Amai Jukwa and Garikai Chengu
In this piece we make the case that Mandela was essentially used by white capital and that the fawning adoration expressed by white people is insincere and self-serving. What appears to be love for Mandela is actually self-love, a subconscious act of white self-preservation.
The white establishment considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist and imprisoned him for 27 years. Dick Cheney (the former US Vice President) voted against imposing sanctions on the South African apartheid government arguing that Mandela and the ANC were terrorists.
Asked in 2000 if he regretted his vote, Dick Cheney maintained that at the time Mandela was indeed a terrorist but had “mellowed” since his release from prison.
That last point (that Mandela had mellowed) is important and is a recurring theme when one examines white adoration for Mandela.
What did Dick Cheney mean when he said Mandela had mellowed? Nelson Mandela initially advocated the Freedom Charter as a means to end economic apartheid.
The Freedom Charter stated that, “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and the monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole . . .”
This was completely unacceptable to the white establishment. They wanted to keep the minerals and all else they had forcibly taken from black South Africans.
The moment Mandela agreed to renounce all claims to economic justice he immediately became a good boy in the eyes of white capital. This is what Dick Cheney meant when he said Mandela had mellowed.
Not only did Mandela allow the whites to get away with the wholesale theft of land and mineral resources but he also allowed them to get away with gross human rights abuses.
He agreed to offer an amnesty for all human rights abuses committed under apartheid. A group of white police officers that roasted a young black man while drinking beer and gloated that the “meat smelt good” were forgiven. The victim’s mother wanted them brought to trial but Mandela said no.
It is no wonder that the white world fell in love with him. He protected them from prosecution. The idea that reconciliation was in favour of black South Africans (the victims) is an assault on reason itself. The only people who benefited from the policy are the white criminals who were guilty of an assortment of human rights violations.
The clear duplicity
It is worth noting that while Europeans jump up and down applauding Mandela for reconciliation they have not adopted the supposedly noble policy in their own lands.
Earlier this year Hans Lipschis, a 93-year-old former Nazi guard, was arrested in southern Germany. Why don’t the Europeans do the very thing they are praising Mandela for and forgive this Nazi who is elderly and frail?
It is ridiculous that Mandela forgave white thugs for roasting a young black man but the same whites that are applauding him for that generosity are unwilling to forgive a frail Nazi guard. The duplicity is clear.
It is equally clear that the celebration of Mandela has nothing to do with the virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation. What white people are actually celebrating is the fact that Mandela let them get away with it. It is not that they believe in forgiveness and reconciliation as principles by which people must live.
If they did then we would never have witnessed the Nuremburg Trials and the continued hunt for elderly Nazi’s in the year 2013.
Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 was a turning point in South Africa’s economic history.
Mandela had previously espoused the Freedom Charter’s principles of black economic empowerment, which consequently led to the white establishment labelling him a terrorist.
However, after his release, Mandela “mellowed” and forsook the Freedom Charter and began to speak of economic reconciliation with white capital. He immediately became a darling of the West.
During his 1990 visit to the United States, Mandela said in New York: “The ANC will re-introduce the market to South Africa.”
With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended but economic apartheid had a new face, a legitimising black face.
President Mandela perpetuated economic apartheid by choosing not to implement the Freedom charter, which he had previously vowed he would never depart from. Instead, Mandela chose a path of neo -liberalism that put the interests of white capital over black labour.
This meant that the Boers kept everything they had pillaged from blacks, the mines, the land, and control of the economy.
One U-turn after another
There is a popular but specious argument that Mandela did all this to avert civil war. This is nonsense. If the whites were sorry for the evil they had done to black South Africans and were ready to restitute by giving back (or at least sharing) this stolen property I am puzzled as to what would have led to a civil war.
The civil war argument actually suggests that the whites were unwilling to give anything back and only agreed to a settlement on the grounds that the blacks would maintain the economic status quo and not seek to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations.
Most disappointingly, nationalisation of the mines was abandoned by Mandela’s administration. In fact, in 1991 mining mogul Harry Oppenheimer held meetings with apartheid government officials and the ANC.
Two years later these meetings between white mining capital and the ANC continued at the Development Bank of South Africa, and resulted in an agreement to leave most of South Africa’s US$14 trillion dollars in mineral reserves firmly in white hands.
