the apartheid. The entire nation was in chaos which would have changed the picture of the South African landscape. During this critical stage when the nation was in turmoil and the white government was reluctant in offering the democratic independence claiming, “Blacks are unsuitable to run the government.” Mandela took over the incident and immediately went on air to pacify the outraged South Africans. He said that it was a Polish man who cold-bloodedly shot Chris Hani but it was a white woman of Afrikaner origin who assisted the police in tracking the suspect. So he urged the South Africans to keep peace and maintain the solidarity. Then President of the South Africa FW de Klerk did not know what to do in such a chaotic situation. He requested Mandela to take over the situation. This event indicated Mandela’s leadership which culminated in him the charge of his country as the President in 1994. “This event made Mandela the president,” says Tokyo Sixwale in an interview because this was the event when a President (then unelected) spoke in the honour of his country.

After sharing his memories, Ahmed Kathrada appealed the South Africans to work in the glimpses of such incidents with peace and respect amongst one another, promoting humanity and non-racialism. The audience for this event comprised people from all over the world that flocked Mandela’s home to honour his legacy. However, in Soweto, the appearance was different. People were hanging out with beers in their hands and loud music to cherish the great personality. It was the crowd that manufactured the Mandela brand of honour in their unique style. Crowds cheering in their native language with praises to Mandela. One thing was noticeable, among this crowd in Soweto, only a few whites and Indians faces were visible that were standing at a distance further away from this crowd. This hostility was not known but probably it was due to the language barrier and also the embarrassing stature of being the tiny minority in this crowd. As one of my South African Indian friend whispered, “I feel so ashamed that I cannot be the part of this crowd, since I do not know the language.” This made me realise that the unity was still in the coming, a process which has yet to be achieved absolutely. Soweto was formed in the outskirts of Johannesburg to keep the black population away from integrating the main suburbs of Johannesburg which were white only areas. Soweto has a long legacy of establishment of an enduring struggle and contributing great heroes to the anti-apartheid movement. People born in this area are still very different than the people from the posh areas of Johannesburg. There is a different vibe and stories that are shared on a humorous tone and pacifist apprehension. Hanging out with these people from separated townships made me realise about the ‘communal culture’ of being in the slums of India. The jokes, the life, the clothing style, food and community structure is something that is shared with the segregated areas for the marginalised communities in India.

On the Memorial Day, President Jacob Zuma was “booed” numerous times by the crowd. Whereas, former South African President Thabo Mbedki, Robert Mugabe, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, and other dignitaries received warm welcome with cheers from the audience. “It is such an embarrassment in front of the world, and on this particular event,” said one of my South African friends. She called me immediately to express her opinion, “I feel ashamed to be a South African” she said. She added that the ANC led government deserved this for turning blind eye towards the promises. The ANC is often criticised for various reasons, one being for employing the ANC loyalists to occupy government posts. Hence, the anti-agenda activists took to the stage.

Other side of the legacy

The Gandhi Issue

However, within the on-going debates and the unpredictable scenarios’, there lies some in-depth analyses which needs to be presented in an overview. This section analyses Mandela’s alignment to Gandhi’s ideology and what Gandhi meant to the South African struggle – the  unfulfilled promises, testimonies of his death, emergence of different parties, and Mandela’s image in the Indian context.

President of the United States of America Barack Obama was the first to deliver his speech at the memorial service along with five other speeches by the heads of the states which included Cuba, Brazil, China, India and Namibia. Obama in his rhetoric speech addressed the issues of politics and development revolving around the crisis of racialism. During the speech he mentioned Gandhi, and Dr Martin Luther King as one of the founding personalities of the twentieth century, including Lincoln for holding the nation together. Gandhi’s appreciation in the united struggle against colonialism and passive resistance campaign defined the approaches of Mandela too. It was Martin Luther King Jr. who was inspired by Gandhi’s “non-violent” activism that commanded the civil rights movement. Taking from this perspective African Americans considered Gandhi as an icon for the non-violent struggle. Obama is the product of this intellectual standing. However, one is struck to think what made Mandela think of Gandhi as a founding father of the non-violent movement and to Dr King as well. Going beyond the debates of individual personalities, a rounded social mass movement has to be taken into consideration. It was not Mandela alone who fell to this ideology but many revolutionaries took the apprehension of Gandhi’s ideology. However, good it might sound and be in action; there remains a huge gap in addressing the lacunas. Taking from the historical literatures and struggles against discriminatory resistance of Indians, Gandhi came into limelight. Mohandas Gandhi was deployed to South Africa by an Indian law firm to manage the case of an Indian businessman in the South African court. Having trained in law as a barrister, he was sent in a first class gesture. After arriving in South Africa he was kicked out of the first class compartment by whites at the Pietermaritzburg station. This incident initiated the fight against injustice by Gandhi. From that incident, Gandhi went on to fight against the  discriminatory laws passed by white minority rule in Indian interest.

