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A candid and fair assessment? Indeed!

Nelson Mandela: A Candid Assessment

by Timothy J. Williams:  (1catholicsalmon’s reposted this article which can be found here. This is a balanced and fair comment on Mandela’s life and life lived in South Africa today.)

Mandela-(Steven Siewert)Calling him one of the “most influential, courageous and profoundly good people to ever have lived,” President Obama ordered all U.S. flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, December 5. As the worldwide tributes pour in for the former leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and first black president of South Africa, it is good to remember just who Mandela was, and who he wasn’t.

As president of South Africa, Mandela—though a typically bumbling socialist—was not a vengeful character. After having spent much of his adult life in prison, he is widely praised for not seeking to retaliate against the former white rulers, and for having largely urged reconciliation and compromise in undoing the injustices of Apartheid. Though Mandela was a committed Marxist, he was also a pragmatist, disappointing his more impatient comrades by not immediately carrying out the massive nationalizations of industry he had promised, so as not to drive away foreign investment. And he recognized his own limitations, both physical and political, in deciding not to attempt to remain in power after his term in office.

Most white South Africans rejoin that Nelson Mandela had no reason to seek revenge on anyone, nor any basis for extending forgiveness to his previous jailors. After all, as the most famous prisoner of the previous Apartheid government, he had been fairly tried and convicted of complicity in many murders, and he confessed to participation in 156 acts of terror, crimes that would certainly have earned him the death penalty in a great many countries. Moreover, his confinement was more than comfortable by any standards. During his legendary twenty-seven years in prison, Mandela communicated freely with his followers, and somehow managed to accumulate a considerable fortune. He was continually offered release by the white Apartheid government, but on one condition: that he renounce violence in pursuit of political reform. That is something he consistently refused to do.

As was made clear by testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mandela was personally involved in the targeting and timing of terrorist bombings that took place during his imprisonment, such as the infamous “Church Street Massacre,” designed to maximize casualties among Afrikaner women and children. Even a group as left-leaning as Amnesty International refused to grant Mandela political prisoner status because of the obviously violent character of his ideology and his actions. His African National Congress party ran a horrific camp for political prisoners in Angola, with daily torture and murder, often by the “necklacing” technique, whereby a gasoline-filled tire is placed around the neck of a victim and set ablaze. Virtually all the victims of this particular horror were blacks.

Within South Africa, on direct orders from Winnie and Nelson Mandela, the ANC targeted not only whites, but also all black civil servants, teachers, lawyers, and businessmen—essentially anyone who imagined a post-Apartheid South Africa that differed from the one mandated by the Marxist ANC. Even simple black peasants who refused to carry out terror attacks were treated as enemies, and they were killed in large numbers. Thus, just as the terroristic FLN killed far more Algerians than did the French during the Algerian war for independence, the ANC was the leading cause of death, by far, for black South Africans throughout the period of Apartheid.

The only reality that makes it even remotely possible to view Mandela as a “statesman” is that he lived on a continent where the definition of “statecraft” is not exactly rigorous or exemplary. Since the wave of decolonization following World War II, the number of African states ruled by ruthless dictators has always been in the majority, and sometimes approached unanimity. The precise number of tyrants involved is actually difficult to ascertain. One simply loses count, and the shadows of the worst of them conceal the merely “semi-heinous” crimes of the lesser despots, so that their names are eclipsed and you find yourself asking: “Does so-and-so really fit the African definition of a tyrant?”

Numbered among the rogue gallery of miscreants who have wielded power on that tragic continent, we find some of the world’s biggest drug traffickers, diamond smugglers, and slave traders. It seems that the poorer an African nation is, the greater the wealth accumulated by its “President for Life.” Almost every country in black-ruled Africa has a system of gulags. All elections are rigged, free press is non-existent, and all dissent comes from exiles. In the past fifty years, there have been more wars in Africa than in all the other continents combined. And everything is considered a weapon of war: ethnic cleansing, child soldiering and child rape, even cannibalism. Just refraining from committing genocide in Africa practically sets one up for comparison with Mother Theresa.

