Presidential inauguration: uneasiness and detachment
It is typical that watching such a ceremony as the presidential inauguration in Pretoria/Twane on Saturday on television more than anything is a visual impression. You watch people coming and sitting, chatting or just looking bored. They are heads of state and they were the ones that I saw apart from the South African dignitaries. Nelson Mandela and his Graca Machel were closely monitored and they looked relaxed and slightly amused and I stay with my previously expressed opinion: Nelson Mandela is and could now only be ceremonial, his presence blesses whatever he is asked to blesss and the ANC owns him for these few last moments of his life. I think this is quite sad.
What created such uneasiness and even detachment in my mind was the parading of heads of state, because those who were the most conspicuous were the ones that one would have prayed should not have been there in the first place. South Africa’s most famous peace apostle Archbishop Tutu was not there. But President Muammar Gaddafi was there, which was only fair since he is the chairperson of the African Union; the way he was presented as being ‘the laudable revolutionary leader’ did not strike a cord in my heart. Soon after came President Robert Mugabe together with his amazing Grace. The truth is that he was hailed by many in the crowd and he entered waving his hand repeatedly as if he were a great statesman. I felt terribly uneasy at this show off and was reminded that no less a person than the Noble Laureate Wolde Soyinka has branded Mugabe Africa’s Hitler.
As an added spice on this meal show King Mswati III from Swaziland came ascending the few stairs together with one select beauty, one of his thirty odd wives, who in appearance, beauty and make up outdid that of amazing Grace quite considerably. This again was almost shameful as they also were applauded by many; one should carefully remember that he is reigning his little country with undemocratic means, suppressing opinions and actions of unions, churches and media, and he displays a lavish lifestyle while spending his people’s money. But in Pretoria this was carefully forgotten, everything was peace and joy.
It did not help that Jacob Zuma’s address to the nation as the newly inaugurated president was commendable, balanced, conciliatory and to the point. I continued feeling quite uneasy. I could not get over the fact that leaders who have such a record of violating human rights, who one day will have to give account of the many lives that have been lost due to their rule, just were applauded as if everything was well. I just couldn’t get over it. It was too much and later in the day I started feeling detached from what this day had taken place in this South Africa, the supposedly Promised Land.
It could not be, or could it, that the famed African sense of togetherness, this sense of belonging, here was abused to the full?? And in a sad moment I thought of Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Susan, who was killed in a car accident outside Harare a month ago.