Gandhi was then an amateur politician but a clever leader who knew the means to achieve the goals. Coming from a bania lineage he identified the ways to handle the people. He was a staunch Hindu who believed in distinguishing the races. In 1903 he once remarked,

“we believe as much in the purity of race as we think they do, only we believe that they would best serve the interest, which is as dear to us as it is to them, by advocating the purity of all the races and not one alone. We believe also that the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race”

This is how he advanced his interests lauding the promotion of racism honouring the dominant cruel white government. His struggle in South Africa was mostly for the capital holders, the merchant class was his favour. His famous movement against the Asiatic Laws and other laws passed by the white government was to favour the traders. It was because during the start of the twentieth century it was the struggle of capitalist class.

Indian capital owners were smart and clever in handling the business that marginalised white businesses; hence government always passed the laws that kept Indian and other race’s business interest to the minimum. Whenever such incident occurred, Gandhi was approached by the traders of the area. Gandhi filed the cases and took the matters to the court through his established M.K. Attorney’s firm. He always stood firm to the cases against bourgeoisie Indians that had enormous capital interest. Indians along with other white races forget to acknowledge that during the struggle the majority impoverished black population was kept to the minimum in many incidents. Historian Maureen Swan in her book on Gandhi’s life titled Gandhi: The South African Experience highlights the activism of Gandhi and Indian congress of Transvaal. Her record reveals that, Gandhi until his last few resistance campaigns never took the matters of working class labourers, and petty businessmen to his priority. It was one of the campaigns that required a strong representation of mass; it is then only when Gandhi approached the poor businessmen and labourers to be a part of it. Until then it was beyond the imagination of labour class’s interest. It might be counter argued that, Gandhi’s life was to fight for the united Indian struggle against the unjust laws. But the credibility stays at stake when Gandhi whose sole purpose was to gain the interests of Indian capital owners as opposed to the labourers or majority lower class Indians.

Majority dominant actors in the resistance campaign mostly came from the trading class backgrounds that were fairly well off, which does not mean that all of them came with hard cash in their hands, and few came with business ideas with no or limited money. Kalpana Hiralal, in her study on Indian family businesses in South Africa accounts the arrival of Indian entrepreneurs who came mostly from Gujarat to meet the needs of indentured labourers. There was a distinct classification with the indentured labourers and the bourgeois Indians erstwhile known as, “passenger” Indians who paid their own pass unlike indentures. These traders engaged with variety of trade from “money lending, banking, grain dealing to the cotton merchants.” They strictly followed caste divisions and class rule. An important point to note is that they seldom engaged with the lower class Indians. Padaychee and Morell’s land marking work points that, Indian traders were rightfully accused of maintaining “in-group” exclusiveness. The Indian as a homogenous group was never in existence until the late years of the struggle. There was always division either on the base of caste, region, religion and language. Whenever white government passed laws discriminating the white traders, Indian lobby took the matter to the court or protested against the laws. The first Indian political organisation “Natal Indian Congress” was merchant-dominated which promoted objectives of securing and protecting commercial interests at the expense of the indentured and ex-indentured Indians whose grievances were largely ignored,” reports Hiralal in her historical work on the Indian businesses. Merchant class Indian’s were solely driven by profits at the expense of poorer sections of Indian population. After gaining certain profit they focussed on re-investing the capital to advance the economic endeavours.

Frene Ginwala, former speaker of the South African House of parliament in her remarkable report reveals that “ ‘passenger’ Indians were guided by economic concerns, and in order to maintain the economic rights they were ready to renounce the political rights.” During the negotiations with the government, bourgeois Indians who were politically dominant went to an extent of comprising with the government on account of various laws that prohibited the “penetration” of various races that would have otherwise helped poor labour class Indians. This act was for the sake of gaining economic rights as opposed to the political rights. These and other comprises were done without considering the interest of poorer sections of society. Indian merchant class interest vested in the equal treatment of wealthy Indians like whites and least concerned with fellow poor petty hawker Indians. Fight against the Group Areas Act which segregated Indian trading options and furthermore prohibited from living in the desirable white areas affected their lifestyle. Hence, the struggle here was of the exploitative class interest and not only against racial discrimination. It is revealed in the research of Ginwala that, the discriminatory laws passed on account of racial segregation did not affected Indian merchant class who were well off in their life. Many bought houses and properties in the white areas by paying middle (white) man. Hence, the struggle of Indians by Gandhi that has been framed by many sympathisers including Fatima Meer has undermined the real value of human struggle. Protecting the well to do group of Indian community and their leaders like Gandhi by the scholars was an irrational attempt which would one day in future be exposed to the truths of failures. The majority working class Indians interest was rarely taken into the campaigns. Fight against racial discrimination and equality rights were often taken for granted when it came to poor Indian traders, hawkers, and petty business class as opposed to the wealthy bourgeois entrepreneurs who were driven by profit.

