Mandela: the man who united the world


It was the Madiba Magic all over again.

Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, who brought together the world against the apartheid system in South Africa, not only brought together thousands of people to the FNB Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, for his memorial service on Tuesday. South Africa’s founding president also waved his magic wand for the last time before thousands who gathered at the stadium by uniting world leaders – about 100 of them – from different parts of the world ideologically and geographically.

Monarchs rubbed shoulders with democrats, pop and film stars while religions also mixed during the ceremony, which brought more dignitaries than that of the late Pope John Paul II.

South African broadcaster, ENCA, captured how the Madiba Magic reunited the world: “Various heads of state who have crossed swords in the past and who still do not see eye-to-eye in terms of foreign and domestic policy have come together today. Their common understanding is the sacrifice and goodness that radiated from Mandela – a powerful and unique legacy ‑ unparalleled in terms of its ability to unite.”

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was under the same roof with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who according to recent revelations wanted to use the military force to topple the veteran Southern African leader. Current British premier and Blair’s successor David Cameron was also present.

Britain and Zimbabwe have had an over-a-decade long standoff due to London’s unhappiness with the land reform programme in Zimbabwe, which President Mugabe championed to give farming land to hundreds of thousands of black families who were once marginalised as only a few thousand white farmers owned swathes of prime farming land.

Britain instigated the Western world to impose economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, as it sought to effect regime change.

And Tony Blair’s buddy, former US President George Bush, who signed an anti-Zimbabwe sanctions law on December 21, 2001, was also at Mandela’s memorial service as well as another Zimbabwe opponent Hillary Clinton, former US State Secretary.

President Mugabe has taken to various world forums to denounce Britain and the US, as well their Western allies for their stance against Zimbabwe and their pursuit of unjust wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

US President Barack Obama was in the same house and shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro in a huge symbolic moment as the American leader greeted dignitaries at the service. Online media reports said Obama also greeted President Mugabe with a handshake.

The US and Cuba have bitter political and historical experiences, which have seen Washington maintain punitive sanctions on Cuba for more than 50 years while it also incarcerates Cuban activists that have been dubbed the Cuban Five.

Obama also greeted Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, with a kiss on the cheek, despite recent tensions between the two countries, on his way to deliver his address honouring the late South African leader. 

The US and Brazil’s relations have grown frosty lately after it was recently revealed that Washington spied on the South American leader’s phone.

Iran also mourned Mandela along Israel.

Israel and Iran are mortal enemies and have feuded on everything from religion through Palestine to Iran’s nuclear energy programme.

Iran claims the right to peaceful nuclear activities but Israel fears Tehran intends to build a nuclear weapon and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu described the recent US-Iran nuke deal as a “historic mistake”.

Pakistani and Indian leaders and their delegations were part of the proceedings, making naught of their un-neighbourly relations.

Mandela united the West and the East as leaders of major countries, formerly and currently on different developmental and political poles met. A report, though, noted that organisers had tried to keep unfriendly nations apart to avoid diplomatic scenes. 

Some leaders, like President Mugabe, received wild cheers from the crowds while others received a muted response.

Host President Jacob Zuma, under fire in his country over corruption allegations, was loudly booed.





Expectedly, tributes flowed for Madiba as speaker after speaker lauded the late icon while the social media were abuzz with discussions on Mandela.

President Zuma said Madiba was “the father of our rainbow nation…because he laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams – one that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous” and was a courageous leader and “a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the struggle for the liberation of his people”.

Mandela, said President Zuma, carefully managed the anger and frustrations of both the oppressors and the oppressed, “and reminded us of our common humanity that transcended racial boundaries and managed both the fears of the minority and the high expectations and impatience of the majority”.

In honour of Madiba, the South African leader announced the renaming of part of the Union Buildings, where Mandela was inaugurated as President, after the icon.

Leaders from Namibia, Cuba, India, China and Brazil also spoke glowingly of Mandela.

US President Obama eulogised Madiba and divined that, “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.”





But light has also been shown on the hypocrisy of the US as the praise singer in chief while the country did not support Mandela’s anti-apartheid fight.

Mandela was only until a few years ago still on American watch list of terrorists.

Washington Post’s Steven Mufson points out the discrepancy.

He wrote that: “One of the ironies of the praise from world leaders for the late Nelson Mandela at a state memorial service is that the former South African president frequently irritated the United States and others with his positions and loyalty to long-time supporters such as Cuba and Libya.”

Mufson said in October 1997, as Mandela was preparing to visit Libya, the State Department said it would be “disappointed” if he went ahead. Mandela replied at a banquet in Johannesburg: “How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us who our friends should be?”

When he visited and embraced the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, he criticised “countries that play policeman of the world” and said “those who object to my visiting Libya have no morals”.

Mandela and former US President Bill Clinton also differed over whether to give Egyptian politician Boutros Boutros-Ghali another term as United Nations Secretary-General. Though Boutros-Ghali had widespread support, the Clinton administration blocked his reappointment.

