Dec 09, 2013

    Has the torch died with Mandela?

    MRS Adam Bhasikile's day begins at dawn -

    she walks to the valley floor, collecting water for the family to cook, clean and bathe from the Mbashe River. It is an unending ritual that Mr Nelson Mandela's mother, who gave birth to the future president there in 1918, almost certainly performed as well.

    More recently, Mrs Bhasikile passes something else on her walk: A sprawling complex with gleaming porcelain toilets, showers and taps that gush water with a flick of the wrist.

    The complex includes a cavernous meeting hall, a tribal courtroom and a private residence for the village chief - Mr Mandla Mandela, grandson of Mr Mandela.

    But the truck that fills the water tanks at the Great Place, as the hulking set of buildings is known, does not stop at her house.

    "That water is not for us; it is for them," she said with a grunt as she walked up the craggy hillside, 40 litres of water astride each of her three donkeys.

    As for Mr Mandla, she is unimpressed by him, despite his pedigree.

    "He is not like his grandfather," she said.

    The disgruntlement among Mr Mandla's subjects mirrors the disappointment that many South Africans feel about the generations that have succeeded the heroes of this nation's liberation struggle.

    Mr Mandela's death on Thursday in many ways is the end of the line for the cohort of leaders who carried the battle against apartheid from a lonely and seemingly hopeless struggle to an inevitable moral and political victory cheered by much of the world.

    Other lions of the struggle, like Oliver Tambo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Joe Slovo, have been dead for years.

    Perhaps, inevitably, the following generations of leaders have struggled to live up to their legacy. Mr Mandela's successor as president, Mr Thabo Mbeki, was roundly criticised for his resistance to broadly accepted methods of treating and preventing Aids, a stance that added to the nation's death toll from the disease, researchers concluded.

    The current president, Mr Jacob Zuma, has been under a cloud for years, investigated in corruption and rape cases.

    Younger leaders like the firebrand Julius Malema have attracted a following among disgruntled, jobless youth, but his radical views and criticism of older leaders got him expelled from Mr Mandela's party, the African National Congress.

    And the children of some families deeply involved in the struggle against apartheid - like the Mandelas and the Tambos - have largely shied away from politics.

    Mr William Gumede, an analyst who has written extensively about Mr Mandela, said: "In all of the great liberation movements, there is the problem of producing great leaders to take over. But, in this case, there has really been a failure to pass the torch."

    Mr Mandela is often called the father of the new South Africa, and he left behind an impressive legacy, even if the future of his metaphoric child, the Rainbow Nation, remains uncertain.

    But the story of his flesh-and-blood family has been marked by missteps, tragedy and neglect - a legacy of his admitted failings as a husband and father amid the battle against apartheid and his decades of imprisonment.

    In his autobiography, he described the leadership style he had learned from the king of the AbaThembu.

    Mr Mandela wrote: "I always remember the regent's axiom: A leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind."

    But few here see the younger Mandela as following in his grandfather's footsteps.

    Referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name "Madiba", resident Noluzile Gamakhulu said: "I must tell the truth, Madiba brought people together.

    "Mandla is very far from the old man's way of doing things."