If Mandela Were Zambian

imageBy Saboi Imboela.

Have you ever wondered what legacy Mandela would have if he were Zambian? This is something i normally discuss with people that have had the chance to think about this and here are a few opinions of what we have shared over this issue. Feel free to think and share what you think his legacy would have been like had he been a Zambian.
First and foremost, if Mandela were Zambian, some people say, he would have probably refused to leave power after his first five year term because he could have said that he suffered a lot and spent twenty seven years in prison so leaving after one term would have been very difficult. Like Chiluba told us, power is sweet so he could have stayed a little bit longer on that ‘sweet’ seat. He would have gone into a second term and probably tried to change the constitution to stay on a third term. At this point, Thabo Mbeki and friends would have resigned from the government, made another party and countered his third term bid. Since Mandela had health problems from his first term, his health would have been a campaign issue and he could have been told to present a clean bill of health by the opposition. His name would have been seriously tainted and his legacy destroyed. The people would have then opted to vote for Thabo Mbeki and friends because, by that time, they would have decided that Mandela had done his part and so should rest. But take heart, not only a Zambian first leader would have refused to go just after the first term, many of his African counterparts would have done so and this, therefore, sets Mandela apart in a league of his own.
But still entertaining the idea that he could have gone the first-African-leader-route, the following could have ensued; Since his exit would have been engineered by the opposition and not the man himself, the incoming government would have impeded his international travels, revoked his diplomatic passport, cited a number of corrupt practices and probably removed his immunity so that he faces the full hand of the law. Since Mandela and other ANC leaders who fought for SA’s liberation had been rebelled terrorists by the international hegemonic powers, until about 2008 when they were removed from the terrorist list, the Mbeki government would have not bothered about rectifying it but would have been the first ones to call him so and tell the international community that being a terrorist he cannot be trusted. They would do this in the same breath as they removed their own names from the terror list. They could have diminished the best sides and propelled all the negatives they could have found. His controversial divorce from Winnie could have also been made a big issue and used to his further disadvantage. Most songs, before his release, pictured a happy Mandela ruling the country with a happy Winnie by his side, so altering that picture is one thing the Zambians would not have been so ready to accept. So all these would have been topics of discussion instead of the economy, politics, social development and cohesion of the rainbow nation.
A post Mandela SA would have, therefore, meant a smear campaign against his legacy and a justification of why the successive government should ill treat him. By this time, the international community would have tried to talk to the Thabo Mbeki regime, but the dudes would have pulled the sovereignty defence in their face and told them to mind their own politics. In short, if Mandela were Zambian, his legacy would have been undermined by the very people that should respect and treasure it- the very people that benefitted from it. Thank God the dude was born in a place where they appreciate their local heroes and so his name will always be put in its right place in history. To be the icon or hero that he became, over all other political prisoners of the struggle, the ANC, in 1969 in Morongoro, Tanzania, had to get into an agreement to make him the face of the struggle. After this, his status was elevated and this distinguished him from all the other prisoners. Imagine, a party in Zambia coming into an agreement that propels the status of one person over the rest? I just do not see that happening.
When i attended a youth conference in Tswane, Pretoria, a few years ago, i was amazed to notice that every time the South African youths sang the national anthem, they sang a very beautiful song called Solomon. Before long, we all started singing this beautiful song because it is very infectious and touching- just by the way they sing it, the words and the tune. Most of the Zambians and people from other countries loved this song and we asked what it meant. They explained the sad story of this young Solomon boy, how he had died and why it is important that that he is remembered. It is sincerely one of the most touching things about South Africans, just how they respect their own heroes, history, culture and traditions, and how they put their heroes on the right side of history.
Some other nationals who live in South Africa have gone as far as accuse them of being selfish, greedy, unhelpful and even ungrateful for the role other African countries, especially Zambia played in their struggle. But at what point do we distinguish between selfishness and patriotism and how far does this go in advancing a nation-state? That of course might be a discussion for another day, as for today, i would like to say that their patriotism and love for their history, leadership and culture is one worth emulating.
Another thing i always notice in South Africa is how many people refer to their leaders as ‘My president’ and not ‘the president’ like most of us do. But of course that mainly comes about due to the fact that they have 100% faith and confidence in the process that puts their leaders into power and so they know that whoever is president is democratically put there by the people using a transparent and accountable system. Not to mention that they also have one of the best constitutions in the world, so it is that political legitimacy that brings about the trust and confidence in who is put in power at a given time.
The unity they exhibit is amazing and one worth emulating by most of our countries. Further, with a proportional voting system, it also means that the party is above the individual, so any non-performing, or arrogant leader that is seen to champion his own goals than those of the people and country can always be recalled by the party and replaced by somebody else, regardless of their position. Case in point is that of Thabo Mbeki who was recalled and replaced as SA’s president after seen as interfering with the judiciary in the Jacob Zuma cases. Due to the role Zuma had played in the struggle, the people, led by the then powerful and outspoken Julius Malema, decided that Zuma would be president after Mbeki no matter what. His legal battles would not get into the way of this trajectory, and if Mbeki would not back off he would be recalled. Well, Mbeki never backed off and so was recalled. The rest, like they say, is history. The way things are going, in the case of Zambia, if we will finally even get a ‘decent’ constitution, then it will be a miracle, as for the word people-driven, i will not even mention it.
In Zambia, whether in politics or not, to say Zambians are not united is an understatement. Zambians love to compete even where they are supposed to corporate, even when they do not belong in the same job, category or simply circumstance that should make them compete. Most people say this is an African thing and will give examples of many other nationalities that do this, but I have dwelled on the nationality I know best by virtue of being one of them.
Coming back to Mandela, I am really glad that he was born in SA, because i really do not know what legacy we would be talking of him now, being the Zambians that we are. Some people, for example, even ask what is so special about Mandela and why he should be treated the way he is treated, well- that is one discussion i never get into and i always say- research on your own and see what the guy did, and if you still feel he does not deserve his small god status, then it will still be your right and opinion to come to that conclusion.

Lastly, the breaking down of his ambulance a few weeks ago and being stranded for about 40minutes cannot even be classified as a Zambian thing because if he were one of us he would not even be in the country but abroad for treatment, while a debate would have been going on of how much money is being spent for the treatment. Then in case of death, everybody would be so touched and shout the loudest of how great a hero he was. Then we would have our institutionalised mourning, a.k.a national morning, for weeks that would paralyse productivity in some sectors of society. People will then say all the great things about him- which they never said when he was alive. You see, in Zambia, a hero is only so when he dies.

A great day to you all and take care like always.