Rolihlahla==NELSON==troublemaker==missed by all
This was an enormously talented and wise man who accomplished an almost impossible task with courage, dignity, charm and an unbelievable lack of bitterness or hatred.
1. Richard’s View
2. Stephen Lewis Remembers Mandela And Graca.
I never really knew Nelson Mandela in his illustrious political role. I had certainly dealt with him on some important children’s issues when I was working with UNICEF, but my knowledge of Madiba, as he was known to everyone, emerged in a much more personal way.
I had the enormous privilege, back in the 1990s, of co-ordinating a study on the consequences of armed conflict on children. The expert for the study, appointed by the United Nations, was Graça Machel, a former first lady of Mozambique.
We became fast friends, and remain close friends to this day.
During the course of the study, the courtship began between Graça and Madiba . . . a touching, sublimely lovely courtship to which, on occasion, I was privy (dare I say it: they giggled on the phone like teenagers). On Madiba’s 80th birthday they were married. More relevant, for the purpose of this brief essay, was the extraordinary opportunity the friendship with Graça gave me to see Madiba up close.
On almost every visit I made to Johannesburg between 2000 and 2009 (Mandela began to decline physically in 2009 and was rarely available thereafter), I dropped by the Mandela household for lunch or dinner. Usually it was just the three of us; Graça would ladle food onto Mandela’s plate, make sure he had water to drink, and we would while away the time with friendly chit-chat.
The depth of the bond between them was immediately evident. If Graça left the room for any reason, Madiba’s shoulders would physically sag, his features would pale, and with great anxiety he would ask where she’d gone and when would she come back. When she did return, even after a few minutes, his whole being would come alive with confidence and affection. It was an instantaneous and amazing transformation. I often thought to myself that because of the famously fraught relationship with Winnie Mandela, the world never got to understand the depth of the love that Graça and Madiba shared.
What did we talk about? Almost always about Canada (as opposed, for example, to HIV/AIDS or the UN). He wanted to know everything about Canada, especially the political currents of the moment.
And therein lie my most vivid memories. For Mandela, Canada was the indispensable key to his freedom. And in his eyes, the man who turned the key was Brian Mulroney.
He was deeply taken with Mulroney; almost to the point of an endearing obsession. He knew that Mulroney hated apartheid, and was determined to see its overthrow. He knew that Mulroney, almost alone in the Commonwealth, had battled ferociously with Margaret Thatcher over his – Mandela’s – freedom. He knew that Mulroney had spoken eloquently at the United Nations, endorsing sanctions and even threatening to sever diplomatic relations if South Africa did not abandon apartheid, and had further used the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons (Canada was represented by the wonderful Anglican Archbishop Ted Scott) to apply tremendous pressure on South African president F.W. de Klerk for his release.
His regard for Mulroney, and thus for Canada, was truly genuine and intense. I remember his saying at one point early in our conversations: “Tell me, young man, how is my friend Brian? He’s been very good to me. Yes, Canada’s been very good to me.” It explains, I think, not only his constant curiosity about our politics and culture, but also his eager embrace of visiting Canada not long after imprisonment was left behind.
I should add that Mandela was invariably circumspect: he rarely discussed or passed judgment on international issues, with one exception. He clearly hated the Iraq war. He could never resist calling Tony Blair the “foreign minister of the United States.”
It’s true what they say of Mandela. In all of our various conversations, there was never a word of acrimony, of rancour. I’d be ready to rhetorically kill all and any of his detractors, past and present, and he’d smile indulgently, treating me, in the gentlest of ways, as a disgruntled adolescent. I could never get over the kindness, the decency, the generosity with which he viewed the world. All the world.
In my mind, I’ll always have the picture of Nelson Mandela strolling slowly through his garden at his home in Johannesburg, making his way into the living room, sitting down in the large armchair, and reading every single paper he could get his hands on, English and Afrikaans. Then would begin the procession: the never-ending flow of well-wishers and friends. There would be school-kids and potentates, soccer teams and movie stars, political allies from the trenches of yore, and clerics and parishioners who wanted only the touch of his hand.
Mandela would greet them all with an unselfconscious grace, immense warmth and irrepressible twinkle. He loved company. He loved to josh and tease. And even though his eyes, like his lungs, had been severely damaged by incarceration, he was always willing to take pictures, so long as the camera had no flash.
And then, when the visits were over, and inspiration dispensed, Graça would enter, and hand-in-hand they’d climb the staircase to seclusion, together.
Stephen Lewis, a former leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park, served as Canada’s UN ambassador, 1984-88; deputy director of UNICEF, 1995-1999; and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, 2001-2006. He is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.
