Fit… for What?
(from the London Sunday Independent, 29.4.90, and reproduced in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Spring 1990, Issue No. 138)
Many Africans have been struck by the fact that Nelson Mandela could emerge fit and healthy from a South African jail after 27 years, knowing that radical opponents of their own governments could never emulate such a feat.
The Mandela Mirage
by Aida Parker
(Published in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue No. 139, September/October 1990. Mandela had been out of prison for some months, and it was four years before his ANC came to power in SA and he became SA president)
Had SA’s “liberal” (really leftwing) media – and this indictment includes SABC-TV – played fair with information; had they done their journalistic duty and done an honest job of reporting on Mandela and the ANC in recent months, South Africans would have had due warning that serious storm signals were flashing, that grisly violence was being deliberately fomented in Johannesburg’s Black townships.
Instead, via reporting that was variously euphoric, partial, indulgent, misleading and not infrequently downright dishonest, a Munich-type gullibility was built up. With the honourable exceptions of The Citizen and Business Day, idolatrous praise for Mandela has been pervasive throughout most of the SA media this year.
Intent on maintaining his image as The Great Conciliator, it has been consistently argued that Mandela is a man of moderation and reason, eager to come to terms with SA’s Whites, to help build the “New South Africa” into a land of peace, prosperity and stability for all. What has been conspicuously omitted from the very day of his release from Cape Town’s Victor Verster Prison, 11.2.90, is that Mandela has been sternly urging his troops to rev up confrontation.
His more extreme statements, and those of his henchmen, have been largely cloaked, softened or explained away. What we have seen, most notably on SABC-TV, has been a full flowering of “Don’t Criticise the ANC or Mandela.” At one time it was so bad on SABC-TV that many suspected some sort of deal had been struck with the ANC. If Mandela or other ANC chieftains said anything which showed them in bad light, it proved extremely difficult to find out about it. It was as if criticism would somehow jinx the marvellous unfolding of the “New South Africa.”
But where is this famous Mandela moderation? It might, here, be salutary to look back at his opening salvo in the memorable speech in Cape Town on February 11 [the day he was released – Editor]. In this he declared war, not peace, on the SA Government. He opened that speech with the high-octane phrase: “Amandla! Amandla! I-Africa, mayibuye!” – Xhosa for “Power! Power! Africa is ours!”
I found very few references to that in either the SA or international coverage of the event. On violence, he said: “The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue…” Slice it as you like, those words could only be construed as a stunning challenge to the man who had just sanctioned his release… State President FW de Klerk.
Yet, thanks to skewed media coverage, how many South Africans fully understood what was being implied? Those remarks were heavily played down. Surely, for someone who is the subject of international hero worship to advocate political violence, is that fact not newsworthy, deserving of careful analysis and comment? The respected British intelligence journal, Special Office Brief, thought so, anyway. It was quick to warn that euphoria over Mandela was premature. As early as March 6 it issued this caveat:
“The world is being led to believe that… South Africa is on the verge of democratic evolution, under Nelson Mandela. Factually, South Africa is on the brink of a bloodbath of Black against Black. The terrorist Mandela is not a majority leader and will not be accepted by the Zulus. The conventional make-believers are at it yet again. World opinion is now offered yet another great illusion…”
The Washington Post, which has invariably denigrated the SA Government while boosting the ANC and Mandela, also on this occasion proved editorially disturbed: “We think we were not the only listeners who found it passing uncomfortable to hear Nelson Mandela, in his first public words upon release from prison, salute the SA Communist Party for its sterling contribution to the struggle for democracy; and go on to hail some of the party faithful by name, including Secretary General Joe Slovo.”