At the end the Indian group that stayed and fought against the struggle had heroic figures like Yusuf Cachalia, Yousuf Dadoo, Ahmed Kathrada, Billy Nair, and many alike. Mandela in his autobiographical account mentions the collaborative action of ANC with the South African Indian National Congress leaders who fought in cooperation against the apartheid government. There were a huge number of Indian revolutionaries that took to the streets against the white rule. Hence, the majority stock that was in the mainstream struggle was a product of Gandhi’s and other contemporaries struggle against the white government. Gandhi after going to India led the campaign against the British rule that made him Mahatma (great soul) of the privileged. India’s independence during the 1947 led a remarkable inspiration to other colonised countries. In particular decolonisation of Africa started in the 1950s; Ghana, Kenya, West and North Africa and the Central Africa over the years got liberated to gain political rights. Indian independence, according to Mandela, brought hopes in the minds of the colonised. Gandhi was a key figure to the resistance campaign is mentioned by the rather biased media. However, it was the passive resistance defiance campaign and non-violet protests that were experimented by Gandhi in South Africa which had flamboyant success. This strengthened Mandela to opt for such measures. Gandhi became an icon, a Mahatma to fight against the dominant rule. Gandhism was sold in the market of revolution those days. This gave Indian interests a different stand. Indian South Africans in particular promoted this coin of struggle to advance the overall interests. Then came the 1960s active Civil Rights Movement in the USA that stood on the determination of equality and non-violence which was inspired by Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. called for equality and brought justice to the impoverished and discriminated African Americans. This made Gandhi’s identity a strong entity in the international political sphere in addition to the Indian National Congress’s promotion of Gandhi patronage. Indian government never lost a chance to brag the finished goals of Gandhi’s activism in the Indian struggle.

Gandhi, however, became well known as Mahatma, a permanent prefix to his name. What Nelson Mandela once said during the early years of 1990s to an Indian delegation that, “you gave us Mohandas and we gave you a Mahatma!” This had created an indirect effect in the minds of South Africans. Gandhi’s laudable praise by the political leaders had mentioning of South Africa. The identity politics became aligned with Gandhi. It is noticeable that Gandhi who mentioned black race as inferior to Indians calling them Kaffir on many occasions. And asking for a separate recognition of Indians from blacks because of the hierarchical racial differences between these two races was intrinsic to Gandhi’s activism. Apologetic writers defend Gandhi’s stand because according to them those days it seemed normal to Gandhi’s ideology and struggle. However, defensive it might be, a Mahatma and a world icon must not be rescued for a grave amiss of the twentieth century’s greatest struggle against racism and decolonisation. The man who was prejudiced and believed in the utter varna dharma had nothing more to contribute but to laud with the perpetrator of such heinous acts. The followers of Gandhi here in South Africa mostly from the Gujarati origin had the regional bonding and the crux of money holders. Businessmen all over that constituted a few percentages to that of indentured Indians discriminated amongst Indians on various grounds, region, language, colour and caste. Hence, expecting an egalitarian message from the prophecy of Gandhi remains doubtful.

It is also under mentioned fact that Gandhi had a rage of opposition from the Tamil ethnic Indians in Durban. It is slightly touched but not elaborated in Bill Freund and Jonathan Glassman’s book Insiders and Outsiders: The Indian Working Class of Durban, 1910-90. Moreover, Gandhi’s successful famous 1895 campaign against the separate entrance of Durban Post office lauded his victory in the spheres of Indian constituency. In the famous speech given in Bombay recorded in the Collected Works, details Gandhi’s powerful speech that haunts the black as an utterly disgraced race:

Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.[1]

Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir.[2]


Gandhi became a prophet but his contribution is in contradiction. According to Diakanyo, a South African based journalist,

“Gandhi spent his 21 years in South Africa actively promoting segregationist policies, agitating for war against black natives and insisting “the white race of South Africa should be the predominating race…

To continue to honour and celebrate this man is to insult humanity!”

