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Nelson Mandela RIP

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 6th, 2013 at 02:09:57 AM EST

I first became aware of Nelson Mandela in a personal way, when, as a 17 year old undergraduate student, I came in contact with South Africans who had been banned by the Apartheid regime for their political activities and who were now campaigning for an end to Apartheid throughout Europe.

Basil Moore, author of an anthology of Black Theology which included a contribution from Steve Biko had been banned for campaigning against Apartheid in his role as General Secretary of the South African University Christian Movement.  He lived under house arrest, his neighbours hung and strung up the the family pet from a lamp post outside their home, and he eventually escaped by sneaking across the border into Zimbabwe. Eva Strauss was banned for marrying a black man (and also perhaps for her outspoken political and feminist views). Colin Winter, Bishop-in-exile of Namibia had been deported for his opposition to Apartheid in Namibia and support for striking migrant workers.

All spoke with a moving personal touch. Politics was no longer some remote political struggle thousands of miles away. It wasn't just a cerebral and ideological battle: It was about how you lived your own life; it was also about the struggle against racism here at home. It was about the structures of international capitalism which made Apartheid possible, and which could also be part of its downfall.

front-paged by afew

Later I changed courses and studied International Law under Kader Asmal, then President of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, and who later became Minister for Water, and then Minister for Education in successive post Apartheid Governments.

Much later again I wrote my Masters thesis on Apartheid, predicting the imminent demise of Apartheid just before De Klerk came to power and eventually released Mandela. I found it hard not to cry as he walked his way out of prison, I had invested so much emotional energy in his struggle.

The late 1980's was a time when anything seemed possible. Mandela was beginning to end Apartheid, and Gorbachev was dismantling the Soviet Union. Two giants of this and any age.

When Mandela visited Dublin to be made a Freeman of the City, my kids waved ANC flags in his honour. We had to show our support. Only after the end of Apartheid did I feel it right to visit South Africa itself, where I have since been fortunate to make many friends. In their lives I have seen the changes that the end of apartheid has made, and how much Mandela contributed to that process.

May he rest in peace. Sometimes people do not know the good they do in and for others. We never met, but his struggle helped to change my life.

I too, as a student, had several South African friends who were banned or who had fled the brutal apartheid regime of the 1960s, which led me to support the anti-apartheid movement and the boycott of South Africa.

Mandela had not been on Robben Island for so very long, but his name was already a byword -- in a sense because he was a martyr for the cause, but also because his inspiring personality and leadership, in evidence after his release in 1990, had already made their mark.

Would that we had more Mandelas.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 6th, 2013 at 02:22:08 AM EST
beautiful tribute, many thanks.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Dec 6th, 2013 at 05:50:52 AM EST
Lord Mayor Sean Haughey and Nelson Mandela - 1990  plus photo's

Nelson Mandela accepted his honour as Freeman of Dublin City in the Oak Room of the Mansion House almost two years after it had been awarded to him. Lord Mayor Sean Haughey told those present: 'The people of Dublin walk taller because you are amongst us'.

by Oui on Fri Dec 6th, 2013 at 09:39:57 AM EST
Mandela, Pacifist or Rebel? - Inter Press Service

MONTEVIDEO, Dec 6 2013 (IPS) - Perhaps it's a false contradiction. But today there are many who stress the pacifist message with which South Africa's Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) emerged from prison in 1990, while few put an emphasis on his rebellion against apartheid, including armed rebellion, which landed him in prison.

Mandela was a political activist and a revolutionary at least since 1942. Two years later he joined the African National Congress, becoming a founding member of the Youth league, and leading the movement, which had been inconsequential for decades, to more radical positions.

Mandela was a rebel when he headed the civil disobedience campaign against the unjust laws of the white segregationist regime in 1952, and when, although he was a poor student, he qualified as a lawyer and set up the country's first black law firm.

Because he was a rebel he was banned more than once, arrested and prosecuted in the Treason Trial, before he was finally acquitted in 1961. He was a rebel when he went underground.

But above all he stayed true to his rebelliousness after the Sharpeville massacre of 69 unarmed demonstrators during a Mar. 21, 1960 protest against the apartheid laws, the subsequent state of emergency, the arrest of 18,000 people and the banning of the ANC and other organisations.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 7th, 2013 at 03:44:56 AM EST
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 7th, 2013 at 03:46:28 AM EST
Nice one, Frank. Actually I had never read before how you got so close with SA, beautiful story.

Curiously, Mandela's death has triggered plenty of people to publicly regale how they met him and were instantly charmed by him - a human reflex which I find, although understandable, also slightly uncomfortable, it seems a weird mix of deification and narcissism. Though it also signals to me a world with a dearth of inspiring leadership.

Like you, and so many, I've never met Mandela personally, so perhaps I simply don't know what people are talking about. While I've long felt a certain frustration of never even seeing the man appear publicly with my own eyes, there is no better consolation that I could walk and mingle for years (and still can) with South Africa's best and brightest, of all colours and all generations. And that's how Mandela will live on.

by Bjinse on Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 08:19:15 AM EST
There's also this, just as relevant for modern SA:

The Contradictions of Mandela - NYTimes.com

It is ironic that in today's South Africa, there is an increasingly vocal segment of black South Africans who feel that Mandela sold out the liberation struggle to white interests. This will come as a surprise to the international community, which informally canonized him and thinks he enjoyed universal adoration in his country. After he initiated negotiations for the end of apartheid and led South Africa into a new era of freedom with a progressive Constitution that recognizes the rights of everyone (including homosexuals, another admirable contradiction for an African aristocrat), there was, of course, euphoria in the country. But that was a long time ago. With the rampant corruption of the current ruling elite, and the fact that very little has changed for a majority of black people, the euphoria has been replaced with disillusionment.

