The South African Series

Open Letter to Nelson Mandela

*Disclaimer: One of the possible side effects of meningitis is temporary insanity. And yes, I am aware that Nelson Mandela cannot read this letter on the Internet. Unless… Wait! Is there Internet in the afterlife? I certainly hope so. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Hulu in Heaven?


Dear Nelson Mandela,

Molo! I trust the ancestors and the Lord of Hosts have greeted you all properly by now? Good, good. I remember when I heard the news of your passing, and how I felt. It was light off in Adenta, so I didn’t get the full pundit/commentary/analysis of your passing from TV news. All I got was a crude Facebook announcement that “Madiba has died!” What was that? I must confess, I was relieved when I heard the news. You had been sick a long time, and I don’t like it when people suffer for prolonged periods of time. After all, what else was there for you to do on this earth, after all the years of hard work? I hope it was peaceful and that you are resting comfortably on a cloud near you.

Do you remember earlier this year – just before your birthday – when the world was “praying for Madiba”? We were all encouraged to submit supplications to the Most High for your prolonged life. Your 95th birthday came and went and within a week there were no more “pray for Madiba” hashtags on Twitter. You should have seen how they spoiled your name.




Ah! I wanted to scream. What’s all this? Just say #NelsonMandela and be free!

I must apologize to you, Nelson. I have never written to you before, and I know that that is a great shame. A girl my age should have written to at least one of the heroes of her life time at least once, but I never have. I suppose I still have time to pen a greeting to Mugabe in the coming days. I swear that man will never die. And you know what else is strange? The older he gets, the less villainous he appears in my eyes! Imagine that. Robert Mugabe may have been right all along. Considering Bill O’Reilly’s recent tirade on Fox News proclaiming that YOU, Nelson were “A great man…but [he] was a Communist!”, and that American democracy was no real friend to Black Africa for centuries, I understand old Bob a bit better.

danny gloverIs it true what they say, Nelson? (You don’t mind if I call you by your first name, do you? You see, I never knew you as ‘Madiba’ until that movie Invictus came out. And prior to that, I thought you and Danny Glover were the same person.) Is it true that God downloads your transformed spirit with all the mysteries of the universe, unlocks them and instantly releases full wisdom and understanding? If so, there is something I’d like you to do for me, although I know you probably won’t.

Shogun_(TV)There was once a TV miniseries called Shogun that was released while you were still imprisoned. You would not have seen it. Anyway, in one of the opening scenes, the European explorers step off of their vessel and were met by the Japanese army. They were ordered to lay on the ground prostrate before the general. They complied. The Japanese general steps over to the captain of the ship, hovers above him, and promptly proceeds to piss on his head, much to the captain’s ire and dismay. Mr. Mandela, would you kindly ask God for a hall pass into Hell and piss on Hendrick Verwoerd’s head, Shogun style?

I know it’s a long shot, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You’re so down with forgiveness and reconciliation and all. No? Fine then.

Ei. Did you see the antics surrounding your funeral? My word. Over all, it was well organized and nicely done. There was an incident involving Mr. Obama and a cell phone camera that didn’t go over too well. That was contrived controversy, as it turns out. What was NOT contrived was that dolt they had standing behind 80% of the world’s leaders doing fake sign language. Eruade Yesu! I know you saw it. He said he was suffering from schizophrenia, and that’s what made his hands go crazy. I would have rather he told a better lie and said he was signing in Xhosa.

The real reason I’m writing to you is because I’m very upset about one thing in particular, now that you’ve passed. And that thing is the pervasive perception of your personhood. They are doing it again, Nelson, and it is vexing me. They are turning you into a Messiah.

They did the same thing to MLK, you know? Bundled the entire Civil Rights era into one man and buried it with him. It’s become all very mechanized now, this Black Messiah Manufacturing process. That way, they can neatly bring up the struggle on an appropriate/convenient day for celebration. Second Monday in January usually works well for the American government. Civil Rights gets a bank holiday and we are all supposed to eat our government rationed cheese and chicken. Now they are doing the same thing with the apartheid struggle. Western media has dubbed you “The Father of Freedom” or some such nonsense, and now they want to bury the struggle and all the impending issues with your body on a grassy hill in the Eastern Cape. Not so, I say!

Have you ever considered how liberation movements are treated in the West? The French Revolution, as was the American Revolution, was borne of the people.  There is no one individual that has been afforded the crown of singlehandedly bringing about the end of tyrannical bourgeois or colonial rule. It was an effort carried out by the masses, and we have all grown up understanding that. THAT idea unites the masses, and births the belief that change is affected as a collective. But with BLACK liberation and struggle, they want us to believe that we must have ONE leader, ONE head… and when those heroes emerge, our entire struggle must be bound up in their personhood. What happens then when they die?

Yeah. I know. You guessed it.

You as well as I know that YOU alone did not end apartheid in South Africa, but that is what they are selling us. The struggle against White minority rule began as far back as the Anglo-Zulu war. It has been a continuous fight, and you were a cog in the wheel of that machine, not the machine itself. This is what they are doing, Nelson! They have turned you into a tank!

Hei! Now come and see. They are now having stupid debates about “Who was Africa’s greatest liberator: Kwame Nkrumah or Nelson Mandela?” What kind of divisive nonsense is that? As I understand, President Nkrumah wasn’t too keen on the ANC. He considered your organization too “bourgeois”. They say he was more in league with the Pan African Congress , because PAC supported armed resistance. In short, he said you talked too much, your clothes were too nice and you were ineffective.  However I’m certain he changed his tune when you were caught returning into the country carrying weapons of mass destruction in the late 60’s. Perhaps he’d died by then, so maybe not. I’m a little fuzzy on the dates.

I’ve said a lot, and I still have so much more to say. However, my husband has accused me of being pedantic at times, so I don’t want to overburden you with my plenty thoughts. In closing, my hope is that the media will do better honor to you memory by encouraging us to read about and remember the masses who were involved in the liberation movement in South Africa:

The 67 children shot in Sharpesville.

Ahmed Kathrada.

Miriam Makeba.

Walter Sisulu.

Steve Biko.

Oliver Tambo.

Even your own once beloved Winnie.

Don’t let them turn the struggle against injustice into the life of one man, Nelson! I beg, tell God for me.


With respect,