I see a whole lot of post-mortem analysis of Nelson Mandela boiling up now that the 95-year old South African leader has gone on to his reward, and what I see coming out of the conservative side I’m not entirely comfortable with.
The Left is nauseating in its worship of the man this week. The Left offers him as a Christ-like figure, a redeemer of the entire human race and other such inflated descriptions.
But on the Right too much of what you’ll hear focuses on Mandela’s early life as a radical and a terrorist, and his embrace of Marxism. While true, that’s a short-sighted assessment.
The fact is, Mandela deserves neither the wholesale opprobrium nor the anointment he’s being given – and both.
This man was a product of the society in which he was born and raised. He was a black man in a country where institutionalized, brutal racism laid over his people like a lead blanket. In such circumstances it’s difficult to judge Mandela for turning to whatever movement was available to fight such oppression.
And as it happens, that movement was a Marxist/communist/terrorist movement, one which fought a violent, oppressive system with violence and repression in its own right.
Mandela shouldn’t be faulted for becoming a revolutionary. In such circumstances, a revolutionary rejectionism of oppression is laudable and patriotic.
He should be faulted for the terrorist acts he had a hand in before being jailed. Mandela and those he commanded killed and injured innocent people. People who may have benefited from the oppression he was fighting, but innocent people nonetheless.
And the organization Mandela helped to lead from prison, the African National Congress, remained a violent and repressive organization. His wife Winnie, who held a leadership role within the ANC, is a monster who committed and ordered the commission of some of the worst abuses imaginable – including the practice of “necklacing,” which involves putting a lighter fluid-doused car tire around someone’s neck and lighting it ablaze – on her political enemies.
But Mandela did something which – the Left’s unconditional and emotionalist love notwithstanding – is deserving of praise and a position of historical fame. Whether he was rightly or wrongly anointed as the moral leader of South Africa upon the breakup of the apartheid system, Mandela used that power to largely repudiate the violence and recrimination the ANC was known for.
Mandela preached reconciliation instead. He embraced his role as the president of all of South Africa. He held back the forces that would have turned South Africa into Zimbabwe, with the slow-motion genocide and institutionalized, brutal theft of private property which unfolded there after white colonialism ceased to dominate that country.
And he divorced Winnie Mandela upon seeing what she had become.
The transformation of the violent Marxist radical into a democratic, Christian, peaceful leader is one of the feel-good stories in human history and as such it is right to hold this man up as a hero.
And our gratitude to Mandela for his message of peace and reconciliation, with recognition for its source’s impurity and the imperfection of its execution, should only grow.
From a UK Daily Mail article about the ominous threat of South Africa’s descent into exactly the recriminations and chaos Mandela refused to allow now that he’s no longer on the scene…
At a centenary gathering of the African National Congress last year, [current South African president Jacob] Zuma was filmed singing a so-called ‘struggle song’ called Kill The Boer (the old name for much of the white Afrikaner population).
As fellow senior ANC members clapped along, Zuma sang: ‘We are going to shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, shoot them, they are going to run, Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun, the Cabinet will shoot them, with the machine-gun . . .’
Alongside him was a notorious character called Julius ‘Juju’ Malema, a former leader of the ANC youth league, who is now Zuma’s bitter enemy and is reportedly planning to launch a new political party after Mandela’s death.
A bogeyman to white South Africans, Malema is popular among young blacks, and has also been an enthusiastic singer of Kill The Boer and another song called Bring Me My Machine-Gun.
Polls this week showed a huge surge in support among young black South Africans for his policies, which he says will ignore reconciliation, and fight for social justice in an ‘onslaught against [the] white male monopoly’.
With chilling echoes of neighbouring Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe launched a murderous campaign to drive white farmers off the land in 2000, Malema wants all white-owned land to be seized without compensation, along with nationalisation of the country’s lucrative mines.
Ominously, Malema, 32, who wears a trademark beret and has a fondness for Rolex watches, this month promised his new party will take the land from white people without recompense and give it to blacks.
‘We need the land that was taken from our people, and we are not going to pay for it,’ he said. ‘We need a party that will say those who were victims of apartheid stand to benefit unashamedly, and those who perpetuated apartheid must show remorse and behave in a manner that says they regret their conduct.’
Enthusiastically backed by Winnie Mandela, Nelson’s second wife — who is still hugely popular in South Africa despite her suspected role in several murders — Malema is a charismatic figure who once threw a BBC correspondent out of a press conference for asking about his wealthy lifestyle.
His words have done nothing to allay the fears of white communities, some of which have taken extreme measures to protect themselves.
If that anticipated descent does occur – if a Malema should emerge as the face of the next generation of South African leadership – then Mandela’s position in history as the redeemer of his people will go with much less contest than this week’s commentary suggests.