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Mandela’s First Anniversary of his Death

This morning I woke and when I checked the headline news on my cellphone I saw this link (below) of Johnny Clegg’s tribute to Mandela. He has republished the song he wrote for Madiba in 1987, when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and his picture was banned from publication in SA (since 1964). Listening to the song this morning was as emotional for my wife and I as it was when we first heard (and saw) him perform it in 1987 at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, under the State of Emergency of the Apartheid regime.

At that time we took our little reconciliation group called “Johweto” (a symbolic joining and reconciling of Johannesburg and Soweto), of black and white South Africans, to listen to Johnny Clegg and Savuka (his band). It was an incredibly powerful experience, climaxing in the first performance of Asimbonanga. I remember: we stood as he sang and tears streamed down our faces in hope of Mandela’s release, in hope of a changed South Africa, in hope of freedom, healing, reconciliation and justice. Listening to the song again this morning, with the next generation (teenage girls) singing with Clegg, was equally emotional and brought back a flood of memories. And also pain.

Johnny’s message in the republished song is clear and simple: the work of Mandela, of healing, of justice and reconciliation, of rebuilding a nation of peace and shared resources, with genuine dignity for all, is still to be done. And the next generation has to pick it up and take it further.

The tragedy is that the wounds of our nation have been healed superficially (despite the good work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), that by all accounts racism across all ‘colour groups’ is on the rise, and that we seem to be forgetting our history, both the true darkness of Apartheid and the miraculous change in our nation by God’s grace and mercy. And of course, not to mention the ANC under Jacob Zuma, which has not only betrayed, but flaunted the legacy of Mandela in their behavioural practices while paying lip service to it’s lofty values. The (evil) spirit of entitlement and greed reigns: “It’s our time to eat” (in the words of the courageous Kenyan whistle blower, The ANC has become corrupt from the top down: arrogant, unaccountable and self-protecting – especially of Zuma and his corrupt appointees who protect him. It’s reaching dangerous levels of a ‘tipping point’ of a downward spiral as has happened with other nations north of our border. I know that this is incredibly emotive but look at the nations north of our border and see what naked greed and corruption (‘doing whatever it takes to stay in power for self enrichment’) does t0 a nation…

Mandela stood for good, competent, clean governance, for personal integrity, social justice, racial reconciliation, and dignity for all. We need to stand up and be counted by shouting from the roof tops any and every corruption in government, civil service, business and society, wherever we find it, and call it for what it is: NATIONAL DESTRUCTION. We need to pray for God to expose evil and defeat it, for God to raise up principled competent leaders to senior positions of authority – honest leaders whose characters are not only incorruptible, but who drive back the growing darkness covering our land. We need to cross all barriers in our society to love, understand, heal and restore one another, to share resources and renew human dignity.

Having said all this, Mandela was not perfect, and he himself said so! We must avoid any and every form of potential Mandela worship. Some Christians get nervous when we remember Madiba and his legacy in the above manner – they think I’m bordering on idolatry. Not true at all… we can and should and must honour those people and leaders in our lives and nation who (God has used to) make a decisive difference for good. And hopefully further the good in their legacy as we need to do in South Africa regarding what Mandela stood for – so aptly presented in Clegg’s song and message.

And lastly, by “healing our wound lightly” (not truly repenting from Apartheid, by us whites being in denial, not facing the depths of its evil, not transforming our own hearts and minds from its conditioning) we face growing racism across the board. Reconciliation and healing is still a major challenge in our nation. My book Doing Reconciliation tells the story of Johweto from 1984-1996, and gives a Biblical theology and practice of reconciliation and justice in church and society. I believe this (the issue and the book) is possibly more relevant than ever before in our nation. For those who may want to read the book, email me direct via this website and I will be happy to give it to you at cost (ZAR 40.00), plus the package and postal cost which I will g(unfortunately it’s not in Kindle format). I apologise for using the end of this tribute to Mandela to offer my book, but I’m honestly wanting to ‘get the word out’ about reconciliation and healing!


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