South Africa Faces Difficulties After Mandela

Dignitaries from all over the world are expected to attend his funeral

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Nelson Mandela, the African freedom fighter who followed his long struggle against racist rule in South Africa with resolute reconciliation with his former oppressors, and whose life came to be regarded, almost universally, as the finest articulation of the human spirit, died Thursday. He was 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma, a fellow inmate of Mandela’s on the apartheid-era prison of Robben Island, announced Mandela’s death on state television just before midnight. “Our beloved Nelson Mandela, the founder of the democratic nation of South Africa, has departed,” said Zuma. “He passed peacefully in the company of his family around 20:50 on December 5, 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

Mandela’s death was not unexpected. He suffered from a recurrent lung condition and had been admitted to hospital numerous times in the past two and a half years. As his condition deteriorated, South Africans, in particular, have come to accept the inevitable and despite his stature, his departure is likely have little effect on South African stability.  Mandela retired from public life a decade ago and while he promoted charitable causes and international conflict mediation well into his eighties he gave up politics when he retired after a single term as South Africa’s first black president in 1998.

The hole Mandela leaves in the fabric of humanity, however, is immeasurable. For decades he has been an almost universal inspiration. President Obama, in Senegal in June this year, said Mandela’s fight against injustice and the anti-apartheid struggle “gave me a sense of what is possible in the world” and “strength to persevere.” Mandela was a “hero for the world,” he continued. “If and when he passes from this place, one thing we all know is his legacy will linger on through the ages.” In his address late Thursday, Zuma reflected similar sentiments. “His tireless struggle for freedom earned the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.” In this “moment of our greatest sorry,” said Zuma, South Africa’s thoughts were with his family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much that our people could be free.”

Zuma said he had directed that flags be hung at half mast until a state funeral. That event is expected to attract an unprecedented assembly of world leaders – from politics, religion and royalty, business, sport and the arts – to pay their respects to Mandela. Details are expected in the coming days but are predicted to include a public memorial in the South African capital, Pretoria, followed by a private family funeral in Mandela’s ancestral home in Qunu in the country’s impoverished Eastern Cape.

As well as an occasion to reflect on Mandela’s achievements, the days leading up to the funeral will undoubtedly also prompt some uncomfortable assessment of how South Africa and, in particular, his successors in the ruling African National Congress (A.N.C.) have failed to life up to his legacy. The party has become a byword for corruption and gangster criminality and the manner in which it abandoned millions of supporters to lives of destitution in a scramble for personal enrichment has provoked rising unrest. The contrast with the rest of the continent is also sharp. Economies in the rest of Africa are taking off. But South Africa, for so long the uncontested continental powerhouse, is beset by waves of violent labor protests and a political leadership trapped in endless political drift by internal party fights.

There is no question that Mandela’s iconography long ago took leave of his human reality, something Mandela himself often protested against. Equally, there is no doubt of the global symbolism he came to hold for all humanity. Part of the explanation for that was how, despite decades of suffering, including 27 years in prison, his life embodied that most fundamental human quality: hope. “I am fundamentally an optimist,” he reflected in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. “Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lies defeat and death.” It is in such sentiments that Mandela will live on.

26 comments
Ingrid Bester
Ingrid Bester

We'll be fine, thank you very much. South Africans are notoriously hard workers and incredibly passionate about our country. How about some of you worry about your own problems and let us get on with our lives.

Isyaku Ibrahim
Isyaku Ibrahim

Actually people of Mandela's calibre are rare, and rare gems are saught for by everybody- the good, the bad and the ugliest of characters, despite their previous grandstanding. Although South Africa in particular will miss his fatherly presence, the country will forge ahead as one indivisible nation. For they have their past struggles to remember, their present detractors to shame and their future goals to achieve.

Suraj Ji
Suraj Ji

India is also facing difficullties due to #Paidmedia

Moses Doleh
Moses Doleh

Honor Nelson Mandela's legacy by demanding freedom for the Palestinans who currently live under the oppression of apartheid. How hypocritical of the Israeli regime to memorialize someone who fought his entire life against everything they stand for.

