Don’t you dare call Madiba a sell-out: Ndaba Mandela

22 May 2018 - 08:28 By Matthew Savides
Ndaba Mandela. File photo.
Ndaba Mandela. File photo.
Image: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Ndaba Mandela has come out fighting for his grandfather’s legacy – and is adamant that accusations that former president Nelson Mandela sold out are utter hogwash.

“Nelson Mandela was not a sell-out. People mustn’t talk without going into the history and understanding that‚ actually‚ Nelson Mandela is the first person to actually carry out attacks against white people. I’m talking about proper military tactics [targeting] white apartheid infrastructure. He was the first person to militarise and create the armed wing of the ANC‚” he said.

“So how dare you come and tell me that Nelson Mandela is a sell-out when he was the first black person to have the balls to go and bomb the apartheid system?”

Ndaba said he was so convinced that this label was nonsense that it “didn’t even factor” into his thinking when he penned his first book – Going to the Mountain: Lessons from my Grandfather‚ Nelson Mandela.

He told TimesLIVE that his grandfather faced massive challenges when he came to power following the 1994 election‚ and that means he had to make tough decisions. But to consider these decisions as selling out‚ he said‚ was outright wrong.

“When he came out of prison and took power in 1994‚ the amount of looting the apartheid people were doing [meant] this government was bankrupt. There was no money to run the country. Certain compromises had to be done in order for this country to run‚ for the ANC‚ the organisation‚ to run this country. Under the adversity‚ under the challenges that they were facing at the time‚ they had to make certain decisions.

“Yes‚ it may look like it was a sell-out‚ but it was nowhere near him selling out.

“But if those people understood exactly that position Nelson Mandela was in‚ and ask them what they would have done differently ... trust me‚ they wouldn’t have many answers to come at you‚” he said.

Reading through the book‚ it is clear that Ndaba is fiercely protective of “The Old Man”‚ as he is affectionately called‚ and in the book he explores this relationship. It is a deeply personal account of growing into manhood with Mandela towering over him‚ having moved into Mandela’s Houghton home when he was 11 years old.

It’s also a tale of the close bond Ndaba and Madiba shared. Neither is portrayed as a saint and it is clear that Ndaba cherished the relationship with his grandfather.

“His voice still rumbles through my bones‚ bumping into the old stories. It has settled into the marrow‚ like sediment in a river. As I get older‚ I hear his voice coming from my own throat. Everyone tells me I sound like him‚ and knowing that I do makes me weigh my words a little more carefully‚ particularly in a public setting‚” he writes.

Asked to summarise what he learned from his grandfather‚ Ndaba said there were six key lessons.

“One of the most important lessons from my grandfather was to be humble. Humility is very important‚ especially if one wants to be a leader and be seen as a leader and to be respected as a leader in their community. Because‚ as a leader‚ you are not there for yourself but you are there to represent those who cannot represent themselves – the poor people‚ the marginalised‚ and so on. You must understand that you are actually a servant‚” he said.

Ndaba said that discipline was a huge lesson‚ but admits in the book that during his teenage years – as one would expect – this caused some friction between the two.

Another lesson was integrity‚ and so was respect and the value of public service.

But more than anything‚ especially given the lofty goals of Ndaba’s foundation‚ Africa Rising‚ it was developing and nurturing young Africans that was the biggest lesson from his grandfather.

“It’s important in a world where we are lacking mentors. Lessons from a grandfather are important. We can all relate to a grandfather‚ or a grandfather-like figure in our lives‚” said Ndaba.

Lessons from my Grandfather is available from June 28.

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