| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(July 04, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Was Nelson Mandela’s courting his one time oppressors after his release from Robben Island a cunning political move or his ingratiating himself along with his ANC (African National Congress) counterparts a ruse to win mega-deals financially? Did he pawn the nation for their corporate interests?

As Nelson Mandela lies in a critical condition and South Africans are planning to celebrate his 95th birthday, there are those still oppressed Black South Africans pondering on his legacy. Was he a liberator of the Blacks or was he trumpeting their slavery to better a minuscule proportion of token Blacks to show the world that South Africa is now a liberated nation from the Afrikkaners.

Mandela’s Nobel Prize for his struggle against apartheid and his incarceration in Robben Island is a far cry from his appearance in his advancing years when he was only seen in flamboyant silk attire and gold Benz cars.

Mandela had it in his power to change Africa and his 27 year long walk to freedom should have brought economic prosperity to the continent but it still remains the poorest in the world and a niggling conscience on the West. He is no different from other freedom fighters. Once in power and popularity overtakes, the struggle to free their countries from the shackles of slavery takes a back seat as has been proven in history.

Nelson Mandela has been described as a ladies’ man, introvert and a man who hides his emotions so well that even when he was released after 27 years of incarceration he wanted another day inside so he could prepare himself to face his admirers with aplomb.

Time has taught Mandela the rudiments of reality; in that he foresaw liberation comes at a price even if it is forfeiting the cause of South African Blacks under apartheid he valiantly fought for. That he would emerge their saviour does no longer placate the slum dwellers in Soweto who are now no more better off than when they were under the jackboot of the Afrikkaners and the British.

Why Africa never emerged from the poverty despite world aid pouring in can be summed up in a few words. They are corruption and nepotism not by those who colonised but by those liberators whom the public trusted. John Pilger, journalist documentary maker and renowned the world over for exposing myths of world leaders in his ground-breaking investigative book, Freedom Next Time, has this to say about Nelson Mandela,

“The ambiguity of Mandela is expressed in his dealings with other governments. As the first liberation president, he ordered a ridiculous and bloody invasion of tiny Lesotho. He allowed South African armaments to be sold to Algeria , Colombia and Peru, which have notorious human rights records. He invited the Indonesian mass murderer General Suharto to South Africa and gave him the country’s highest award (Suharto had given money to the ANC in exile). He recognised the brutal Burmese junta as a legitimate government, even though the plight of its legitimate leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under permanent house arrest, reflected his own struggle. When I asked him about this, he replied merely that apartheid was `unique’ –which contradicted his unswerving support for the Palestinians and the parallel he draws between Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid.”

As he ponders on his legacy to Africa, he must be crying bitter tears that he is not leaving an Africa raised from poverty but ridden with the same old slavery he valiantly fought for with AIDS, malnutrition and curable diseases killing thousands all due to lack of availability of drugs within reach of ordinary masses.

Only good African leaders can raise Africa above its poverty.

(The writer has been a journalist for 24 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal;where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)