17 October, 2017

The Essential Mandela

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“In the 20th Century he was one of the few who, in contrast with those who made it infamous for fascism, racism, dictatorship and war, marked the era as one that achieved some human advancement…. Nelson Mandela belongs to the world”. – Nadine Gordimer[i]

In 1993, as South Africa hovered in a twilight time between an Apartheid-past and a post-Apartheid future, two men planned a murder. Janusz Walusz, a neo-Nazi, and Clive Derby-Lewis, a Conservative Party parliamentarian, were readying to ignite a racial-civil war to keep Apartheid alive. Their plan was to kill a popular black leader and provoke the already simmering townships into bloody mayhem. The white-majority military will intervene to protect order and white-lives, they believed; and Apartheid will be saved.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Their chosen target was Chris Hani, the second most popular ANC leader, hero of rebellious young blacks, former head of Umkhonto we Sizwe[ii], chief of the South African Communist Party and the man widely believed to be Mandela’s handpicked political heir[iii]. Hani had played a key role in the negotiations which ended Mandela’s imprisonment. He was also involved in the talks to end Apartheid and bring about a democratic South Africa.

The first part of the plan worked; Hani was gunned down by Walusz outside his home in the morning of 10th April 1993. A traumatised land teetered on the edge of a calamitous civil conflict, but did not fall. That same evening Nelson Mandela addressed the nation: “This is a watershed moment for all of us”, he told his people waiting for a sign. “We must not let the men who worship war and who lust after blood, precipitate actions that will plunge our country into another Angola.”[iv]

His appeal worked. Though some violence did happen, the Armageddon Hani’s killers were counting on was prevented and South Africa’s march to freedom saved.

Mandela’s plea in that desperately dangerous hour may not have worked so well, had he or the ANC made any compromises with Black-supremacism during their long struggle. But they had not. Their vision and their actions had been uncompromisingly non-racist. They regarded Apartheid not as a crime against blacks but as a crime against humanity. Whites – and other non-white people – were actively encouraged to take part in the struggle. And a minority of committed whites did participate at every level; they too were hunted by the Apartheid state, arrested, tortured and sometimes killed. Black South Africa’s list of heroes and martyrs included quite a few white men and women. It was the ANC’s conscious and consistent refusal to respond to the Apartheid state’s toxic ‘white vs. black’ politics with an equally noxious ‘black vs. white’ politics which saved South Africa from a violent hell 20 years ago.

An Icon of Fraternity

Before there could be Nelson Mandela the global icon of peace and reconciliation, there was Nelson Mandela the angry young man. The leitmotiv of his life was not non-violence or moderation. He championed the cause of armed struggle against the opposition of the ANC’s own ancien regime (the then ANC leader Albert Lutuli was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to non-violence), was the founder-leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe and even went for military training in Algeria and Ethiopia.  His totally constant political quality was his abiding belief that South Africa should be the equal home of all her people. That fundamental sense of tolerance, that refusal to define humanity by race, colour, tribe, religion or any other divide defined his and ANC’s politics.

The path to liberation that Mandela/ANC espoused was colour-blind. Anyone who was outraged by Apartheid and willing to struggle against it had a place to occupy and a role of play in that struggle. Perhaps Mandela’s and the ANC’s total commitment to non-racism is best symbolised in the history of Umkhonto. Taking up arms against the white state was the deadliest form of resistance, a ‘treasonous act’ meriting death. Considering the risks, that venture required total trust, commitment and reliability. Umkhonto was truly a multi-racial venture, a worthy forerunner of Mandela’s future rainbow nation. Mandela founded it together with white communist Joe Slovo. Its leading figures included many non-blacks: Fred Carneson (white/Communist), Jack Hodgson (white/Communist), Ahmed Kathrada (born of Indian-Muslim parents), Arthur Goldreich (white/Jewish), Dennis Goldberg (white/Jewish) and Ronald Kasrils (white/Jewish).