Although it is at the receiving end of millennia where journalists and scholars are coming out and providing a fertile ground to stabilise the issues of racism. Where Gandhi is presented as the leading figure to unite people from all across races, especially Indians. But during my observation it

was found that many Indian South African youth do not align with Gandhi’s interest. “I hate Gandhi, he divided Hindus and Muslims” said one Indian student. Gandhi’s alignment with Hindu ideologue has always adorned the ideology of the subjugation of human beings. Casteism is one such incident that proves his shrewd attitude towards the promotion of caste. When his approach towards fellow Indians of the same religion attributes to discrimination then expecting a rational attitude towards a much “inferior” race according to him is too distant to expect. Hence, Obama’s admiration of Mandela along with Dr King and Gandhi endorsed his uneducated glimpses towards reality. World leader like Obama too is clouded with the prejudiced thoughts and never seeks to apprehend the subalterns and neglected marginalised perspective. It is a rarity to see, but the incidents like celebrating Mandela’s legacy should have highlighted the promotion of marginalised neglected masses of the world. The admirers of Gandhi all over the world tend to approach Gandhi’s ideals as the prophetic verses. But the charismatic personality has led enormous flaws that are too easy to note. Hence, Mandela who fought for the masses would have never taken Gandhi seriously, or I am sure has not taken seriously. Because, Gandhi’s ideals encouraged the racial segregation which Mandela is far distant from. On the other hand some defenders sympathise Gandhi’s ideals during the 1930s struggle. According to them, the term Kaffir was used to refer to a particular race, it was like Indians, coloured, similarly, Kaffirs. Those days for Gandhi it was the struggle of reclaiming the rights and dignity for Indians. However, at the end of his term in South Africa he realised the importance of black’s struggle, “This land is theirs by birth”, but then this was too late to cover the previous mistakes.

Critiques of Mandela

This section analyses the critiques over Mandela’s legacy. Mandela is often criticised by the socialist side and the mass of South Africa for his unfinished goals of economic equality. The land reforms and equal distribution of wealth remains a contested topic. “This man sold us,” said one of the young black South African standing in the queue during the memorial service. He emphasised that the majority population is still under-privileged. He has to take grants and bursaries for the higher education which are limited and contested. Hence, getting into an elite institution is a matter of great deal. One cannot miss noticing the emergence of growing black student conscious movements. Black students tend to be fiercer in the criticism of the systems. Pictures of remote villages and regions in South Africa are still the same with little or no change in the economic advancements. The growing protests by the workers and miners who run the majority share of economy have to fight for the basic increment in their pays. The mines owned by private companies have enormous influence over the country’s political leadership. This is to an extent that the government uses police force and bullets to kill the protestors.

Lack of subsistence in the nation’s wealth and limited access to the sharing of resources has implanted the thought of utter disgrace among the emerging educated youth class. Majority of the fertile land is still owned by minority white population. Wealthy white farmers own the 80% of the agricultural land with guaranteed property rights. These are the same lands on which the black Africans lived for centuries, were forced to evict during the regime of Cecil Rhodes in the late nineteenth century. It is estimated that about 5% of the population controls 88% of the total South Africa’s wealth. World Bank’s report published in the year 2002 indicates the declining contribution of African labour force in the agriculture sector from 31% in 1970s to 14% in 1990s. This is the same population which was heavily relied for the production of crops. Decreasing interest of black agricultural workforce in South Africa specifies that agriculture or in other words ‘owning land’ has gone beyond the interest and limits of labour class. On asking about the land reform to few white South African friends, they say, land reform is good but black Africans do not have the capacity and ability to produce as much as the white farmers. It is because white farmers have been farming for many generations and knows how to make the most of it. If the land reform continues then South Africa will see Zimbabwe like situation which was once a ‘bread basket’ of Africa, now struggling to feed its own population. However, there is also counter-argument to this contention that, even black Africans have been toiling on the same land over generations but the class relationship has remained the same. It has never changed; generations of blacks were toiling in the same field as the current one. Hence, the fear of turning the South African economy into mayhem after land distribution remains contested. Taking from the examples of Zimbabwe which is sanctioned heavily by the Western and European world has advanced the capitalist interest of few minorities that had personal benefits. Although Mandela was aware of these facts, he is criticised of being fearful to losing the country’s future in the hands of unskilled blacks. Mandela was cautious to take major steps; one of his manifestos was to have equal economic opportunities. Over the decades of commitments this struggle remained unachieved. Young students are mostly aware of this fact while the older generation that has lived in the apartheid era, glorify Mandela. Youngsters are often taken aside claiming they never lived in those days hence lack the affection towards struggle. Youngsters on the other hand want to leave the barriers of the past that is gluing their present and future into confined economic opportunities.

ANC’s call since mid-twentieth century was for racial equality and non-exclusion of any races, which was very egalitarian and pragmatic in this context. But this seems to fade away the arguments raised by few. For some, especially the African youth, this is “farce and a sabotage!” Few told me, “that old man (Mandela) has done enough and contributed equally but he failed us, which is why we are suffering now.” Another young economic graduate student told me, “He died. Hope he reaches heaven. Now let us not rely on his one-sided approach and define our own history. Why are people of this country still hungry and illiterate while few minority groups have access to posh private schools? There is a vast gap and economic unequal distribution. Big mining companies and other corporate entities are owned by minority whites, this is an utter disgrace.” In response to the wealth gap there is an emergence of political parties like Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) whose agenda is to have economic freedom and stabilised economy for all. Its primary goals are nationalisation of mines and other financial entities such as banks, lands, and other monopolised industries. It is claimed that the EFF’s strategy is driven from the African Freedom Charter that was drafted and accepted in 1956 by the ANC. The Freedom Charter clearly stated that the lands, banks, businesses and other sectors should be the property of the people. However, during 1992, the ANC majority party vehemently dropped this very aspect of nationalisation that mobilised millions into the struggle. Hence to reclaim the dropped plans and unattended issues by the ruling party headed by Mandela, new political parties are gaining their momentum among the still impoverished and poor masses who are fighting for economic means of survival. The target voters are the majority population voters who are in the mayhem of economic deprivation and good life. Education, health, food, is the basic right which vary for different class and races. Depending on the race, one gets an entry into private posh schools, jobs, and areas. Essence of apartheid systems still persists, socially and economically. Politically it has achieved its status but there lies a huge gap in addressing the challenges faced by the contemporary South African society. Growing educational awareness among youth and emergence of middle class still faces the problems not unknown to the poor and landless mass in the townships and villages. South Africa is decorated with the pictures of Cape Town and bustling business towers of Johannesburg with wide stretched highways. People from all over the world came and are still coming to these business oriented areas to fulfil their dreams. This is how white Europeans and other people from all over the world entered the space, but the fundamental aspect of local welfare remained unheard. In the contemporary era, one wants to come to South Africa to get a job and settle in the country while keeping own country’s passport.

Many economically influential middle class white South Africans are believed to have passports from Europe and America’s that are staying since generations. They are living in the fear of having to leave the country, hence, they extract as much as they can to empower self-interests. One British origin South African friend of mine who is the third generation still retains two passports, British and the South African. While others do have European passports, this clearly states that South Africa is a stake of opportunistic vile for the extractors. South African economy needs talent and human resource to be in the race of world power; hence skilled foreigners are encouraged to apply for a job. On the job advertisements of government and non-government jobs, there is no requirement to be a South African unlike other countries. Which means foreign work force is still encouraged, which is not bad in appearance but the attitude towards economic advancement of the nation remains limited to such actors. There is no sense of attachment towards the land as native, if it does exists then there is no reason to have dual passports when you are in a country since generations. Over the generations, the forefathers were given opportunities and that passes on to the new generation, but the fear of losing the identity and expulsion still persists. This dilemma has frequent reactions from the native community. Dual passport holders are ready for any situation; they do not want to dedicate their emotional bonding to the growing resurgence of the rich country which has been artificially made poor by few economic players in the top. The passport issue raises the doubt of commitment and honesty towards the nation which is grazing the generations.

The fear of what if something happens and where should be gone is something that comes from the mass unsure of their identity. As one of the foreigner working in South Africa since five years cursed the EFF policies by asking me, “if Mandela dies, will they expel foreigners?” her persistence was to hold the economic authority in any case whatsoever. There was no sense of responsibility towards the nation building, but ensuring the future in the land of opportunities remained to the priority. Having selfish interest for the growth of individual economic capacity is dreamed by someone who works in this country but detaches itself with the nation building process. The first fear was to escape the economic downturn, so she ensured the safety. On the other hand people like her have the tendency to grasp the argument of paying huge taxes and cursing the government policies. The irony here is, if you are raged with enormous problems of government policies and structure of society, then easy option is making the use of original passport and getting back to where it belonged. However, on a thoughtful note it must be made cautious that this argument is not at all encouraged in the idealism of xenophobia but simply to reflect on the on-going situations. People complaining on the government and societies’ problems rent a right only if they are sympathetic towards the issues of inequality. Having to travel with the dilemmas of passports raises the rage of anger among the natives who say, “They are here just to make money. They will go back to their own country because this is still not their country and that is what our problem is!” On the similar note, this was and is still contested against Indian capital owners in East and South Africa. Cultural and political belonging is still a much discussed issue in the South African political movements among the youth class. “If one is here” as said by one of the commentators “to make money and leave, then the credibility and trust towards them can be challenged.”

