Mandela and me (part 2,564)

I hate to admit it, but both Tony Blair and Bonio can indeed legitimately claim to have been pally with Nelson Mandela. Megairritations though they are, it’s fair enough.

Not so most of the others desperate to share their ‘friendship’ with Madiba, today bringing us a delightfully nauseating attempt by the man who never knows when to shut up, John Prescott, or Gordon Brown’s baffling but hilarious claim that Nelson taught him ‘courage’. Yes, that Brown.

All these desperate attempts to get a photo opportunity with a demented amiable old man who has zero interest in who you are culminated in Dave’s particularly egregious effort, shown below. Thank God Cleggy wasn’t with him.

Who are you again?
Who are you again?

Which brings me to The Knife’s sort of Mandela link, tenuous though it is. I used to work for a very charismatic and gifted surgeon, who was a South African jew. He had a glittering career lined up in SA, but he hated apartheid, and chose to work in the townships, notably at the enormous Baragwanath in Soweto.  When he came to the UK, effectively as an exile, he had to start again from scratch. This admirable man often mentioned Desmond Tutu as an “amiable little fellow” who’d been at the hospital. The social worker was a different story, Winnie Mandela, who even then (mid 1960’s) was apparently milking the fact that she was the first black social worker there, and had a very famous imprisoned husband. However, every time my ex-boss brought her a problem – typically a father of three, severe assault, head injury, would never work again – her response was the same “these blacks are hopeless, you can’t do anything for them“. A true story, and an inkling of what kind of monster Winnie later became. No wonder Nelson got rid.

My boss was part of what might have been the first medical diaspora from SA – principled, talented people who just couldn’t stomach the regime. He lived to see Mandela’s release, and the subsequent ANC stranglehold on power. That is what led to the second diaspora. By the mid-90’s established consultants were leaving SA en masse, giving up lucrative practices, and inevitably depriving those left behind of some very gifted doctors and surgeons. The reason was the ultraviolence in society, that has yet to be fully dealt with.

One distinguished academic colleague told me that he essentially was living in a gilded prison (perhaps not unlike Nelson, in the years after Robben Island). If his daughters were out socialising, he had no idea if they would make it back. It was that bad. These people are now heading for retirement from their NHS jobs, and very few of them – native South Africans all  – want to go back, much as it was their home. It’s not as if they love the British weather.

Mandela never denied resorting to terrorist violence, his great achievement was renouncing that and displaying a rare gift of forgiveness, and talking to one’s former enemies.  If you want to be truthful though, he has left a pretty mixed legacy, more than 20 years on. The ANC is so power crazy and dysfunctional, that it’s only had one good leader – Mandela. When an avaricious moronic thug like Jacob Zuma is running the show, then you know that something’s gone badly wrong. Likewise, despite an OK World Cup, South Africa is a very dangerous place, not just for affluent whites like me, but particularly for the black population. Lastly, Nelson promoted unfettered abortion. You don’t have to be Catholic to think that this might have major adverse consequences, and was hardly a priority in a country that has many many serious problems.

The Africans with whom I work are all convinced that Nelson had been kept alive – just – on a ventilator, until the most propitious time of death for the ruling elite in SA.  As a number of people have pointed out, not least The Knife, given the current OTT response of politicians and media, we must also keep Bonio alive for as long as possible.


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