Saturday, December 7, 2013
Mandela has Passed
Mandela has passed and in the end, he was allowed to go quietly. His legacy cannot be perfect because what he had to deal with was grossly imperfect. The white tribe was completely brainwashed or browbeaten into supporting and maintaining a doctrine of hatred and separation. The blacks were preferred illiterate and starved. This also left a legacy of hatred.
He astonishingly was able to defuse this caldron of hate. It has been replaced by a cauldron of fear and low level struggle that is at least evolving and in time this can become something better. That does still demand concentration on the delivery of education to the children. An educated South Africa will be a middle class South Africa.
South Africa is well ahead of its competitors but then the road is naturally long. In the meantime it is easy to blame the failure of time on the Father of his Country. This was something no one could change. What he did do was avoid a vastly worse outcome such as we have seen in Zimbabwe or say the Middle East. It is now up to his heirs to build on what he produced.
Mandela, Man of Great Achievements
After 27 years in prison Nelson Mandela emerged as a beacon of hope for people worldwide. He made a conscious decision to let go of hatred, and eventually he bequeathed to the world the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He admitted his flaws and insisted he was not a saint. However he is, by acclamation, a great man, a man who achieved greatness through physical and mental discipline.
In his youth, Mandela was a boxer. In prison, he exercised his body and plotted out how to advance his ideas of justice and freedom. Besides these outer pursuits, he practiced a discipline of character found in great mystics. As Danny Schechter, author of the just-released book “Madiba A–Z,” said, “He survived long years in prison by ‘going inside,’ and often had to do the same as president.”
For his great outer and inner achievements, Nelson Mandela may indeed be regarded as saintly one day, if not today.
Nelson Mandela: Master of Forgiveness
JOHANNESBURG— Nelson Mandela was a master of forgiveness. South Africa’s first black president spent nearly one-third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, the system of white racist rule that he described as evil, yet he sought to win over its defeated guardians in a relatively peaceful transition of power that inspired the world.
As head of state, the ex-boxer, lawyer and inmate lunched with the prosecutor who argued successfully for his incarceration, sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration and traveled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister at the time he was sent to prison who was also the architect of white rule.
It was this generosity of spirit that made Mandela, who died on Thursday at the age of 95, a global symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation in a world often jarred by conflict and division.
Mandela’s stature as a fighter against white racist rule and seeker of peace with his enemies was on a par with that of other men he admired: American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, both of whom were assassinated while actively engaged in their callings.
Mandela’s death deprived the world of one of one of the great figures of modern history and set the stage for days of mourning and reflection about a colossus of the 20th century who projected astonishing grace, resolve and good humor.
South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at a news conference late Thursday, saying “we’ve lost our greatest son.”
At times, Mandela embraced his iconic status, appearing before a rapturous crowd in London’s Wembley Stadium soon after his 1990 release from jail. Sometimes, he sought to downplay it, uneasy about the perils of being put on a pedestal. In an unpublished manuscript, written while in prison, Mandela acknowledged that leaders of the anti-apartheid movement dominated the spotlight but said they were “only part of the story,” and every activist was “like a brick which makes up our organization.”
He pondered the cost to his family of his dedication to the fight against the racist system of government that jailed him for 27 years and refused him permission to attend the funeral of his mother and of a son who was killed in a car crash. In court, he described himself as “the loneliest man” during his mid-1990s divorce from Winnie Mandela. As president, he could not forge lasting solutions to poverty, unemployment and other social ills that still plague today’s South Africa, which has struggled to live up to its rosy depiction as the “Rainbow Nation.”
He secured near-mythical status in his country and beyond. Last year, the South African central bank released new banknotes showing his face, a robust, smiling image of a man who was meticulous about his appearance and routinely exercised while in prison. South Africa erected statues of him and named buildings and other places after him. He shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with F. W. de Klerk, the country’s last white president. He was the subject of books, films and songs and a magnet for celebrities.
In 2010, Mandela waved to the crowd at the Soccer City stadium at the closing ceremony of the World Cup, whose staging in South Africa allowed the country, and the continent, to shine internationally. It was the last public appearance for the former president and prisoner, who smiled broadly and was bundled up against the cold.
