Daily Archives: December 8, 2013

Mandela – The long walk to a myth

Robert Henderson

The shrieking sycophancy of the British media as they respond to Nelson Mandela’s death was as predictable as the sun rising in the East in these politically correct times.  To judge him from these panegyrics it would be thought that Mandela was an unblemished character suited only for a  secular version of sainthood. Amongst the vast cache of hysterical idiocy offered up I award the palm for incontinent emotional excess to Peter Oborne of the Telegraph for a piece entitled   “Few human beings can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela was one” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100249502/few-human-beings-can-be-compared-to-jesus-christ-nelson-mandela-was-one/)

The state of South Africa now

Back to reality.  Mandela was a man with a messy private life and a public life  which after his release from captivity in 1990 was accompanied by a great deal of hullabaloo but little improvement in the general conditions of life for most of the population.  The indignities of apartheid were removed but violent crime soared, corruption ballooned and the lot of the poor did  not substantially change.  That is not to pretend that apartheid was preferable to what exists now for the large majority of the population – the indignity of formal legal inferiority is a tremendous burden and its removal counts for much –   but rather to question whether the  present  general circumstances of South Africa are  substantially better than what existed before the end of apartheid.

The South Africa that Mandela leaves behind him is a mess. Violent crime is probably the worst problem and it is rising with the official South African figures showing murders  rising from 15,609 murders in 2011/12 to 16,259 in 2012/13 and  attempted murder rising from 14, 859 to 16, 363 (http://www.africacheck.org/reports/factsheet-south-africas-official-crime-statistics-for-201213/).

To put those figures in context, South Africa has a population of about 52 million, the UK a population of  over 60 million (https://www.google.co.uk/#q=south+african+popluation+), yet in most years the UK  has less than 1,000 homicides (including manslaughter).  (http://www.citizensreportuk.org/reports/murders-fatal-violence-uk.html).

Nor is the South African crime without ethnic or racial dimension even in official eyes, viz:

“The crimes above are not easy to reduce through policing alone.  This is because most (around 60% to 70%) of murders, attempted murders and rapes, occur between people who know each other and occur as a result of a mix of particular social and economic factors. These crimes are often referred to by the police as ‘inter-personal’ violent crimes.  Only between 15% and 20% of murders and attempted murders are the result of aggravated robbery while inter-group conflicts and vigilantism make up the rest.” – See more at: http://www.africacheck.org/reports/factsheet-south-africas-official-crime-statistics-for-201213/#sthash.RnKUEIEu.dpuf.

The position of whites

The situation of South African whites has worsened both in terms of impoverishment for many and  as the target for violent crime. The long serving BBC foreign correspondent John Timpson went as far in May 2013 to question whether whites in South Africa had a future in South Africa – “Do whites have a future in South Africa? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22554709. In the article Simpson described the white squatter camps which have sprung up and the creation of an army of perhaps 400,000 whites who have been severely impoverished.

Perhaps the most telling fact about the situation of whites in South Africa is the number (several thousand) of white farmers who have been murdered since the fall of Apartheid.  Simpson sums up thee situation of white farmers starkly: “In South Africa you are twice as likely to be murdered if you are a white farmer than if you are a police officer – and the police here have a particularly dangerous life. The killings of farmers are often particularly brutal.”  According to Simpson the number of white farmers in South Africa has dropped from 60,000 twenty years ago to 30,000 now.

The anti-white racism goes to the top of the ANC: “At a centenary gathering of the African National Congress last year, Zuma was filmed singing a so-called ‘struggle song’ called Kill The Boer (the old name for much of the white Afrikaner population).

As fellow senior ANC members clapped along, Zuma sang: ‘We are going to shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun . . .’

Alongside him was a notorious character called Julius ‘Juju’ Malema, a former leader of the ANC youth league, who is now Zuma’s bitter enemy and is reportedly planning to launch a new political party after Mandela’s death.

A bogeyman to white South Africans, Malema is popular among young blacks, and has also been an enthusiastic singer of Kill The Boer and another song called Bring Me My Machine-Gun.

Polls this week showed a huge surge in support among young black South Africans for his policies, which he says will ignore reconciliation, and fight for social justice in an ‘onslaught against [the] white male monopoly’.” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2351339/Mandelas-passing-looming-threat-race-war-South-Africas-whites-widow-mourns-latest-murdered-white-farmer-chilling-dispatch-nation-holding-breath.html)

Post Apartheid South Africa is also a seriously  corrupt society,  being ranked 72nd out of 177 countries in  the 2013 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a worse ranking than the year before (http://www.thesouthafrican.com/business/sa-remains-in-bad-company-in-2013-corruption-rankings.htm). Worse, corruption goes right to the top with the current president Jacob Zuma  accused of using millions of pounds of public money on his own house and grounds  (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/29/jacob-zuma-accused-corruption-south-africa).

Mandela’s private life

Mandela’s private life does not show him in a pretty light. His first wife Evelyn Rakeepile bore him four children of whom one died in infancy. Mandela was promiscuous during this marriage and had a number of affairs. When Mandela divorced her after 13 years of marriage he left her with three young children to raise and contributed little if anything to their upkeep in the  years before being imprisoned for life. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/may/05/guardianobituaries.southafrica).

Rakeepile understandably railed against the adulation Mandela attracted: “How can a man who has committed adultery and left his wife and children be Christ? The whole world worships Nelson too much. He is only a man.”  (David James Smith 2010 Young Mandela p59 ). An unkind soul might say that Mandela displayed classic black male model behaviour, namely,  being sexually incontinent, deserting his wife and children and failing to provide for them.

Mandela and violence

There is also the question mark over Mandela’s commitment to non-violence after his release.  He certainly was not an advocate of non-violence before he was imprisoned, having formed the guerrilla group  “Sword of the Nation” (Umkhonto we Sizi) to carry out terrorist acts using bombs.

The claim that the explosions he supported before his imprisonment were all directed only against property with its implication that this was humane terrorism will not stand up. No substantial explosion directed at property can ever be guaranteed to be non-lethal, because  there is always a chance that it will kill someone who is there which the bomber does not know about or cause a fire which engulfs more than the immediate target of the explosion.

Then there is the behaviour of the ANC during his imprisonment and afterwards.  The ANC were seriously violent to not only those who were agents and supporters of apartheid, but also to their own members who were thought to have transgressed (and  also to any unaffiliated blacks who displeased them).  Mandela failed to unreservedly condemn these acts during or after his release from prison.

To that general failure can be added his failure to condemn the support for violence and wholehearted advocacy of the sadistic practice of “necklacing” – the placing of a tyre over the victims head and over their arms to pinion them before coating the type with petrol and setting the tyre alight – by his second wife Winnie  who famously declared at a rally “with our matches and necklaces, we’ll liberate this country!” (go in at 3 minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP_r5ET5CFU&feature=youtu.be).

Apart from her devotion to necklacing, Winnie Mandela also had a nice line in intimidation and violence up to and including murder. She ran a bunch of thugs known as the Mandela Football team  and was convicted of  assault and kidnapping in 1991 after the death of ANC youth activist, Stompie Seipei Moeketsi.  The sentence was six years in prison initially but this was reduced to two years suspended on appeal.  Ghosts from her Mandela United Football Club past may be about to return to haunt her with an investigation into the deaths of two other youths now in progress (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/bodies-exhumed-in-anc-murder-case-linked-to-winnie-mandela-8531758.html)

Winnie Mandela has a remarkable record of escaping punishment. In his evidence to the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission a senior police officer said that although the police at the end of the apartheid era had compiled a list of 30 crimes they believed Winnie had committed – from high treason to murder – the attorney general had refused to prosecute her because she was regarded as “untouchable”.( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10502171/Nelson-Mandela-and-Winnie-portrait-of-a-marriage.html)

Even when Mandela was experiencing  the most constricting of his prison years, it is difficult to believe that he had no news of what the ANC was doing or how his second wife was behaving. But he never condemned the excesses of the ANC  or the barbarities of his then wife. It was not until 1992 (two years after Mandela’s release) that he separated from Winnie  Mandela  and 1996 before they were divorced.

