Nelson Mandela, the icon of Africa

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95. He outlived WW1, WW2, the Cold War and the Apartheid regime in South Africa. A hero for many South Africans, a fighter for a none-racist world and feared by the ruling class of the former Apartheid regime. Although called a ”communist” he never created socialism. Instead, his government adopted capitalist economic policies designed to promote foreign investment, adhering to the “Washington consensus” advocated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This is why the capitalist media remains positive about him. Had he remained a genuine socialist, then the capitalists of the world would not have liked him!

Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo. He was five months old when World War One ended in November 1918. The young Mandela was the first child of his family that ever went to school, there he got his British name; Nelson, as a child he did not understand why he was giving this name. In 1937 he went to the Methodist college, were its headmaster was a white supremacist. There he found out how the white ruling class looked down on the black working class. Like the Nazi´s in Germany, the British were racists and believed in the superiority of the white European race. This racism would not die after WW2 as it did in Europe. In South Africa racism was called Apartheid, a Dutch world which can be translated as separation!

At age 26, Nelson Mandela joined the banned African National Congress. Studying at the University of the Witwatersrand to become a lawyer, he made friends with liberals and communists who opposed the racist laws of South Africa at that time. Mandela became involved in the ANC Youth League and opposed working together with the communists of the South African Communist Party. He believed that the ideals of communism were un-African and not suitable for South Africa. In 1947, Mandela was elected to the executive committee of the Transvaal ANC, serving under regional president C.S. Ramohanoe. When Ramohanoe acted against the wishes of the Transvaal Executive Committee by co-operating with Indians and communists, Mandela was one of those who forced his resignation!

The parliamentary election in South Africa on 26 May 1948 represented a turning point in the country’s history. The United Party, which had led the government since its foundation in 1933, and its leader, incumbent Prime Minister Jan Smuts, were ousted by the Reunited National Party, led by Daniel Francois Malan, a Dutch Reformed cleric. From that date on the National Party would rule South Africa, they made things easy because they banned the ANC and the South African Communist Party. During elections only whites were allowed to vote, blacks had no voting rights. The National Party was a racist party that promoted Apartheid, the separation between whites and blacks!

In 1952, Mandela spoke out against Apartheid at a mass rally of 10.000 people. He was arrested by the racist police, but his speech made sure that the ANC grew from 20.000 to 100.000 members. The Apartheid regime panicked and ordered mass arrests of ANC supporters. Thousands of blacks were lifted out of their beds and arrested for supporting a banned political party. A year later the Public Safety Act was enacted by the South African Apartheid government. This Act empowered the government to declare stringent states of emergency and increased penalties for protesting against or supporting the repeal of a law!

With the involvement of the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured People’s Congress, the South African Congress of Trade Unions and the Congress of Democrats, the ANC planned a Congress of the People, calling on all South Africans to send in proposals for a post-apartheid era. In this document a new South Africa would be none-racist, democratic socialist with the means of productions nationalized. More then 3000 people attended the Congress of the People. Yet the racist police raided the meeting and arrested its members. Again a peaceful gartering was disrupted by the criminal Apartheid regime!

On 5 December 1956 ( 56 years before his death ) Mandela was arrested by the racist police. They accused him of ”high treason” against the state. The trial would last almost six years and was a huge defeat for Apartheid when Nelson Mandela was found not guilty. But the racists would soon find another reason to arrest the ANC icon. In August 1962, Mandela was arrested and charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission. The racist police soon arrested the other ANC leaders which lead to the Rivonia Trial!

During this famous trial, members of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party put on trial for ”221 acts of sabotage, public violence, and bombings”. Two were acquired, but Nelson Mandela was sentenced to lifetime in prison. While been trialed, Mandela spoke his famous speech that would make him a hero among the black working class of South Africa. He said: ”During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die!”

The western imperialist world was happy with the arrest of the ANC and SCAP leadership. Nations like the USA and United Kingdom supported the Apartheid regime, because it was very anticommunist. Western imperialism also declared the ANC to be terrorist. This was a result of the armed struggle led by the ”Spear of the Nation” or Umkhonto we Sizwe ( MK ). The armed wing of the ANC was founded in 1961 when it became clear that the racist regime would never allow a peaceful ending of Apartheid. On 16 December 1961, the MK launched its first attack on government buildings. Both South Africa and the United States of America then declared the ANC and the MK to be a ”terrorist” organisation!

