After the Party is Over…
by Aida Parker
(Published in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue No. 219, July 1998. It was published after President Nelson Mandela turned 80 and married Graca Machel, widow of the late Mozambican Marxist dictator, Samora Machel)
SA is a dangerously self-deluding country, one in sore need of a sharp dose of reality. Much as he may enjoy public affection, the sooner Nelson Mandela bows out, allowing us at last to bury all the fantasy and fairy tales, the better for all concerned. That is the hardnosed market reaction to the hugely pretentious, Hollywood glitz extravaganza staged this month in celebration of Nelson’s 80th birthday and synchronised marriage to Graca Machel. The different approaches of the SA media reflected the fantasy and the reality.
The Johannesburg Star, a publication where sound judgment has never been king, devoted no less than 23 mind-numbing pages, including a 20-page commemorative issue, to Mandela, his life and times. The glorification was excruciating, the rapturous adulation and soggy sentimentality ominously reminiscent of the superhuman status conferred on “Uncle Joe” Stalin, Ceausescu, Castro and Kim Il-sung (not to mention Bokassa and Idi Amin).
Opposed to that The Financial Mail, in a single short leader, deplored the overkill, describing this latest bout of Mandela mania as “embarrassing.” Unquestionably, the ANC’s sharp-suited PR people did go overboard. What’s worse, we’ve been here a good many times before.
Who will forget when our martyr-hero was released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990? Though some of us White troglodytes had grave reservations, for most South Africans the freeing of Mandela was an intensely-exciting, long-sought historic event. Measured against the gigantic global furore, the exultation created almost equated with the Second Coming, with Mandela himself about to descend from the Pearly Gates.
For a while, SA was a nation delirious with joy and relief. Arising from his many and earlier private discussions with De Klerk and other Nat [National Party] cabinet ministers, it was predicted that Mandela would be a decisive force in promoting reconciliation and constructive dialogue. Then, as now, he was universally delineated as a man of peace.
Effectively, on that all-important day, in his opening salvo, Nelson did not declare peace, but war. Almost the very first words he uttered were a high-octane, anti-apartheid chant, not in English, but in Xhosa: “Amandla! Amandla! I-Africa mayibuye!”… “Power! Power! Africa is ours!” Not a very convincing display of moderation, if one understands the sub-text: “And the Whites must take their chances.”
Even more disturbing, he continued: “I salute the SA Communist Party for its steady contribution to the struggle for democracy. I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our finest patriots. We are heartened by the fact that the alliance between ourselves and the party remains as strong as it always was.” Hardly a declaration that what he had in mind for the coming “New SA” was a Periclean democracy. Certainly, he has built no Parthenons for us.
Undeterred, De Klerk and a psychopathic media continued to assert that Mandela’s sole platform was indeed love and peace, that what our saintly crusader envisioned and sought was a stable, productive and safe SA, a reign of justice, prosperity and multi-racial harmony. In other words, universal suffrage in a unitary state, a halo for Mr Mandela and we would all live happily ever after. Peace and prosperity? It was an offer SA could not refuse.
Of such illusions (dubbed, without irony, “miracles”) tragedies are born. In the event, Mr Mandela’s “New SA” is that tragedy. No country ever entered the community of nations to such international jubilation. Sadly, as the ruinous state of our economy testifies, we have blown it. But – a tribute to the incredible power of sustained propaganda – Mandela himself remains, probably permanently, one of the most persistent media-manufactured folk heroes of our day.
Let’s put him under the spotlight. He is universally presented as the supreme statesman, abounding with intelligence, wisdom and sagacity. Measured against all reasonable criteria, he projects more as a satyr than as a saint, more as a sublime political opportunist than a political genius. His engaging cherubic smile notwithstanding, he seems caught in an antique world of “liberation movements” and “African socialism,” as much out of his time as the Nats were out of theirs.
It is one thing to bask in the glory of exaggerated global idolatry. It is quite another to change a nation and create a peaceful, just union of some 43 to 62 million people (no one knows the real size of SA’s population) where all, Whites, Blacks, Asians and Coloureds, enjoy freedom, prosperity and equal opportunity.
Well might we today ask: Has he measured up to the legend? Has he repaid the vast faith invested in him? To that, we might answer: Was it ever realistic to suppose that a single man, one moreover in jail from his 40s to his 70s (and suffering a bad case of Karl Marx disease), could deliver a democratic, free market society enjoying harmonious multicultural democracy, even supposing he had so wished?
There is little merit in accepting the PR version and not looking at the historical record. If someone is the subject of hero worship on an intercontinental scale, his record of achievement must be critically evaluated. On that basis, we cannot disguise that Mandela and the ANC have failed, a failure terrible in its character and terrible in its consequences. To suggest anything else is analytically preposterous.
The raw reality is that SA today is a broken country, trapped in a vicious cycle of massively declining State capability. Their skills and managerial genius properly harnessed, the Whites could have played a felicitous role in helping create a viable post-apartheid society. Their help was spurned. Crudely applied affirmative action and renewed, blatantly racist policies blocked it, to the point where Whites now are a frightened, heavily marginalised people, their numbers declining all the time through brutal murder and migration.
To repeat, we are today a corrupt, sick and increasingly dirt-poor society. No hype or hoopla can change that. The ANC’s performance has been so inadequate to its great task that SA society is now fraying at 1000 edges. A very different picture to that The Star presents. Unfortunately, a huge part of the blame for the disaster rests with Mandela and his communist connections.
Is he himself a card-carrying communist? That has always been denied, but slice it as you like and despite all the compendious published material on him, no one really knows what he is or what he stands for. All we know for sure is that for most of his adult life he has been a committed communist fellow traveller. And, as such, made a variety of stupendously damaging decisions.