One lady that I came across at Johannesburg International airport was on her way to the Netherlands proudly said that she and her husband came to South Africa during the emergence of Apartheid era in the 1940s that invited thousands of Europeans. She has no problem in going to Netherlands every year because she has a Dutch passport, and not a South African one. Having dual passports and nationalities is never a problem, the real issues is about the equal distribution of wealth. Can these masses that are prepared to flee the country in the midst of crisis be relied upon? During the early years people with limited credibility cannot vouch on their honesty. Gaining enormous wealth is not unique to Europeans or Indians or coloured but it crosses the elite ranking of the black South Africans as well. The growing middle class and elite black population is seen in the outskirts of Johannesburg who are having their mansions in their farm lands. The growing hegemony of black economic players is visible. The class struggle is still continuing over the dominance of majority population. These new black elites according to Mbeki are the beneficiaries of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy which aims to encourage the black bourgeoisie to be participants in the economic advancement of the country. Sadly these are very few in number who could have access to the ANC political class. Mbeki points out that these elites are the “crony capitalists made up of ANC politicians some retired and others not,” who have “replaced former white colonial elites, where the exploitation of black masses continues as it was during the colonial era.” Hence the beneficiaries of political freedom has meant to the dominance of black politicians over marginalised black masses. Mandela in his famous speech after releasing from the prison in Cape Town thundered that, he is against the whites and black domination. Whereas, in the growing neo-liberal scenario it seems like his unfinished goal is still in the process.

Some ignorant white collar employees were holding black people as a common category for the failure of handling the country’s economy. Poverty and unemployment, according to them, is because of the laziness and unwillingness to do the job among the black population. “They are used to sit and eat, and now when they’ve little they spend it all. There is no realistic arrangement of life,” said one of the health care employees. However, as ignorant and naive this observation is, there is an element of grave negligence in this observation. People like them often survive their allegation on this argument. Let us ask them the same question of “laziness and unwillingness to do the job.” Are you willing to work under thousands of meters down the earth, in the life-risking work conditions where rocks fall anytime and you’re buried underneath? The heat and dust affecting the life and future generation in mines is very harsh to work. These mines are owned by the multinational corporations that are in operation since the apartheid era. The same miners who had no or limited responsibility towards the helpless cheap African labour force continue to operate with the same attitude. People involved in the mining industry die on the daily basis under the harsh circumstances. It is a grave violation of human rights and dignity to life. It is estimated that for every ton of gold there is more than one life and about 13 serious injuries. Under such dreading conditions a helpless mineworker has to refute the human value on account of bread.

Ownership of mines into the hands of few has led to the lack of responsibility towards workers. There is no absolute government control to handle the situation. Giant companies like Anglo American which has the proud name of imperial establishment works vehemently for the greed of profit. Mines which are owned by few corporates control the government’s interests because there are few politicians that sit on the boards of such companies. They lack serious moral and to an extent legal responsibility to extract the resources which lay under the nations soil. There is no equal distribution of the natural resource that naturally belongs to the natives. “It is like a person digging the basement of your home and keeping the gold for himself,” says one observer. Lack of accountability on effective grounds had led to the continuous organised murders of miners working under the earth. There is no actual recording device to measure the everyday actions of miner’s violation of human rights. These all problems come when the capitalist’s interests lay to the lives of working class. Government being an active felicitator of the capitalism becomes equally responsible entity for the murders of people in the name of creating jobs.

Apart from job sector, health and education remains a hot topic. Unequal health services divided between private and government hospitals fail to give equal treatment to the majority South Africans. Emergence of private hospitals and insurance companies do not reach the shanty townships and areas where majority South Africa lives. Ideally the education system has created huge gap in the job market. There is a multi-racial visibility in private schools but it’s for those fortunate blacks, Indians, Asians and coloured population who could access to the benefits of corporate entitlements. But majority are part of the education system that has high failure rates in the international education standards. Hence, education remains key aspect to the productive job market. One blatantly blames a black employee who has come from the rural, the Bantu education system for being non-productive and dull.[1] Ironically, it is never perceived that the quality between the deliverance of ability remains not in the personality but it is overall composition of the educational background that caters the one who has been trained in specific educational system. Hence, the productive labour and the ability to work remains in the hands of few educated that determines the future of country, which is still a tough job to achieve.

Mandela is criticised by the black South Africans for his abandonment of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). This programme was initiated by the ANC which was intended to address the socio-economic problems. Its main policy was to “alleviate poverty and addressing the massive shortfalls in the social services across the country.” However, the achievements are exhilarated but its permanence remained unaddressed. On the other hand, Mandela’s generosity and forgiveness to the brutal culprits of apartheid regime in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) attracts criticisms from his close aides, including his wife Winnie Mandela. Getting away with the horrible acts that counted thousands of lives for the liberation was a very brave step. Mandela’s and South African Society’s appreciation towards nation building and recovering the mistakes of past was envisioned for the nation building. The culprits who attended the TRC acknowledged their crime and were given amnesty. After serving the brutal massacres of the past, few sections of societies question the idea of reconciliation. The idea of reconciliation is questioned as to who was it serving, and for whose welfare. The people that get away with the amnesty have no remorse to their acts. It is also arguably petitioned that very few have shown the public apology, rest just escaped the attitude of generational favour. Owners of giant companies like De Beers and the politicians from the then ruling National Party have never publicly apologised to the people of South Africa which retains a doubt towards the seriousness of the TRC. These “Historic compromises” are still a matter of discussion and debate on most of the public seminars and workshops.

