Still chasing freedom

IMRAN GARDA returned to South Africa last December to film a documentary about the country in the immediate aftermath of Madiba’s death. This is his story.

I live far too far away from home; in the city of fog, bridges and gluten-free diets. It takes me more than a day to get home to my family, my country and my beloved Nando’s. And those are the expensive tickets. The cheap tickets add another day to the trip.

And during that long journey (No, I will not make any long walk to… comments here. What do you take me for?) in the immediate aftermath of Madiba’s death I remember thinking about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Yes, the Turkish guy.

How, almost 75 years after his death, he is indispensable to the Turkish discourse. The ardent secularists hang pictures on the walls of their offices of Ataturk drinking wine. The islamists adorn their offices with images of his hands cupped in prayer. His image is on the boats and the streets. Sold by street vendors and patriots. He paternalistically overlooks hotel lobbies. Politicians invoke his thoughts to find answers to current predicaments. People dig up his example to help them, guide them, nurture them – and to crush opponents. He is everything to everyone. No matter what he did, who he was, he is everywhere. I wondered if South Africa might do the same to Madiba.

I hope you archive this site. So in eight decades’ time someone can say I was a prophet. Or, an idiot.

In life, everybody wanted a piece of Nelson Mandela. In death, everybody claims a piece of Nelson Mandela.

Now everyone will champion his legacy. (Especially the DA via Suzman proxy).

So who will we entrust to chronicle his life and his impact? Or is it up to each individual to shape Madiba in his own image?


Here I was, in Jozi, crashing into my fellow South Africans unannounced, as our emotions were collectively defrosted, then stirred. I didn’t have a theme for my film before we started. It became clear once I began floating around, slipping between the cracks of the big events – covering the people not the speeches at FNB stadium, talking to those living on Vilakazi Street and not standing outside his old house doing sanctimonious stand ups to the camera, that after Madiba everything was about the economy. Everything.

South Africans felt sad that he died. South Africans felt an emptiness unparalleled. They also felt restless. Maybe a little angry about what comes next, angry at the man entrusted with the keys right now – Jacob Zuma (as one ANCYL member told me, “Truly speaking Zuma is f*ckupping the country!).

One guy even told me that Madiba himself let the masses down. He was from the EFF. He also told me we need Marxist revolution in SA and we must kick out the foreign corporations immediately. We met at McDonald’s. So I guess not that immediately.

It was an emotional week. Here’s who we met, here’s what we filmed.


Watch Part One above and Part Two here below.