So in this regard, Mandela (post-Apartheid, at least) does indeed look pretty good. Though personally implicated in a great many murders, there is at least no record of him ever eating a political foe or advocating child rape or promoting genocide. And he left office voluntarily in 1999, even if this was due more to advancing years, frail health, and the realization that he had no talent for governing, rather than to a real commitment to democracy. Still, by African standards, this is the stuff of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela did, however, leave behind another socialist nightmare in the making. With their motto of “liberation before education,” the ANC has proved itself completely incapable of governing, and South Africa is sliding into chaos at an alarming rate. Since 2004, South Africa has experienced almost constant political protests, many of them violent. Activists like to refer to the nation as the most “protest-rich in the world,” which, along with prison camps, is the only type of “riches” a socialist nation can produce. The nation is staggered by unemployment, corruption throughout all levels of the police, military, and civil service, and ubiquitous, inescapable crime. Life in South Africa is far more dangerous, especially for blacks and women, than it was under Apartheid. With about fifty murders a day, the nation is now among the undisputed murder capitals of the world, most of these crimes going uninvestigated. The astounding estimates of other violent crimes, including rape, are almost impossible to believe. But only the truth of such figures could account for the fact that the private security business in South Africa is the largest in the world, with over a quarter-million private security guards in a nation of under 53 million.

Taking their lead from the disaster in neighboring Zimbabwe, the government of South Africa is now looking the other way as white farmers are driven off their land by arson and murder. It is said that job advertisements, even those posted by the government, routinely include the phrase “Whites need not apply.” Would it be an exaggeration to say that a “reverse Apartheid” is taking place in South Africa? The nearly one million white South Africans who have fled the growing chaos don’t think so.

Of course, life in South Africa is now most dangerous for the most defenseless, for those waiting to be born. As president, Mandela—ever the pragmatist—signed the most liberal abortion law in all of Africa, with no reason at all needed for a woman to procure abortion in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, and abortion easy to obtain through all nine months. Since this law took effect in 1997, even the most conservative estimates put the number of abortions that have taken place at one million. Once again, socialists and pragmatists of all stripes reveal that they cannot conceive of any form of good governance that does not involve killing on a massive scale.

Yes, some South Africans view Mandela as a nearly messianic figure. Desmond Tutu has publically thanked God for the “gift” of Mandela. But this is the same “bishop” Tutu who recently stated that he would decline his own invitation to heaven if God turned out to be a “homophobe.” Any pious invocation by Tutu has to be regarded as more than a little suspect. Nor can we have any confidence in Barack Obama when he declares that Mandela “achieved more than could be expected of any man” and that “he belongs to the ages.” Obama no doubt believes he himself “belongs to the ages,” since his signature “accomplishments”—the government seizure of medical care, the enthronement of abortion, and the promotion of homosexual “marriage”—are all policies promoted by the ANC in the new South Africa. So we should not expect to hear much from the Obama administration about Mandela’s violent past. Statists never find anything to reproach in one of their own.

(Photo credit: Steven Siewert)


Leave a comment


  1. Thank you. It is good to know the full story, both sides out there for consideration.
    Mandela is now before the only judge that matters.

  2. Mary

     /  December 18, 2013

    It would be interesting to do a candit assessment of the Catholic Church’s role during slavery in the same way you did with Mandela… am sure it would look pretty good post slavery, hey….

    • Thanks for commenting, Mary. Firstly, I cannot claim this article as my own, as I reblogged it from the given source.
      Admittedly , I refrained from watching the politicized hype surrounding Mandela’s death, laying in state and funeral, as I knew that the coverage would be biased and that eulagies would be shaped to further political reach. I was not wrong.
      As I lived through more than 35years of South African history I think I can say without hesitation with certainty that this assessment hit the nail squarely on the head.I was there when Mandela was released and I lived through the tension thereafter.

      I know little of the Catholic Church’s position during the time of slavery and yes, it would make for some interesting research and possibly interesting reading thereafter.
      Can you at this time share opinions on the abovementioned topic?

      • Filipe de Melo

         /  December 23, 2013

        Yes. Please do Mary. It would be interesting to learn your perspective on this.

  3. jonah

     /  December 19, 2013

    Mandela’s life history and religious experience was close to the Methodist tradition though he never publicly acknowledge that fact, preferring to embrace all religious expressions but also in the same vain projecting a form of protest against all forms of organised religion as he considered all these to be artificial and decisive . One thing that we can learn from Madiba was his ability to live and act in ways that defy organised religion! The assessment of his life and the values that he lived for can not be confined to any given religious boxes, Methodist, Catholic, Hindu, etc. That would be too limiting and denying the people of faith to grasp the rich lessons contained in the life Madiba. Catholic, or any other religious identity lenses are therefore too limiting and completely inadequate to meaningfully draw lessons in efforts to shape the african trajectory.
    In conclusion, the author of the assessment is least qualified to do an assessment of Madiba’s life as he/she exhibits a lack of faith in africans to solve their problems under very challenging circumstances. Those who express view from out side africa must be very careful not to exhibit Knowledge they do not have for africa. Real solutions to africa’s challenges can not come from non resident armchair critics who want to became professors of africa’s development over night.