The enormous gap between the rich and poor has led to the crisis of everyday lives. Growing crime rates is in response to the unequal employment opportunity. Most wealthy whites fear their lives living in South Africa. They risk themselves so much so that, every house in the highland areas is fenced with electronic gates and 24 hour armed security response. Security industry in South Africa is one of the most profitable sectors with an annual turnover of 30 Billion Rands comprising around 9300 registered companies.[1] Sarcastically, the South African Police Service which is employed to ensure the safety and security of the citizens outsources the safety to the private security companies. During the year 2006 the Ministry of Safety and Security forked out 100 Million Rands which is approximately 9 million US dollars to protect its citizens and police themselves.[2] As laughable as it sounds, incidents like this have proved the failure of the State in ensuring the safety of its citizens. Moreover, it has strengthened the argument of the other side that the State is a corrupt regime that is sold out to the companies for personal benefit. Ironically, some of the owners of these private security companies have the past of

murdering thousands of black Africans during the apartheid regime by way of military (South African Defence Force) and Police (South African Police Service) services. These ex-defence personnel’s have not changed the loyalty of service. Initially, it was for the white government they offered their service and now too they offer their service to majority white population. South African crime record is one of the world’s worst scenarios. Criminals and gangs mostly populated by youth are responsible for creating the mayhem in society. Fears and uncertainties have held particular race as a responsible factor for the growth in crime rate. It is always Black Africans who are centre to the discussion of crime rate among White African. Although crime should not be judged neither defended on account of race but the black visibility is on the high tide. It is argued that one of the reasons for the growing crime rate is due to the unemployment and lack of accessibility to social security. Having no opportunities to equal life as other South Africans, the victim element of society takes to the crime. Crime rate is harsh and one of the brutal acts in the post-apartheid era. But it is also equally true that, post-1994 there have been more deaths on account of malnutrition and poverty which was yet to be Mandela’s unfinished dreams to be achieved.

In the regular discussions of posh parties White Africans often loud the complaints on the corruption and crime, which is undoubtedly true. The country’s system has been plagued with these happenings. These discussions are even part of the social media commentaries. After the death of Mandela, social media was abuzz with Mandela’s videos on YouTube. Surprisingly, in the commentary section of Mandela videos, pity comments were posted accusing Mandela of brutal massacre of innocent whites calling him with disrespect as “the old negro.” One of the comments expressed the disgrace as

“What a load of CRAP.  Where are the 1,000 victims of NECKLACING by the ANC?  Where are all of the RAPES (and those infected with HIV as a result)?  Where is the disarming of citizens so they can be RAPED and KILLED in a country that is now the capital nation of MURDER?

People WAKE UP.  You are brainwashed with this CRAP.  Orwellianism at it’s WORST Burn in HELL Mandela”

Such and many more heinous comments reveal the true nature of apartheid sympathises – like minded racists and economic disbelievers of the country of South Africa.


Conclusion and unattended goals

Mandela’s reformation and participation in the change of South African scenario is incredible. His engagements with major stakeholders and sound compromises for the people of South Africa have definitely shaped the South African society. Everyday observations of South Africa bring the picture of high tide prosperity and growing equal richness which is thankfully Mandela’s pivotal endowment. Indeed, it was Mandela’s realistic future visioning dream which involved the sharing of wealth. He was well aware that it would take slow and steady steps to achieve the goal which is in underway. Although taking into consideration the other side of the debate which risks the unequal formation of divided society there needs an anticipatory change which according to Mandela’s fore vision is in “progress.” Hence, the situation of expecting the change as dreamed by the people of South Africa can be said to be in process but to what extent is the progress working remains distant to guarantees. Mandela is being honoured for the political freedom and democratic gift but the goal of complete economic freedom is making the people of South Africa restless. Mandela alone cannot be held liable, he was a man of pragmatic idealism and what he did during the negotiations must be understood in the context of economic freedom on the one hand and political freedom on the other. Economic freedom is in its long way, because the corporations who agreed to work with Mandela’s government had billions of stakes on hand as opposed to the helpless majority population. It is also argued that the giant corporations like SANLAM and National Party bought the politics of ANC so that they never mention the nationalisation policy in their mandates. To the other side of the argument, it must be acknowledged that, perhaps it was then during the 1990s what Mandela did was ideal to the situation. And his legacy is surmounted with less criticism but a grandeur glory of the million hearts of South Africans. Hence, he will continue to guide the principles of South African idealism for years to come, with a light hearted critical analogy on the other side of the struggle. The struggle as they say in South Africa is yet in the process and that every South African must unite to achieve “Madiba’s dream.”

