If I was Mandela, I would stick with Madiba, and fly

Wise men no longer come from the east bearing gifts. That notion disappeared when the Virgin Mary made that miraculous delivery in Bethlehem.

Wise men no longer come from the east bearing gifts. That notion disappeared when the Virgin Mary made that miraculous delivery in Bethlehem.

Wisdom now has shifted from the east to down south, where the wise men no longer carry myrrh and other fragrances, but bring grandfatherly indulgence.

You know that look that comes with a mixture of contempt, outright disbelief, understanding and forgiveness? That is the kind of indulgence I am talking about, who knows? It might even come to be known as the "Madiba look".

The United States last week found out the bitter way that it too could land on the wrong side of its own laws. Some of them are so unbelievable that Nelson Mandela, in his "ripe" wisdom could not even broach the subject - it was just too embarrassing to the hosts.

During an appearance before lawmakers, US Secretary of State Condi Rice lamented that she was grappling with "a rather embarrassing matter" - that Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) are logged in the US government database as terrorists banned from travelling to the US!

How many times has Mandela and the top brass of the ANC landed on American soil? Countless, but as Rice explained, she has to waive the ban each time they travelled!

The bureaucracy is so efficient that if some mid-level official does not press the right buttons not to start the ball rolling to clear Mzee Mandela’s image, his name would still sound a red alert at airline counters, warning of an imminent terrorist trying to board!

The ban was slapped during the apartheid era. But a bureaucrat has not received the go-ahead to bring out the eraser and redeem the World’s most respected statesman’s name.

This travel ban is not only ridiculous, it has also had its own share of blunders that Mandela being on the terrorist black list does not come as a surprise. To err is human, if I remember the adage.

In October 2006, USA today reported that a 4-year old boy had been stopped from boarding a plane because he happened to share the same names with a much, much older high security risk.

The showing up of little Edward Allen’s name on a government terrorist watch list had his mother both "confused and a bit angry".

Of course they could see that the alleged "little Osama" could hardly hold his milk bottle firmly, leave alone clutching an AK 47 or strapping on an explosive belt.

What makes his mother mad is that they have the same trouble whenever they travel.

But even if Edward had come from the most respected political families, carried an equally respected and revered name, he would not have been spared.

Senator Edward Kennedy, of the famous Kennedy family (no relation with author) got into the same hassles because someone shares his name - probably out of admiration of a famous name (ask how many Obamas and Osamas are born in Kisumu and Mombasa in Kenya every week and you will get what I mean).

My namesake had to make several phone calls to an equally many federal offices to get off the A-list of high-risk passengers. Mandela could have carried the same clout, but he preferred to show his "indulgent" African nature that can only be got from his continent.

But if Mandela does not want the hassles of ringing up Condi any time he needs a travel waiver, he should pick a leaf from our own Ignace Murwanashyaka, who despite a travel ban by the powerful UN, always manages to sneak out of Germany for an inspection tour of eastern DRC.

The head of the rebel FDLR simply picks one of the many passports from neighbouring countries that bear different names and beats the rap. The travel ban does not bother him, or the UN for that matter. Mandela should stick with Madiba - it is safer to grab a plane with.




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