Madiba brand priceless to SA

18 July 2011 - 02:30 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Former president Nelson Mandela's life is profiled tonight on DStv's History Channel Picture: DEBBIE YAZBEK
Former president Nelson Mandela's life is profiled tonight on DStv's History Channel Picture: DEBBIE YAZBEK

It is impossible to put a monetary value on the brand that is Nelson Mandela.

Experts say that what the icon has done for South Africa in terms of investment, politics, tourism and goodwill is invaluable.

Said marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk: "He is the best public relations officer that this country has ever had and will ever have. It is very difficult to find the right kind of superlatives to talk about the contribution that Nelson Mandela has made to this country."

An example of the power the 93-year-old former president wields was seen when South Africa was in the running to host the Fifa World Cup. Brand expert Jeremy Sampson believes that Mandela sealed the deal.

"His intervention, I think, from what I've heard, was decisive in swinging it South Africa's way," said Sampson.

Some would even argue that Mandela's support of the tournament benefited Fifa tremendously.

Despite crime and corruption, international companies are still keen to invest in South Africa.

African brand expert Thebe Ikalafeng said: "Mandela represents the best of what South Africa can be and what we are capable of.

"From an investment perspective, he represents stability. When an investor wants to put money into any country he wants to know the money is going to be safe, protected and that it is able to grow ... What the Mandela brand says to the rest of the world is that your investment will be safe."

As for tourism, Ikalafeng said hordes of foreigners flock to the country simply to walk in Mandela's footsteps - to visit Robben Island and his home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto.

Mandela has said that Mandela Day is not a public holiday, but a day when one should give time to help others. His charity initiatives such as the 46664 movement highlight issues of national importance such as HIV/Aids, poverty and education.

"In the corporate world, there are many stories of Mandela - he would, for example, call [a company CEO] and say: 'I would like you to build a school.' He would almost give a benevolent instruction," Ikalafeng said. "He was the catalyst for doing good.

"When someone is as selfless as he has been, to sacrifice one's life the way he has, it points to the potential all human beings have."

Of his value to South African politics, University of the Western Cape political analyst Keith Gottschalk said he brought stability. "Mandela is either canonised as a saint of forgiveness or he is demonised as a sellout of working- class or black interests. But the reality is neither," he said.

Gottschalk said that the day the ANC came to power in 1994, "there was a very realistic possibility of attempted coup or a counter revolution", but Mandela's "theatrical gestures" and symbols of reconciliation, including the new flag, the anthem with its four languages, and visiting Orania and Betsie Verwoerd, wife of apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd, were of enormous significance.

More than a decade later, Sampson said, we are living in a time when the world is short of good news, and short of people we can respect, but Mandela has filled that vacuum.

"From time to time, giants emerge and we can go through quiet periods. He is one of those giants."