One of the most memorable of his gestures toward racial harmony was the day in 1995 when he strode onto the field before the Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg, and then again after the game, when he congratulated the home team for its victory over a tough New Zealand team. Mandela was wearing South African colors and the overwhelmingly white crowd of 63,000 was on its feet, chanting “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”
It was typical of Mandela to march headlong into a bastion of white Afrikanerdom — in this case the temple of South African rugby — and make its followers feel they belonged in the new South Africa.
The moment was portrayed in “Invictus,” Clint Eastwood’s movie telling the story of South Africa’s transformation through the prism of sport.
It was a moment half a century in the making. In the 1950s, Mandela sought universal rights through peaceful means but was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for leading a campaign of sabotage against the government. The speech he gave during that trial outlined his vision and resolve.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,” Mandela said. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
He was confined to the harsh Robben Island prison near Cape Town for most of his time behind bars, then moved to jails on the mainland. It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, yet he and other jailed members of his banned African National Congress were able to smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid movement, and in the final stages of his confinement, he negotiated secretly with the apartheid leaders who recognized change was inevitable.
Thousands died, or were tortured or imprisoned in the decades-long struggle against apartheid, which deprived the black majority of the vote, the right to choose where to live and travel, and other basic freedoms.
So when inmate No. 46664 went free after 27 years, walking hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie out of a prison on the South African mainland, people worldwide rejoiced. Mandela raised his right fist in triumph, and in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he would write: “As I finally walked through those gates … I felt — even at the age of seventy-one — that my life was beginning anew,”
Mandela’s release, rivaled the fall of the Berlin Wall just a few months earlier as a symbol of humanity’s yearning for freedom, and his graying hair, raspy voice and colorful shirts made him a globally known figure.
Life, however, imposed new challenges on Mandela.
South Africa’s white rulers had portrayed him as the spearhead of a communist revolution and insisted that black majority rule would usher in bloody chaos. Thousands died in factional fighting in the runup to democratic elections in 1994, and Mandela accused the government of collusion in the bloodshed. But voting day, when long lines of voters waited patiently to cast ballots, passed peacefully, as did Mandela’s inauguration as president
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world,” the new president said. “Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa! Thank you.”
Mandela also stood hand on heart, saluted by white generals as he sang along to two anthems now one: the apartheid-era Afrikaans “Die Stem,” (“The Voice”) and the African “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (“Lord Bless Africa”).
Since apartheid ended, South Africa has held four parliamentary elections and elected three presidents, always peacefully, setting an example on a continent where democracy is still new and fragile. However, corruption scandals and other missteps under the ruling African National Congress, the liberation group once led by Mandela, have undercut some of the early promise.
President Jacob Zuma periodically observes that the South African white minority is far wealthier than the black majority, an imbalance that he regards as a vestige of the apartheid system that bestowed most economic benefits on whites.
When Mandela came to power, black South Africans anticipated quick fixes after being denied proper housing, schools and health care under apartheid. The new government, however, embraced free-market policies to keep white-dominated big business on its side and attract foreign investment. The policy averted the kind of economic deterioration that occurred in Zimbabwe after independence; South Africa, though, has one of the world’s biggest gaps between rich and poor.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918, the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, a Xhosa homeland that later became one of the “Bantustans” set up as independent republics by the apartheid regime to cement the separation of whites and blacks.
Mandela’s royal upbringing gave him a regal bearing that became his hallmark. Many South Africans of all races would later call him by his clan name, Madiba, as a token of affection and respect.
Growing up at a time when virtually all of Africa was under European colonial rule, Mandela attended Methodist schools before being admitted to the black University of Fort Hare in 1938. He was expelled two years later for his role in a student strike.
He moved to Johannesburg and worked as a policeman at a gold mine, boxed as an amateur heavyweight and studied law.
His first wife, nurse Evelyn Mase, bore him four children. A daughter died in infancy, a son was killed in a car crash in 1970 and another son died of AIDS in 2005. The couple divorced in 1957 and Evelyn died in 2004.
Mandela began his rise through the anti-apartheid movement in 1944, when he helped form the ANC Youth League.
He organized a campaign in 1952 to encourage defiance of laws that segregated schools, marriage, housing and job opportunities. The government retaliated by barring him from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg, the first of many “banning” orders he was to endure.
After a two-day nationwide strike was crushed by police, he and a small group of ANC colleagues decided on military action and Mandela pushed to form the movement’s guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.
