A precursor of what will happen when the inevitable finally happens, is now being seen even as a frail Nelson Mandela soldiers on. With his role as a unifier, the irony is that the battle over Mandela's legacy has developed into a multi-faceted campaign between factions, or, if you want the "Mandela Family", comprising the African National Congress (ANC), the various foundations and charities he set up after his retirement in 1999, as well as political comrades and business associates with whom he forged relations over many years, and, of course, his biological family. In the past few years there has been a tug of war and angry words among the "factions", and even within the biological family itself, there are deep divisions with respect to who has first rights to his legacy. Welcome to Mandela's final showdown. Pusch Commey reports from Johannesburg.
LAST DECEMBER, A TWITTER MESSAGE WENT AROUND, announcing the passing of the world's most beloved grandfather and leader. Then followed, a month later, frenzied reports of his hospitalisation. Family, friends and the media besieged the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, just in case. It was not to be. Perhaps the Old Man would prefer to go quietly. The drama of his hospitalisation brought into sharp focus the inevitable, and what will transpire afterwards. Who is present when he passes was very important. Which media would get the gold medal for being the first to tell the world was something to die for.
Now, with reports of his very frail state making the rounds again, it may not be very long before he makes his long walk into the unknown. It could be sudden. When gone, South Africa, Africa, and the world will be left the poorer, to ponder his massive legacy.
Mandela will be 93 years old on 18 July 2011. Very few people in history have captured the world's imagination like he has, warts and all. He has stared the world's moral bankruptcy in the face and won, in the process inspiring many.
"Resentment," he says, "is like drinking poison, and expecting it to kill your enemy." So he forgave those who had incarcerated him and taken away 27 years of his life. That has been what has largely defined the man. A "terrorist" turned saint, who embraced his enemies and tried to bridge a racial divide. It is work still in progress. He reminds the world of a common humanity that has often been forgotten in the pursuit of personal and group interests, defined by race, ethnicity, colour, creed, sexual orientation, religion, geography, language and all the factionalism that plagues the earth.
He has his faults, but here is a man who has striven...