Ordinary blacks, living the horrors of white-racism in their daily lives, would yet have the example of some whites who risked life and freedom to liberate South Africa. That would have been a potent impediment to the degeneration of anti-Apartheid struggle into an anti-white war.

The incarceration of Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mabeki and other top ANC leaders (Oliver Tambo was working in exile) created a leadership vacuum in the anti-Apartheid struggle. This was briefly filled by another South African great, Steve Biko who argued that blacks should liberate themselves through their own efforts. Biko was not a black-racist and he did not want to see a white-racist South Africa replaced with a black-racist South Africa. But he believed in promoting black self-reliance and empowering blacks psychologically. We will never know what South Africa would have been like, had Biko’s Black Consciousness movement supplanted the ANC and its multi-racial politics. But it is reasonable to assume that such a South Africa would not have been able to resist the diabolical lure racial civil war as totally as Mandela’s country did.

Mandela’s and the ANC’s refusal to imitate Apartheid’s divisive rules or intolerant creed saved South Africa from another very possible horror – tribal war. As Apartheid rule neared its inglorious finale, there were real fears of Zulu-dominated Inkatha igniting a tribal-war with the help of recalcitrant White-supremacists. Though most top ANC leaders of that time were Xhosa, the organisation had principally abjured tribal-politics. Had Mandela/ANC dabbled with the tribal-card, a black-on-black confrontation might have torn independent South Africa apart.

Means do shape ends. A Black-supremacist ANC could not have created a multi-racial South Africa. The new state’s national anthem symbolised the unapologetically tolerant, consensual and inclusive approach to nation/state-building championed by Mandela and the ANC. Combining parts of the ANC’s battle-hymn and the old Apartheid anthem, it is sung in five languages[v]; the end result is a beautiful harmonious whole[vi].

It was perhaps Mandela’s refusal to accept limitations to his humanity which made him traverse a different path from Robert Mugabe. Mugabe believed that his status as a liberation-hero placed him above the common humanity. Considering himself infallible he used tribalism and racism to protect his power. Mandela did not. He refused become a Superman of Nietzschean-mould, governed democratically and left power voluntarily.

In a speech commemorating Ruth First[vii], Mandela said, “It is a small consolation that her memory lives beyond the grave, that her freedom of spirit infuses many committed to an open society, rigorous intellectual thought, courage and principled action.”[viii] So it is with Mandela. His example, and the institutions, practices and beliefs he helped fashion, will hopefully enable South Africa to survive the execrable excesses of Jacob Zuma.

Mandela appealed to the best and not the worst in his people. He proved the possibility of Utopia. It is a worthy dream to cleave to.



[i] Keynote Speech at the AI’s Ambassador of Conscience Award to Nelson Mandela

[ii] The Spear of the Nation – the armed wing of the ANC

[iii] In his funeral oration for Hani, Mandela referred to Hani’s widow Limpho as ‘Our daughter-in-law’ – a clear indication of the politico-personal bond which existed between the two men.

[v] Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English

[vii] White communist leader and wife of Joe Solvo; South African secret police used a parcel bomb to kill her.

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  • 2
    2

    While “Janusz Walusz, a neo-Nazi, and Clive Derby-Lewis, a Conservative Party parliamentarian, were readying to kill Mandela” who was still in prison, a “rising star of the Conservative Research Department named DAVID CAMERON… accepted an all-expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa … funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime” said a columnist. Today hypocritical Cameron is shedding a bucket full of tears for Mandela.

    • 3
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      Chandra – spot on! Reminds me of another current leader who made it to Geneva (very rightly, too) on account of HR violations by the then GOSL. Wonder what happened to his ‘values’?!!

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      Chandra, Not only that Cameron personally intervenes and stops all attempts to initiate any war crimes investigation into Israel’s conduct in Palestine. Further, Mandela challenged all those who praised him, while swimming in hypocrisy themselves, to deal firmly with Israeli Aparthied against Palestinians. Of course, Mandela’s words fell on Tony Blair’s & David Cameron’s deaf ears. All this makes Cameron’s grand standing at CHOGM in Colombo laughable. Cameron has given a shot in the arm to our King. Who will cunningly turn it into a new term in the President’s office in Sri Lanka. Cheers!

