Very true Tony. The more I hear of his life the more I am in awe of the man. His dignity and pursuit of an integrated South Africa after being in prison for so long can be a lesson to many world leaders and activists.
In about 1985, at a demo outside the South African Embassy, a policeman told me if I didn't move from the street I'd be arrested for obstruction. I rashly said I was not leaving until Nelson Mandela was released from prison. I was promptly arrested, my camera smashed and the film pulled out and I was locked in a police van, taken to Southwark nick and kept for seven hours, at one point with ten of us to the cell.
In those days, neither Labour nor Tory governments opposed South Africa's Apartheid regime. The UK, the US and France were only countries in the UN backing the white-supremacists - the rest had voted for SA's expulsion from the UN. In the UK, the Conservative Students wore T-shirts demanding Nelson Mandela be hung as a terrorist. One of those students is now the current Speaker of the House of Commons. There sere back-bench Tories still saying this a few months ago and claiming widespread support within the party. Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, went on an expenses paid trip to Apartheid South Africa funded by a firm that campaigned against sanctions.
It is possible all these people have completely changed their view - and if anyone could convince them, with his disarming charm and conciliatory manner Nelson Mandela was the one to do so - but from what I see of racist government policies today (vans saying go home, attempts to break EU rules and deny benefits to EU citizens etc) I am not so sure.
I believe in the same things I believed in when I was arrested. I suspect the enemy then believes in the same things it believed in then too - but now knows it must say something different to the world's cameras.
Not much that i can say that hasn't already been said. Pete - what a picture to have, treasure it forever. Wheelie, I went on the demos too but didn't have the balls to get arrested. Whatever, Mandela was (and still is) an inspiration to us all. His capacity for forgiveness was truly amazing and allowed South Africa to move forward without the bloody conflict that could have happened following his release. If only there were more like him in politics the world would be a happier, more peaceful and more humane place. R.I.P.
Respect for Mandela ... But everyone seems to forget that he was the leader of the ANC a terrorist organisation and a convicted terrorist. I grew up in SA during "the struggle" and completed my 2 years national service with the South African Defence Force. During that time I have seen many atrocities committed by the ANC,the Inkatha Freedom Party and the SA police.
Nelson Mandela was without doubt a decent human being but the organisation the represented are nothing but a bunch of ruthless killers.
I expect to get a lot of flack from this post but i dont believe he was the saint everyone makes him out to be. Unless you lived in SA during the 70's 80' and 90 you dont know what the ANC are capable of.
The SA goverment (pre ANC) and SA police have a lot to answer for, I have seen 1st hand what they get up to. so they are also not so inocent
Mandela makes Gerry Adams look like father Christmas and Mother Teresa all rolled into one :hitler: That man and his ex wife Winnie are responsible for so many deaths in South Africa mostly black people who happened to disagree with him. When the British government chose Mandela as a man they could do business with they condemned many black South Africans to their deaths. That man was not put in prison for opposing apartheid as some people seem to believe, the very long sentence was in place for leading a power struggle against his rivals often placing rubber tyres
filled with petrol on their heads:hitler:
The media is filled with all this hype praising his recent history, but there is so much they sweep under the carpet about his treacherous past!
I don't forget Mandela was leader of the armed wing of the ANC. I think it is important to understand the vital role of violent struggle in liberation battles. But it is also important that military men understand from Mandela's legacy that violence is not the only solution and must be used only when necessary. That's where Mandela was unusual.
Maybe the Northern Irish terrorists will be able to do the same - there is a precedent with Éamon de Valera leading the fight against British occupation of Ireland and going to be come prime minister and then president of Ireland. Other "terrorists" became world leaders too - Yitzhak Shamir ran the Stern Gang against British military occupation of Palestine and went on to become Prime Minister of Israel. I imagine many more will do in the future too - I hope with more success than the likes of Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
One man's freedom fighter is always another man's terrorist. The French resistance fighters (and the resistance elsewhere in Europe) were terrorists. The British sent them weapons and equipment and trained them. I would like to think that had Vader's lot :hitler: been more successful in the second world war then some of our parents would have been "terrorists" too, fighting against German occupation.
We all identify with "terrorists" as freedom fighters sometimes - the Terminator films, for example. Strangely, when the Afghan Mujahidin were fighting the Russians we thought of them as freedom fighters (Rambo III). Now they are fighting British troops we call them terrorists. We condemned the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and then did almost exactly the same thing ourselves.
