Young South Africans Will Honor Mandela's Legacy And Continue The Struggle

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[Black Star Editorial]

Part of the concern about freedom fighter Nelson Mandela's delicate condition is that many people allover the world wonder what will happen next in South Africa.

Even president Jacob Zuma seemed to be in a panic; recently he posed for a very distasteful photo-op with a clearly ailing Mandela. As if he can't run the show without Papa Mandela in the background.

Nelson Mandela dedicated all his adult life to the war against Apartheid. He fought the racial, economic and social injustice imposed by the regime. As the whole world knows he spent 27 years in prison. Many of us who are adults today, in one form, shape or the other, contributed to the fight against Apartheid either with protest marches or divestment campaigns.

Some people once believed Apartheid wouldn't end in what was then Rhodesia let alone in South Africa.

Formal Apartheid is now gone. Yet many of the injustices that formed the pillar of Apartheid remain: the wealth and land-ownership inequity favoring the White population; the abysmal healthcare, housing and educational facilities for the Black population; and, the high unemployment rates.

Many people are concerned that without the calming presence of Madiba, the center may not hold in South Africa. That the economic and social inequities will manifest hrough social upheaval. That the crop of leaders on the scene don't have the moral stature of Nelson Mandela. That they lack his calm, cool and unparalleled intellect; the kind he demonstrated on numerous occasions, as was the case during his Harlem Town Hall meeting appearance in 1990.

Yes, leaders like President Zuma and others are several boulevards away from any comparison with Mandela.

But South Africa seems to have consolidated its democratic credentials. Mandela lived a long life; watching over the transformation.

President Thabo Mbeki relinquished power to Zuma; when his term is up, he too will move on. Another president will take over.

Mandela was so popular that he could have insisted on staying president for as long as he wanted.  Unlike many African presidents Mandela wanted to set a precedent. He wanted all South Africans and the world to know that it wasn't about him. That the struggle for justice had been for the people of South Africa, for Africa, and for oppressed and marginalized people everywhere.

So which South African would dare try to destroy the constitution?

In fact, it's much more likely that today's freedom fighters in South Africa will use the constitution, and the rights guaranteed in that document, to wage their fight.

A remarkable film worth seeing is "Dear Mandela," about the successful campaign by South Africans living in shacks to fight off the ANC government's attempt to evict them from their homes.

The film shows how low income Africans read the constitution carefully, understood the rights enshrined against unlawful evictions, and sued the government. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled against the ANC government.

The film shows that new, young, and dedicated leaders have already emerged in South Africa. These young women and men must now turn their focus on the bigger battles: for jobs; for quality education; for quality healthcare; and, for land redistribution.

These are the children of Mandela, Steven Biko, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sithulu, Winnie Mandela, and the many other heroes of South Africa's liberation.

They will carry the torch forward.



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