Tellingly, Amnesty International refused to classify Mandela  as a prisoner of conscience stating that    Amnesty “could not give the name of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ to anyone associated with violence, even though as in ‘conventional warfare’ a degree of restraint may be exercised.” (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/POL10/001/1965/en)

After his release in 1990, in his first speech Mandela banged the violence drum: “Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.” (http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=4520)

Mandela’s communist leanings

As for Mandela’s commitment to racial and ethnic inclusiveness,  this may have been simply a consequence of ideological capture. Back in the 1950s the ANC was divided between the Africanists who wanted only blacks to be involved and the communists who took a class based stand which included all South Africans – blacks, coloureds, whites, Indians and Malays.  The question of whether Mandela was a member of the South  African Communist Party ( SACP) is perhaps a matter for debate, although he most probably was.  What is not in dispute is his ideological infatuation with Marxism. Here is the South African writer Rial Malan commenting on Mandela’s depiction as a wholly good person committed to democracy:

“In the early Sixties, Special Branch detectives came upon a piece of evidence that made this a bit tricky in Mandela’s case – a handwritten essay titled, “How to be a Good Communist”, (https://archive.org/stream/HowToBeAGoodCommunist/Mandela#page/n5/mode/2up)  in which the leader of the ANC’s newly formed military wing opined that “South Africa will be a land of milk and honey under a Communist government.”[RH note: The essay also contains ‘In our own country, the struggles of the oppressed people are guided by the South African Communist Party and guided by its policies’]

We were told that Mandela was innocently toying with Marxist ideas, trying to understand their appeal, but this made no sense. Almost all his co-conspirators were Communists, wedded to a Sovietist doctrine that envisaged a two-phase ending to the South African struggle – a “democratic national revolution”, followed by a second revolution in which the Marxist-Leninist vanguard took power.

If Mandela wasn’t in on this plot, it would have been exceptionally stupid of him to participate in it, and Mandela was never stupid. Which leaves me believing the evidence recently presented by historians Stephen Ellis (of Amsterdam) and Irina Filatova and Apollon Borisovich Davidson (of Moscow): Mandela was secretly a member of the South African Communist Party’s innermost Central Committee.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10502173/Nelson-Mandela-he-was-never-simply-the-benign-old-man.html).

To this can be added Mandela’s first speech on leaving prison in 1990. This showed him still in Marxist fellow travelling mode:

“I salute the South African Communist Party for its sterling contribution to the struggle for democracy. You have survived 40 years of unrelenting persecution. The memory of great communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for generations to come.” (http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=4520)

He also said this in the speech “I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am therefore in full agreement with all of its objectives, strategies and tactics. ” Ibid.

That is a very Marxist turn of phrase.

In 1991 in a speech he made in Cuba we find him saying “Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro … (https://archive.org/stream/HowToBeAGoodCommunist/Mandela#page/n1/mode/2up)

On a visit to the USA he made this incredible statement about Cuba “There is one thing that country stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is in its love for human rights and liberty.” Ibid

He also seemed to have a fondness for dictators generally for visiting Libya a week later he praised Gaddafi for “His commitment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.” ibid

At the least one can put comrade Mandela down as a very serious fellow traveller.

[The South African Communist Party have since claimed that Mandela was not merely a member when he was arrested in 1962 but a member of   its central committee http://www.sacp.org.za/main.php?ID=4151]

Mandela’s later career

A Machiavellian explanation of Mandela’s career from the late 1980s onwards is that those with power in South Africa had calculated that they could no longer maintain apartheid or indeed anything which was not at least formally representative democracy. Why they would have done so is far from clear. This was especially the case from 1989 onwards following  the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, an event which ostensibly improved the apartheid state’s survival prospects because the Soviet’s were strong backers of the ANC which they saw as a vehicle to promote the power of the SACP because the Marxist sympathies of many in the ANC hierarchy.   Perhaps it was because behind the scenes the Americans were withdrawing tacit support, or because big business in South Africa  was threatening to leave, or perhaps it was simply that the  ruling elite had  become weary.