The new order that Mandela brought about, this argument goes, did not fundamentally change the economic arrangements in the country. It ushered in prosperity, but the distribution of that prosperity was skewed in favor of the white establishment and its dependent new black elite. Today the political apparatchiks are the new billionaires, led by a president -- Jacob Zuma -- who blatantly used millions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade his private residence to accommodate his expanding harem and a phalanx of children.

The blame-Mandela movement is not by any means a groundswell, but it is loud enough in its vehemence to warrant attention. It is led by individual activists whose main platforms are Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and in its formal sense by such organizations as the September National Imbizo, which believes that "South Africa is an anti-black white supremacist country managed by the A.N.C. in the interests of white people. Only blacks can liberate themselves." The claim is that the settlement reached between the A.N.C. and the white apartheid government was a fraud perpetrated on the black people, who have yet to get back the land stolen by whites during colonialism. Mandela's government, critics say, focused on the cosmetics of reconciliation, while nothing materially changed in the lives of a majority of South Africans.

But I fear that, for Mandela, loyalty went too far. The corruption that we see today did not just suddenly erupt after his term in office; it took root during his time. He was loyal to his comrades to a fault, and was therefore blind to some of their misdeeds.

h/tip stormy present

by Bjinse on Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 08:24:25 AM EST
Coming out of the woodwork in an attempt to smear the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela. One can find articles about his affiliation to other liberation revolutionaries, communist sympathy and now a failure as President of South Africa and corruption. SA has many, many problems yet to solve on inequality, poverty, jobs, crime and indeed corruption. Don't put blame on the forefighter of liberation of the oppressed black population under apartheid rule. Mandela played his role to human perfection, it's the new generation that should lead since his departure in 1999.

Under the radar - Nkandla report: Jacob Zuma in the deep end.

Mandela and Apartheid

by Oui on Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 08:54:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That there are South Africans like Mda who find fault in some of Mandela's choices which affect the South Africa and ANC of today, doesn't strike me as not fair. Mda is hardly alone, and that's the point.

I can recommend to you the obituary by Bram Vermeulen, which is as glowing as it is sobering about Mandela as politician, who used conciliation also as a winning stratagem for politics. You'll also find Vermeulen writes:

Necrologie: Mandela, universeel symbool van de menselijke veerkracht - nrc.nl

Mandela schrapte kort daarna het nationalisatieprincipe uit het Vrijheidshandvest van de partij. De linkse vleugel noemde het verraad, investeerders verstandig. De verandering van gedachte was geen mythische metamorfose, maar een praktische keuze.

Mandela's choice to abandon the notion of economic nationalisation is one of the (many) reasons why movements like SNI currently have gained some traction in SA. Not unrelated, populist and loudmouth Julius Malema has used similar rhetoric and the odds are looking decent that Malema will enter parliament next year with his own party. That segment of the new generation in SA is putting blame on choices made after 1994, that is, under Mandela's presidency. It quickly gets weirder from there, with people intent to finish the revolution as Mandela would want to.

by Bjinse on Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 10:05:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some parts of article ...

Mandela gebruikte zijn statuur als icoon, en leefde het als een acteur die zijn rol wordt. "Mandela's politieke acties waren onderdeel van een voorstelling", schreef politicoloog Tom Lodge in Mandela, a critical life. "Zelfbewust gepland en gescript om aan publieke verwachtingen te voldoen."
[Tom Lodge Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Limerick - see more thorough essay below]

De Klerk heeft het debat minutieus voorbereid en is een uur lang de meerdere van Mandela. Maar als het debat op het einde loopt, leunt Mandela voorover en vraagt om de hand van De Klerk. "De problemen van dit land zullen we samen wel oplossen", glimlacht Mandela. Met die handdruk en die warme lach, vloerde hij De Klerk genadeloos. Dit was de stijl-Mandela. Verzoening als machtspolitiek.

Of course, during his lifetime his image was larger than reality. His incarceration and freedom was more than symbolism of an oppressed people who gained hope of a free society. Compare SA with the Soviet Union during the first decade after the fall of Communism. Those years were an extreme challenge for society and government. Mandela had to start from scratch and could not have mirrored Mugabe and Rhodesia by nationalizing farms, corporations or mines. Just as in Europe, the Third Way gave away union and labor rights, what would you expect from South Africa and Mandela. A Cuban Revolution?

South Africa is divided by tribal loyalties besides the black-white split in population. Apartheid also meant living in townships and travel bans. Having suffered under colonial rule, a decade is much too short to judge the effort by Mandela as first president of a new SA.

Nelson Mandela And The Virtue Of Compromise
Nelson Mandela: assessing the icon   by Tom Lodge (2008)

by Oui on Sun Dec 8th, 2013 at 12:24:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Steve Bell
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 10th, 2013 at 04:23:09 AM EST

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