    • Filipe de Melo

       /  December 23, 2013


      I don’t always respond as actively as I’d like to all the posts on this blog, yet from time I feel I must add my “voice”. Your post has many inaccuracies that need correcting. Especially since, of late, since so much has been said about Mandela.

      In the first place, Mandela was a member of a Marxist organisation, a self-avowed atheist political party: http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=2681. Your posting about Mandela’s preference “to embrace all religious expressions but also in the same vain projecting a form of protest against all forms of organised religion” is an oxymoron. Like all Marxists, Mandela used religion in an attempt transform South Africa into a proletariat. Marxists tend use religion in the same way – for political ends – read Marx’s manifesto, Jonah.T he author, Timothy Williams is right – ever the pragmatist, Mandela surprised everybody (and disappointed) his comrades by “…not immediately carrying out the massive nationalizations of industry he had promised, so as not to drive away foreign investment.”

      Your assertions that “Catholic, or any other religious identity lenses are … too limiting and completely inadequate to meaningfully draw lessons in efforts to shape the african (sic)trajectory” is also incorrect. Religion, specially Christian and significantly also Moslem, has had a bigger impact on the formation of the African consciousness that the relatively new comer (and soon to be confined to the dustbin of history), Marxism. Religion is at the heart of the African soul and, alongside with economic development and pluralist political maturity, it will shape the African trajectory. Marxism has had its chance and it will take two or three generations for the continent to recover from its errors.

      The assumption that only “resident” Africans are qualified to “assess” African problems is proven wrong by recent History. Most (resident) African leaders have made a right mess of governing their respective countries. Furthermore, judging from your comments, you yourself have an incorrect understanding of what being African means. It is myopic to refer to “Africa” as if it was a single unit or country. Africa is a continent with very diverse peoples, cultures and languages – they don’t share all the same problems and solutions. Marxists, like Mandela and his comrades in the ANC, have been fed a Pan-African dream (by their Soviet past-masters) which is far from the reality on the ground. South Africans also tend to have an insular view of Africa, because they only understand their situation from their own country’s perspective – which is very different to everywhere else. There is no such thing as the “African trajectory”. African societies are part of the global society. Many African countries have closer cultural and economic links to their former colonisers than to their neighbours. New economic and cultural relationships with new markets (China, Brasil, USA, the EU, etc.) will do more to shape the “African trajectory” than Mandela’s rhetoric ever will.

      The blessing of Mandela was that, along with de Klerk, they BOTH managed to avoid a bloodbath in the Southern tip of Africa. It was a partnership of two men – not one – that brought about political freedom in South Africa. Mandela is to be commended – in the same way as the former terrorists of Northern Ireland who abandoned violence for the political solution – for choosing the road to peace. Beyond that example to the world, I don’t see what the fuss is all about, outside of South Africa.

      I am going to guess that you are an African, and so am I. My opinion is a as valid as yours, at least, and I think we need more doses of reality, like Timothy Williams’ article.

  4. Greetings.Thank you for your direct manner. Always clear and succinct.

  5. jonah

     /  December 25, 2013

    Filipe de Melo.
    I do not want to personalize this discussion as this will have the likelihood of contaminating a platform that should be promoting a healthy contestation of ideas and perspectives.

    Your emotional reference to Marxism exhibits an unbelievable hatred of an ideology whose influence has completely faded out in terms of the African development agenda. I am surprised that you are still pre-occupied with the promotion of unjustified fear and hatred of Marxism in this day and age. Right wing dispositions tend to deprive people of objectivity.

    Mandela was never a Marxist and the ANC which he led as President was also never a Marxist organisation, not even by any stretch of imagination! This is mere speculation which i do not allow myself to be drown further into. Historically, the PAC was much closer to the Marxist ideology than than the ANC ever was.

    We should have more substantive issues to discuss like the role of religion in Africa which you make reference to.

    The lesson that we learn from Mandela is that he lived above our narrow religious identities and at the same time embracing all people of Faith. Some of the religious identities have become a serious source of conflict on the continent and only Mandela’s approach to religion can help us develop a violent-free continent.

    You see I am really tying to disengage from your highly charged assertions as they are more a reflection of your personal problems that you can deal with at your own given time and space. We should not run the risk of diverting attention from focusing on ideas that built rather than destroy.


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