The End of the Love Affair

Barack Obama“That was a nice speech,” Kleinpiet says as he sits down. “I mean, he stole the show.”

“Ja, very eloquent. The best of the day, I agree. But I think it was a bit more than a eulogy.” Gertruida, as always, throwing out the bait.

“You’re on to something again, Gertruida. You might as well share it.”

“Obama is a very clever man. Or his speech-writer is, if you think of it. Anyway, here we have the president of the United States, travelling all the way from America at great cost, to deliver a eulogy. No problem with that. Many world leaders did that, as we know. But…I think there was a deeper, less obvious reason for his visit as well. He came to give our government a message and I’m not sure if Zuma picked up on it.”

Gertruida can be such a tease. She knows she has them now, so she orders a beer and sits back with that all-knowing smile.

“Okay, I’ll tell you. He started off with the expected praise for a great man, but listen to what he said. He praised Madiba for his willingness to step down after only one term – that’s when I sat up. Surely he wasn’t implying anything with it? Or was he telling our president something? I thought I was wrong, but there was more.

“Then he said: It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so. You know what I heard? He was telling us what he liked about Mandela. He was saying: If you can’t admit your mistakes, I see it as an insult.

“A few sentences later he went on: Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions… I think everybody listening to him, realised that half-truths and lies had no place in a leader’s political life. And also: Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.

“Those are powerful words, my friends. I also liked the way he told us how Mandela was instrumental in creating our Constitution:  true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.  Then he spoke about ubuntu: It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you… Trust? Speaking of trust in front of an audience that just booed our president?

“Towards the end of the speech, Obama encouraged his listeners to reflect, saying Mandela’s passing should be a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? Then he mentioned the problem of health care, unemployment and education, the major issues in the country; but he disguised it as a worldwide problem.

“And listen to this gem: There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”

Vetfaan can only shake his head. Sure, he listened to that speech as well, but he thought Obama was talking about Madiba’s example.

“Exactly, Vetfaan. But think about it: on the stage of world politics, things aren’t so obvious as they seem. There are always subtle hints. Obama says hello to Castro – now there’s a little incident that may mean a lot…or nothing.

“But consider this: eulogies are for the dead, And dead people don’t hear so well. So who ends up hearing the message? The people listening – in this case, all the leaders of the world, and a global audience. And who’s the host of the day? Our president.

“I can tell you: Obama was here for more than one reason. He certainly came here to pay a tribute to Nelson Mandela – but he also used the opportunity to tell us something very important. He held up a political mirror for those brave enough to see themselves. Look, he said, at yourselves.”

“I don’t know, Gertruida. I thought Obama spoke about Mandela. Now you’re saying he was telling Zuma to get it right – or get out? Don’t you think you’re over-analysing this thing?”

“Vetfaan, you witnessed the end of a love affair. With Madiba gone, the world’s fascination with South Africa has ended. No more Madiba Magic. We’re on our own now. From now on, the buck stops in our president’s office.”

The debate in Boggel’s Place is far from over, but Gertruida will defend her opinion fearlessly. Kleinpiet will leave in a huff, saying he doesn’t get it. Vetfaan will continue shaking his head, and Boggel will smile – a good debate is good for business.

In the end they’ll agree: politics have many layers. And yes, eulogies are intended for those that stay behind. The question remains, however: what was said, and what was heard? 


36 thoughts on “The End of the Love Affair

  1. Louis

    It’s funny to learn of the South African viewpoint of Obama’s speech; over here in the U.S. it looked like he wanted a prime speaking spot at the memorial to boost his flagging approval ratings by associating himself with Mandela, a very popular man here.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Hi Louis,
      The layers of politics… But, his speech was certainly a highlight and the crowd welcomed him with a tremendous roar. Over here, the booing of pres Zuma also indicates a politcian in trouble. Interesting times…

  2. Overground

    Jirre you are over analysing the shit out of that sucker. Like you go to church and find out McGuyver is a Satanist because he once ate bacon.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      You’ll just have to accept the fact that find your approach a little abrasive. If you don’t like the way I write, I accept that. If it’s difficult for you to see the tongue-in-the-cheek manner in which Rolbos is put out there for people to read and enjoy, that’s ok. In fact, that sets you free to spend you time on other sites you find more palatable. By the way – I’m an long-time fan of McGuyver. I hope that doesn’t pose another problem?