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      The days that David Cameron was pitching to become Prime Minister I remember Mrs. Thatcher was the Prime Minister. It was also the eve of the apartheid downfall. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. But we read that negotiations were taking place about a the transfer of power in SA. But Cameron, had accepted an all-expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa funded by supporters of the apartheid regime to back their sanction busting efforts. That was true nature of David Cameron. Even at that it was rumoured that some Tories had wanted to hang Mandela while he was in prison. // But look at Cameron’s acting today: He half-mast the flag on Downing Street and started writing eulogy on behalf of the neocon clique. He wrote: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero…. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.” He went to South Africa House and added his condolences in the book reserved for that purpose: ” … your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by.” On Twitter Cameron reiterated: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.” // To add injury to insult Cameron ended one of his messages to say: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Is this the hypocrisy at its best?

    • 0
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      Tisaranee Gunasekara and Chandra,

      “In the 20th Century he was one of the few who, in contrast with those who made it infamous for fascism, racism, dictatorship and war, marked the era as one that achieved some human advancement…. Nelson Mandela belongs to the world”. – Nadine Gordimer[i]”…………………….

      Succinctly Stated compare life before and after…………………………………………..

      Nelson Mandela probably believed in a God or Natural Force we all originated – The Egalitarian God. …………………………………………………
      ……………………………………………………
      Apartheid in South Africa Laws, History: Documentary Film – Raw Foot

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOA66AOG52M

      ………………………………………………………
      http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_egalitarianism.html ……………………………………………………. Egalitarianism is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals from birth, usually meaning held equal under the law and in society at large. It is a belief in human equality, especially with respect to social, political and economic rights and privileges, and advocates the removal of inequalities among people and of discrimination (on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc)…………… Moral Egalitarianism is the position that equality is central to justice, that all individuals are entitled to equal respect, and that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. …………….

      Apartheid in South Africa Laws, History: Documentary Film – Raw Foot
      ……………………………………………………..
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOA66AOG52M
      ……………………………………………………
      Published on Aug 15, 2012
      Apartheid (lit. “aparthood”) (pronounced [uh-pahrt-heyt, [uh-pahr-hahyt]) is an Afrikaans word for a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments, who were the ruling party from 1948 to 1994, of South Africa, under which the rights of the majority black inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained. Apartheid was developed after World War II by the Afrikaner-dominated National Party and Broederbond organizations and was practiced also in South West Africa, which was administered by South Africa under a League of Nations mandate (revoked in 1966 via United Nations Resolution 2145), until it gained independence as Namibia in 1990……………………………………………..

      Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times under Dutch[4] and British rule. However, apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups (“native”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Asian”),[5] and residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. Non-white political representation was completely abolished in 1970, and starting in that year black people were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of white people.[6]…………………………………….

      Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long arms and trade embargo against South Africa.[7] Since the 1950s, a series of popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more effective and militarized, state organisations responded with repression and violence…………………………………….

      Reforms to apartheid in the 1980s failed to quell the mounting opposition, and in 1990 President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid,[8] culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela. The vestiges of apartheid still shape South African politics and society. Although the official abolishment of Apartheid occurred in 1990 with repeal of the last of the remaining Apartheid laws, the end of Apartheid is widely regarded as arising from the 1994 democratic general elections being held……………………………………….

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aparthei

  • 1
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    I suppose you are trying to contrast the situation in SL with SA. Are you hmmm?

    The difference was the De Klerk gave up the fascist apathied regime. The whites then negotiated with the black majority to find a policial soution. Reconciallation followed and everything hunky dory.

    In Sri Lanka, Sampathan has gone back to demanding the fascist Tamil homeland. The guy is looking to steamroll over Sinhala sentiments using TN and cocomeme ‘war crimes’ as leverage.

