“The Penalty Would Have Been Death”
(Written by Bruce Anderson, writing in the London Sunday Telegraph on the occasion of Mandela’s 70th birthday, and reproduced in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue No. 134, First Quarter 1990)
The imprisonment of Nelson Mandela was neither a human rights issue nor an injustice. There was no question of trumped-up charges, as sometimes alleged. Mandela pleaded guilty to planning explosions and was sentenced after a scrupulously fair hearing. In Britain, similar offences would have carried the same sentence: life imprisonment. But in Britain, as no one was actually killed – Mandela and his co-conspirators were arrested before the bombings were properly underway – he would have been released by now.
Not in other countries. In Russia, or Cuba, or almost anywhere in Black Africa, he would have been executed. Throughout the USSR, thousands of prisoners have served sentences as long or longer than Mandela’s, either for trifling offences or for no crime at all, in infinitely worse conditions – but the great moral conscience of the pop world remained unmoved.
Mr Mandela is obviously an impressive human being. But his decision to resort to violence was unjustified and resulted in a serious setback to the struggle for Black political rights in South Africa. As a result of his endorsement of armed conflict South African White liberalism was demoralised, and Black radicalism crushed. At the same time the ANC, which had been a broadly based nationalist movement, fell largely under the direction of the SA Communist Party and accepted a political agenda which could be achieved only by violent revolution.
Getting to Grips with Mandela
by Aida Parker
(Published in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Spring 1990, Issue No. 138. This article was written after Mandela, who had been released earlier that year, went on a tour of various countries to drum up support. This was four years before his terrorist outfit, the ANC, came to power in SA and he became SA president)
For SA, it is an immense political tragedy that we are so isolated from world opinion; that our media generally, and SABC-TV in particular, is so terrified of offending ANC/SACP susceptibilities. Let’s do a post mortem on Mandela’s recent long overseas tour. Most South Africans, especially Blacks, believe this to have been a runaway success.
The popular press did indeed have a ball. Others were by no means so enthralled – notably now, when the early euphoria has evaporated and the inevitable reaction to over-exposure has set in. Examples:
Writing in the London Sunday Telegraph, Geoffrey Wheatcroft urged his readers to ignore Mandela’s style and look at the substance of what he said: “American Mandelamania is so hysterical and uncritical that Mr Mandela could almost praise Stalin as the world’s greatest statesman before indecently assaulting Mrs Bush on the White House lawn and no word of criticism would be uttered. (The New York Times would not report it).”
He added: “He might have noticed, but hasn’t, that what passes for socialism has produced peculiarly gross inequities in Russia and its former satrapies, and has pauperised the peoples of dozens of African countries. Travel is said to broaden the mind. If only Mr Mandela’s travels had taught him that there must be a better hope for his people than discredited dogma.”
Editorial, London Daily Mail: “After his long years in captivity his (Mandela’s) view of the world outside Southern Africa seems to be caught in some kind of time warp. Castro, the aging Communist dictator of Cuba, is still a hero to him. Mr Mandela still seems to see all the world’s terrorists and their backers through a sentimental time haze.”
Editorial, London Daily Star: “Many well-meaning, decent people have been drawn to the Nelson Mandela bandwagon. They are misguided. For Mandela and his African National Congress are terrorists. They are hell-bent on violence. Why was Mandela jailed all those years ago? It was because he plotted to bathe his nation in blood. Has the leopard changed his spots?” (Their italics).
Editorial comment, Washington Times, on Mandela’s call for intensified anti-SA sanctions: “Has it occurred to Mr Mandela (or others in the sanctions lobby) that to level sanctions against a government simply for the purpose of dictating internal political and social change is as much an act of aggression as launching a military invasion? Nowhere can we find evidence that he or his friends have spoken out against the ideologically-inspired slaughter of tens of thousands of Blacks in Ethiopia and Sudan. It is difficult not to get the impression from his statements that he regards some Blacks – those of socialist leanings – as more equal than others.
