Seodi White and her ‘Mandela’ rantings on JB

Madam Seodi White was in the news last Sunday. The Sunday Times quoted her protests in respect of the President Joyce Banda’s eulogy at the funeral of late Nelson Mandela.

According to Madam White, President Banda was wrong for stating that the lessons she obtained from late Mandela was his generosity of spirit to forgive others.

Another fault that President Banda committed, as claimed by Madam White, is that she told the international audience that she survived an assassination.

To Madam White, the President was wrong to talk about an assassination attempt on her because, first it never took place and, second, that narrative has the potential of scaring off probable tourists and investors.

President Banda (left( talks of forgiving her enemies but Seodi says no record
President Banda (left( talks of forgiving her enemies but Seodi says no record

Madam White alleges that the eulogy President Banda made was also about self-trumpeting and glorification.

As Malawians, we need to commend ourselves that we are among the very few countries where democracy does not just exist, but is seen to be in existence. Sentiments as Madam White’s attest to this truth.

When the people of Malawi decided to vote for democracy in 1993, they meant people like Seodi White should have the freedom to express themselves.

The beauty about freedom of speech or opinion is that one is not required to have substance to enjoy it.

As long as one has a mouth and a voice, they are free to say whatever they want as long as they remain within the ambits of the law.

The only mistake one would make about freedom of expression is to think or believe that whatever you say, as your opinion, must be taken or accepted as fact or truth.

It is not the case. Opinions are like the mouth; everyone has one.

That is how Madam White’s sentiments must be understood. They are her personal opinions. They are self-representative as nobody, apart from herself, appointed her to speak for them.

Because everyone can appoint themselves to speak for themselves; and because everyone is free to hold their own opinion, Madam White’s sentiments have a flip-side, which one may also choose to express.

President Banda, like every Malawian is entitled to speak at a funeral in any manner she chooses as long as she is not breaking the law.  She does not have to speak as Madam Seodi White chooses.

Nobody appointed Madam White “the vetter” of eulogies and thus she can’t demand it implicitly in her desire that the speech should have met her expectations.


Madam White needs assuring that President Banda never went astray with regard to her sentiments that she forgave others like Mandela did.

To say that Mandela never claimed to have forgiven others is simply what happens when people choose to understand things to suit their purpose or context.

It is on record that Mandela made it publicly clear that he would not pursue revenge in order to facilitate the healing on South Africa after the collapse of the apartheid regime.

It is this public pronouncement, accompanied by public action that helped hold South Africa together and propel it forward.

But Nelson Mandela understood the principle of forgiveness very well. Forgiveness does not mean that the forgiven must not bear responsibility for their actions.

This is the principle that is valid even in the Holy Scriptures. If we go to steal and in the process of doing it we get arrested and sent to jail, God does not prevent the process of punishment because we have asked for His forgiveness.

It is in realization of this principle that even after forgiving his nemeses, Nelson Mandela appointed Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where answerability of people for their past actions was demanded.

Never make a mistake about it, many people were punished in varying degrees for their past mistakes based on their confessions before the Commission.

To say people must not answer for their crimes because they have been forgiven is to miss the point. Forgiveness does not atone for the responsibility of sin in respect of the bearer.

President Joyce Banda never lied that there was an assassination attempt on her. As Vice President, her official limousine was mysterious rammed into, and the administration at the time refused to investigate the matter. This is on record. Which other record does Madam White want?

To argue that this should not have been an assassination attempt because no-one in Malawi has been arrested for it is to abuse the freedom of self-embarrassment.

The argument is as embarrassing as it is peculiar. It is embarrassing because one does not expect such hollow reasoning to come from someone who claims to be a lawyer.

It is peculiar because to a lawyer it must be obvious that a crime is never validated only by an arrest. Some crimes have been committed but investigations have never yielded an arrest.

To say that potential investors or tourists would be scared off Malawi because President Banda mentioned the attempt on her life is to try to overstretch the limits of imagination in a desperate attempt to give credence to what is otherwise a clear pursuit of futility.

Investors or tourists have never stopped going to South Africa just because the rate of crime in that country is high.

Investors have never stopped going to Rwanda because the people in that country slaughtered each other. Tourists have never stopped to visit Zimbabwe simply because some quarters discredit the country as being unstable and dangerous.

The United States of America is still being visited even after the September 11 tragedy. China is still attracting tourists even with the propaganda about its human rights record. Philippines is still being visited despite reported strife in that country.

Madam White, thus, needs to be told that investors or tourists will not stop to come to Malawi because that is what she wishes to happen.

The context that President Banda gave to the lesson she learnt from Nelson Mandela can’t be classified as a labour of self-assertiveness.

She had to cite how she is applying the lessons to demonstrate she really was a student of Mandela’s largeness of heart.

The piece of advice that Madam White can ignore at owner’s risk is that prejudice many times suffocates objective reasoning.

It impairs the faculties.

*Anganile Mansambo is a Nyasa Times columnist. The views expressed here are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nyasa Times.

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