A True Messiah of Peace?
by Aida Parker
(Published in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue No. 168, October/November 1993. This was just months before Mandela swept to victory as president of SA)
Every concerned South African should acquaint themselves with the true facts concerning the Rivonia trial and draw correct conclusions from them. The problem here is that the name of Mandela is so familiar that very few any longer remember who he really is or why he went to prison for life. From the very beginning of the trial Mandela, Accused No 1, was made the centre of a worldwide propaganda campaign: a great deal of this, as with so much of the mystique surrounding him, built on myth.
Mandela declined to take the oath and therefore did not enter the witness box, which meant he could not be cross-examined. At the conclusion of the trial, he made his historic speech from the dock. It was eloquent, moving, appeared spontaneous and explained why he was “prepared to die for freedom.” Only problem here was, as many suspected from the start, that it was not his own work. In a 1990 interview with Jeremy Brooks in London, British journalist Anthony Sampson, former editor of Drum magazine, confirmed that he prepared the speech on the basis of a few rough notes scribbled by Mandela.
Last year, further questions about Mandela’s famed defence in the trial came with the release of official papers by the British Foreign Office. These included a report compiled at the time by Viscount Dunrossil, First Secretary at the British Embassy in Pretoria. Writing to Mr Peter Foster, head of the West and Central Africa Department at the Foreign Office, he suggested that the trial showed Mandela as “incompetent.”
Dunrossil reported how Mandela was in danger of ruining his own defence. He was doing so badly, he said, that at one point the prosecuting counsel broke precedent and came to his rescue. He added: “Mandela is determined to extract the maximum political advantage from the trial. Thus yesterday several witnesses were little more than pegs on which, during cross-examination, he was able to hang long political speeches of his own.”
Dissecting Mandela’s effect on the court, Dunrossil wrote: “Practically none of his cross examinations were of a technical nature related to his actual legal case. His technique of cross examination is noticeably weak and he has twice been helped by the prosecuting counsel who, on one occasion, pointed out that Mandela had forgotten to comment on the second of two letters about which he wanted to examine a witness.”
The report concluded: “He clearly has reckoned that the political advantage to be gained from defending himself outweighs his own technical lack of ability.” On the trial itself, even the liberal, now defunct, Rand Daily Mail, for many years the main SA media voice against apartheid, found no fault with the manner in which it was conducted. In an editorial, 17.6.64, it said:
“Wise and Just”
“The sentences pronounced by Mr Justice de Wet yesterday at the conclusion of the Rivonia trial were both wise and just. The Law is seen at its best where there is firmness tinged with mercy, and this was the case yesterday. The sentences could not have been less severe than those imposed. The men found guilty had organised sabotage on a wide scale and had plotted armed revolution. As the judge pointed out, the crime of which they were found guilty was essentially high treason.” Other editorial comment was that the “convictions would have been obtained in any civilised Western country.”
Of the summing up by the Judge-President, the Rand Daily Mail in its front page report said: “The judge said he had heard much from the accused and their counsel of the disabilities under which the non-Whites suffered in this country, but he doubted very much whether the motives for their crimes were as altruistic as they would have the court believe. Those who planned to overthrow governments by revolution almost inevitably contemplated replacing those governments themselves.”
It was striking that nowhere in his defence statement did Mandela refer to himself as a nationalist. Which brings us to a very important point. When the ANC began in 1912, as a Black self-help organisation, it had not the slightest hint of communism. Its stated purpose was to secure better treatment for Blacks, and its membership consisted of Black intellectuals, mostly teachers, lawyers and clergy.
By 1928, the USSR had targeted the ANC for takeover. The Sixth Congress of Communist International in Moscow resolved: “The Communist Party of SA should pay particular attention to the ANC. Our aim should be to transform the ANC into a fighting nationalist revolutionary organisation against the White bourgeoisie…” (Umsebenzi. SACP journal, Vol 2, No 1, 1986).
Dr Igor Glagolev, who defected from the USSR in 1976 after being closely involved for many years in Soviet support for Southern Africa terrorism, declared: “The decision to begin an offensive for the conquest of Southern Africa was taken by the Politburo of the USSR near the end of the 1950s. The Soviet leadership controls (through Yusuf Dadu, chairman of the SACP) not only the SACP but the ANC as well.”
Till that time, Southern Africa had probably been the most peaceful part of the entire world. That all changed with the outbreak of the Soviet-sponsored civil war in Angola in 1962, followed by similar wars in Mozambique, Rhodesia, Namibia and, eventually, by mass terrorist action in SA. Today the US is the main sponsor of revolutionary action in SA, with ANC/SACP funding coming now almost entirely from the West. It is the Americans and the Scandinavians who have most actively promoted Mandela as “the man who will save SA.” It is this concentrated Western support for the ANC that explains the eerie absence of any criticism of its campaign of violence.
So: what about Mandela? Does he believe in the democratic process? Could he produce a government which allows diversity, freedom of expression, opportunity, a return to peaceful change? Most important of all, is he a genuine nationalist, or a Marxist masquerading as such? Has he changed from a man of violence to a messiah of peace? Those are immensely urgent questions. Put them to Mandela and you will never get a direct reply. It is the greatest tragedy that the media shows so little interest in getting truthful answers.