Nelson Mandela at 90 - Soweto and South Africa - Hubertus Hoffmann on a Tour of Africa's Values and Chances
It is birthday party season in South Africa for "Madiba", as Nelson Mandela is called at home. This genuine Freedom Fighter against Apartheid - who was imprisoned for 27 years, from 1963 to 1990, in harsh conditions on Robben Island, who was decorated with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, became the first black President from 1994 to 1999 and who since then has served as the Moral Colossus of Africa - should remind us all of the power of will and the energies of progress and moral values. Exactly this Africa is in large part missing now for progress. Africa needs a cry for social justice, freedom and many more leaders who do not take their population hostage to their madness and power plays, but who strive to create positive change for all as Mandela has.
Mandela showed, as Oprah Winfrey put it, how one person can change the world with love, compassion and courage.
He dedicated his life for democracy and its principles of freedom, non-racism and the dignity of mankind.
He never showed bitterness about his decades in prison or the white rulers.
He never gave in to the temptation of power, as Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe.
South Africa á la Nelson Mandela is the main promoter of the dream of freedom and a better life for all in Africa. A diverse country with 45 million people (79% black, 9.6% white, 8.9% coloured, 2.5 % Indian/Asian) South Africa recognizes eleven official languages with English as the primary language of government and media.
The legacy of Nelson Mandela is well documented in quotes like this: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities."
He shares the deep experience that only a fair and equal society can bring peace and that dictators - like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe - are the main obstacles to human progress.
In an address to the Organization of African Unity in 1998 he said: "We cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the Continent the right and duty to intervene when, behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny."
Mandela is demanding an African rebirth and African renaissance to decide on Africa's own future and freedom, a new African era characterized by democracy, sustainable economic development and a reawakening of the continent's rich cultural values and heritage. All of us in the Western world should support this demand for progress.
South Africa presented the world in 1996 with a new model for national reconciliation by establishing the Truth & Reconciliations Commission (TRC) under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in order to investigate and provide a complete picture of the nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights. This model has since then been copied in more than 20 other states with violent pasts and has become one of the best practices for national politicians in the World Security Network Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect policy toolbox (see www.codesoftolerance.com).
The Western and global media mainly focus on wars and AIDS in their reporting on Africa. Is this enough? Does this give us a clear picture of Africa's reality and future?
The image of Africa held by non-Africans is extremely negative. With it, we stand to miss Africa's reality and progress.
We talk about a lost continent, which blinds us to seeing elements of progress and hope.
Neither the United States nor the European Union have a clear Africa strategy.
We have all lost Africa from our mind set and political agenda.
But we should start now to re-discover Africa as a vital strategic and economic region in world affairs. Why?
Africa is us; we are a part of it. We all are Africans. This continent was the birthplace of human life, the source of our human DNA. Everything started five million years ago in a tropical paradise where more species of plants, animals and human beings lived than anywhere else. After the ice age which covered most of Europe, Homo sapiens started to develop and only 50,000 years ago did these African Adams and Eves conquer Europe, Asia, America, and the world. We do not only have 99.4 percent identical genes with the Chimpanzees but also the same DNA roots with each other, stemming from Africa. This continent is humanity's cradle.
Africa cannot be ignored as it is huge - with a population of 900 million, among them 160 million in the North along the Mediterranean and 150 million in the state of Nigeria alone.
Millions of immigrants push from desolate villages to the hope of Europe via the Mediterranean. Why not focus on more development there like French President Sarkozy is now trying to achieve through his Mediterranean EU initiative? More failing African states would increase the push to Europe and in the end cost more than help at the roots of the problem.
Africa counts one third of the inhabited land mass on earth and has many valuable natural resources - why should we leave it to the Chinese?
Africa is also a huge market which is just beginning to grow. Emerging economies like Egypt, Botswana, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa are now growing rapidly, and starting to see local firms rise on the international scene.
Africa inherited many of its inner problems because the colonial powers drew the borders of their artificial states to their needs and not the needs of the different tribes. The Europeans therefore still have a very particular historical responsibility for this continent.
Africa is another important test case of whether our model of an open democracy or the counter-model of a centralized autocracy will prevail. In 2008, democracy seems to be on the rise in Africa - with 23 electoral democracies according to Freedom House - yet the political backwardness of countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Chad, and the post-election violence earlier this year in Kenya, remind us that this trend is not universal and is often quite fragile.