Whether someone is a freedom fighter or terrorist depends of which side you are on. To anti-racists and anti-apartheid campaigners Mandela was a freedom fighter. To racists, pro-apartheid politicians, white-supremacists such as Eugene Terreblanche and the South African police and security services Mandela was a terrorist. Most people who called Mandela a terrorist back in the 1970s and 1980s have changed their tune. Only unreconstructed racists continue to do so.
Oh, and as the BBC might say: other anti-apartheid campaigning groups were available - think the PAC and Steve Biko - and support for Mandela did not necessarily means support for the ANC over other groups.
If you read the book Biko (on which the film was based) there is an official list from the South African security service of black prisoners and how they died in prison. Most, apparently, "slipped in the shower", suggesting, at best, that the prison health and safety adviser should have insisted on new floor tiles. Of course, it might have been that the police were torturing prisoners to death, against pretty much every treaty and human right and basic code of civil society going. Faced with that, Mandela's decision to take up armed struggle seems reasonable to me.
I wonder if F.W. De Klerk will get the same recognition when he dies?? Well he was the one who changed the stance of the government, brought in the referendum and made it possible for Mandela's release from a life sentence...
People give to much credit to what mandela did and forget about everyone else.
And YES I was living in SA in the late '70s and early '80s also I was there in '94
On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by officers of the Port Elizabeth security police including Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt. This interrogation took place in the Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours and included torture and beatings resulting in a coma.[SUP][/SUP] He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station, in a suburb of Port Elizabeth, and was chained to a window grille for a day.
On 11 September 1977, police loaded him in the back of a Land Rover, naked and restrained in manacles, and began the 1100 km drive to Pretoria to take him to a prison with hospital facilities. He was nearly dead owing to the previous injuries.[SUP][/SUP] He died shortly after arrival at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September. The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head,[SUP][/SUP] which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors. Then Donald Woods, a journalist, editor and close friend of Biko's, along with Helen Zille, later leader of the Democratic Alliance political party, exposed the truth behind Biko's death.[SUP][/SUP][SUP][better source needed][/SUP]
Because of his high profile, news of Biko's death spread quickly, opening many eyes around the world to the brutality of the apartheid regime. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people, including numerous ambassadors and other diplomats from the United States and Western Europe. The liberal white South African journalist Donald Woods, a personal friend of Biko, photographed his injuries in the morgue. Woods was later forced to flee South Africa for England. Donald Woods later campaigned against apartheid and further publicised Biko's life and death, writing many newspaper articles and authoring the book, Biko, which was later turned into the film Cry Freedom.[SUP][/SUP] Speaking at a National Party conference following the news of Biko's death then–minister of police, Jimmy Kruger said, "I am not glad and I am not sorry about Mr. Biko. It leaves me cold (Dit laat my koud). I can say nothing to you ... Any person who dies ... I shall also be sorry if I die."
After a 15-day inquest in 1978, a magistrate judge found there was not enough evidence to charge the officers with murder because there were no eyewitnesses.[SUP][/SUP][SUP][/SUP] On 2 February 1978, based on the evidence given at the inquest, the attorney general of the Eastern Cape stated he would not prosecute.[SUP][/SUP] On 28 July 1979, the attorney for Biko's family announced that the South African government would pay them $78,000 in compensation for Biko's death.[SUP][/SUP]
On 7 October 2003, the South African justice ministry announced that the five policemen accused of killing Biko would not be prosecuted because the time limit for prosecution had elapsed and because of insufficient evidence.[SUP][/SUP]
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created following the end of minority rule and the apartheid system, reported that five former members of the South African security forces who had admitted to killing Biko were applying for amnesty. Their application was rejected in 1999.[SUP][/SUP]
A year after his death, some of his writings were collected and released under the title I Write What I Like.[SUP][/SUP]
I don't know enough about de Klerk. White rule was over and they knew it. They could have gone down fighting, as some wanted, but, without doubt, the country would have been the worse for it - see Ian Smith in Rhodesia.
How much was de Klerk just the figurehead doing what had to be done, what he was told, taking the offers available to make the transition as smooth as possible? Or was he pivotal, decisive, strong and principled? I don't know. Mandela speaks highly of everyone, almost out of politeness (he famously said meeting the Spice Girls was the best thing he'd ever done when they claimed their Girl Power was the equivalent of his anti-apartheid campaigning).
It couldn't have happened under Botha, that's for sure.
I think it's a shame that the death of a man like Mandela can be so divisive.
Surely the point is that he was not a saint but an iconic human being....no more and no less.
If your country was occupied and your people subjugated and brutalised by a violent regime for several hundred years, it's a bit rich for that regime to be outraged that you refuse to renounce violence as part of the solution to your oppression.
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