Apologies for the unavoidable hiatus.
Nelson Mandela was a great man, more importantly he was a great man who did a incredibly good and brave thing.
Unfortunately such is the secular beatification of Mandela that sober analysis of his life is greeted with howls of outrage. Yet the utterly uncritical adulation of Mandela hides what a truly great man he actually was. What has been forgotten in the tsunami of sentimental ancestor worship following his death is that Nelson Mandela was not a one dimensional cardboard cut out of the idealised secular saint. Mandela was more complex than one would gather from the fawning obituaries.
The outpouring of hagiographical excess surrounding Mandela reached its peak with Evan Davis and Peter Oborne. Davis of the BBC, standard bearer of the progressive elite, and Oborne of the Telegraph, mouthpiece of the conservative establishment, both soberly and with forethought compared Mandela to Jesus Christ.
Davis said that that Mandela should be ranked alongside Jesus in ‘the pantheon of virtue.’ Oborne wrote, ‘There are very few human beings who can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela is one.’
Those who have no God must create a god. Merry Mandelamass everyone.
There was even the case in September of a man from Staffordshire being arrested, questioned by police for eight hours, fingerprinted and DNA swabbed, and had his computer seized for three weeks, all because he made jokes on the internet during Mandela’s illness. He joked: ‘My PC takes so long to shut down I’ve decided to call it Nelson Mandela.’ A weak, lame, tasteless joke most assuredly, but deserving of eight hours of police questioning?
As someone with a family history of dyslexia my favourite Mandela joke is: ‘Dyslexic mourners in South Africa have been leaving floral tributes to their erstwhile president outside the local Nissan Main Dealer.’
Without his leadership post-Apartheid South Africa would have been a violent, economic basket case, a hell hole of more than Zimbabwean proportions. We should be profoundly thankful that Nelson Mandela became first president of a post-Apartheid South Africa and not anyone else from the top leadership of the ANC. Yet he was not always the icon of reconciliation he became.
Initially pursuing non-violent protest as a means of countering the apartheid regime Mandela gave up and espoused terrorism. Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. At his trial Mandela pled 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 murdered by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists. Amnesty International even refused him the designation of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ because of his espousal of terrorism.
Once in power Mandela cosied up to dictators such as Castro, Gaddafi and Suharto. President Suharto of Indonesia had ordered the invasion of East Timor in 1975 leading to the deaths of 100,000 people. When he visited South Africa in 1997 Suharto was given a 21-gun salute and awarded The Order of Good Hope, South Africa’s highest honour. Thirty Eight trade unionists who protested this were arrested under an apartheid era law prohibiting groups of more than 15 people demonstrating within 100 metres of parliament without permission.
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 reported that Gaddafi had given the ANC well over ten million dollars.
Mandela took no action to reform the ANC of which he was head. This has led to South Africa having just one more corrupt government in a continent awash with corruption. More serious than the pecuniary corruption endemic in the ANC is the political corruption. John Kane-Berman, the head of the South African Institute of Race Relations, claims that the ANC ‘operates with Soviet-style democratic centralism’. ‘Zuma has restored the superiority of the party over the state that had faltered under (his predecessor) Thabo Mbeki.’
It is tempting to simplify things by declaring that all who opposed apartheid were unswervingly good. In the midst of the over the top adulation of a ‘secular saint’ it is important to remember that Mandela himself has been the first to hold his hands up to his shortcomings and mistakes. He went to great lengths 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 or worshipped.
Mandela showed great courage in standing up for rights we take for granted. His struggle was not always admirable. After years of non-violent protest against a vile regime he gave up and turned to indiscriminate violence. He lived in a time and found himself in a situation in which just about every option entailed horrific consequences. Rather than pretend he was a substitute Saviour we should recognise his failings which serve to highlight the great good which he did. It takes a remarkable man to emerge from twenty seven years of imprisonment and preach reconciliation with those who imprisoned him.
The greatness of Mandela lies in the fact that he was a man who changed and in the end that change brought about what many thought impossible.