Prince Johnson Young-t
Prince Johnson Young-t

Mandela lives in me as a South african. The power is in our Hands now. Stop insulting South africa with this article. Let the world mourn in peace.

Shila Rossi
Shila Rossi

Nelson Mandela has just passed. stop it , all you smart educated people. he lived great and you cannot even wait a whole two days to start? Where is your own greatness? Where is your own peace??if South Africa needs help , the world should help them. " if one part of this world goes through pain, the rest of us feel it" That is the great life of Nelson Mandela. stop bickering. he didn't bicker. We mustn't. He was imprisoned and lost 30 years and got his act together. What have all of us done ?we can't even get our act together. We the free world , the first world. Gimme a break

Kane Mcmighty
Kane Mcmighty

It faced difficulties before his death... Don't think theirs been a time it hasn't faced difficulties...

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu
Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu

Thank u Frank. Just let us be... let south Africans worry about south africa...

Frank Kuba Pimbi
Frank Kuba Pimbi

Allow Africa to mourn in peace please. Africa is determined to move ahead.

Anwar Daniels
Anwar Daniels

actually, the problems will be no different to those that were there before

Javier Fernandez
Javier Fernandez

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu when did I said that south America was perfect? I said that south Africa was a first world country and now with the blacks in power is going to be another slum like brasil or Colombia.

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu
Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu

It's not an easy thing to get the economy that was only working to cater for less Than 10% of the population to now work for the rest of the population... yes we have corruption but have u seen the slums in south America? been to Brazil, Argentina and Mexico and the drug cartel crimes there make south Africa sound like heaven.

Javier Fernandez
Javier Fernandez

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu as unreal you may think a lot of people think that we lived better in the days of stroessner. You know that you were a modern city once, even your neighbors are trying to get into your country because they know you are better than them and that's because they didn't have white people who transform their country.

Tina Gara
Tina Gara

Some people here (including the author of this Article) just do not have a clue of the African sociopolitical dynamics, The problem comes when some naive western minds under-estimate the modernity and intelligence of the present day African.

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu
Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu

Javier thank u for your very informed educated view. That is sarcasm, do u know what that means. Until 1989 u were under dictatorship after dictatorship. Does Alfredo Stroesnner ring any bells or do u hav amnesia...

Michael Joniaux
Michael Joniaux

Africa has had it's problems since before mandela. And it continue because keeping it in turmoil is the best way to rape the land for diamond.

Calot Master Modishane
Calot Master Modishane

Hu ever wrote dis wa re tlwaela...and ppl hu r busy "liking" dis le bona bare phapela

Javier Fernandez
Javier Fernandez

Juan Pablo Zapata Franco tire world country. Poor. Uneducated. Crimes everywhere. Just look at detroit that's what is waiting to south Africa.

Javier Fernandez
Javier Fernandez

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu your government is not corrupt? Crimes are not at the highest percent? White people aren't flying out of there because they been killed? You really think south Africa is going to be a modern civilized country without the whites?

Paul Heyns
Paul Heyns

The current government is a corrupt bunch of hooligans!! Murder, rape, corruption, bribery is everyday news... Where have you seen an uncle has raped his 6 week old niece??? This place is a disgrace and falling to pieces

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Look past all differences and work together. It is the only thing that works.

Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu
Lesego Glovz Ndhlovu

That's what you said after 1994 elections. So keep your Dooms day prophecies to your western self. You thought Mandela could not keep South Africa's fragile peace and he did. There are millions of Mandela s in South Africa. I am Mandela. Greatness rubs off. So thank you for your educated views but no thanks. It's actually a very insulting article this.

Javier Fernandez
Javier Fernandez

Now Sudáfrica is a third world country, poverty, corruption, killings, more racial tensión even the blacks had better conditions of live in the apartheid. Before was the oppression of the white now it's the oppression of they own people.