As we mourn the passing away of Nelson Mandela, we must also remember that he has left an unfinished business, the task of completing which lies on the shoulders of those who remain. One thing I want to say at the outset is that he is celebrated and glorified by the leaders of the world because in the end he did not disrupt the global order of economics. If he had done so, he would have been reviled, castigated and disparaged like Lenin, Trotsky, Castro, Hugo Chavez, Salvador Allende, and others like them.

My favorite quote of Mr. Mandela is, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. you can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” This message is not only for the people of South Africa but for the whole world.

He said in 1959, “It is true that in demanding the nationalization of banks, the gold mines, and the land, the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such step is imperative because the realization of the Charter is impossible, unless and until these monopolies are smashed and the national wealth of the country handed over to people.” We don’t know what made him change his mind later in life so he decided to compromise, happily called “reconciliation” by those who felt threatened by his radical stand. May be he realized that the attempt to break corporate hold was futile; maybe he blinked when threatened with the promise of civil war if he resisted; maybe he thought that the first step was to accept capitalist democracy—-a step forward from the position of apartheid. Thus when all was said and done, the financial and gold mining monopolies and farming interests were left intact instead of being smashed. And that is the unfinished business of Mr. Mandela. We cannot fault him for not completing the task as some tasks are larger than one person’s lifetime. And so, if we want to honor Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, then we have to continue the struggle he started. We cannot expect the struggle to be one straight upward graph; rather it will have its ups and downs, successes and failures. Many popular uprisings have been successfully channeled either towards electoral democracy or towards chaos and civil war as seen in Arab Spring recently. The key is not to overlook the tenacity of international capitalism and not get discouraged.

One of his companions, Ronnie Kasrils, writes, “South Africa’s liberation struggle reached a high point but not its zenith when we overcame apartheid rule. Back then, our hopes were high for our country given its modern industrial economy, strategic mineral resources (not only gold and diamonds), and a working class and organized trade union movement with a rich tradition of struggle. But that optimism overlooked the tenacity of the international capitalist system. From 1991 to 1996 the battle for the ANC soul got under way and was eventually lost to corporate power: we were entrapped by the neoliberal economy—or as some today cry out, we “sold our people down the river.”

An editorial about Mr. Mandela in The Economist on December 5, 2013 says, “while the rest of the Africa’s economy has perked up, South Africa has stumbled… The gap between rich and poor has remained stubbornly wide. Barely two-fifths of working-age people have jobs. Only 66% of school leavers get the most basic high-school graduation certificate. Shockingly for a country so rich in resources, nearly a third of its people still live on less than $2 a day.” I find it amusing that this editor finds the condition of the poor in South Africa shocking after the so-called democracy has been achieved and people have been given the “right to vote” as if voting rights can put food on the table, give jobs, bring equality of wealth, provide education, shelter and healthcare etc. People are fooled into thinking that by becoming voters they also become equal stakeholders in the decision making. This is the biggest lie of the past century. Ironically, the editor does not go on to explain the causes of this gap between rich and poor, joblessness and poverty. It is hard to believe that an editor of The Economist cannot see the link between monopolization of the country’s resources by capitalists and the poverty of its people. So, the only explanation we can offer is that they know but won’t speak up as they cannot risk the wrath of their masters who support their publication so they can keep their jobs.

The point is neither to become complacent as if the goal has been achieved nor to be discouraged as if it is beyond our reach, but it is to resolve to move forward and continue the struggle to rid the world of capitalist monopoly. This struggle is not of South African workers alone. Pakistanis, along with most of the developing world face the same situation. So, the question is how can we restructure the system to ensure equitable distribution of wealth? It can only be won through united struggle of working class and poor of the world. In this globalized world the lines of division should not be on the basis of nationality, color, religion or race, only on the basis of haves and have nots. Will the youth of the world take up Mr. Mandela’s challenge, “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” The only reason white supremacists of South Africa even came to the negotiating table was due to the strength of the revolutionary movement of Mr. Mandela. Nelson Mandela may be no more but the struggle must go on.

The writer is a practicing physician and resides in Florida. She is a founding member of Rise for Pakistan and International Youth Movement. She  is a founding member and was the chairperson of the Human Development Foundation, and has served on the board of PAKPAC. She is also a life member of APPNA.

Email:shahnazk@gmail.com

Tweets at:@shahnazsk