MADIBA, Celebrity Brand

When I first heard about Winnie Madikizela- Mandela’s alleged blast of Madiba I was shocked but not surprised. More so because some of the things she supposedly said are things that I have heard around the lunch tables or Sunday get-togethers with my friends yet nobody has said them in a public forum. 

There seems to be this unwritten rule in Africa that you don’t speak ill of your fellow African. We know the problems are there, we know we are not happy about certain structures of our leadership, we know that certain people we hold at high regard have erred; BUT even with all this we still look the other way. 

Why? Because for an African “child” to question the motives of his elders (be they natural or hierarchical) is to shun his people.

The whole issue of commercialization of Nelson Mandela is nothing new. The murmurs about this issue have been going on for quite some time now and if this report of Winnie Madikizela's interview is finally putting a spotlight on it then I say; It’s about time. 

Post 1999 after Madiba left the presidential office his name became available to the highest bidder. At first of course, to a nobody like myself, it appeared that most of this hoohah surrounding the old man’s name was actually for a good course benefiting thousands of kids and raising the profile our infant democratic nation. 

No doubt the Madiba magic has done wonders for this nation and the Madiba brand pulls a lot of attention worldwide. Nelson Mandela is arguably biggest celebrity in Africa and has (as the article claims Winnie puts it) become a "corporate foundation"

Madiba with fowl-mouth celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey
Celebrity, a title once reserved for movie stars and musician is now a term that is used in the same sentence with our leaders. Politicians who are entrusted with leading our nations are now clamoring the front pages of tabloids magazines with Reality Tv stars. 

Movie stars like Brad and Angelinah have more influence in our governments than people who put their lives on the line to ensure that our people enjoy the civil liberties of our so called democratic nations. Namibian government pulled out all the stops when Brangelinah wanted to have their child delivered in their country. What does this say about our governments? 

Our leaders live like rockstars, hell they even have rockstars and talkshow hosts as friends; they entertain them, in some sad cases with our national resources all in the name of publicity for our countries. What has become of our continent? 

Are we so desperate for acceptance as a continent that we are now for sale? this is why the likes of Lance Armstrong think just because they are celebrities coming to Africa they are exempt from the rules .

Madiba With Rapper 50Cent
Politics is about money, I get that. Election campaigns and the running of an effective government require money, that’s the reality of the times we live in. However when does the line between business and governance get blurred? 

When legacy, heritage and commercial gain start sharing a bed then the fundamental aim of good governance will inevitably take a back seat and the interest of those who put their money in will take precedence while the needs of the people wither in the dust behind them. 

The legacy of Madiba is slowly being eroded by the overexposure brought on by commercialization of his name. The legacy of the Anc – the liberator is now being clouded by the flashing lights of our paparazzi obsessed society. 

The name Mandela is now more synonymous with the likes Oprah and Naomi Campbell than it is with Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo. As the fathers of our struggle and freedom all leave this world do we really want our new generations to remember them with pictures of Michael Jackson or 50cent? 

with supermodel Naomi Campbell

Shirley Chisolm once said "When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses." These earnest words could really help those around Madiba heed the warning signs of the degradation on this honorable man’s legacy. 

It’s worrying when people like Jabu Khanyile are rumoured to have been denied the opportunity to see Madiba on their death bed and yet foreign celebrities dine with him just because they have a blockbuster movie. 

 If Madiba is retired (deservedly so given his age) why give preferential access to him to western celebrities? Shouldn’t he just enjoy his retirement in peace and not be used as a marketing tool? What kind of message is this blatant bias sending to South Africans whether this celebrities are bringing money to his foundation or not? 

Mdiba with Pop Star Michael Jackson
I don’t agree with some of the views allegedly expressed by Winnie in that article. One of them being that Nelson Mandela let down black South Africans. The ANC is an organization of collective minds (atleast it used to be) and all the decisions that were made regarding a way forward post ’94 were made by the party not Nelson. 

To berate one man for policies and decisions that were made by a collective consensus is unfair. Every revolution needs a hero. A team goes on the field to play but when the team wins the captain gets to hold the trophy on the podium. 

The struggle needed a "Mandela" as does any revolution and that does not mean the sacrifices of others are forgotten. Madiba has always insisted on not taking all the glory for bringing freedom to this nation.

I personally think the biggest gift that Madiba gave this nation was to step down after leading this nation into a democracy. Sadly, many heroes of this continent got their heroic deed tainted by staying in power for too long. 

Absolute power can make even the most honorable of men greedy and turn him into a tyrant. He, with the help of others, led the flock across the river and when it got to the greener pastures on the other side he stepped back. That’s measure of a true leader. Take note Bob!

with movie star, Leonardo DiCaprio and his mom
“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except the memory of the smell of smoke and a presumption that once our eyes watered” – Tom Stoppard

If we are to preserve that, that is to remind us of where we come from, surely we would not want it to be tainted by the greed and frivolity of celebrity-dom. Lest we look back when we don’t have libraries and museums anymore because we have burned them all when we were not happy with our government not keeping it’s promises of service delivery, when there’s no-one alive to tell our kids about Steve Biko or Sharpeville because they're too preoccupied with American Idols and mxit to actually have a conversation with their grandparents… and wish we had preserved the legacies of the great sons and daughters of this continent. 

It would really be sad if our kids were to think Madiba was a rockstar because they saw him on a rerun of Oprah and she keeps on mentioning that he is her friend like John Travolta. OR Steve Biko was a fashion designer because they saw his name in some designer’s T-shirt in store in Campus Square. 

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s alleged comments, though somewhat erroneous, could not have come at a better time. Perhaps now Mzansi can do a bit of introspection and remedy its folly and restore the image of our great legacy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear ye, hear ye! U should submit this write-up to a daily newspaper it's brilliant & thought provoking

Powered by Blogger.