In its manifesto the Umkhonto we Sizwe said:

“Our men are armed and trained freedom fighters not terrorists.
We are fighting for democracy—majority rule—the right of the Africans to rule Africa.
We are fighting for a South Africa in which there will be peace and harmony and equal rights for all people.
We are not racialists, as the white oppressors are. The African National Congress has a message of freedom for all who live in our country.”

Off course the racist government and their anticommunist allies saw them as terrorist and not freedom fighters. Mainly because the MK used bomb attacks on civilians targets. Also there was widespread torture among captives in ANC detention-camps. Like the Viet-Cong the MK used terrorist methods in order to put fear into the minds of the white ruling class. We revolutionary socialists think this was a bad idea, because it alienated the white working class from the black workers who supported the ANC. Why would a white South African support the ANC if their armed wing was attacking white people?

Nelson Mandela spend 18 years in the Robben Island jail. There he was forced to work each day. Working in the heat of the sun, he was not allowed to wear sunglasses, this caused the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight. In his small cell he was physically harassed by several white prison wardens, who loved to bully and intimidate the ANC leader. Unlike Felix Dzerzhinsky, Nelson Mandela never developed a deep hatred for his opponents. Although harassed and bullied Mandela did not brake!

Living conditions improved after 1967 with black prisoners given trousers rather than shorts, games being permitted and food quality improving. In 1969 an escape plan for Mandela was developed, but this was abandon after the South African secret police had infiltrated the group who hoped that Mandela would be shot. A year later a new prison director started to increase the physical and mental abuse of prisoners. Only after many complains by Nelson Mandela did the prison replaced that sadistic director!

In the 70’s he wrote his autobiography which was smuggled out of prison. After the guards discovered some pages he was banned from witting for almost four years. Mandela also supported the 1976, Soweto Uprising. Students from numerous Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets of Soweto in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools. An estimated 20,000 students took part in the protests. The racist police attacked the students and killed at least 175 of them. Many of the radical student leaders were jailed on Robben Island, were they met Nelson Mandela. He supported their radical activism, although he was critical about their hatred of white people in general!

Fearful of the Mandela’s influence on the younger South Africans, the Apartheid government moved him and the other ANC prisoners, to Pollsmoor Prison. Mandela and his comrades were kept there for six years from 1982 till 1988. Living conditions were better then on Robben Island, but Mandela missed the camaraderie and scenery of the island. Unlike his previous prison directors who hated Mandela, the director of Pollsmoor Prison was more sympathetic. He allowed Mandela a rooftop garden and he was also allowed reading voraciously and corresponding widely, now permitted 52 letters a year!

During the last 10 years of Apartheid, the slogan ”FREE MANDELA” became the battle-cry of many anti-racists. By now many people started to oppose the South African government, but thanks to the USA and the United Kingdom, the Apartheid regime was kept into power. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher both called the ANC a ”terrorist” organisation. Both leaders wanted to keep Apartheid because of its anticommunism. So the National Party remained in power thanks to the USA and the UK. Yet South African capitalism was facing an international boycott as foreign banks refused to invest in the nation. Now that the white ruling class was feeling the pressure they ask the National Party to think about releasing Mandela. But Apartheid president Pieter Willem Botha refused to free the ANC leader. He was a ”dangerous Marxist” the Apartheid president told his capitalists!

In 1985, the government offered Nelson Mandela a deal. He could be freed if he ended the armed struggle against Apartheid. Mandela refused and said; “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”. Since he refused to end the struggle, the ANC remained banned and Mandela stayed in jail. But the white ruling class could not longer keep up with the criticism and the boycott of many South African enterprises. After another five years it became clear that South Africa needed to change!

After the opening of the Berlin Wall, some inside the white ruling class now called for the release of the ANC leader. Still many members of the National Party opposed anything that would free Nelson Mandela. But their racist way of thinking was no longer supported by the capitalists. With the collapse of stalinism in the world, the US government had no reasons to support Apartheid any-more!

On 11 February 1990, the world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally freed after 27 years in prison. He spoke of national reconciliation with the white minority, but made it clear that the ANC’s armed struggle was not over as long as the racist government remained in power. The next day Mandela spoke to 100.000 people at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium. Soon both the ANC and the SACP were legalized. Some inside the white ruling class now feared a civil war and a socialist revolution as the Freedom Charter of the ANC spoke of a nationalized economy!

