Africa,  Southern Africa

A proud rebelliousness and a stubborn sense of fairness

In his powerful speech at Nelson Mandela’s memorial rally in Johannesburg, President Obama referred to Mandela’s “proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” which it is said he inherited from his father.

It is quite interesting to see then that this father of his nation has passed on the quality to the people of South Africa. ANC deputy leader, Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to the crowd to show ‘discipline’ after they – a chorus of thousands – continuously and loudly booed every time an image of President Jacob Zuma appeared on the large monitor screens around the FNB stadium. It was to no avail. South Africans, it seems, are a boisterous people and share little with the armies of drones who attended similar ceremonies for the late North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il.

South Africans are angry after a series of scandals involving President Zuma, but the final straw was his use of public money to construct a personal presidential palace costing over R200 million ($20 million) calling it a “security upgrade” – almost ten times what was spent on Nelson Mandela’s own residence. In addition to these costs, another R290 million has been spent on constructing a freeway road to connect the residence to the city.

This is against a background of grinding poverty and shanty towns in which millions of South Africans still live.

Ahead of President Zuma’s speech, Mr Ramaphosa has appealed for “co-operation” from the crowd. He’s an optimist.