Mandela also made a U-turn on plans for a modest white wealth tax that could have gone a long way to fulfilling his promise to eradicate poverty affecting the “poorest of the poor”.
White businesses and businesspeople that had benefited immensely from apartheid were spared from paying reparations, all in the name of reconciliation. This is complete rubbish.
Every battle has spoils. After defeating the Nazi’s, the allies demanded reparations from Germany and to this day the Nazi’s are being hunted. How is it that the whites tell blacks to be good little forgiving Mandela’s when they do the exact opposite to perpetrators in Europe?
Instead of nationalising companies, Mandela coaxed foreign investors into the country. His sudden ideological shift laid the groundwork for London-based steelmaker LNM Group to buy Africa’s biggest steelmaker and British bank Barclays to assume control of South Africa’s biggest bank.
Haunted by saintly concessions
Clearly, South Africa had merely travelled from apartheid to neo-liberalism. Sadly, Mandela was the bridge between the two. Under Mandela, blacks regained the crown but whites were left with the crown jewels.
Those blacks whose land was forcibly taken under apartheid did not get it back. Whose hero then is Mandela? Is he a hero to the landless blacks or to the criminal Boers who stole land and were allowed to keep it? This is a simple question.
Mandela’s saintly concessions will haunt South Africa’s quest for economic equality for generations to come. Mandela went into prison a revolutionary calling for justice but he came out a broken man, a cuddly puppy in the hands of white capital.
Three cruel decades in a white man’s prison can break a man.
Decades of apartheid, and the era of neo-liberalism ushered in by President Mandela, have resulted in South Africa being the world’s most racially unequal society in the world.
A rich, mainly white minority owns the lion’s share of wealth and access to quality education and healthcare. Whites comprise just nine percent of the population and yet they control a staggering 80 percent of the wealth and 75 percent of the best arable land.
This is scandalous. Among the 295 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, blacks account for just four percent of CEOs, and two percent of CFOs.
Since Mandela took power in 1994, the number of South Africans living on less than a dollar a day has doubled, but so has the number of South African millionaires, most of whom are white.
Prior to pursuing neo-liberalism in 1990, Nelson Mandela was a true African revolutionary who called for political and economic emancipation.
Leaders that supported Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement were revolutionaries like Fidel Castro, Muamar Gaddafi, Robert Mugabe and Yasser Arafat.
Western leaders wanted nothing to do with him. When the whites were calling Mandela a terrorist Mugabe and Gaddafi called him comrade and gave a home to the ANC.
When these same whites slaughtered Gaddafi, Mandela said nothing. Not only so, Mandela allowed himself to be co-opted by the Western media to speak about the supposed “failure” of leadership in Zimbabwe. Mandela is indeed a hero but tough questions must be asked as to whose hero he is.
Jailers to friends
In paying tribute to Mandela, it is a supreme irony that his praise singers, from the US administration to the British government, all sided with South Africa’s apartheid government.
South Africa’s apartheid regime is remembered as one of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century. America fully supported it.
“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care,” once remarked Nelson Mandela.
The US government placed Mandela on a terrorist watch list until 2008 – long after his term as South Africa’s President, and even longer after he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The New York Times reported that when George Bush Sr was head of the CIA he tipped off South African intelligence agencies, allowing them to arrest Mandela. Twenty-eight years after Bush Sr helped imprison Mandela, he called him to say that all Americans “rejoiced at his release”.
In 1989, David Cameron led an anti-sanctions fact-finding mission to South Africa with a pro-apartheid lobby firm sponsored by apartheid President PW Botha. Such is the extent of white duplicity. Speaking on the death of Mandela the same man now claims that Mandela “inspired” him.
The West is eager to paint Mandela as a saint. What they are actually saying is that to forgive white violations is saintly. This celebration of Mandela is meant to lull South Africans into a mindset in which they unquestioningly speak of a rainbow nation without asking difficult questions about equity and justice.
The ultimate objective of this excessive white idolisation of Mandela is to develop an atmosphere in which those that want land reform, to nationalise the mines or to redress apartheid injustices are ostracised as a vengeful lot that violates the noble spirit of Mandela.
Africans must be good forgiving boys like Mandela.
This is manipulative nonsense and the white establishment will soon learn that their attempt at mass manipulation has not worked.
This article was written by Amai Jukwa and Garikai Chengu, a scholar at Harvard University