He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ hard labor for leaving the country illegally and inciting blacks to strike.
A year later, police uncovered the ANC’s underground headquarters on a farm near Johannesburg and seized documents outlining plans for a guerrilla campaign. At a time when African colonies were one by one becoming independent states, Mandela and seven co-defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
The ANC’s armed wing was later involved in a series of high-profile bombings that killed civilians, and many in the white minority viewed the imprisoned Mandela as a terrorist. The apartheid government, meanwhile, was denounced globally for its campaign of beatings, assassinations and other violent attacks on opponents.
Even in numbing confinement, Mandela sought to flourish.
“Incidentally, you may find that the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the process of your own mind and feelings,” he wrote in 1975 to Winnie Mandela, a prominent activist in her own right who was in a separate jail at that time.
Mandela turned down conditional offers of freedom during his decades in prison. In 1989, P.W. Botha, South Africa’s hard-line president, was replaced by de Klerk, who recognized apartheid’s end was near. Mandela continued, even in his last weeks in prison, to advocate nationalizing banks, mines and monopoly industries — a stance that frightened the white business community.
But talks were already underway, with Mandela being spirited out of prison to meet white government leaders. After his release, he took charge of the ANC, and was elected president in a landslide in South Africa’s first all-race election.
Perceived successes during Mandela’s tenure include the introduction of a constitution with robust protections for individual rights, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he established with his fellow Nobelist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It allowed human rights offenders of all races to admit their crimes publicly in return for lenient treatment. Though not regarded as wholly successful, it proved to be a kind of national therapy that would become a model for other countries emerging from prolonged strife.
Despite his saintly image, Mandela was sometimes a harsh critic. When black journalists mildly criticized his government, he painted them as stooges of the whites who owned the media. Some whites with complaints were dismissed as pining for their old privileges.
In the buildup to the Iraq War, Mandela harshly rebuked President George W. Bush. “Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?” he asked in a speech. “All that (Bush) wants is Iraqi oil.” He suggested Bush and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair were racists, and claimed America, “which has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world,” had no moral standing.
Until Bush repealed the order in 2008, Mandela could not visit the U.S. without the secretary of state certifying that he was not a terrorist.
To critics of his closeness to Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi despite human rights violations in the countries they ruled, Mandela explained that he wouldn’t forsake supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle.
To the disappointment of many South Africans, he increasingly left the governing to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who won the next presidential election and took over when Mandela’s term ended in 1999.
“I must step down while there are one or two people who admire me,” Mandela joked at the time. When he retired, he said he was going to stand on a street with a sign that said: “Unemployed, no job. New wife and large family to support.”
His marriage to Winnie had fallen apart after his release and he married Graca Machel, the widowed, former first lady of neighboring Mozambique.
With apartheid vanquished, Mandela turned to peacemaking efforts in other parts of Africa and the world and eventually to fighting AIDS, publicly acknowledging that his own son, Makgatho, had died of the disease.
Mandela’s final years were marked by frequent hospitalizations as he struggled with respiratory problems that had bothered him since he contracted tuberculosis in prison.
He stayed in his rural home in Qunu in Eastern Cape province, where Hillary Clinton, then U.S. secretary of state, visited him in 2012, but then moved full-time to his home in Johannesburg so he could be close to medical care in Pretoria, the capital.
He is survived by Machel; his daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second.
What More Is There to Learn From Nelson Mandela?
Just days before he died on Thursday, Nelson Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe Mandela told SABC, the state-owned television network SABC that her father (from his first marriage) was teaching the family life lessons from what she termed his “deathbed.”
“Even, for a lack of a better word, on his deathbed, he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”
Thanks to the release of the new epic movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba and Naomi Harris, the public is learning other lessons about the freedom struggle that he led.
On Christmas day, it opens nationwide in the United States on 2000 screens, with a majority of reviews very positive. It is already showing in France, and England will be next in January.
In South Africa, the movie that shows Mandela’s early days as a boxer broke all box-office records.
