In Soweto, not only the pioneer against apartheid has been buried. With Mandela, Africa got its own political culture that can stand up to any comparison.
South Africa says goodbye to "Madiba". Picture: dpa
Mandela is alive. No statesman in recent history has brought together so many and such diverse colleagues from all over the world after his death. Rarely has a funeral service seen such lively and explosive speeches and reactions.
Castro and Obama shake hands, Hollande and Sarkozy joke with each other, the South African audience booed their own president with relish and cheered enthusiastically for the U.S. president when he castigated the persistence of political persecution around the world.
In the pouring rain of Soweto, it is evident that the spark that emanated from Nelson Mandela’s life – namely the courage to question what existed – has jumped to the people and outlasts his death.
It would be all too easy to honor Nelson Mandela as a champion against apartheid, to bury him and forget him. Many in South Africa and beyond may well wish that. But if it’s not just about the struggle against systems of injustice that have been overcome, but about the personal attitude that makes the lasting overcoming of injustice possible in the first place, then Mandela’s legacy remains relevant, especially after his death, in South Africa, in Africa and beyond around the world. Barack Obama understood and expressed this in Soweto, and South Africans thank him for it.
The fact that the US American explicitly places himself in the ranks of those who were only able to achieve success in their own country as a result of Mandela’s struggle elevates him above the ranks of his European counterparts.
Europe’s marginal role
Once again, these days show what a marginal role Europe still plays in the rest of the world. Not a single European politician was allowed to speak in Soweto. Besides Obama, the presidents of Brazil, Namibia, India and Cuba, the vice president of China and the UN secretary general spoke as foreign guests.
Currently, when a European wants to make an impression in Africa, like the Frenchman Hollande, he sends soldiers to Bangui – the opposite of Mandela’s legacy.
With Mandela’s entry into eternity, Africa is finally acquiring its own political culture, which need fear no comparison and which finally breaks Europe’s claim to a monopoly of global values. This enables Africa’s youth to take their destiny into their own hands. On this historic day, this vision became visible in Soweto.