Mandela vs Dr M: Statesman and man of distaste ― Ice Cream Seller
FEB 13 ― In the last few weeks, I have been prodded enough to awaken my few and far between bouts of commenting on issues here.
The bile and venom that spews out of one man is enough to awaken a bear from hibernation
As I thought about it, I also thought of Nelson Mandela (can someone please tell Ibrahim Ali that he is not a footballer playing in the African Nations Cup?). How blessed South Africa is to have such a statesman and what did we do to have a cat among the pigeons?
Then I thought back to the days towards the end of apartheid when I first set foot on the African continent and what it was like then and now. At that time, Mandela was the rage. Also at the time, our then prime minister was also riding high, but somehow, it always seemed that hands down, Mandela was it. The man. The hero.
Now both are past leaders. One is revered in retirement and the other, working feverishly as a “dalang”.
Let’s examine some aspects of each based on their actions, qualities and achievements, and from there, a reader ought to distinguish the one with the broad shoulders and the one with a chip on his shoulder.
One spent a considerable time in jail in Robben Island. The other sent a considerable number to jail all over the country.
Revenge and separation
After apartheid (can someone please tell Ibrahim Ali that it is not the name of some kuih?), Mandela worked tirelessly for reconciliation. A truth and reconciliation commission was set up.
At the televised proceedings, white police personnel and army officers broke down and wept when confessing their misdeeds. Likewise the black community, whether they were from the ANC or not. They sought forgiveness and forgiveness was largely given. The price of the terrible acts they committed was the weight of their conscience.
Here, we can’t even allow Chin Peng to return home. Unlike the Malaysian Bali bombers, Chin Peng fought for independence though his ideology was different in terms of what we felt should be, post Merdeka. On the contrary, our exported terrorists have their bodies brought home in RMAF aircraft and we are so humane as to fly their relatives or spouses to accompany the bodies home.
Whilst apartheid was dismantled, our NEPartheid grew and flourishes till today ― separate schools, separate examinations, university placements, civil service intakes, promotions in the various government agencies and bodies, separate mutual funds, separate plates, separate cups, scholarships, housing discounts, loan schemes, set apart cities ( Putrajaya, Shah Alam, Bangi), etc.
Forgiveness vs revenge
Mandela was able to forgive those who put him in jail ― even the wardens became his friends. He earned their respect and made them see the error of their ways and value system.
He could sit and talk with FW de Klerk (the then leader) and de Klerk ― though a political opponent ― could see the larger picture through humane eyes that apartheid was wrong. He could also see the measure of the man in Mandela. A white Afrikaneer (please tell Ibrahim Ali that it is not a type of cheese) that I knew told me that he was so proud of what he referred to as “my president”. To come from someone of the opposite divide and to say so with such pride was something to hear and behold
Here we are being taught and brainwashed against the perils of imaginary enemies. And our enemies are everywhere ― Jews, Christians, pendatangs, gays, lesbians, Singapore, Valentine’s Day, Bibles, etc etc.
Odium and disdain
One is a revered statesman and hugely popular, even amongst past political opponents. The other is looked upon in utter contempt and disdain bar the life members of the NGO where he is patron
Rugby World Cup
Years back, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup. At that time, it was almost entirely played by the whites and the challenge was to get the best team to play for the new Rainbow nation.
Mandela realised that this was something that would help cement the nation’s peoples. He called for the captain ― a white ― and had tea with him in the Presidential Palace. It didn’t matter to the president that he was white and that nearly all the team would be white.
The equivalent of PERKASA was screaming that the black players should be the majority. Mandela reasoned that they should not take away what was so important to them (the white population ) ― Rugby ― and his view prevailed. Bottom line: They won the World Cup with nearly all their players white and sweating blood and guts to bring glory to their country and the event was a great advertisement for their country.
Here, what were multiracial teams for football, hockey, rugby that represented the nation are reduced to mono-ethnic camps. Almost every spots association has been politicised and consequently, the spirit of the nation has been crushed under the tidal wave of NEPartheid.
Our best years in football had the likes of Chin Aun, Mokhtar Dahari, Choon Wah, Santokh Singh, Chandran, James Wong, Arumugam, Chow Chee Keong, etc. The hockey team that came in 4th at the ’75 World Cup was only unusual in that every race was present except a Punjabi!! Where have all the so-called “pendatangs” gone in team sports?
South Africa is made up of many indigenous peoples. Add to that the migrant Asians, white settlers and other neighbouring African states. Today, they celebrate their diversity and are called the Rainbow Nation.
Here, we threaten pendatangs with revocation of citizenship. Even the word pendatang, which I never really heard in my school days in the 70s, has gained considerable currency so much so I am quite nonchalant to define myself as a pendatang even though I am “Genpentiga ( Generasi Pendatang Tiga)”.
Pribumi, Bumiputera (all imported words from India by the way) are singled out at the expense of people of migrant descent. Unfortunately, the singular defining factor of separation in our land has been for sometime now along the lines of religion ― diversity can be accepted provided religion is the same.
When Madiba ( as Mandela is affectionately known), the smile radiates warmth. There is no venom in his smile. When Madiba laughs, it is a hearty laugh. Madiba does not snigger.
Confidence vs insecurity
When Mandela speaks or walks, there is an air of authority, presence and confidence. Despite all the years spent in jail, he never thought of payback time by clinging on the reins of power. Equally, he was able to entrust his political foes with the reins of power. On one occasion, he appointed a political opponent, a tribal chief ― Mangosuthu Butolezi ― as the president whilst he was away from office. Mangosuthu Butolezi was a Zulu chief.
Can we envisage a situation where a Karpal Singh or a Lim Kit Siang is given the reins even for a few hours?
Chiefs of national institutions
During Mandela’s tenure (though not necessarily during its entirety), he showed he could govern with a robust opposition, a judiciary and police force headed by whites. Compare that to the situation here ― where they were either sacked or retired off. Magnanimity, grace, compassion and leadership compared to deceit, lust, jealousy, greed and insecurity all rolled into one.
Madiba does a lot for charity and in his early years of retirement, was a sought after peace maker throughout the African continent. He lives is a relatively modest residence and does not involve himself in the pits and gutters of politics.
He does not promote his children to higher office ― certainly not at the expense of and detriment to others. More than anything, he is a powerful symbol of unity despite there being no such thing as “1 South Africa”.
Noble Peace Prize
South Africa can stand proud and tall as a nation that two of its leaders ― from opposite sides of the political divide ― were recognised for their efforts in forging peace and dismantling apartheid by the award of the Noble Peace Prize. Unfortunately, here, opponents are ostracised and those who are not get awards from PERKASA
To the younger readers you will note that in many parts above, I only allude to Mandela. To elucidate on our equivalent situation will only add to your despair and grief. So I will spare you that.
* Ice Cream Seller reads The Malaysian Insider
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.