At the same time, no one movie can hope to tell the full story of a life that has spanned 95 years. Hollywood-style storytelling inevitably telescopes history, compresses characters, and seek to entertain more than inform
Some of the critics make this point, even as most were laudatory. A few found it too rushed, others too long, or they dwell on missing context, and insufficient history, as does Simon Abrams on RogerEbert.com: ”The prison guard insists that Nelson and his wife should not talk about politics, and Long Walk to Freedom’s creators honor that request. Instead, they talk about how they feel about politics. So the raised tone of Winnie’s voice is more important than the content of her words.”
Critical nitpicking aside, many can agree with the LA Times’s conclusion: “This may be a familiar story, but it is one worth experiencing again and again. “ And, that’s also why the AP reviewer noted, “This is the perfect time for youngsters (or their elders) who don’t know enough about the man to go learn about him.”
And that’s also precisely why the film’s producers asked me to draw on many of the interviews I did for a companion documentary series on the making and meaning of Long Walk to Freedom for a book that seeks to tell some of the rest of the story. “Madiba A to Z” (Seven Stories Press) is now out in the United States and in South Africa.
To supplement Mandela’s own autobiography and the many biographies about them, I look at what insiders realize but many in the adoring public do not. Quite a few who do know him well are loving but privately critical (and self-critical), most deeply aware of the limits of the changes in South Africa almost twenty years after the end of apartheid and the coming of democracy.
I spoke to many key players and insiders, including two former presidents, DeKlerk and Mbeki and Deputy President Motlanthe, his prison comrades and fellow ANC activists including Archbishop Tutu, as well as thoughtful writers like Nadine Gordimer and Njabullo Ndebele.
Here are some highlights from an investigation that features intimate stories on 26 aspects of Mandela’s life and times.
•The key finding is how many of the “stalwarts” of the struggle including Mandela himself are privately disappointed with the “progress” that’s been made and have “regrets” with the ANC’s many failures in a way we haven’t seen before.
•Thabo Mbeki told me that the problems of South Africa have not changed very much from 1994 because of the greed of the white business community and its failure to invest in job creation.
•Madiba A-Z explains that there were top-secret economic negotiations alongside the televised political talks that allowed the World Bank and global business leaders, especially powerful Americans, effectively to limit what South Africa could do to regulate industry and fight poverty. This is what led to the neo-liberal policies South Africa was pressured to adopt in the name of pro-market stability.
Promised jobs and investments by an adoring world, few were forthcoming. Poverty in South Africa today is as bad as it was when Mandela was elected in 1994.
Other points of special interest:
• The armed struggle fought by the ANC’s guerilla army Umkhonto we Size was also aided by the Vietnamese army after the defeat of the U.S. led war in that country. The Cuban defeat of South African military forces in Angola helped spur negotiations.
•While Mandela deserves credit for engineering a peaceful political settlement, it was external pressure including economic and cultural sanctions demanded by a global anti-apartheid movement that brought decisive leverage on political leaders to negotiate. His law partner, Oliver Tambo’s role as ANC leader was probably more decisive in orchestrating pressure when Mandela was behind bars.
•While Mandela was hailed by a cheering world for his iconic role, he was often personally miserable because of the break-up of his marriage and the bitter internal battling inside the ANC. He survived long years in prison by “going inside,” and often had to do the same as President.
These are just a few of the disclosures as I dealt with the “many faces” of a leader so many think they know, but often only one dimensionally, as I explored Mandela as a villager, bully, boxer, prisoner, lover and womanizer, peacemaker and legend.
Throughout his political struggles, he rejected the idea that he was a “savior” and always embraced collective leadership even as the media lionized him and treated him as a “brand” or celebrity.
The media and even the movie avoid deeper political debates and minimize the role of a bottom-up movement for the decisions of a top-down leader. News reports of pervasive corruption today rarely reference how corrupt the Afrikaner regime had been.
The enormity of what he and South Africa achieved in resolving conflicts can best be seen when compared to other conflicts in the world that ended more violently, or not at all.
Recall what else was going on in this period — genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, or today’s unresolved fighting in Syria and Egypt. If leaders in those countries had adopted Mandela’s approach to reconciliation, the outcomes might have been different
How he helped guide a peaceful outcome in a racially explosive society is a story that even now is treated superficially by the press there and here, when at all.
What emerges is a portrait of a man, and a troubled nation as well as the texture of a struggle that, despite many gains, is still fighting for true freedom. After his release from prison, Mandela was told, “Well now you’re free.” And he said: “No, we’re freed to be free.”