Close button
The Guardian
Email YouTube Facebook Instagram Twitter WhatsApp

Is wrong right done by Mandela?



The intellectual challenge to all freedom fighters who win is the challenge of ethical ambiguity. And also moral ambiguity.

After freedom has been won, after the war has been won, can the winners be measured by the same ethical and moral standards used to condemn the losers, oppressors and defenders of wrong?

For instance, if one of the heroes of the struggle drives a car while drunk, can he, (hardly ever she), be tried and punished?


Do the privileges of the hero, of the elder, of the Chief and of the Oga Patapata include criminal misbehaviour?

Because if it does, the whole society is doomed to ethical and moral decadence.

There is an incident in the presidency of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana that haunts forever the corridors of ethical and moral ambiguity.

President Nkrumah accused one of his former colleagues of plotting against him and had him arrested and detained in solitary confinement.

At a point the former colleague wrote to President Nkrumah to have mercy on him and let him have at least some reading material to rescue him from insanity.

He asked Kwame Nkrumah to remember, during the struggle for freedom, when the British colonial government of the Gold Coast arrested and locked them up, they were allowed, prisoners all, they were permitted to have books, to have their typewriters. . .

If the evil colonialist could permit their prisoners such luxuries, why would the prisoners of freedom be so deprived?

Are the British colonial powers better wielders of power ethically and morally than those who fought against them in the name of a higher order of morality?


As we all know, President Nkrumah ignored the plea and his colleague died in his prison.

There is an incident that sticks in the mind of childhood and represents the saying that being older is a license to cheat the younger.

You are eating dinner, pilling the rice grains on your spoon, pushing the piece of meat aside, wanting to finish the main thing before descending on the meat as the crowning glory, anticipating the juice that would flow down the throat, not allowing you to chew the meat for long. . .

As you finish the rice and search for any recalcitrant grain before you pounce on the meat sitting-waiting for you.

Waiting for you or for any predator?

Out of nowhere, an elders hand picks your meat and throws it into his mouth! You think: Agbaya! But he doesn’t care.

He has taken your meat and all you think of his poetry of “heard melodies are sweet but those unheard are sweeter!”

It has been a learning privilege to live through the post liberation years of South Africa.

Two incidents illustrate the challenge of ethical and moral ambiguity that prevails in post liberation countries.


The first one concerned a former president of the African National Congress Youth League now a member of Parliament.

He was accused of drunk driving and sent to prison.

There was a hue and cry about putting our heroes in jail while apartheid sinners were all over the place, free and enjoying themselves.

There were demonstrations and the absurdity of the party in power handing over protest note from themselves to themselves!

After all they were in power!

On the day of the commencement of his jail term he was carried shoulder high in triumph to the prison outside Cape Town.

The hero-worshipping crowd was led by the then deputy speaker of Parliament.

The second incident occurred during the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

An Afrikaner chieftain deeply involved in Rugby, the national sport of Afrikaners, sued the president to court.


The charge was that President Mandela had not applied his mind to some item of fact that would have prevented him signing something into law.

Something to that effect. Members of the African National Congress were outraged.

Who was this man to accuse the President, Honourable Mandela, hero of the world and forgiver extraordinary of apartheid sinners?

Does he think Nelson Mandela would go to court to defend himself against such petty accusation?

They would not allow Mandela to humour the fellow with such a response. He should forget his case ever being called for hearing.

Mr. Nelson Mandela was a trained lawyer. That was the first thing he had to remind his colleagues.

He had the lawyers commitment to the maintenance of law and order. Mr. Mandela was president of the African National Congress, the political party that formed the government of the country.

That government was committed to the maintenance of law and order.


In addition, what arrogance of power fills them to such a degree that they would refuse a court order to defend themselves in a court that they themselves set up? Are the courts for humans or for animals?

If anyone should show disrespect to our laws and our judicial system, it should not, and it cannot be we who fought to uphold the sacred law of justice for all.

President Mandela went to court, defended himself and won the case.

Next door to South Africa is Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe. Here ethical and moral ambiguity went to extremes.

The military in the country swore they would not salute any commander in chief other than Robert Mugabe, it did not matter what the people’s votes said at the polls.

So, election after election Mugabe won through killings, maiming and the approval of South Africa’s support and in solidarity with fellow freedom fighters.

No, post independence African countries should never have permitted any ethical or moral ambiguity.


What was wrong in colonial times was wrong in post colonial times.

No matter who does it, wrong is wrong for ever and cannot be right because we do it.

As Lee Kuan Yew was supposed to have advised Kwame Nkrumah, the day after the Independence Party and dinner-dance you must put away the songs you sang while fighting for freedom.

Failure to change your tune creates absurdities like the one in South Africa where those in power do not know they are in power and continue to protest and present letters of protest to themselves.

Ethical and moral ambiguities lead to immunity which breeds impunity and leads to the lawlessness we see in many of our countries today.

Ethics and morals must be clear and unambiguous.

Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

No comments yet