Another Washington Post columnist noted, “Mandela was not always universally praised”, as US administrations “were far from ardent opponents of South Africa’s apartheid regime or supporters of Mandela and his organisation, the African National Congress (ANC).”

She writes: “President Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, believed the apartheid regime was an essential ally that was here to stay…(and) that the United States shouldn’t risk getting stuck in support of the oppressed majority.

“Ronald Reagan branded the ANC a terrorist organisation while dismissing apartheid as more of a ‘tribal policy than a racial policy’… with the regime, calling for closer trade relations while opposing economic sanctions.”

Peter Beinart, writing for The Daily Beast offers an incisive analysis of US hypocrisy on Mandela.

He wrote on Tuesday: “If we turn the late South African leader into a non-threatening moral icon, we’ll forget a key lesson from his life: America isn’t always a force for freedom.

“Now that he’s dead, and can cause no more trouble, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the ideological spectrum as a saint. But not long ago, in Washington’s highest circles, he was considered an enemy of the United States.”

He explains: “They called him a ‘terrorist’ because he had waged armed resistance to apartheid. They called him a ‘communist’ because the Soviet Union was the ANC’s chief external benefactor and the South African Communist Party was among its closest domestic allies.

“More fundamentally, what Mandela’s American detractors understood is that he considered himself an opponent, not an ally, of American power. And that’s exactly what Mandela’s American admirers must remember now.”

Mandela was never such a big fan of America.

Writes Beinart: “Mandela’s message to America’s leaders, born from first-hand experience, was clear: Don’t pretend you are pure.

“As with (Martin Luther) King, it is this subversive aspect of Mandela’s legacy that is most in danger of being erased as he enters America’s pantheon of sanitised moral icons.”  A Black 

Power Dream that Became a ‘Neoliberal Nightmare’


• James Winter


ributes to Nelson Mandela fill the media, with stories of his lengthy prison term and his “willingness to forgive” his oppressors.

Nowhere in sight is the real story of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress that he headed, a story best told by Naomi Klein in her wonderful book,‘The Shock Doctrine’.

The ANC’s Freedom Charter, adopted in June 26, 1955, in Kliptown South Africa, begins with the promise,

“The People Shall Govern…”

It promises Land to the landless. Equality. Free and compulsory education. Freedom of movement, and more.

A month before his release from prison Mandela wrote to his supporters that:

“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”

In the 1980s, young Black South Africans, weary from three decades of patience, took to the streets to fight for their beloved Freedom Charter.

When Mandela was freed on February 11, 1990, South Africa under the ANC appeared ripe to fulfill their dream: the Freedom Charter.

Great Expectations: yet, South Africa took the route characteriSed by Mandela as “inconceivable.” Political successes, but economic ruin. South Africa is now among the most unequal societies in the world.

World attention focused on the high profile political talks between the ANC and the National Party. The ANC was determined to win this political fight, and did. FW de Klerk had the guns and the money, but Mandela had millions of people with him.

The lower profile economic negotiations under Thabo Mbeki, were disastrous.

Mandela’s government fell victim to: democracy-proofing capitalism.

Key things such as trade policy and the role of the central bank were handed to supposedly “impartial experts” such as officials from the IMF and the World Bank… in a “balkanization” strategy. A Constitutional clause protecting all private property made land reform virtually impossible.

Currency controls and wage increases were also put in check.

Mandela’s ANC negotiators were simply outmanoeuvred. De Klerk and the whites had the international financial control necessary to leverage their way. 

When Mandela was released from prison, the South African rand dropped by 10 percent and the stock market collapsed in panic. Whenever a party official hinted that the Freedom Charter would become policy, the rand went into free fall. In a single month in 1996, the rand plummeted 20 percent.

Klein quotes Yasmin Sooka, a prominent South African human rights activist.

“[Business said] We’ll keep everything and you [the ANC] will rule in name…You can have political power, you can have the façade of governing, but the real governance will take place somewhere else.”

So, despite political freedom, the economy, the land and the “banks, mines and monopoly industry” that Mandela pledged to nationalise remain firmly in the hands of the minority whites.

In a quote you will seldom read elsewhere, Klein cites Mandela, who told the ANC’s national conference in 1997 that the globalisation of capital, “makes it impossible for countries…to decide national economic policy…”

With its wrists handcuffed, Mandela’s ANC opted for neo-liberal shock therapy of more privatisation, cutbacks to government spending, looser controls on money flows, fewer labour laws, and selling off state-owned firms to service a horrendous debt owed to the oppressors.

The only way out of this mess for South Africa today is to follow the lead of Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chavez: introduce a new constitution. Pay off the IMF debts, and follow the South American nations which have gained economic independence. Then, you can institute the Freedom Charter. – Global Research

• Dr. James Winter is Professor of Communication, Media & Film, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.




December 2013
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