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Mandela's legacy - Liberation or Capitulation?

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by Max O

An outpouring of tributes and obituaries came gushing forth from the worlds' media when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died, in early December of last year. Over the last two decades the imperialist states and their media have presented him as the father of South Africa, creator of the Rainbow Nation and the archetypal figure of forgiveness.

All this is in contrast to the position they took against the anti-apartheid movement from the 1940's to the late 1980's. These reactionaries then did a complete somersault from condemning 'terrorism' to approving one man's monumental efforts for human dignity and opposition to racism!

But did Mandela single handily really liberate the country and put an end to apartheid in South Africa? In all the effusive praise for Nelson Mandela much of the truth about the struggle to end racism and liberate the Azanian (land of the Africans) people has been deliberately omitted by the Western media, and by the African National Congress (ANC*) itself.
Undeniably Mandela sacrificed 27 years in prison for the struggle against apartheid, however it is misleading that it was only him and the ANC that led this resistance. There were other famous leaders and organisations that were out there facing off and combating the white South African regime. In actual fact the ANC was quite often caught out avoiding militant actions and later forced into playing catch-up!

Sharpeville and Soweto
The famous uprisings of Sharpville and Soweto, names that went around the globe and brought to the world's peoples' attention the regimes willingness to ruthlessly massacre Africans who resisted their racist policies, were not actually lead by Mandela and the ANC.

When Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, leader of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC*) launched the positive action campaign against the pass laws and invited the ANC to join in, the Secretary-General of the ANC, Duma Nokwe rejected the offer and replied in the 20-3-1960, Johannesburg Sunday Times: "It is treacherous to the liberation movement to embark on a campaign which has not been prepared and which has no reasonable prospects of success."

The PAC had organised crowds of 50,000 people at Sharpeville and Langa on 21 March to present themselves to police without their passes and the regime responded by killing 83 people and wounding 365. The PAC leadership were arrested and on the 28 March, the Unlawful Organisation Bill was introduced that banned both the PAC and ANC.

Len Lee-Warden, a  member of the South African Parliament in 1960 and associated with the South African Communist Party, who was one of the four white representatives elected to represent Africans actually argued that only the PAC  should be banned, that the Government of the day ought to talk to the ANC to restore order in South Africa after Sharpeville.

After the Sharpeville massacre Sobukwe was put on trial that year, 1960 and refused to plead guilty or not guilty in court, because he declared the courts were illegitimate, set up according to laws entirely made by a white minority, without participation by the African majority. Sobukwe died 1978, a prisoner in Kimberly, under heavy restrictions which included denying him an exit permit to receive medical treatment from outside of South Africa.

Mandela faced the courts two years later, 1962 and then in the well publicized 1964 Rivonia trial. Interestingly Mandela's trial speech recording has survived but not Sobukwe's trial speech.

Similarly the 1976 Soweto student uprising in opposition to using Afrikaans as a medium of instruction were the result of propaganda campaigns of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and the PAC who galvanised youth support and participation in the struggle around Africanism and Black Consciousness. As a result the apartheid regime massacred at least 700 young Africans and saw the torture and murder of Steve Biko, the leader of the BCM.

Zeph Mothopeng, a PAC leader in Soweto at the times of the uprising, was soon after arrested and put on trial. The white judge, Justice Curlewis declared that Mothopeng had "...acted to sow seeds of anarchy and revolution. The riots he had engineered and predicted had eventually taken place in Soweto on 16 June, and Kagiso the next day."

He had led the teachers` fight against introduction of Bantu Education and was banned from teaching in 1953/54 when he was President of the Transvaal African Teachers Association (TATA). Mothopeng served two years with Sobukwe and other PAC leaders after Sharpeville, 1960-62, and was imprisoned with on Robben Island, 1963 – 1968. He inter-acted very much with South African Students Organization (SASO) and Black Peoples Convention (BCP) in the years before the Soweto Uprising.

Mandela's capitulation started early
Much fanfare has been made of Mandela's so-called groundbreaking trial speeches, however what has been overlooked was his continual willingness to make accommodations with the regime. For example Mandela announced at the Rivonia trial in 1964: "The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change in the economic structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society."

This foretold his eventual betrayal of black Africans, when as early as the 1970's, after Soweto 1976, Mandela privately started negotiations in secret with the racist Botha/de Klerk regime. That is why he was transferred from Robben Island in 1982 to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, and then onto a Prison Officer`s house in Victor Verster Prison in 1985, All these transfers were designed to facilitate easy access to him for negotiations.

After the 1970's the ANC put enormous effort into marginalising  and eliminating rivals such as the PAC and the BCM and capture the leadership of the black movement, as opposed to leading a protracted revolt against the apartheid regime.

The racist regime knowing that the ANC leadership were willing to compromise, and accepting that the apartheid regime was unsustainable were more than happy to start negotiations with them. Mandela without a blink ditched policies such as the so called Freedom Charter straight away.

Arundhati Roy, India's famous human rights activist stated that: "When Nelson Mandela took over as South Africa’s first Black President, he was canonised as a living saint, not just because he was a freedom fighter who spent 27 years in prison, but also because he deferred completely to the Washington Consensus. Socialism disappeared from the ANC’s agenda. South Africa’s great “peaceful transition”, so praised and lauded, meant no land reforms, no demands for reparation, no nationalisation of South Africa’s mines. Instead, there was Privatisation and Structural Adjustment."

Africans now suffer under the ANC
The plight of black Africans has not improved but rather has deteriorated  since Mandela and the ANC won government back in 1994. They still suffer appalling living conditions of no running water, electricity, decent sanitation and in contrast they see a small black bourgeoisie cosying up to a white-imperialist dominated economy.

This political perfidy culminated in the ANC government using black police to gun down the Marikana miners in support of the Lonmin Corporation in 2012. 44 African mineworkers were murdered at Marikana, marking it as a watershed moment in the history of the ANC, Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

All three organisations opposed the Marikana mineworkers in their industrial dispute with the Lonmin Corporation. In fact Cyril Ramaphosa, a former leader of the NUM and COSATU and current vice president of the ANC, who is a board member of Lonmin called on the 15 August 2012 for action to be taken against the striking miners. He is regarded as one of South Africa's richest men, with Forbes estimating his wealth at $675 million. Hence the moniker for his ilk, 'black diamonds'!

Unfortunately Mandela was no Chavez for he forfeited his claim to liberator many years ago. Much has been said about the hypocrisy of western media, politicians and celebrities morning the death of a great forgiving man who stood up to racism.

Might not the same criteria be applied to Mandela himself. In the end he should be judged by the company of western media, politicians and celebrities he so craved and the neglect of his own people that he oversaw.

* The PAC split from the ANC in 1959. Essentially the difference between the two were that the ANC saw the struggle in terms of civil rights whereas the PAC saw it in terms of the African people being dispossessed of their country and winning back their sovereignty and land.


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