3. NEW YORKER
Mandela’s political evolution was gradual. At the University College of Fort Hare, his goal was to become “an interpreter or a clerk in the Native Affairs Department.” He was a country boy, a clotheshorse, a Xhosa chauvinist. He was also a natural leader and, while at Fort Hare, he made friends who would become lifelong political comrades, among them Oliver Tambo. Mandela was expelled from Fort Hare in a dispute over student rights, then fled the Transkei to escape an arranged marriage. He arrived in Johannesburg in 1941, worked as a night watchman on a mine, and then met Walter Sisulu, a political activist, who helped him get a job as an articled clerk at a law firm. He began to study law. Slowly, he was drawn into politics.
I cannot pinpoint a moment when I became politicized, when I knew that I would spend my life in the liberation struggle. To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not.
Mandela became conscious of “an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.” White-minority rule in South Africa did resemble, for its black majority, an open-air prison. Dispossessed, restricted in their movements, blacks toiled, voteless, at the bottom of a pitiless economic and political structure.
One of the few channels available for mass resistance was the boycott. In 1943, Mandela marched in an enormous bus boycott that succeeded in reversing a fare increase. Soon afterward, he joined the African National Congress. The A.N.C. had been campaigning for equal rights, to little effect, since 1912. Determined to inject new zeal into the old organization, Mandela, along with Sisulu, Tambo, and others, founded the A.N.C. Youth League. The Youth League tried, unsuccessfully, to expel Communists, whose intentions they suspected, from the A.N.C. The young men also mistrusted the propensity of their radical white, Indian, and mixed-race comrades to monopolize discussions and thus replicate the prevailing social order.
Mandela became a lawyer in 1952. He and Tambo opened the country’s first African law firm. The political landscape had become dramatically harsher, though, after Afrikaner nationalists, propounding a fiercely racist program that they called apartheid, won a whites-only national election in 1948. The dispossession of black South Africans accelerated. The Communist Party was outlawed. The state took over the education of blacks, with malign intent and ruinous consequences. Resistance leaders, including Mandela, were “banned”—a peculiarly South African punishment under which a person could not be quoted, speak publicly, write, travel, or associate with more than one person at a time.
In 1956, Mandela, along with a hundred and fifty-five other dissidents, was charged with treason. Their trial lasted more than four years. Although it ended with acquittals, Mandela had grown disenchanted with the law.
I went from having an idealistic view of the law as a sword of justice to a perception of the law as a tool used by the ruling class to shape society in a way favorable to itself. I never expected justice in court, however much I fought for it, and though I sometimes received it.
The A.N.C. was outlawed in 1960. Mandela’s first marriage and his law practice had already fallen victim to the rigors of his political involvement. Now he, along with many others, was driven underground or into exile. In 1961, the A.N.C. launched an armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Mandela, convinced that there was no peaceful alternative, became its first commander. He travelled through Africa and Europe, seeking support. He underwent military training in Ethiopia, and then returned, in secret, to South Africa, where he was captured on August 5, 1962.
Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, and six others were charged with sabotage, a crime that carried the death penalty. They announced beforehand that they would not appeal a death sentence. Mandela gave a four-hour speech from the dock, tracing his own evolution from tribalism to African nationalism to a belief in nonracial democracy. He admitted to being the commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe but denied that he was a Communist. He praised “the ideal of a democratic and free society” and concluded, “It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He and his main co-defendants were given life sentences.
Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison, including eighteen years on Robben Island, an infamous penitentiary near Cape Town. He was forced to work for years in a lime quarry without sunglasses, which permanently damaged his eyesight. He later contracted tuberculosis from a damp cell. For companionship, he had most of the A.N.C.’s senior leadership, including Sisulu and Mbeki. An influx of new political prisoners arrived after the uprisings of 1976. Most of them had grown up with little knowledge of Mandela or the A.N.C., whose words, ideas, and even images were banned in South Africa. Robben Island became known as Nelson Mandela University. The confluence of activists of different generations, and the lively debates between them, created new alliances and, with the eventual release of some of the younger leaders, reinvigorated A.N.C. networks. In 1985, the regime offered to release Mandela if he would renounce violence as a political instrument. He replied that it was the government that needed to renounce violence, and he declined the offer, issuing a statement through his daughter Zindzi, saying, “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”
The pressures on Pretoria, both internal and external, grew. Black communities were in full revolt from the mid-eighties onward. A financial crisis began when international banks, after a cold reassessment of the country’s stability, refused to roll over major loans to South Africa. The anti-apartheid movement gained traction globally. Economic sanctions and the divestment campaign, although opposed by conservative Western leaders, including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who continued to call the A.N.C. a “terrorist organization,” began to take their toll. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its client tyrannies in Eastern Europe stripped the apartheid state’s self-proclaimed anti-Communisist stance—its main claim to Cold War legitimacy—of any last shreds of credibility. Mandela was released near Cape Town on February 11, 1990, to worldwide acclaim.
