On Mandela's 94th birthday, some South Africans express ambivalence (+video)
While many South Africans spent today celebrating former President Nelson Mandela's 94th birthday and his efforts to maintain political stability, others say he 'sold out' poorer blacks.
For much of the world, Nelson Mandela is the epitome of a saint; when given the chance to seek revenge against South Africa’s white population for the evils of apartheid, he called instead for reconciliation and tolerance.Skip to next paragraph
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At home in South Africa, it is this very call for forgiveness that is the center of controversy. Many black South Africans – particularly those living in poorer townships – ask if Mandela actually sold them out.
When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and entered negotiations with the apartheid government of President Frederick De Klerk, he succeeded in guaranteeing free and fair elections that resulted in the peaceful transfer of power from the white racist National Party government to the black-majority African National Congress party in 1994. Separate negotiations over economic power – such as ownership of land, mineral rights, industry, and the banking sector – largely left whites in charge, a matter that continues to rankle many black South Africans.
Even Mandela’s own former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, famously told an interviewer in 2010 that her ex-husband was an “albatross around the necks of my family,” and that he “let us down.”
IN PICTURES: Nelson Mandela Day
This view is by no means universal. On Wednesday, as many as 12 million South African school children started the day by singing happy birthday to the man they call “Tata Madiba.” Tata means father in Mandela’s native isiXhosa language; Madiba is Mandela’s clan name, and a term of adoration for Mandela. Many South Africans of all races celebrated “Mandela Day” by spending at least 67 minutes in community service, a minute for each year that Mandela served as a member of the ANC.
While some black South Africans express disappointment that Mandela didn’t push for a better deal with the apartheid government, many black South Africans argue that Mandela did a greater good for the country’s future by giving a higher priority to economic growth and stability rather than “justice.”
"The greatest gift our nation could possibly give uTata Nelson Mandela for his 94th birthday this week would be to emulate his magnanimity and grace," Mr. Tutu is quoted by the Sowetan newspaper as saying. "Mr. Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country. He laid the table so that all South Africans could eat."