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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)

 

Living ‘in the middle’, in between and keeping the peace.

I pick up on a line of thought from a post over at the Foraging Squirrel that got my juices flowing and my mind ticking so much so, that I thought I’d follow suit  with my version of having ‘lived in the middle.’

I hail from the Rainbow nation of South Africa – that beautiful country on the Southern most tip of Africa. I grew up during the 60’s , 70’s , 80’s in a country wracked with racial tension, discrimination and later on violent overspill from the townships. In the late 70’s I met my spouse, whose family had decided to make the life-changing move to South Africa as Mozambique was in the throws of a civil war. The Portuguese/Mozambican settlers experienced their fair share of discrimination in their places of work, schools and in society in general as they had moved into a nation laced with suspicion of ‘outsiders’ and a  racist world-view that overshadowed every part of life. My spouse was not spared from discrimination, and yes sadly, did experience some tough times with the older members of my family. I was for the purposes of this post caught ‘in the middle’ here. Although I knew exactly where my loyalty rested, I had to make some difficult decisions about my relationship with my partner, bite the bullet and face the music head on.

Neslon Mandela (Madiba) in his old jail cell on Robben Island.

We celebrated the birth of our first-born in 1990 the year that Madiba (Nelson Mandela) was released from 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island, a momentous year for both  our family and our nation. The majority of my family leaned to the right politically with individual members veering off to the left. At this juncture of my life I ‘d planted myself firmly ‘in the middle’ politically. In retrospect, I was not as involved or informed on the political front as I could’ve been but I was certainly caught up in the day-to-day relationships with fellow citizens whose political stances swayed back and forth with varying amounts of force and in different directions.  As far as my Faith Journey is concerned, I considered myself to be a ‘good Catholic’, as I attended Mass weekly, made sure that we baptised our children and said my prayers regularly. This holy engine was kept running quietly in the background of a very busy life. It was not as yet, at the forefront of our lives.

The escalating violence and the stress of living in a society wrought with poverty of the majority and two small children forced our hand as parents to make the excruciating decision to move to the U.K. (Excruciating for me, as I left my entire extended family behind). This decision proved to be challenging on many levels. At this juncture we faced criticism  and bias about our decision, but knew that our decision was made out of love for our children (and our own emotional well-being), looking forward to the positive prospects and opportunities for them in a ‘first world’ country.

The first two to three years after our big move was testament to our blood sweat and tears in establishing new roots in a new community and culture. The one constant in our life, our Faith and Worship, was continued uninterrupted at our local parish. Our TRUE NORTH. It provided us with moral reassurances and spiritual support we so needed and was the one place where we fitted in without having to prove our worth. We were lucky that our children had received places in excellent local Catholic schools.  For me, the holy engine of Faith was becoming more of the motor for sustained living  which continues to drive our decision-making. It rose up on the horizon as a beacon of Light and Love and Sustenance, as I began to become more involved in the life of our parish.

As I ‘ve matured both in years as well as along my journey of Faith my world view is decided by the tenets upheld by  the Faith and my relationship with God. England is a secular country, boasting secular values and ways of life. Living here has brought Faith issues to the fore and continues to do so on a daily basis. Because of this I ‘ve had to make a conscious decision about how I am to live as a Catholic Christian. There’s no room to manoeuvre half-heartedly through the secular mazes I’m confronted with from day-to-day. I’ve had to make my position as a Christian quite clear, and for me there’s no going back on this. It’s too important.

This brings me to an experience which relates indirectly to the post referred to at the Foraging Squirrel called ‘Where’s the Love?‘. About three years ago I was approached by a fellow Catholic who was searching for reasons to remain Catholic. From her perspective , the Church held no convincing reasons for her to remain as a member of it, and it failed dismally in the area of  ‘hands-on Christianity’ that her fiance’s denomination provided. She approached me and a myriad of others  for advice and conversation around these issues, finally deciding that the Catholic Church was no longer for her. We know her family well and I had developed a professional relationship her through our work. The weight of her decision fell heavily on the shoulders of her family, and I floundered as I didn’t seem to have the answers she wanted to hear or needed to hear at the time. A few weeks after she’d made her decision, we received an invitation to her ‘baptism’. I was flabbergasted and very uncomfortable. Attending the baptism would validate her decision, show our support of her decision and negate all of the soul-searching we’d done. It would place us as Catholics in ‘no-man’s-land’. Neither here no there.  After careful consideration and debate, the fact that she’d already been Baptised swayed us to make the decision not to attend the baptism. Once Baptised always Baptised. You cannot be Baptised again. In this situation we were forced to show our hand as Catholics, there was no middle ground.

I think about her often, and wonder where she’s at. I do not regret our decision, but it was not as straightforward as one might initially think it to be. There are many factors to consider, least of which was her feelings, and those of her parents. I pray that one day she’ll understand and appreciate our stance and perhaps one day, she’ll return from across the other side of the Tiber.

IMG_0413

IMG_0413 (Photo credit: NVinacco)