Emergence of black elites and adoption of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies is seen as an alternative suggestion to the nationalisation policies by the corporations and National Party. Mbeki writes in his chapter ‘South Africa’s Elites’ that, creating native capitalists was in the interest of the colonial regime. As this served the interest of both to enjoy the benefits and extract the benefits of the colonial capitalist system. After the decolonisation project colonised elites in Asia and in Africa took over the charge of capitalist system, which little contributed to the overall development. Citing examples of India’s Brahmin class, and Chinese Mandarin class, Mbeki refers to the reproduction of capitalist system which was copied in the South African scenario as well. The class of few members that were in front of the independence struggle gained enormous benefits of the revolution. They literally controlled the resources and economics of their new country on account of their masses. Same happened in South Africa as it did in the rest of Africa and Asia with a few exceptions. Leaders of the South African struggle recognised the adage of being in the flow of capitalists system and hence promoted the well-being of citizens in African development.

Mandela has been a father figure of the revolution and will still be the part of future. His dreams of seeing the equal South Africa and promises to his people still retain in their mind which strengthens the “hope” on which South African history and future is built upon. As said elsewhere, Mandela’s greatness remains unchallenged and his wise pragmatic engagements are the greatest gifts of one racial group to the other. But on the other hand his legacy opens some doors of challenges which gives the opportunity for current leaders and people of the country to work hard and demonstrate the excellence in delivering the realism for the people of South Africa, rich-poor, black-white. Apart from the partial achievement in the housing, water, electrification, there remains a long walk to hike before complete goals are achieved in the years to come.

One of the columnist Roger Cohen in the New York Times managed to club “Gandhi and Mandela” into one article. It seemed a bit of struggle for the columnist to finalise the revealing similarities between these personalities. As vague it was, the paragraphs referring to Gandhi were contradicting to some extent with the ideals of Mandela’s and ANC’s activism. Hence, the fractured legacies of great personalities still tend to find its way ahead. Be it Gandhi, Mandela or the contemporaries that tend to invite attention on the aspect of mass emancipation without critical eyes. As Mandela once said to John Pilger in an interview that, “millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his legacy.” However, contradictory it might be, it sustains the flow of political wind.

Note: The author thanks Ms Nompumlelo Melpahi of the Young Economists for Africa and Mbali Madwe of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg for their insightful and critical remarks.

Further readings

“Bantu Education Policy,” South African History Online, accessed January 11, 2014

Bawa, N, “Family-Owned Business in South Africa: Local Enterprise Responses by South African Indian Family-Owned Business,” Urban Forum, 17 (2), (2006), 167-198

Bhana, S. & Pachai, B, A documentary history of Indian South Africans (Johannesburg: David Philip, 1984)

Bill Freund, Insiders and Outsiders The Indian Working Class of Durban 1910-1990 (Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1995)

Cohen, R, “Gandhi and Mandela” The New York Times, December 12, 2013

Diakanyo, Sentletse, “On Mahatma Gandhi, his pathetic racism and advancement of segregation of black people.” The Mail & Guardian, October 18, 2008

King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi, “July 1959, in Papers 5:231–238.

Mbeki M, Architects of Poverty Why African Capitalism Needs Changing (Johannesburg: Picador, 2009)

Mandela, N, Long walk to Freedom (London: Abacus, 1994)

Maureen Swan, Gandhi: The South African Experience (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985)

Ginwala F, Indian South Africans (London: Minority Rights Group Report, No. 34, 1977).

Padyachee, V and Morrell, R, Indian traders in the Natal economy, c1875-1914,”Journal of Southern African Studies, 17: 138-143 (1991)

Patel, N.G, “Perspectives on the role of Indian business,” Unpublished Paper Presented at the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) Business and Economy Conference, Johannesburg, 1989.

Horrell, M.: The Group Areas Act: Its Effect on Human Beings. The South African Institute of Race Relations, November, Johannesburg (1956)

India Trip, Martin Luther King and the Global Struggle accessed 19th December 2013

Modisane, C, “Why SA needs nationalisation by EFF-led government,” October 27, 2013 Pilger J, “Mandela’s greatness may be assured but not his legacy,” December 12, 2013

World Bank, African Development Indicators (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2002


[1] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 1, pp. 410.

[2] Ibid. 193

[3] For more on Bantu Education system please refer to “Bantu Education Policy,” at

[4] ‘The Security market in 2013,’ accessed 10 January, 2014

[5] Costa W, ‘South Africa: R100m – That’s the Latest Bill for Guarding the Police’ accessed 10 January, 2014

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