Nelson Mandela: Not such a happy birthday

In spite of reports that Mandela's health has improved, he remains critically ill in hospital on his 95th birthday. Nor is the prognosis for South Africa good

Share

Of the many, many birthdays that Nelson Mandela has marked in adversity, his 95th – which falls today – will be one of the sadder ones. In spite of reports that his health has improved since the crisis of last month, he remains critically ill in hospital. No one is pretending that the prognosis is good. All South Africa, indeed the whole world, is preparing for the inevitable.

This is not the time to consider what will happen when South Africa has the legacy and the memory, but no longer the physical presence, of Mr Mandela. It is perhaps worth reflecting, though, how dependent South Africa still appears to be on the survival of the extraordinary individual who led them out of apartheid in peace and asking how far that reflects the greatness of the man and the inadequacies of those leaders who have followed.

More immediately pertinent, and tragic, are the quarrels that have surfaced in the extended family, even as the man himself came close to death. As successful as Mr Mandela was in uniting his nation, he was never able to spread the same harmony in his own family. Matters came to a head two weeks ago, when his wife and more than a dozen members of his family took one of his grandsons to court.

The macabre dispute concerned the bodies of three of Mr Mandela’s children, which his eldest grandson, Mandla, reburied on his own estate, apparently – or so it was charged in the affidavit – to ensure that Mr Mandela himself would be buried there, too. Mandla’s idea, it seems, was to ensure a thriving memorial business in years to come. He lost the case and the bodies have now been moved back to Mr Mandela’s home in the Eastern Cape, where he is expected to be buried when the time comes. 

The family quarrels and the sometimes intrusive approach of the world’s media have, between them, threatened to lend a distasteful taint to the twilight of Mr Mandela’s life. He deserves better. Today, of all days, is an opportunity to celebrate the life of a justifiably revered leader and an extraordinary human being.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

£50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Day In a Page

 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering