By Bimpe Ade
Margaret Thatcher who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1990 died of a stroke on Monday at the age of 87. Exactly 23 years after she left office, and 11 years after she retired from public life, Baroness Thatcher succumbed to the effects of a stroke after years of battling deteriorating health.
The death of the “Iron Lady” known for her personal and political toughness was greeted with celebrations, as masked vandals broke into street parties across the UK. In south London, masked protesters held up letters that read: “Margaret Thatcher dead LOL [Laugh Out Loud]”. In Leeds, they shared a celebration cake. In Liverpool, they celebrated with a “death party”.
In Glasgow’s George Square, they popped bottles of champagne in the streets and sang, “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead”.In fact, the song has been the anthem in celebrating the death of the only ever female British Prime Minister, propelling the wizard of Oz track to number 10 in the country’s official singles charts.
Even in death,Thatcher remains a demonized hated figure so much so that the normal rules of engagement of not speaking ill of the dead do not apply. Across the same country she ruled for 11 years and helped transform to what it is today many of its citizens believe she deserves nothing but delight at her passing on.
Thatcher who was a three-time Prime Minister shut down a legion of coal mines and steel factories across Britain, and during her decade in office privatized the gas, water, telecom, and electricity industries and she also reduced public funding for education, welfare and social housing.
These actions led to an economic boom creating a very wealthy middle class in a short period of time, but leaving many unemployed and she showed no sympathy effectively saying that they just needed to work harder.
She left just as many people poor as she left many rich and satisfied. Many of her reforms favoured the wealthy elite at the expense of everyone else, and Britain still has not forgiven her which is apparent in the celebrations of her death.
In Africa, it may be difficult for many to grasp the complex legacy of Margaret Thatcher, but she will be widely remembered for her tolerance for Apartheid in South Africa. Two decades after the end of apartheid, even South Africans are divided over whether Thatcher helped or hindered the inhumane system of racial segregation and white rule while also prolonging the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Many believe that with her international presence and influence she could have done more to push for the demise of apartheid.
Pallo Jordan former Minister of Arts and Culture of the republic of South Africa, and a staunch member of the governing African National Congress has come out blasting Thatcher after her death saying “good riddance” to the Late Baroness in an interview with a local radio station.
“Maggie Thatcher and Britain were important figures and they were defending Apartheid, they were preventing international sanctions,” said Jordan to the associated press,“I don’t think her death is a great loss to the world.”
While many are in support of Jordan’s stance, others argue that Thatcher was opposed to apartheid and helped influence the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
F.W. de Klark, an apartheid era president of South Africa, said in a statement that Thatcher, whom he called a friend was a “steadfast critic of apartheid.”
She once declared Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress to be a “typical terrorist organization… anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud –cuckoo land”.
Thatcher’s claim that she was against apartheid was contradicted by her opposition to international sanctions placed on South Africa. Her position on the issue allowed British companies to continue operating in South Africa where the UK was the biggest trading partner and foreign investor.
Clearly she placed economic growth of her country ahead of the crime against humanity in Apartheid era South Africa, again creating a division among people because her actions could be viewed as right or wrong depending on what side you are on.
Arguments about the real legacy of Margaret Thatcher will go on forever, but whether you hate her, or you love her we can all agree that she was not a flip flopper.
She believed in what she believed in and never faltered even during assassination attempts and aggression. Being the first female Prime Minister was not enough for her as she was not afraid to fight her way to make changes, and make her mark in politics and the world forever.