  3. Overground

    I did like it, it made me laugh but then I saw a Eugene Tereblanche banner, and I’m like ooh fok, its a radical ‘conspirasist’ and I kinda stopped reading and jumped right to the end and saw “Politics have many layers.” Unless Obama was speaking to a secret alien race, I don’t see the point of pointing it out. 😀

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Ah…well, I’ll challenge you to read the ET book. Why? Because it’s NOT an apology for the AWB. I wrote the book because I wanted to try to understand why and how the Right Wing thought. I wanted to get inside the mind of the person. Basically, my approach is to try to understand the factions in the country. So that book is a story of forgiveness, as strange as it might seem. It’s about respecting other cultures. Don’t believe it? Well, don’t judge the book by its cover and all that. Or you could read Facing Surgery with Christ, to find out that my aim is to help people. Or 65 Shades of Guilt, to have a snigger. Or SHIMMERstate, if you want theory on theology. So you can choose. And then, if you’re interested in a nice, respectful debate, I’m all yours. I’m a South African. My passion is that we live and let live.
      Oh my…I almost forgot to mention Imagine: Africa! You’ll realise I love this country and this continent with a passion…

  4. Overground

    That’s fair and noble, I get it, and I’m the same wavelength (that’s why I’m still here after all). But why the AWB, there isn’t that much to figure out IMO, anyway,… I digress. Saying Obama had this ulterior motive to his speech, that no-one got, except those few selected individuals is just a bit,… I don’t know – over the top. Maybe its true, maybe he said it like you mean, I just think, like always maybe,… just maybe we are trying to find meaning, where there is none, why wouldn’t he just say it plainly.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      You’re quite possibly right – no problem with that. Maybe I hope to hear something – anything – that’ll help stop the wave of corruption and crime sweeping the country. Maybe I’m still an optimist, hoping to be a very small wheel in a big machine, building a better future. I plead guilty to that. But thanks for staying and chatting. I believe in a healthy exchange of thoughts, even if there is an argument hiding behind the curtain. I suppose we have the same ideals, and that is a future for everybody in this beautiful country.

  5. Overground

    That’s what makes South Africa the best place in the world IMO. We are complex, different, sometimes neurotic, but fok its better than Pirth or Toronto. Let’s turn a blind eye to the corruption and the segregation (just for a moment, if we even could) we live with each other and enjoy each other’s company every day. Why use politics as an excuse for our neighbour’s shortcomings. Don’t worry be happy… I have to go the children are screaming, they just woke up in time to watch reruns of Dallas. Cheers.

  6. Overground

    I’m sure we will, I added you blog as favourites, only because my browser doesn’t have a “Troll this” button. 😀

  7. Maggie

    What a great debate you two! I love the South Efricaness of it.
    Now in the States we could use this honest banter between the two opposing parties. Sadly it gets bitter, and self-righteous very quickly. It makes me miss my former homeland all the more.
    Congrats on a lekker discussion:)

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Nooo, Guiseppe, death becomes me not at this stage. Neither the loss of hearing (lol). But if you follow the mood in the country, then you’ll have to admit: our president is in trouble…

  8. irmgard Haller

    I’m just terribly sad because I can’t live in my home country anymore and I am awfully homesick. The speech that Obama made struck me to the heart and I hoped people all over the world were listening and taking note that things were going awfully wrong since Mandela left the centre stage. The “rainbow nation” was the lovely ideal that we worked for. The ideal has disappeared. Corruption, the gravy train, reverse racism, blaming every evil (after all these years) on apartheid, etc etc etc but the world is not taking notice of what is really happening in South Africa. My home country is going to go the way of Zimbabwe, which used to be a food supplier for lots of African countries and now needs food imports to feed its starving population while the rulers live in luxurious palaces . . . does a bell start to ring?

  9. Ethel Lues

    No Mr President Obama; Sorry but you have it all Wrong!! Our Nation did accept and repent for the mistakes of their forefathers. It’s Former President Mandella that never asked forgiveness for facilitating the killing innocent people on the streets Not everybody bowed before former President Mandela but before God Almighty the creator of Heaven and earth. Yes God chose one man called Mandella to come and show a change in the way people should think and and act in SA but it was all in Gods plan, The Glory and Honour belongs to God Almighty alone. God also chose many white believers who love all people irrespective of race or colour to stand-up and pray for reconciliation and peace in this country long before Mandela was released from prison and thereafter. God gave all the signs and Wonders of Anwering the faithful prayes of rightious men and women in this Country. One man might have made a change for earthly Freedom but God also call one woman to remind you and the world that He is God and He shares His honour with nobody and He is in contol. You are right in saying the Love affair is over…. Yes surely is….. So thank you then there is no need to proceed and try and rule the children and people of South Africa. Wow and I am so glad I am not your wife, as it sounds that after the Love affair comes war? But really don’t worry God is differnet and has a eternal Love affair with His bride and children and He will rule South Africa! God will execute His Plan for South Africa. Thank you anyway for trying to show you care Mr President Obama, but no need to continue to worry about us here in the South end of Africa;
    We are very safe in God’s hands and plan and the Love Affair with Him will never End!
    Amen. God did Bless and Love Africa!!
    Yours Truly – Ethel Lues


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