FILE – Late former President Nelson Mandela would have called out leaders here and abroad, putting them on terms, says the writer. 18.07.03. Mandela salutes Siphiwe Nyanda, a Chief of Staff and National General of South African Defence Force, outside his house in Johannesburg. File photo: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters
FILE – Late former President Nelson Mandela would have called out leaders here and abroad, putting them on terms, says the writer. 18.07.03. Mandela salutes Siphiwe Nyanda, a Chief of Staff and National General of South African Defence Force, outside his house in Johannesburg. File photo: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters

Mandela’s decisive leadership sorely missed with Omicron variant debacle as the latest in a litany of colonial interventions

By Opinion, Professor Saths Cooper Time of article published Dec 5, 2021

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OPINION: The recent negative events, culminating in South Africa and neighbouring southern African countries experiencing apartheid sanctions imposed by the west is a damning indictment of how low we have fallen in the esteem of most of the world, writes Professor Saths Cooper.

Today, many people in South Africa and beyond will mark the death of our democracy’s founding president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, popularly known by his clan name of Madiba.

Most of us recall where we were late that evening eight years ago, expecting the inevitable but not wanting to acknowledge it, despite Madiba’s steady decline over the years.

We stood aghast as the medical tug-of-war pulled him in and out of hospital, with various spokespersons appearing and disappearing.

Most in this country and elsewhere had an outpouring of grief of some sort in the ensuing 10 days, which culminated in the largest gathering of heads of state and a slew of other celebrities at his funeral, second only to his inauguration on May 10, 1994.

The almost fading memory of the heady days of 1994, when hope of a better future gripped most of us, is in stark relief now, when we seem to be at the depth of our despair.

During his tenure – which ended in 1999, two days before the epochal June 16 – we anticipated the end of racism, sexism, violence, division, and a host of other ills inherited from our terrible past.

Roundly criticised by some of us for bending over “blackwards” in unrequited reconciliation, we nevertheless hanker after a global icon of his stature when we have to put up with the parade of incompetent, indecisive, self-absorbed, self-serving and mediocre leaders who followed soon after.

Some of who tragically still persist in public life – while yearning for more private fortune doing us great disservice and irreparable harm.

Instantly forgettable – save when they make the news with outrageous or inane comments – they prevent the natural succession of a solid younger cadre of bright, qualified and capable persons from assuming their rightful place in leading us forward in all spheres of our public life.

Ramesh Haracharan (left), function co-ordinator for the Institute of Black Research, and former activist Saths Cooper witness the unveiling of the plaque by former president Nelson Mandela at the Resistance Park Monument

Waiting in the wings, this able leadership cadre sees a future of growing into middle age.

Perhaps they have been tainted by the political shenanigans that the majority in our country has become tired of.

If they don’t emerge to show their mettle, we will continue to be hamstrung by the baggage carried by these has-beens – mostly out of their depth – who continue to dominate our public office, making us a laughing stock in the world.

The recent negative events, culminating in South Africa and neighbouring southern African countries experiencing apartheid sanctions imposed by the west – mindlessly followed by servile other countries – is a damning indictment of how low we have fallen in the esteem of most of the world.

Just when we are seemingly at our worst, South Africans are at their very best in making light of our adversity, poking fun at the moronic reactions to our esteemed scientists who sequenced the most recent Omicron variant.

Of course, you know that if you play around with the letters in o-m-i-c-r-o-n you get moronic, which is what most of the West and their compliant countries elsewhere in the world have been in their downright colonial stance.

Like anti-vaxxers, they make no sense, but confirm their prejudices against this and other African countries from whom they continue to extract profit, with the complicity of corrupt leaders.

Our scientists may have been naïve in announcing the results of their top-notch surveillance of the Covid-19 virus and its constantly mutating strains, without thinking of the drastic punitive consequences from these neo-colonial capitals.

Their leaders have tended to hide their own deficiencies in dealing with this pandemic, which has seen them hoarding vaccines, charging outrageous prices to the developing majority world, and otherwise crafting a new order that clearly despises countries like ours, and will gleefully leave us behind.

This is made worse when they consider the plaintive supplications some of us make.

The disrespect and scorn they clearly display tells us that, whatever some of us may think, we have become a new pariah, while some of our leaders are mute.

Leaders in Africa have to display a cohesive and proactive approach against continued colonial domination.

The Omicron debacle is the latest in a litany of colonial interventions: the French in Mali and the Sahel region, the French intervention (through its proxy Rwanda) in Mozambique, the increasing Russian, British, Chinese and American looting of African resources, aided by the World Bank and IMF.

The benefit is to these predatory nations and their corporations, not us.

Africa’s great leaders – Nyerere, Nkrumah, Nasser amongst others – have left a legacy which the African Union needs to be informed by.

Perpetuating regional and colonial language divisions, and abetting the looting of Africa’s resources that make a few rich at the expense of all our peoples, must stop.

Machel and Madiba would have called out leaders here and abroad, putting them on terms.

This has been done by leaders of other former slave and colonial outposts, who are not afraid of expressing their outrage at the appalling behaviour of western leaders and their sycophants elsewhere, clamouring for reparations from these developed nations, built on the injustices of their colonial horrors.

Oh, for the likes of Madiba at his less than best during this grave period when we suffer the best of the worst, who seem devoid of vision, the will and ability to lead us away from the mess that they have created.

The July winter of our discontent and the majority refraining from voting are ignored at our collective peril and tremendous cost to our fast-deteriorating country.

It is time for those who rise above narrow sectarian positions to come together to salvage what is left, restoring our lost pride, arresting further calamity, hopelessness and crafted helplessness.

* Professor Saths Cooper is a former political prisoner and a member of the 70s Group.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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