Yesterday, Nelson Mandela – who was born in the same year as Cheddi Jagan – would’ve been 100 years old. It’s a sign of a new era when the western media mostly ignored the event…even though Barak Obama was in South Africa to commemorate it. This signals a movement away from the principles developed after WWII to fight for civil rights in the USA, and the right to self-determination in the colonial world.
Obama alluded to the “politics of fear,” and the “strongmen” leaders who now dominate politics and implicitly spell the death of liberalism. The hope Mandela inspired — when he was elected President of South Africa in 1994, and which the election of Barak Obama seemingly fulfilled in 2008 — for a “post racial” world has all but vanished. It’s now okay for leaders of even one-time paragons of democratic governance to openly incite racial hate.
In the early 1960s, South Africa — a British dominion — represented the ultimate Orwellian logic of the racial imperative, which insisted there was a God-given “Chain of Being” in which there was also hierarchy among humans. In this ideology, whites were at the top, blacks at the bottom, and mixed and other races were in intermediate positions between the two poles. In practice, it meant whites had their own (superior) areas and facilities in which to live, where other races were explicitly verboten! It wasn’t much better in the USA’s “segregation”.
While both Martin Luther King in the US and Nelson Mandela in South Africa were influenced by Gandhi’s strategy of “satyagraha/nonviolence” to combat racial structures and practices, Mandela abandoned it for guerrilla warfare after he had been confronted with the brutality and intransigence of the South African apartheid Government. Even MLK had to concede that he understood Mandela’s choice.
Mandela, we all know, was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island. His fortitude and refusal to alter his demand for his people’s human rights inspired anti-colonial fighters across the globe — like Jagan here – especially since their challenges were far lesser; yet Mandela remained steadfast as a rock. Today, with the steady erosion of the gains recognising the equality of peoples, and the movement towards authoritarian governments, not only in the metropoles but also in our own Guyana, maybe the example of Mandela will once again become relevant.
Your Eyewitness commends the word of the ex-slave Fredrick Douglas: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”
…the betrayal of “I is” Broomes
In Guyana, the sordid episode precipitated by Minister “I is” Broomes when she refused to observe the parking regulations in her frenzy for Chinese fried rice illustrates to a “T” how far we have strayed from the path in politics blazed by men like Mandela. It’s a shame that those two names are even in the same sentence.
But the matter has moved far – very far — from the single sleazy instance of “I is” Broomes. It now involves the PNC, which was formed in the era when Mandela set the standard for political rectitude. Some time ago, there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth by PNCites when a proposed South African Award – the Order of the Companion of Oliver Tambo – was withdrawn from Burnham. As was shown by African activists from Africa and the diaspora, Burnham betrayed the principles of Madiba.
That the PNC will soon be hosting a Congress to elect a new generation of leaders without censuring “I is” Broomes proves they still deserve to be rejected.
A major rice exporter imported rice to fill a Haitian contract because he fears a production shortage this year. Remember when the PNC had to import sugar from Nicaragua for a similar reason?
What next? Importing water?