Nelson Mandela fought hard against those who portrayed him as a “better black”‚ President Jacob Zuma told ANC supporters in northern KwaZulu-Natal last night.
Zuma – who was speaking at a Nelson Mandela Day lecture in Empangeni – said there were constant attempts to put Madiba on a pedestal and make him seem better than other black people and his ANC comrades.
“He resisted the racist manoeuvre that sought to portray him as a better black and elevate him above his own movement. He insisted at all times that he was a subject of a recognised broader leadership of the ANC‚” he said.
“They wanted to separate Madiba so that he appeared different from his own people and make his own legacy‚ saying this ANC is not Madiba’s. They loved Madiba but not his organisation. But Madiba loved his organisation and‚ if you knew that‚ you would not say that you loved Madiba but not his organistion‚” said Zuma.
The president‚ buoyed by being in his home Musa Dladla region‚ told party supporters to understand Mandela’s legacy‚ but also to be wary of those who want to illegitimately claim that legacy for themselves. He said the late statesman’s legacy was the most contested and misinterpreted of any leader.
Speaking at the Empangeni Civic Centre‚ he said: “We must remember him and remember that he fought for an ideal he was prepared to die for. If we debate and talk about Madiba‚ we must always engage and bear in mind that his legacy is one of the most contested today. Even some racist and most backward and reactionary formations claim to represent Madiba’s ideals‚” he said in an apparent reference to the DA.
Zuma said many were hypocritical when assessing the iconic leader.
“Some of whom will‚ true to their nature‚ showing disregard of what he stood for‚ claim to love him. When he was still alive he was jailed and stayed 27 years [behind bars]‚ they said he was a terrorist. He was never admired. But after he had come out [of prison] they said nobody was like him‚ that he was a man among men‚ [and] it’s the likes of Zuma who never emulated him‚” said Zuma.
The president also praised Mandela’s youth league as being robust‚ militant and daring – even as they worked within the collective movement.
“They were a special generation. Madiba himself was a special man. While he was fully conscious of his stature in the ANC and in society‚ he remained humble and part of a collective‚” said Zuma.