    This is elementary really. True reconcialliation comes when this fascist minority falls in line. There is no short cuts is there? If there is I’d like someone to show it to me.

    • 0
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      Vibushana – I suppose this all depends on one’s point of view. There are many of the minority here that would consider ours to be a ‘fascist’ regime. And in that case they would also concur with you that “..True reconcialliation comes when this fascist majority falls in line..”. They will also probably agree with you about there being “no short cuts”

      • 0
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        Before Mandela, minority Africana regimes of whites had forced blacks into segregation by creating Bantu lands. And everyone opposed it for it is a ‘fascist’ act. Amazingly, Tamil minority in SL have Africana ancestor codified law called ‘Thesawalame’ to restrict other races coming into their so-called ‘Home land’. Is such acts that Tamils of SL fought a terrorist war to retain and now try to hang on through regional democracy not ‘fascist’?

    • 0
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      Vibushana either writes in ignorance or stokes the fires of racial conflict as he irresponsibly claims viz:- “Sampanthan has gone back to demanding the fascist Tamil homeland” Both in Parliament and outside -more in recent times, the TNA leader has given up the Separate State option and, unambiguously, pledges his party is ready to working within an undivided country. This is more to appease the counselling of the international community and is reconciliation-centric.

      BTW, the reality of the Tamil Homeland in the island is, undeniably, part of our ancient history and will be only disputed by the mischievous. What the Tamil Nation conceded was to work in line with that British scheme of uniting the 3 different kingdoms in the island “for administrative convenience” If the Sinhala South wishes to continue the perfidious acts of their predecessors in the late 1940s
      then the Tamils are perfectly within their legal rights to seek the restoration of the Status Quo.

      Senguttuvan

      • 0
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        Heyla Senguttuvan,

        First of all Sampathan did not give up the idea of a seperate state. He was forced to do so as a result of a military defeat of the LTTE. Had LTTE survived Sampathan would continue to toe their line. Tamil homeland is not recognised by the majority Sinhala. It is not part of ancient hisotry. British did not unite 3 kingdoms. They signed one treaty taking charge of the Sinhale (Ceylon). They left handing back to Sinhale. No Sinhala south did anything to ‘disturb’ the status quo and never has.

        • 0
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          Vibhushana …… Sampanthan never believed in the separate in the first place. ………. 1976 Vattukottai resolution was dead on arrival…… He knew this and the entire TULF knew this on the morning after passing the resolution………….

  • 0
    0

    There are many of the minority here that would consider ours to be a ‘fascist’ regime.

    The ‘regime’ on the other hand has never been proscibed in 52 countries as a terrorist regime. Its all relative isnt it really .. hmm?

  • 0
    0

    Well written Tisaranee.

    Not only Sri Lanka needs, but lacks a “Mandela”. We lack a “De Klerk” in the opposition as well. Above all we miss a “Desmond Tutu” to give us moral guidance. When we as a nation struggles with “limitations of humanity” as you put it. Instead of a “Tutu”, we have “Gnassara” dominating air waves. Spreading hatred. May God bless our country!

    • 0
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      Desmond Tuta (even recently has called for the boycott of the commonwealth) has many times over the past few years criticized the King MR, his he also a LTTE lackey as some claim?

    • 0
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      @Ben

      We may not have a Mandela, a De Klerk or a Tutu…but Colombo Telegraph has a Ben Hurling who sometimes sits on the fence. God does not bless countries with people who sit on the fence…he blesses countries where people call a spade a spade and do something tangible when their country is run by a dictator. :)

  • 0
    0

    Just because Mandela was black doesn’t mean he was Tamil.

  • 0
    0

    T.G., thanks for the ‘breath of fresh air’. Quite frankly, I was expecting you to blame the Rajapakse family for the death of Nelson Mandela. But, you have pleasantly surprised many of us. Thank you for a well written piece.

    Regards,

    Jazz.

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