It took four years of tumultuous, bitter negotiations to produce the country’s first democratic election. Amid continuing violence, Mandela had to keep a fractious, diverse coalition together while horse-trading with his Afrikaner adversaries over the terms of the historic transition. He travelled the globe, enlisting support, drawing vast crowds—he received a ticker-tape parade up lower Broadway—and personally thanking those who had supported the A.N.C., including Fidel Castro and Muammar Qaddafi, whom he considered, to the horror of many well-wishers, true comrades. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with F. W. de Klerk, the State President of South Africa and his negotiating counterpart, though no love was lost between the two men. Mandela had worried, while in prison, that he would become a “political fossil” after being out of circulation for so long. And he was, in fact, like a leader from another era, the pre-television era, with his courtliness, his seriousness, his indifference to the camera. Yet he seemed altogether up on current events and left few audiences unwowed.
He became South Africa’s first democratically elected President on April 27, 1994. De Klerk, by agreement, became one of two Deputy Presidents, and Mandela went out of his way to reassure businesses and white citizens generally that they were welcome in the new South Africa. Ambitious programs to combat poverty, illiteracy, and inequality were launched. Long-cherished A.N.C. plans to nationalize banking, mining, and other industries were shelved. Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which gave victims of apartheid violence the chance to tell their stories and offered amnesty to those who testified about their crimes, and chose Archbishop Desmond Tutu to lead it. Its two years of public hearings produced tales even more horrifying than many South Africans had expected. Some victims and grieving families were bitter about the amnesties granted to killers and torturers. De Klerk sued, successfully, to have the commission’s findings about his personal responsibility redacted. The A.N.C., over Mandela’s objections, also tried, without success, to have testimony about abuses in its external training camps suppressed.
While the A.N.C. dominated politics and government under the new dispensation, the opposition parties and the press remained sharp critics. In 1999, Mandela expressed his exasperation to Anthony Sampson, his authorized biographer. “He attacked the ‘Mickey Mouse’ white parties,” Sampson wrote, “to which Tony Leon of the Democratic Party replied that Mandela was ‘running a Goofy government.’ (Some weeks later, Mandela was visiting a hospital where Leon was recovering from an operation, and called out from behind the curtains: ‘Mickey Mouse, this is Goofy!’)”
Mandela’s long marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, which had produced two daughters before his imprisonment, and had helped him endure the decades in jail, ended in divorce in 1996. Winnie, banished and persecuted by the apartheid state, had become a political force in her own right, but went off the rails in the nineteen-eighties. She publicly endorsed the grisliest type of mob justice, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission later found her security detail directly responsible, with her close involvement, for numerous murders, abductions, and assaults.
In 1998, on his eightieth birthday, Mandela married Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambique’s first President, Samora Machel. A distinguished educator and humanitarian, she is the first person to have been First Lady of two countries. Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada attended the wedding, as did Christo Brand, one of Mandela’s former prison guards, who by that time ran a Robben Island gift shop in Cape Town.
Mandela served one five-year term as President, then retired. He continued to work and travel at a hectic pace, devoting himself to peace campaigning and charitable work, particularly children’s welfare and the fight against H.I.V./AIDS. He was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other decorations and honors. In 2004, at nearly eighty-six, in frail health, he told a gathering at his home in Johannesburg that he was “retiring from retirement.” He wanted to read more books, live quietly in a house he had built in his ancestral village, and enjoy his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and doting wife. “Thanks for being kind to an old man,” he told his guests, “allowing him to take a rest even if many of you may feel that after loafing somewhere on an island and other places for twenty-seven years, the rest is not really deserved.” He promised to stay in touch. “Don’t call me. I will call you.”
Above: Mandela visiting a mixed-race high school in Johannesburg, 1994. Photograph by Ian Berry/Magnum.
A Fourth View
Of course, the challenges of centuries of exploitation are not over yet for South Africa.
Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel.
Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.
5. His Own View
THE RIVONA TRAIL. HIS STATEMENT.
… But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision.
I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. I was born in Mthatha, 46 years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am related both to the present paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the chief minister of the Transkei.
As I understand the state case… the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enrol the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state.
Winnie Mandela going to the trial The Rivonia trial electrified South Africa.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further their struggle for freedom in their own land.
Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the state prosecutor, so-called hardships. Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed.
These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called agitators to teach us about these things.
South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery.
6. From a friend in Ghana
Baba Mandela, you have played your own part in an exceptional way. You have created a record that may be difficult to break by any one else. You were a valiant and the great father of black race of all time. Baba, I wish I could immortalize you. You were more than an ordinary person, more than a hero. You are the greatest man of all time. Remain the greatest in the world beyond. You are the great rock that refused to be broken. The brilliant light that refused to be deemed. You are so wonderful, Baba. You remain a brilliant star, even in your grave.
Love and miss you, till world without end.
Rest well, Baba Mandela.
FULL SPEECH ON RLEASE FROM PRISON
HUFFINGTON’s SLIDE SHOW IN CANADA