IN the intervening period, we have been mourning the passing away of the mother of the South African nation, Winnie Mandela. But not many people know about the family of Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie, left behind. More importantly, the mould of those children and grandchildren in terms of political outlook is not much in the limelight. I, for one, had a pleasant surprise the other day when I came across an item online that was actually a formal letter to the King of Morocco.
That letter dated March 30 this year was signed by the grandson of Mandela named Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela. He was writing on behalf of the late Mandela’s household now known as Mvezo Komkhulu (The Great Place) or Royal House of Mandela named by his offsprings. For us in the rest of Africa, Mandela is a special being. Today, when he is gone and during his lifetime, we remember him as an extraordinary freedom fighter that sacrificed his life for the liberation of his country - languishing in apartheid prisons for 27 years of his prime age.
Now, what was this letter to the Moroccan King by the Mandela grand children say? Follow it with me. Begin Text: “HM King Mohamed VI Kingdom of Morocco Your Majesty, Asalaam Aleikum… We greet you with the universal greetings of peace and send you felicitations of the year in which we observe the Nelson Mandela Centennial Celebrations (1918-2018). We send you greetings from the Royal House of Mandela (RHoM) and our best wishes on the readmission of Morocco to the African Union.
This is indeed a historic development as we welcome back a member of our African family to our collective home – the African Union. Your Majesty: in this year in which we celebrate a 100 years of my grandfather, late President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s legacy and his contribution to unite our continent and bring to an end the shameful legacy of colonialism, repression and suffering that had plagued our continent;
it pains us that there still remains a task that is incomplete. Your Majesty, we witnessed first hand the suffering and hardship that our fellow brothers and sisters, old women and children are experiencing in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the harsh desert conditions. We appeal to you from the depths of our hearts to return to the path of peace, the path of dialogue and the path of negotiations so that we may be guided by the universal human rights that my grandfather devoted his entire life to its achievement.
In this regard, it is now time to implement the long standing UN proposed referendum and set a date for the self-determination of Western Sahara. Your Majesty, the voices of pain and suffering of the political prisoners, protesters and ordinary civilians in the occupied territories of Western Sahara are being heard in the world. The brutality and cruelty that is meted out to them reminds us of our own suffering at the hands of the repressive apartheid regime.
It is within your power to bring to an end to this unfortunate blight on our conscience as fellow Africans. We cannot and will not stand by in silence. Your Majesty – we call on you to immediately release all and those on hunger strike. We call on Your Majesty to observe the rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention and ask you to respect their rights.
We are saddened that there are Sahrawi political prisoners who are languishing in jail for more than 30 years, some more than 20 years and yet others more than 15 and ten years. We are saddened that there are Sahrawi political prisoners that are serving life sentences in Moroccan jails for no other crime, except seeking their UN recognized sovereignty and selfdetermination.
Here in South Africa, we were deprived of my grandfather, President Mandela for 27 years of his life. Today, there are Sahrawi political prisoners who are languishing in jail for more than 30 years. In the darkest moments of our lives as the Mandela family and as a South African nation suffering under apartheid, it was our African brothers across the continent that gave us hope and courage to carry on the struggle
It pains as fellow Africans to witness and hear the cries of fellow Africans suffering in jails in occupied Western Sahara. We implore on Your Majesty to stop this suffering so that history may not judge you harshly as it brought an end to apartheid in South Africa. We appeal to you in this year of the Nelson Mandela Centennial Celebrations to bring to an end to the suffering and longstanding conflict in the struggle for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,
so that the Maghreb Region can return to peaceful co-existence and achieve its genuine potential for development and progress of its people. Your Majesty: we affirm the resolutions of the 54th Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) held in December 2017 and the policy position of the South African government calling for the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and for the release of all political prisoners.
With sincere regards: Signed: Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela.” Endnote. Clearly, as you have followed with me this note to the King of Morocco, it goes to underpin the fact that the sons, daughters and grandsons and daughters of Madiba Nelson Mandela have stepped into very well and fitted into his shoes. For us elsewhere in Africa, the best we can do, much as we strive for good neighborliness and fraternity, we should strive to be frank, albeit subtly, with each other especially when it comes to fundamental questions of freedom and sovereignty for all African countries.
For us in Tanzania, we were amongst the first to recognize the Polisario Front, the liberation movement of Western Sahara and even eventually accommodated its embassy here. And this was pursuant to our background as a country which had served as a rear base for liberation movements against minority rule in Southern Africa and elsewhere in the Third world, which earned our country the honor of hosting the then Liberation Committee of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU).