Junior Mandela?


BIRD’S EYE: A view of Nelson Mandela’s memorial from the top tier of FNB stadium where this reporter met Junior. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Nelson Mandela had a genuine, well-documented soft-spot for young children. In them, he saw an innocence untainted by the wrongs of the adult world, as well hope for the future of our country. On Tuesday, one young boy named Junior attended his memorial, while this older boy watched on.

It all started with a pen that slid down between the sodden aisles of orange flip-seats. The finale: a makeshift safety belt fashioned from an ANC scarf, at about the same time Brazilian president Dilma Russeff took to the podium and the PA system really went south …

Seated on the uppermost tier of FNB stadium, sheltered from the pouring rain by the cavernous mouth of the concrete calabash, little Junior’s exuberance mirrored that of the small battalion of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), on the opposite end of the stadium.

Both could not be contained, but only the latter irked MC Cyril Ramaphosa to the point of clenched-teeth madness.

Junior’s mother, fearing her son would skip over the ledge, and heading paternal anxieties of a fellow mourner that young Junior would “follow Mandela to the grave”, promptly restrained her son by using her black, green and gold scarf to bind him to the orange chair.

Problem solved.

When a different section of the crowd, this time clad in South African Defense Force (SANDF) fatigues, breached acceptable levels of raucousness by chanting “siyaya ngomkhonto wesizwe (we go forth with the spear of the nation)”, Junior took Ramaphosa’s silence as invitation.

He co-opted his sister into finger-counting the soldiers, as if breathing in the sight of bravery.  Consequently, he loosened the scarf around his torso and flung it over his head in a Rambo-style bandana.

There was plenty of seeming non-events around the stadium for the young boy, barely over seven years in age, to feed his wonder. Cameras with jumbo-size lenses led to hand-clapping and earnest discussions with his mother, as well as whispers to his elder sister.

While protocol was being implored on stage, Junior wasted none of his time on formalities.

When “Mandela yoh, my president” rang out during president Hifikepunye Pohamba’s address, Juniour joined in until a flurry of umbrella activity below proved a fatal distraction.

Shortly after, Junior offered me his juice while Ramaphosa again pleaded for discipline. Had Ramaphosa’s finger-wagging inadvertently led to this act of kindness? Or was this instinctual defiance?

Only Junior knows.

A closed-eye game. Junior is inventor and sole participant, spinning round and resting a tiny index finger on a random stranger.

“Hayi maan basemsebenzini (Stop that they’re working ),” scolds his mother.

Junior, in my direction, retorts: “Kamampela usemsebenzini (Really you’re working)?”

The answer leads to another game. Junior points out to his mother everyone he spots doing the frenetic notepad scribble, asking: “Mama, naloya? Bheka mama, naloya. Naloya?” (Mom, him too? Look mom, him too? Him too?)

However, and unfortunately, this eye for obscure detail is not destined for a newsroom and carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Ngifuna ukhuba yipoyisa ngibambe abotsotsi (I want to be a policeman and catch bad guys),” Junior says.

The pen he rescued from a shallow puddle symbolised nothing. Except, perhaps, plain simple good will, and a life lived in wonder of the world around him.

Junior. Mandela. Junior Mandela? One can only hope.


WitsVuvuzela. South Africans drown Mandela sorrows in boos. December 10, 2013

Mandela memorial: We were not dishonouring him, we were honouring him

HONOUR HIM WITH A SONG: Young people refused to stop singing at Nelson Mandela's memorial service because they wanted to honour Mandela.

HONOUR HIM WITH A SONG: Young people refused to stop singing at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service because they wanted to honour Mandela.

Singing throughout the entire Nelson Mandela memorial service, even during the speeches of prominent guest speakers, was a way of of showing respect to and honouring Mandela.

“We wanted to express ourselves in a respectful way. That’s how it is here in South Africa,”  said Siyabulela Phila who was one of the lead singers. Phila said that Mandela was a comrade and whenever it was a comrade’s memorial service, “something like this happened”.

Dorah Nhlapo who was also among the singers said, “Mandela comes from mzabalazo [the struggle]. It was our way of showing him respect.”

Nhlapo said their singing was not an indication of their dissatisfaction with anyone, “as long as it is Nelson Mandela’s memorial, we will keep our dissatisfaction to ourselves.”

Pila said what they didn’t like was “the other heads of states were talking Chinese and we could not hear them. The sound was very poor. We could hear the president talking but we could not hear the translator.”

Stephanie Nunes who was at the memorial said the singing did not bother her, “I’m used to it. It’s my country.”

