The hero of the anti-apartheid struggle was not the saint we want him to be.
The image of Nelson Mandela as a selfless, humble, freedom fighter turned cheerful, kindly old man, is well established in the West. If there is any international leader on whom we can universally heap praise it is surely he. But get past the halo we’ve placed on him without his permission, and Nelson Mandela had more than a few flaws which deserve attention.
He signed off on the deaths of innocent people, lots of them
Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. At his trial, he had pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence including mobilising terrorist bombing campaigns, which planted bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station. Many innocent people, including women and children, were killed by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists. Here are some highlights
-Church Street West, Pretoria, on the 20 May 1983
-Amanzimtoti Shopping complex KZN, 23 December 1985
-Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, 17 March 1988
-Durban Pick ‘n Pay shopping complex, 1 September 1986
-Pretoria Sterland movie complex 16 April 1988 – limpet mine killed ANC terrorist M O Maponya instead
-Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, 20 May 1987
-Roodepoort Standard Bank 3 June, 1988
Tellingly, not only did Mandela refuse to renounce violence, Amnesty refused to take his case stating “[the] movement recorded that it could not give the name of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ to anyone associated with violence, even though as in ‘conventional warfare’ a degree of restraint may be exercised.”
As President he bought a lot of military hardware
Inheriting a country with criminally deep socio-ecnomic problems, one might expect resources to be poured into redressing the imbalances of apartheid. Yet once in office, even Mandela’s government slipped into the custom of putting national corporatism, power and prestige above its people. Deputy Minister of Defence Ronnie Kasrils said in 1995 that the government’s planned cuts in defence spending could also result in the loss of as many as 90,000 jobs in defence-related industries.
Mandela’s government announced in November 1998 that it intended to purchase 28 BAE/SAAB JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft from Sweden at a cost of R10.875 billion, i.e. R388 million (about US$65 million) per plane. Clearly, the all-powerful air armadas of Botswana weighed heavily on the minds of South African leaders…
Not content with jets, in 1999 a US$4.8 billion (R30 billion in 1999 rands) purchase of weaponry was finalised, which has been subject to allegations of corruption. The South African Department of Defence’s Strategic Defence Acquisition purchased a slew of shiny new weapons, including frigates, submarines, corvettes, light utility helicopters, fighter jet trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft.
Below are some of the purchases made, presumably to keep the expansionist intentions of Madagascar at bay…
Illustrative total cost
Maritime helicopter for corvettes
New submarines to replace Daphne
Alouette helicopter replacement
Advanced light fighter
Main Battle Tank replacement of Olifant
Total cost in 1998 Rand
Mandela was friendly with dictators
Despite being synonymous with freedom and democracy, Mandela was never afraid to glad hand the thugs and tyrants of the international arena.
General Sani Abacha seized power in Nigeria in a military coup in November 1993. From the start of his presidency, in May 1994, Nelson Mandela refrained from publicly condemning Abacha’s actions. Up until the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November 1995 the ANC government vigorously opposed the imposition of sanctions against Nigeria. Shortly before the meeting Mandela’s spokesman, Parks Mankahlana, said that “quiet persuasion” would yield better results than coercion. Even after the Nigerian government announced the death sentences against Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists, during the summit, Mandela refused to condemn the Abacha regime or countenance the imposition of sanctions.
Two of the ANC’s biggest donors, in the 1990s, were Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and President Suharto of Indonesia . Not only did Mandela refrain from criticising their lamentable human rights records but he interceded diplomatically on their behalf, and awarded them South Africa ‘s highest honour. Suharto was awarded a state visit, a 21-gun salute, and The Order of Good Hope (gold class).
In April 1999 Mandela acknowledged to an audience in Johannesburg that Suharto had given the ANC a total of 60 million dollars. An initial donation of 50 million dollars had been followed up by a further 10 million. The Telegraph ( London ) reported that Gaddafi was known to have given the ANC well over ten million dollars.
The apartheid regime was a crime against humanity; as illogical as it was cruel. It is tempting, therefore, to simplify the subject by declaring that all who opposed it were wholly and unswervingly good. It’s important to remember, however, that Mandela has been the first to hold his hands up to his shortcomings and mistakes. In books and speeches, he goes to great length to admit his errors. The real tragedy is that too many in the West can’t bring themselves to see what the great man himself has said all along; that he’s just as flawed as the rest of us, and should not be put on a pedestal.