In the late 1950s/early 1960s it was Mandela who agreed to join forces with the old Communist Party of SA (CPSA), something Stalin had long sought. In Moscow in 1928 Communist International (the Comintern) directed: “The CPSA should pay particular attention to the ANC. Our aim should be to transform the ANC into a fighting national revolutionary organisation.” Mandela was the man who finally made that possible, his first big sell-out of his own Black brothers: a classic case of what Lenin termed “revolutionary defeatism,” which means that, to facilitate the revolution, the proletariat must defeat and destroy their own country.
From then on the communists, led by Joe Slovo, long-fingered as “Moscow’s man in Africa,” virtually hijacked the entire ANC organisation, linking it formally to Moscow’s star. Despite the window dressing assumed for Western benefit, that situation – the SACP jockey riding the ANC steed – obtains to this day. The communists never made any secret of the fact that they were using the ANC for their own purposes.
The December 1982 edition of the Soviet journal, World Marxist Review, stated: “The national liberation movement in South Africa owes its present scope and clarity of purpose to our party’s tireless activity in the organisation’s political and ideological structures.”
Slovo himself admitted the parasitical relationship when he said in Angola in 1985 that his communist revolution could “only be won under the banner of the ANC.” In September 1985 the ANC’s official magazine, Sechaba, described how the SACP and ANC were “two hands in the same body.”
Mandela’s next great mistake was to endorse violence, which in the end meant terrorism: a seriously bad idea. Together with Slovo he founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, this to act as an armed revolutionary group to foment violent, nation-wide insurrection. Mandela was commander-in-chief, Slovo a deputy commander.
It was the communist conspiracy to overthrow the SA government of the day via violent revolution that eventually brought Mandela (on a CIA tip-off) into the Pretoria Supreme Court as Accused No 1 in the Rivonia trial. The chief prosecutor, Dr Percy Yutar, produced ten documents, all in Mandela’s own writing. These presented some pretty arresting statements and concepts: in particular, his preference for communism. At no time did the defence challenge the authenticity or authorship of the documentation submitted.
In one 62-page document, How To Be a Good Communist, Mandela declared: “In our country, the struggle of the oppressed people is guided by the SA Communist Party and inspired by its policies. We communist party members are the most advanced revolutionaries in modern history. The people of South Africa, led by the communist party, will destroy capitalist society and build in its place socialism. One must be a revolutionary… not a reformist.” Is that what inspired him to assist Joe Slovo in founding Umkhonto?
Some years earlier Mandela had spent time in North Africa, studying terrorism and revolutionary insurrection. He paid particular attention to the bloody Algerian underground movement, its structures and tactics. These lessons he incorporated in war plans for SA. In conformity with the Algerian practice, he advocated that “traitors and informers” have their noses cut off.
At the end of the protracted Rivonia proceedings, Mandela made a four-and-three-quarter hour address from the dock, ever since hailed as one of the great political testaments of the 20th century: and a major plank on which his formidable reputation was founded.
But, contrary to the propaganda, it was neither spontaneous nor all his own work. Only many years later did Anthony Sampson, a former editor of Drum, disclose that the speech was in fact a carefully contrived document which he himself edited and polished at the request of Mandela’s counsel, Braam Fischer, an Afrikaner and probably the most fanatical communist ideologue this country has ever known.
In his book, Rivonia: Operation Mayibuye, H.H.W. de Williers concluded that the Rivonia conspiracy was not caused by apartheid: “the revolt was inspired by communists. The pattern was copybook communist strategy to create chaos by sabotage, riots… to manipulate the indigenous population.”
It is the still-largely untold story of the ANC’s communist connections that remains the greatest threat to SA. Even here a passionately partisan media has twisted things. The more the communists gained a stranglehold on the ANC, the more it was presented as a “nationalist” movement concerned only with justice and advancing the cause of SA’s Black people.
Of course there are and always have been many in the ANC with no Marxist/socialist aspirations whatsoever and who, knowingly, would have nothing to do with communism. But, on the whole, the more prominent of these got short shrift. Mandela, in an interview with the Cape-based journal, South, just before his release from prison, made that adequately clear:
“Co-operation between the ANC and the SACP goes back to the early 1920s… even within the ranks of the ANC there have been at one time or other, people – and some of them were highly respected and influential individuals – who were against this co-operation and who wanted SACP members expelled from the organisation. Those who persisted in these activities were themselves expelled, or they broke away in despair.” (APN emphasis). Which tells the whole sad story.
Politicians who fall from grace leave only a bitter harvest behind them. When the Mandela legend is finally exposed to the gaze of a less adulatory public, he will join the likes of Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kaunda and Mugabe. The smouldering ruins of the nations which fell to their tender mercies will speak more poignantly than the practised hacks of The Star and its gauche sisters.
The hoopla surrounding Mandela says more about the tragedy of modern SA than is comfortable. Had things gone the way so many hoped in 1994, this sentimental orgy would not have been necessary. As things stand, Mandela is all that is left of the many illusions generated during the heady days of the transition to full democracy. Gone is the belief that post-apartheid SA would be peaceful, strong and prosperous. Gone is the belief that the new government would be honest and wise. Gone is the illusion that the race issue would vanish forever and that race quotas would be finally buried. All gone except the myth of Mandela’s magic, which could never have dissolved in the harsh light of dawn because it was never really there. In heaping such mountains of undeserved praise on Mandela, both SA and the world are whispering in the dark, straining to keep up the vain pretence that the miracle is holding its own against the depredations of the multitude of evil impulses inherent in the SA predicament.
The praise songs for Mandela are, in truth, a lament for what might have been.
Republished July 2013