Nelson Mandela faced a new personal drama when he separated from his wife Winnie Mandela. Both were married since 1958, but their relation after his release grew cold. Winnie Mandela had done things that were unacceptable for the ANC. She took part in the capture, torture and murder of 14 year old; James Seipei also known as Stompie Moeketsi. He and three other ANC boys were kidnapped by Winnie Mandela’s bodyguards called the Mandela United football club in 1989. The four boys were accused of being spies for the Apartheid government. James Seipei was tortured and then killed on the orders of Winnie Mandela. His murder would become a cause célèbre for the apartheid government and opponents of the ANC and Winnie Mandela’s iconic status was dealt a heavy blow!

She was also found out to be unfaithful to Nelson Mandela. The fact that she betrayed him, took part in the murder of a 14 year old boy and used violet rhetoric against ANC opponents, Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela separated in 1994. Although this was not made official until 1996. On 24 April 2003, Winnie Mandela was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft. She was sentenced to five years in prison, this later reduced to three years. Winnie Madela resigned from all of her ANC duties after this!

On 7 September 1992, the ANC faced another mass murder. This time their supporters were killed by black supporters of Apartheid. Oupa Gqozo was the military dictator of the Republic of Ciskei a black homeland. During Apartheid the black people were giving land to live in. These black states were govern by people who supported the racist politics of the National Party. Oupa Gqozo was one of them, he became military leader of the Ciskei Defence Force. When 80.000 ANC supporters marched to Ciskei, Gqozo ordered his soldiers to open fire. 28 ANC members were killed in the shooting!

Mandela also face opposition from radical white separatists. Led by Eugène Ney Terre’Blanche, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement ( AWB ) attacked ANC members with violence and terror. Terre’Blanche was a true believer in Apartheid and did not believe in peaceful coexistence with the black majority. On 25 June 1993, the AWB attacked the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park. The WTC was the centre of the venue for multi-party negotiations to end the apartheid system through the country’s first multi-racial elections. The AWB opposed multi-racial elections and stormed the building with 300 of their members. South African police forces could do nothing when Terre’Blanche drove his armoured car through the building. Some officers tried to stop the racists but they were soon outnumbered. Terre’Blanche and his AWB took the building, they painted racist slogans on the walls, urinated over furniture and harassed delegates. Damage was estimated at more than 67.000 US dollars!

Nelson Mandela began meeting with big business figures and played down his support for nationalisation, fearing that he would scare away foreign investment. Although criticised by socialist ANC members, he was encouraged to embrace private enterprise by members of the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties at the January 1992 World Economic Forum in Switzerland. The South African Communist Party too supported capitalist economic politics, so the ANC leader abandoned the socialist agenda of the Freedom Charter and embraced the neoliberal model set out by the Washington Consensus!

With the ANC now moderate and more social democratic in outlook then genuine socialist. The white ruling class was ready to allow free elections for all people of South Africa. On 26 April 1994, the first multi-racial elections were held. The African National Congress won 62,65% of the votes. Although the National Party feared a socialist takeover, the white ruling class knew this would not happen. The ANC promised to keep capitalism intact, this was also supported by the communist party. In order to appeal to white voters, the National Party was asked to join the ANC in a coalition government!

The presidency went to Nelson Mandela who became the first black president of the country. As a sign that this was a new South Africa, the flag was changed. Until 1994 the banner of South Africa was a tricolour, made up of orange, white and blue. These Dutch colours were taken from the flag of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, the Dutch republic that existed from 1581 till 1795. South Africa’s Apartheid flag was however an insult to the black majority who lived under Apartheid for 70 years. the new flag has a horizontal bands of red ( on the top ) and blue ( on the bottom ), of equal width, separated by a central green band which splits into a horizontal “Y” shape, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side ( and follow the flag’s diagonals )!

Many black workers had very high hopes when Nelson Mandela became president. But by 1999 it became clear that the ANC was just another capitalist party. Although social spending increased the problems rose faster then the government could handle them. Crime rose very high as the police forces were now limited by democratic reforms. The new freedoms that came after 1994, unfortunate led to a rise in crime.

White supremacists abuse this fact by claiming that the ANC government does nothing to protect the white against what they called ”black terrorism”. Eugène Ney Terre’Blanche and his AWB claimed that the black majority government would still hate whites and look the other way when blacks committed crimes against whites. Terre’Blanche himself would become a victim of violence. He was murdered on 3 April 2010 on his farm by two black workers, allegedly over a wage dispute. The AWB used his murder as proof that black people love to kill white people!