“In trying to discover the real Mandela, consistency leaps out. Mr Mandela, a revolutionary and lifelong supporter of Marxist causes, seeks power for the ANC and the ruinous ideological superstitions it harbours. What needs (to be decided) is whether he is a noble democrat or a ‘freedom fighter’ who feels justified in torturing political foes as well as the language and logic of liberty.”
US Congressman Dan Burton, vice-chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Africa, in a letter to The New York Times: “Questions relating to Mr Mandela’s political, economic and social tendencies must be answered. None is more important than this: Given Mr Mandela’s avowed admiration and strong words of praise for Castro, Arafat, Gaddafi and Ethiopia’s Col Mengistu Haile Mariam and his consent to appear in public with the convicted Puerto Rican who shot up the US Capitol in 1954, and given some of the anti-democratic, violent history of the ANC, along what lines would Mr Mandela and his colleagues like to structure a future South Africa? The fate of South Africa and the well-being of its citizens – Black and White – depend in large measure on the answer.”
Bill Buckley, American syndicated columnist: “It was in Angola that Mr Mandela pronounced his estimate of Fidel Castro most comprehensibly: ‘There’s one thing where (Castro’s Cuba) stands out head and shoulders above the rest – that is in love for human rights and liberty.’ That statement was of course analytically preposterous and morally incompetent.”
Buckley continued: “Just before arriving in the US, Mr Mandela was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize (the Soviet Union, present or past, is not criticised by Mr Mandela, whose support of communist doctrines has been explicit). The question, so painful to ask, arises: Is leadership by such a man in the interest of the people he seeks so ardently to serve?”
Political columnist Mike Royco in his syndicated column: “Appearing on a TV forum with Ted Koppel… a guest said he was disappointed in Mandela’s expressed admiration for Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat. The question was naturally expressed with appropriate deference. You don’t just ask a world-class hero: ‘Hey, Nelson, we’re talking about terrorists and dictators. Can’t you find any chums who don’t go in for blowing people up, standing them in front of firing squads or tossing old tourists over the side of boats?’
“After (saying these people had helped the ANC in the struggle) Mandela replied: ‘We have no time to be looking into the internal affairs of other countries. It is unreasonable for anybody to think that is our role.’ For some reason – probably out of respect for his heroic stature – nobody asked the obvious question: ‘Mr Mandela, if you have no time to be looking into the internal affairs of other countries, and it is unreasonable for anybody to think that is your role, why is the US expected to be looking into the internal affairs of SA: what are we doing, imposing sanctions and boycotts?’”
And even the Toronto Sun: “When Mandela spoke to Toronto schoolchildren… they were asked to give money to help the education of SA schoolchildren. What he didn’t tell them was that for years the ANC had instructed the children to boycott their schools. Mulroney has said: ‘SA has the only viable economy in Africa.’ True. So why does he try to break it with sanctions?
“Let us not forget a Canadian called Louis Riel who was convicted in Canada of the same acts with which Mandela was charged: sabotage, treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government. We hanged him! Let us not forget that revolution is not the moral path to a just society. Reform is.”
Finally, from France, syndicated writer Nicholas Rowe: “The 14-country, multi-million trek was undoubtedly an exploit for an elderly man, not in the best of health. There were questions. After Mandela steered his way through the papal panoply in Rome, some wondered who, after Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela, will be next on the Pope’s invitation list… Gaddafi, Castro?”
Of events in SA, Rowe added: “Perhaps even more dangerous to the chances of peaceful evolution towards a non-racial multi-party democracy is the projected return from camps in East Africa of 20 000 ANC exiles. Of this number some 15000 are trained guerilla fighters, well-armed and even better conditioned in Stalin-think. Mr Mandela has been fund-raising for their repatriation and the money will certainly be forthcoming: if from no one else, the ANC can always count on UN bounty.”