Trying to Decipher Mandela
by Aida Parker
(Published in The Aida Parker Newsletter, Issue No. 157, September 1992. This was just over 18 months before Mandela became president of SA in a massively rigged election)
The ANC and its well-oiled SA Communist Party-controlled propaganda machine would have the world accept Nelson Mandela as a “statesman,” the equal, if not better, of Martin Luther King. At the time of his release from Pollsmoor, State President De Klerk argued that he was “a man of moderation,” eager to “come to decent terms with all South Africans.” The New York Times welcomed his release as “Sunrise in South Africa,” predicting that he would be “an inspired leader,” a “decisive, dynamic man of vision.” Mandela was, opined the NYT, SA’s “last, best chance of peaceful change.”
To say anything contrary to this common wisdom became almost sacrilege. Unfortunately, Mandela’s claims of moderation and sainthood have not been borne out by either his actions or declarations over the past 32 months. His problem: he appears to suffer from some sort of time warp, an incurable jail lag. Today there is a distinct air of unreality in what he says.
Mandela’s world is one where diplomats, especially US diplomats, and businessmen, all seemingly living in the same world of fantasy, delude themselves that the ANC can deliver a democratic, free-market SA, ensuring prosperity for all. Yet all the signals are that Mandela’s walk to freedom has turned sour; that far from sunrise, the glow of his authority wanes like the setting sun.
The media generally, and for its own purposes, largely cloaks Mandela’s more extreme statements, his many contradictions and inconsistencies. That became clear from the start, from the handling of his very first post-release speech in Cape Town, 11.2.90. Surprising those who expected he would strike a note of reconciliation, he instead eagerly embraced the same cause of revolutionary socialism he held when standing in the dock in Pretoria in 1964.
Showing very little of the famous Mandela moderation, he declared not peace but war on SA. Not only did he laud the policy of vengeance, but he again stressed that the SA Communist Party, which he praised for its “sterling contribution to the struggle for democracy,” remained the ANC’s “unshakeable friend.” Though very few of the vast throng of journos present that day chose to report this, he opened his speech with the high-octane phrase: “Amandla! Amandla! I’Africa, Mayibuye” – the Xhosa words for “Power! Power! Africa, It is Ours!”
He stressed that there was “no option” but the “armed struggle”… “now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts.” Nowhere did he yield an inch in the views he has held since he helped Joe Slovo found the ANC’s armed terrorist wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1961.
In other areas too there is an uncanny similarity between what he was saying so long ago and what he says today. Speaking from the dock in 1964, he said: “I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation… attacks on the economic lifeline of the country were to be linked with sabotage of government buildings and other symbols of apartheid… I started to study war and revolution…” Since his release, he has of course been totally committed to the destruction of the SA economy via sanctions and divestment. And, speaking on the BBC, 14.2.90, he said: “South African Government installations are still legitimate targets for the armed struggle.”
His Approach to Violence
The “Great Conciliator” seems mixed up in his approach to violence:
“Mandela… said the youth of today were carrying on the struggle launched by their grandfathers. The youth had given the struggle fresh impetus, not a new direction.” – Sowetan, 11.2.90.
“Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts… the sight of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.” – Citizen, 12.2.90.
“He paid tribute to Black South African youth and said they had been fearless in the struggle.” – Sowetan, 28.3.90.
“The transformation of SA into a non-racial democracy would become reality only as a result of struggle, including the struggle represented by the international sanctions campaign. All of us must therefore refuse to be demobilised.” – London Guardian, 17.4.90.
“He (Mandela) said ANC president Oliver Tambo, whom he saw recently in Sweden, joined in the call to ‘intensify the offensive’ to end the Bantustan system. ‘Bury the stinking Bantustan’ corpse is the message for all the homelands.” – Citizen, 26.3.90.
“And this is what he said to the London Daily Telegraph: “The ANC will take force by power if it failed to reach agreement with the SA Government.”
Now the other side of the coin:
“Any form of violence or coercion is against the policy of the ANC. If you are not disciplined, you cannot hope to win our confidence.” – Christian Science Monitor, 16.4.90.
“We, the ANC, will do our best to find a solution for peace as soon as possible.” – Citizen, 29.4.90.
“We have never supported coercion, nor will we tolerate it now, no matter who employs it.” – Sunday Star, 25.3.90.
“Any form of violence, coercion and harassment is against the policy of the ANC.” – Sowetan, 17.4.91.
“Throw your weapons into the sea.” – Call to Durban rally.
Overseas, too, Mandela has often seemed to go out of his way to make quite clear that he is not a man of moderation. He has lovingly allied himself with the world’s leading exporters of terrorism – Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat – and earlier, before this became very unfashionable indeed, spoke well of Erich Honecker.
Speaking in Teheran on his way to the UN in July, he declared: “The people of Africa will make Iran’s Islamic revolution a model for their own revolutionary moves.” He went on to lay a wreath on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the old monster who unleashed one of the most obscene excesses of revolutionary violence in modern history.
Just what do we make of such a man?