According to Phila, whenever the sound quality was bad or and “the thing of not always showing who is talking” they sang even more. He said they were unable to hear most of the speakers properly, so they sang: “We only heard Barack Obama, of which it was a great speech.”

Cyril Ramaphosa attempted to get the enthusiastic singers to quieter down but had very little success. There were even media reports  saying policemen had been called to bring order to the situation. In the end it was Desmond Tutu who managed to get the relentless singers to keep quiet: “I want to remind you that we got to be at this point because we were disciplined. Now I want to show the world, which has come out here to celebrate the life of an extraordinary icon, we want to say thank you to that world but you must show that world that we are disciplined. So I want to hear a pin drop.”

UPDATED WITH GALLERY: Activists thrown out of Ramaphosa’s NDP lecture

TEMPERS flared as activists and mine workers were thrown out of a lecture by African National Congress ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Wits Great Hall last night.

The activists and mine workers from the Marikana support campaign were disappointed that Ramaphosa did not address the Marikana massacre of 34 miners in his lecture. Last year, police shot and killed the mine workers in the North West province in an ongoing labour dispute.

Instead Ramaphosa spoke about the National Development Plan (NDP) which was adopted as a policy by government.

Outraged activists and mine workers 

The Marikana support campaign activists expressed their outrage at Ramaphosa for not talking about the government’s refusal to pay for legal representation of the mine workers at the official commission of inquiry.

Alfred Moyo, one of the activists, accused Ramaphosa of lying to people in his lecture.

“There is no there is no community participation in the NDP. He does not address anything about Marikana and miners’ challenges. They [government] have blood on their hands. We have South Africans living in informal settlements, we have no services.This talk is busy is total rubbish. He is here to lie to people,” Moyo told Wits Vuvuzela.

Claire Ceruti, activist with the Democratic Left Front was thrown out of the lecture for telling Ramaphosa that he has blood on his hands. Ceruti had previously protested against Trevor Manuel at the Ruth First Memorial Lecture in the same venue.

Ceruti said Ramaphosa tried to make himself look good by averting questions about Marikana, as she was expecting him to take responsibility.

“It’s disgusting that he sits there as someone who makes profits. These are the people who gave the go ahead for the trigger at the Marikana massacre. He defended the police for their actions, by sending emails to the police commissioner,” Ceruti said.


Marikana commission of inquiry 

Ramaphosa, speaking about the commission of inquiry said the story of Marikana still needs to be told and addressed fully.

“Many people feel the pain for Marikana. It’s deeply regretted,” he told the audience which were not convinced.

Ramaphosa was boo’ed throughout his speech by the activists. They also carried posters which read: “Don’t let the politicians get away with murder, Marikana support campaign.”

In response to the posters Ramaphosa said people with papers cannot distract those without papers. We must respect each other’s right to speak.”


Zooming in on the NDP

On the NDP Ramaphosa noted that South Africa’s economy does not serve the interest of people as it creates few jobs, skills levels are poor in the country and that inequality plagues society.

“The NDP serves as a vision to overcome key challenges; inequality which we have inherited, poverty and unemployment which also has roots in our past. The NDP is a plan that can deliver faster economic growth and inclusive growth. Ills are plentiful, there are many problems that beset the nation. The NDP provides pragmatic plan to transform the economy”.

The contentious plan has been rejected by trade unions, which claim the policy will not solve the country’s socio-economic issues.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes.”[/pullquote]

Ramaphosa said he welcomed debate around the NDP.

He added: “We are a nation of people who love to talk, we are noisy and robust, that is good. We would love to get full agreement, especially in our country. Those views need to be given a platform to be articulated. “There has been resistance to the NDP, which needs to be debated. Those who are criticising the plan need to engage with the plan. We all want what is best for our people and the country.”

Some members of the audience scoffed at his assertion that socio-economic change has occurred.

Socio-economic change?

Ramaphosa’s assertion that wages have increased since 1994 and that workers have won the right to strike did not bode well with mine workers in attendance.

A Lonmin Platinum miner who shot by police during wage disputes said Ramaphosa’s lecture was a campaign strategy for next year’s national elections. He refused to be named.

“Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes. There is no promises and change for poor people. He just bought a buffalo [which he placed a R20-million bid on and lost], he should have given the money to suffering people,” the mine worker said.

Ramaphosa said the NDP policy is not perfect. He added: “We will continue to engage. Where there are gaps, well work with society to fill the gaps. We need to implement the NDP.”