/ 21 July 2023

Editorial: Mandela would resent the statues

Mandela Statue
President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled statues of former President Nelson Mandela in the Eastern Cape on 18 July 2023. (GCIS)

Driving through Mthatha is almost like driving through a war-torn country. The streets are filthy, buildings verging on collapse, roads riddled with potholes, the people in perpetual states of poverty and lawlessness. 

So common is petty crime that people rarely react. If you think you are going to find any working services and traffic lights, think again. 

People are so used to living without running water that when it does flow they consider themselves lucky. 

The stench of raw sewage flowing down the streets is familiar.

It’s no wonder then that the region’s newspaper, Daily Dispatch, recently reported that auditor general Tsakani Maluleke flagged the King Sabata Dalindyebo local municipality as one of 10 local governments that are so broken that it’s about to fall into a state of paralysis.

Maluleke is quoted to have said the municipality has little control over its finances, could not carry out service delivery and was drowning in debt and without cash in reserve.

It was deplorable and almost laughable when President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled statues of Nelson Mandela, one in Qunu and another in Mthatha, on his birthday. 

What would the statesman have said? Would he have condoned this under his name? Or would he have told the president to first fix his hometown before invoking his name. 

The government is yet to say how much it cost to commission the statues but no matter how much it spent, this would have made some difference in the lives of the people of Mthatha. 

The excuse it made was that the statues would help attract tourism. We must call bullshit. Mthatha lies between Port St Johns and Coffee Bay. 

If Ramaphosa, Oscar Mabuyane and his government were serious about tourism, the state of these breathtaking towns with their scenic beaches would be central to development. 

On this Mandela Day we were reminded of Mandela’s 1993 address to Cosatu delegates: “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”