Article written

  • on 09.07.2014
  • at 01:30 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Op-Ed: What would Mandela do? Some thoughts on moving beyond anger and rhetoric 0

Daily Maverick correspondent Marianne Thamm recalls Mandela’s lessons and reminds South Africa about the importance of remaining united.

In just over a week we will, for the first time, celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday without his physical presence. While we will for a long time continue to cast and recast his legacy and the role he played in helping to liberate, heal and reconcile this country, we need to begin to move inwards to find and rekindle Mandela’s vision of who we could be. If we don’t, extreme voices will hijack the future.

While many correctly dismiss “language activist” Steve Hofmeyr as an attention-seeking narcissist, or, at best, a bargain basement Neil Diamond, he attracts a particular kind of attention and elicits specific atavistic responses in both those who love him and those who loathe what he represents.

This weekend Hofmeyr tweeted proudly that he had decided to take the “politically incorrect” opportunity at the Innibos festival in Nelspruit to lead a 45 000-strong crowd of almost exclusively white people in a rendition of the old national anthem “Die Stem”. The crowd sang in one voice and from the heart, Hofmeyr recounted to his 105,000 Twitter followers.

Reading the tweet and responses to it, one wonders what those 45,000 people felt or thought while singing along. Did they empty their minds and nostalgically travel back to some forgotten, discredited country?

Did anyone for a moment ponder the irony that in democratic South Africa they are free to sing this song in their own language in an all-white gathering without fear of vilification, arrest and detention? Did anyone in the crowd hear a little voice in their head that asked, “How would fellow South Africans feel hearing you sing this song this way right now?”

“Would it be hurtful?”

Let’s simplify the question.

How would Nelson Mandela, whose death the nation apparently collectively mourned, feel? The man who in the greater democratic, national project – the man with his eye tactically on the future – wore a Springbok rugby jersey in 1995 as an act of reconciliation?

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By Marianne ThammDaily Maverick

Photo credit: Corbis Images

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi