Mandela: A Mixed Blessing

December 8, 2013
Author Article News Opinion

It is quite correct and proper that the world's news agencies should devote so many column inches to the death of Nelson Mandela, on December 5th 2013. That he was one of the world's most significant statesmen is beyond doubt. His long illness has also meant that his death was anticipated, so many of the articles and obituaries and news channels had items already prepared for release.

It can also be said that Mandela did a lot of good for his country. Few young people today understand the extraordinary impact that the unique regime in South Africa had on those of us growing up in the West in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of us were certain that a terrible bloody race war was eventually going to erupt in that land, The fact that the South African Civil War did not happen owes a great deal to the statemanship and skill of Mr. Mandela. His shrewd and calculated (in the positive sense of this word) “use” of Springbok rugby in the lead up and duration of the 1995 Rugby World Cup was a good thing, in my opinion. It was indeed heart-warming to see the best white Afrikaner sportsmen being cheered by crowds of black South Africans. There are no other circumstances in which the President of a host country could have got away with donning the colors of his own team and cheering them on in such a partisan fashion, but these were unique circumstances, in which Mandela did the right thing.

So, you will have to forgive me that, having recognized much that was of benefit from Mandela's lie – especially his years following his release from prison – that I cannot fully join in the hagiography that was inevitably going to emerge upon his death. Mandela was not a Christian. Indeed, he began his adolescence with a typically pagan coming-of-age ritual of the Xhosa people. Of course, one cannot hold such youthful influences against someone, but there is no evidence that he ever renounced that start to his young adulthood. Much of his life was spent in the politics of the extreme left. In his activist days, he associated with communist revolutionaries, and was close to the leaderships of the old USSR, as well as to Cuba. Even at his inauguration as president, he gave particular favor and prominence to his old friend, Fidel Castro.

Mandela and Slovo
Mandela's fist salute in from of the Hammer and Sickle

Again, it might be argued that this did not influence his presidency. And it is true that the ANC in government have largely followed a free-market economic model since gaining power, not too dissimilar from that of the previous National Party government. Nevertheless, it mist not be forgotten that Mandela was released into a post-Berlin Wall world, in which, as a highly educated man, he must have known of the freedoms that were beginning to be enjoyed in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. Yet, despite this, he did not think it inappropriate to be photographed with Joe Slovo, the leader of the South African Communist Party, in front of a prominent Hammer and Sickle.

On the surface, he was a kindly smiling man. However, friends of mine in ministry in South Africa saw a different side. Remember that Mandela forced through legislation allowing abortions, even though many in his own party were against it. When one Christian leader criticized him for this to his face, Mandela gave every indication that he was above such controversy. But when the same leader asked if he could pray for him, Mandela declined. The pastor prayed anyway. Mandela thanked him, and shook his hand. But within a couple of weeks, his ministry was raided by tax officers, who carried out a two-year vindictive persecution of the ministry, to try to shut it down – though the ministry was eventually found clean, and the charges dropped.

On the surface, Mandela was a man of peace. Yet, he was originally jailed for acts of terrorism. After his release, 27 years later, his security officials opened fire on Zulu protesters, who were supporters of the rival Inkatha Freedom Party. Also remember that his ex-wife was strongly implicated in the execution of over 1,000 so-called necklace killings.

Mandela was responsible for liberalizing laws on homosexuality and abortion. On his watch, violence and crime became endemic. And on his watch, AIDS infection increased from 8% to over 20%.

So what legacy has Mandela left? The lack of a race war may be only temporary. At least one human rights group (Genocide Watch) has warned that there is a very strong risk indeed that Afrikaner people in South Africa might be on the verge of genocide at the hand of extremists. The position of the Afrikaner people needs much understanding. Their population is far greater than any other white population in Africa. They no longer have links with the original Dutch settlers, and they have actually been in South Africa for longer than much of the majority Xhosa population.

Apartheid was a uniquely evil philosophy. You will not find me defending it. But, it is nearly 20 years since apartheid ended, yet the likes of Mandela still seem intent on demonizing the Afrikaner population. Mandela's legacy is indeed mixed, and it must be seen to include support for immorality, genocide of aborted babies, an appallingly poor record on crime, and a distaste for anything Christian. That is the man that some seek to beatify as a secular saint. Yes, he achieved much – but he also failed much. Let's have a realistic appraisal of the man.


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