Africa is characterized - with the partial exception of South Africa - by a lack of infrastructure, underdeveloped agriculture, an ill-educated workforce and mass unemployment.
The development aid of the West has sought to counter this, but has often been wasted and has mainly failed to provide sustainability for self-development. Too much of it has been spent on the salaries of Western experts, funneled into a myriad of half-hearted, piecemeal plans, diverted to corrupt leaders, or given in the form of massive loans to irresponsible governments - burdening current generations with debt. Africa will only have a chance to prosper if a radically departure is made from ill-planned Western gifts as well as from internal wealth theft in politics called corruption.
Africa needs now a new elite in politics, business and culture to take over more responsibilities for their still young countries and old tribes, and not merely to enjoy the honey of power for the inner circle of their own family. This new elite - which should be supported by a new African Elite Network - can heal the African countries from inside and lead the mass of people - like Nelson Mandela did - into a better future (see Fritz Kraemer On Excellence in http://www.worldsecuritynetwork.com/fritzkraemer/).
Needed now is a new African enlightenment - like hundreds of years ago in Europe - and an emancipation of the academics, the businessmen and the middle class to take over duties for their home state and the welfare of the people. This needs to be combined with an isolation of totalitarian elements and the un-social diversion of African wealth.
Africa, do not wait for help from the West, but emancipate yourself!
Africa needs a second period of de-colonialization, this time from the first wave of African despots and corruption. To understand this mechanism, one should read the famous novel "Animal Farm" by George Orwell to understand this sad story of suppressed pigs becoming suppressing farmers, themselves.
Africa must be emancipated from within to flourish in peace.
A visit to Soweto near Johannesburg makes the progress and needs clear. The history of Soweto is the history of South Africa, as prominent ANC leader Walter Sislu wrote. It is a microcosm.
In the year 1931 the settlement of Orlando was built, out of which the South Western Townships (Soweto) developed. The houses were simple, but markedly better than the Slums of Johannesburg. In the course of the Second World War, in which 150,000 white South Africans fought for the British and during which industrial production boomed, the black population rose from 60,000 (1900) to over 500,000. The need for housing increased and ever more people built simple shacks to live in. Soweto grew and grew.
Today the city can count 3.5 million people from nine different ethnic groups on 125 km2, among them 35 millionaires who live in fancy villages at the beginning of the township or in the small areas nicknamed the Beverly Hills of Soweto. The dream of the people of Soweto is to own a BMW (there is a BMW factory in South Africa). The young boys and men love soccer. Soweto has 120 soccer fields and three stadiums, including the Orlando stadium with 40,000 seats and private suites, which is under construction now and will host training for the 2010 World Cup Soccer Championship. But over 30 percent of Soweto's residents are unemployed and the average family has four children.
The people appreciate it when foreigners visit them as it shows their interest in their history and life. Impressive to see is the Vilakazi area in Orlando West with the houses of two Nobel Peace Prize winners: that of Nelson Mandela - an old red brick house, now the Manela Family Museum at 8115 Ngkane Street - and of Bishop Desmond Tutu, who has built a modern house which he seldom uses. Or you can see the house of Winnie Mandela who actually still lives there as she did during the imprisonment of her former husband, the pillar of the struggle versus Apartheid. And you may see the art painted cooling towers of the Orlando power plants, which represent the positive artistic impulses of Africa in Soweto.
What will be the future after Nelson Mandela for South Africa?
Thabo Mbeki, his successor as President in 1999, led the country more like a bureaucrat than a wise statesman. He lost contact to the mass of people who still demand a better life under black rule.
He was defeated last year as ANC Party President by his bitter rival Jacob Zuma, who is favoured to take over as President after elections next year. Zuma has the power of a nuclear plant but the fuses of a cow's stable. He is a populist with a big heart and emotions, a Tribune of the people, but in the past has slipped from one faux pas and scandal to the next.
We should give Zuma a chance. Contrary to Mbeki he has openly criticised Mugabe's terror regime and stands for democratic values, as well. He should turn the African Union (AU) from an ineffective mixture of too many despots and too few democrats into a more effective and progressive organization promoting the ideas of Nelson Mandela.
Let's discover and support Africa now!