In 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to investigate crimes committed by both the ANC and the Apartheid regime. For the first time people were told of the injustice that was Apartheid. But the ANC was forced to accept that they too were guilty of crimes against humanity. Some whites claim that the ANC has not denounced its crimes and still glorifies those who murdered innocent farmers and their families.

By May 1996 a new constitution was created. The National Party opposed this and left the government coalition. This would mean the end of the party that endorsed Apartheid. The National Party renamed itself New National Party in 1997 in order to distance itself from its racist past. But this failed and in 2005 the NNP was dissolved. The party of the racists, anticommunists and right-wing conservatives was gone. Opposition to the ANC was now led by the Democratic Party who became the Democratic Alliance in 2000. The DA is broadly centrist, though it has been attributed both centre-left and centre-right policies!

Nelson Mandela left the office of president in 1999, he was 81 years old. Mandela also stepped down as chairman of the African National Congress. The party elected Thabo Mbeki as its new leader. Mbeki would start with neoliberalism as the markets demanded. Instead of helping black workers the ANC helped black capitalists, who were seen as the ”creators of wealth”. Although Mandela kept South Africa capitalist, it was Mbeki who began with the neoliberal reforms. Because of this the black working class remained poor!

In February 2007, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation was contracted by the South African government to carry out a study on the nature of crime in South Africa. The study concluded that the country is exposed to high levels of violence as a result of different factors, including:

– The normalisation of violence. Violence comes to be seen as a necessary and justified means of resolving conflict, and males believe that coercive sexual behaviour against women is legitimate.

– The reliance on a criminal justice system that is mired in many issues, including inefficiency and corruption.

– A subculture of violence and criminality, ranging from individual criminals who rape or rob to informal groups or more formalised gangs. Those involved in the subculture are engaged in criminal careers and commonly use firearms, with the exception of Cape Town where knife violence is more prevalent. Credibility within this subculture is related to the readiness to resort to extreme violence

– The vulnerability of young people linked to inadequate child rearing and poor youth socialisation. As a result of poverty, unstable living arrangements and being brought up with inconsistent and uncaring parenting, some South African children are exposed to risk factors which enhance the chances that they will become involved in criminality and violence.

– The high levels of inequality, poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and marginalisation.

It became clear that poverty was the main reason for the rise in crime. But the ANC did nothing to end it. Mbeki remained committed to capitalist ideals and the old Nelson Mandela did not criticize the politics of the government. Both the Congress of South African Trade Unions ( COSATO ) and the South African Communist Party ( SACP ) remained loyal to the ANC government, totally abandoning the working class!

Although the western media was positive about Mandela’s government, they did not liked his friendships with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi. Both Castro and Gaddafi supported the ANC against Apartheid and Mandela kept friendly relations with both Cuba and the former Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Western nations criticized the former ANC leader, they played the role of hypocrites. They were the ones who kept Apartheid in power almost 40 years after the experience with Nazi racism!

After 2004 the now 86 year old Nelson Mandela choose to limit his public appearances. He celebrated his 90 birth day in 2008, but by then he rarely appeared in public. Still he remained loyal to the ANC even after the disastrous era of Mbeki, who was replaced by Jacob Zuma in the same year. After the year 2010 his health started to decline each year. In September 2013 he entered the hospital and few believed he could come out alive. But he did and lived for another two months. Nelson Mandela died after a lung infection on 5 December 2013 around 20:50 hours!

Mandela was an icon, the Lenin of South Africa. But when he finally got the power he fought for, he betrayed his Freedom Charter and Marxist socialism. Nelson Mandela choose capitalism, because he wanted ”foreign investment” in his nation. The collapse of stalinism and the advice to follow capitalism from both the Chinese and Vietnamese communist parties, must have turned him into the camp of capitalism. This was his biggest betrayal and something the media of the western world and that of South Africa will not tell you. Because it is a historic fact that the socialist ideals of the Freedom Charter were ignored, by Nelson Mandela and his ANC!

 

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Nelson Mandela in his younger years. He was the icon of the struggle against Apartheid, but in the end he choose to keep South Africa capitalist. This mistake is the reason why the whites are still richer then blacks in South Africa, 20 years after the end of Apartheid.

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