Roy Robins: After MandelaRoundup: Talking About History
tags: South Africa, Nelson Mandela, apartheid, Roy Robins, ANC
Roy Robins is a writer based in Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Late on Wednesday night, March 27, former South African president Nelson Mandela was admitted to an undisclosed hospital for a recurring lung infection. This is the third time Mandela has been hospitalized in recent months. He spent a weekend in hospital in early March for what the government described as a "check-up," and most of December in hospital, where he was treated for a lung infection and had his gallstones removed. The last time Mandela was seen in public was almost three years ago, at the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup, in Johannesburg. But that doesn't mean that he's not still everywhere.
Take his "appearance" at the kickoff this January of the 29th African Cup of Nations, an intercontinental soccer tournament held every two years. The elaborate opening ceremony, celebrating African culture, was a feast of entertainment, music, and dancing; at one point, an enormous Mandela puppet took to the stage. Dressed in the former president's trademark loose, patterned shirt, the puppet swaggered, tottered, jilted, and jived. The audience applauded, for the puppet was instantly identifiable, instantly empathic, instantly adored. Everything else on the stage -- and there was much else, including hundreds of dancers in colorful traditional dress -- could well have been invisible. Yet there was something perfectly ironic about the puppet: in its enormousness and vitality, it was somehow a better stand-in than Mandela himself, whose age and condition no longer allows him to take the stage.
The ailing former president has been squarely on South Africa's mind the last few months. At 94, he is frail and fading fast. Housebound and bedridden in his Johannesburg estate, he is rumored to be senile; some claim he no longer speaks at all. One especially devastating newspaper report, quoting his former wife, said that his "sparkle was fading."
Each time Mandela is admitted to hospital, a wall of silence goes up between Mandela's spokespeople and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government, on the one side, and local and international media, on the other. The official ANC line is always the same: Mandela is "in good health," he is "stable," his medical examinations are "routine" -- nothing to see here, folks, move along. The unofficial line is decidedly different and, by all reasonable accounts, much closer to the truth....
comments powered by Disqus
- Trump got history wrong in interview with NYT
- A Century-Old Abraham Lincoln Mystery May Finally Have an Answer
- Did an Israeli student steal Auschwitz artifacts for her art exhibit?
- Memorial erected at site of witch trial hangings
- Michael Beschloss says if Trump pardons himself this is worse than Watergate
- One reason H.R. McMaster and Trump don't have a close relationship
- Rick Perlstein joins criticism of Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains"
- Daniel Pipes says it’s time for the Palestinians to recognize they lost
- Wm. Theodore de Bary, Renowned Columbia Sinologist, Dies at 97
- Iran sentences Princeton history grad student to 10 years for spying