Once the decision was made by the apartheid era power brokers, both political and business,  they were faced with the best way  (from their point of view) of making the transition.  What better way than to have someone like Mandela,  who was already through the efforts of the Western media and politicians been raised to iconic status, to provide the rhetoric of inclusiveness, of forgiveness, of  a peaceful transition? Whether Mandela was willing to take the role because he was still an observant Marxist and was playing a long game or whether he had undergone a Damascene conversion during his years of captivity to the happy clappy multiculturalism of the white liberal is neither here nor there. What matters is his willingness and ability to play the role.

Mandela certainly played the part required of him, but he went much further than merely preaching reconciliation.  Take  his reported sudden conversion from a belief in nationalisation to the market economy:

“Mr Mandela once explained this conversion with his characteristic self-deprecation and humour. Referring to Davos business delegates, he said: “They had a dinner where they listened to me very politely, before explaining to me exactly what would happen if we carried out the plans we made in prison.

“I went to bed thinking while I had been out of the real world for 27 years, things had changed. Nobody told me I was stupid. But I could see that they thought I was not very clever. I woke up the next day and realised nationalisation would be the wrong policy for my country.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10499740/Nelson-Mandela-champion-of-economic-freedom.html)

This is a remarkably trivial way to make such a sudden ideological volte face if that was what it was.  More plausibly it was simply a glib explanation for having got into bed with the real power brokers in South Africa at that time, Big Business.

It should be remembered that Mandela had little time in office. He served only one presidential term and for the last two years of that he handed the reins of power to his deputy Thabo Mbeki. It is also questionable what real political power Mandela exercised even before handing over power. He was 76 when elected president and with the best will in the world a man of that age will most probably not have the energy or desire to impose his will in the face of serious opposition. To that can be added the fact that he had spent nearly three decades outside the normal cut and thrust of politics.  It is not unreasonable to imagine that a man who had been in prison for 27 years would  have become institutionalised and find decision making difficult.

Looked at coldly, the role Mandela played since he stood down as President has been purely that of a PR tool, but even before then he was performing the function.  What is truly remarkable is that this happened despite the fact that  as a public performer he had  little going for him, being at best an uninspiring speaker and often downright boring , as he delivered strangely punctuated sentences in a jerky manner. Nor did he often have anything of real importance or interest to say beyond general pleas for reconciliation. Amazingly, his communist sympathies and continued belief in violence, which should have marred the myth, simply did not register with the general public. The Western media had created a fabulous figure who could do no wrong and, like the emperor with no clothes, the crowds he drew, acting often enough in the manner of  teenagers screaming at pop groups, could either not see there were no clothes on this emperor or were constrained by fear of pointing out the unfortunate fact.

What is the future likely to bring? The odds must be on South Africa falling into the completely dysfunctional mess which is general  lot of black Africa, perhaps quite gradually because it is much more sophisticated than any other sub-Saharan African state.  There is no indication of the crime and poverty problems being solved and every indication that ethnic and racial conflict will worsen because of the lack of satisfaction of the hopes of  poor blacks.

Whites are still required to keep things running , but the failure of  ANC governments since the first elections after the end of apartheid to take any serious action to prevent the slaughter of white farmers together with the often bellicose anti-white statements by ANC leaders suggest that we may well see in the next ten or fifteen years the type of squeezing of the white population as happened in Zimbabwe. But whites are not the only minorities who may face an increasingly frosty future. The Coloureds, Indians and Malays are also likely targets. In addition there  is plenty of inter-tribal strife, for example  between Zulus and Pondos (http://www.csmonitor.com/1985/1227/osouth.html/(page)/2) or Xhosa and Sotho. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200109100307.html)

It is not a legacy to be for which to be remembered warmly.

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