Kgosi Manyane Mangope is dead. In death he has remained the controversial figure that he was whilst alive.
He was an apartheid collaborator and ruled the tiny homeland of Bophuthatswana with an iron fist. About that we agree and there is no dispute.
Where the debate seems to diverge is about his legacy of development. It is here where those who admire him, defend his legacy. They argue that during the 17 years of his pseudo independence, he achieved more tangible results than the democratic government has done in 29When the article was first published in 2018 the given number of years was 23. years.
It is this that has redeemed Mangope in the eyes of many. The failure of the liberation movement and democracy to do better than these illegitimate leaders has made our people grieve over the passing of Mangope, and hark back to those times.
Many of us are surprised that so many seem to remember him so fondly. We should not blame the masses for this outpouring of grief. His death, especially for the ruling party, the liberation movement and progressives, holds important lessons in Democracy and Development.
Democracy must mean a better life for the people and more rapid development for the country. Has this been the experience of the masses of our people? Many of us will respond with a resounding, NO!
Contrast this with the records of Mangope, Mphephu and Matanzima. The dictators and puppets that they were, but at least they got the job done.
Those of us that know places like Mahikeng, Taung Kudumane, Pampierstadt before 1977, will tell you that these places had nothing much going for them in terms of education, housing, jobs, running water, electricity, health, roads etc.
We knew this, because we came from Galeshewe in Kimberley, which had relatively better facilities and some of these services. Most of the folks from these places went to Kimberley to access some of these services.
To be sure, there was no electricity in Montshiwa, Taung and Pampierstadt in 1977. I am certain the same could be said for other places like Thaba Nchu, Garankuwa and Tlhabane.
But in three year’s time, by 1980, these places were different. Modern and bigger townships and better houses had sprung up in Mmabatho and many places. The migration was reversed from rural areas to townships. Many people moved from townships in SA to the ‘homelands’: from Soweto, Ikageng, Atteridgeville to settle in Mabopane, Taung, Phokeng, Mogwase, Hammanskraal.
I should know, because I was a witness of this in 1981 when I went to live in Mahikeng with my Rakgadi as a 12 year old. I also became a beneficiary of a bursary scheme there for my High School studies.
Mangope was a bantustan quisling, as the Black Consciousness Movement used to refer to bantustan leaders For that he deserves condemnation. But let us seek to understand why many are prepared to forgive him, and have brazenly elected to mourn him as they do.
It is as a result of our own failure to hold higher political standards than those we considered to be apartheid stooges. The misrule, corruption and poor governance of the 1994 project to improve the livelihoods of the Black poor majority.
The deterioration of basic services, decline in the quality of life from the times of Lucas Mangope, for rural folk, is what makes people believe that they were better leaders. It is that objective truth, that we cannot counteract and deny.
Lucas Mangope’s passing brings to mind that important lesson from Amilcar Cabral on what the struggle is really about. Cabral reminds us that, ‘the people are not fighting for the things in our heads’. They are not fighting for concepts, ideas or theory. He tells us that, ‘the people are fighting for real benefits’. Our people want land to till, they want bread to eat, jobs for their children and shelter over their head. Real, tangible benefits.
It is embarassing to say it, but it seems Manyane Mangope may have understood Amilcar Cabral better than our own liberators.
His legacy will remain a useful study in democracy and development. It fits the truism that benevolent dictators achieve better and more rapid development, than democratically elected governments.
First published on Facebook, January 21 2018. Republished in herri with kind permission of the author.
|When the article was first published in 2018 the given number of years was 23.