Coining a bit of the magic
19 Jul 2012
JOHANNESBURG — Yesterday saw giant cakes and mass renditions of “Happy Birthday” for Madiba, but also an unseemly scramble among companies, politicians and charities for a slice of the reflected glory of Nelson Mandela.
The ANC released a 1 450-word eulogy to its iconic former leader, exhorting South Africa’s 50 million people to “continue to build the South Africa of Madiba’s dreams”.
Yet only last week, Mandela’s former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was accusing the ANC in a leaked letter of “shabby treatment” of the family and wanting to wheel them out only “when we have to be used for some agenda”.
The “67 minutes” Mandela Day charity push has also reopened old wounds amid criticism it is merely a vehicle for whites and the newly rich black elite to assuage the guilt of living in one of the most unequal societies, even 18 years after the end of apartheid.
Leading the charge was Luther Lebelo, head of an ANC branch in Johannesburg, who suggested in an article in the Sowetan that the day was about “little cosmetic charity activities” that only served to perpetuate class divisions.
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the official guardians of his image , hit back in the same paper, taking exception to Lebelo’s reference to the “so-called Mandela Foundation”.
The centre has been drawn into a commercial battle with members of his family over the selling of Mandela-branded clothing via its “46664” fashion range, named for his prison number during his 27 years in jail.
Set up in 2002 as an HIV and Aids charity, “46664” has since gone into business to raise funds, with official Mandela wristbands, mobile phone starter packs and clothes — all protected by a licence that “guards against the commercialisation of Mr Mandela’s name and image”.
The clothing range was launched in New York in a glitzy ceremony yesterday, only a week after two of Mandela’s granddaughters debuted a line of shirts, tops and hats under a “Long Walk to Freedom” (LWTF) brand.
“There are a lot of people out there who try to take advantage of the name. We are aware of that,” said David Manaway, husband of LWTF co-founder Zaziwe Manaway.
Other organisations cashed in. A grocery chain offered a “Mandela Day Deal” on potatoes, onions and chicken, while Pick n Pay gave shoppers double reward points under its “Happy Birthday Madiba” scheme.