The longform guide to Nelson Mandela

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A series of articles to commemorate one of the history’s greatest leaders, despite his murky, uneasy past.

‘Invictus’ hero recalls day Mandela transformed South Africa

The hopes, and fears, of Francois Pienaar before his first-time hand-shaking with the recently released African National Congress leader. Read the full article on CNN.

Excerpt:

In his book, Carlin described Pienaar as the “big blonde son of apartheid,” a 6-foot-4, 240-pound man who grew up worshipping the violent sport of rugby, an obsession for many Afrikaners. Rugby is known as “the opium of the Afrikaner,” says Carlin.

Like many Afrikaners, Pienaar said he didn’t question the morality of apartheid growing up, nor did he think much of Mandela, who was considered a terrorist by many white South Africans.

“Sadly, I couldn’t say that I did,” he said. “I didn’t oppose apartheid. Politics wasn’t on my radar screen. I saw the divisions in life and in school, but I just didn’t ask why.”

 

A white South African’s memories of Mandela

A CNN editorial producer, and also a White South African, recalls the first moment she met with Mandela. Read the full article here.

Excerpt:

We whites had lived in a place that denied people their basic human rights. Why had it taken so long to change this inhumane system? How had we allowed it? I stood in that line experiencing a mixture of jubilation and guilt. Had I really lived for 29 years in a country that had denied the majority of its people the right to vote?

It was also a time to truly appreciate the enormous sacrifice and achievement of Nelson Mandela and his comrades.

Mandela’s release from prison in February 1990 had been both a highly anticipated and enormously feared event. Many members of the white South African minority were terrified of the kind of displacement and retribution that has historically followed revolutions and major changes in government. So you can imagine everyone’s relief when, rather than calling for a revolution, Mandela instead preached reconciliation, and spoke of a Rainbow Nation and the importance of Ubuntu — we are human through the humanity of others. It was then that the brilliance of Mandela as a peacemaker, a politician and a statesman emerged.

However, despite our acknowledgement of him for his universal power of wisdom, it is not that Mandela is a perfect human, though. These two articles below highlight the evidence.

 

How Nelson Mandela betrayed us, says ex-wife Winnie

The reasons Winnie Mandela feels the deep ‘betrayal’. Read the full article on London Evening Standard.

Excerpt:

In the late Eighties, Winnie’s thuggish bodyguards, the Mandela United Football Club, terrorised Soweto. Club “captain” was Jerry Richardson, who died in prison last year while serving life for the murder of Stompie Moeketsi, a 14-year-old who was kidnapped with three other boys and beaten in the home where we would soon sit, sipping coffee. Winnie was sentenced to six years for kidnap, which was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Members of the gang would later testify to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Winnie had ordered the torture, murder and kidnap of her own people, and even participated directly.

Winnie used to live, before she was famous, down one of the narrow, congested streets with small brick and iron sheet houses. Soweto is still a predominately black township: tourists come in buses to gawp at the streets linked to freedom, apartheid and Mandela.

 

How the ANC’s Faustian pact sold out South Africa’s poorest

A former ANC committee member recalled what he termed ‘the greatest mistake he, Mandela, and others on the party had committed’ for the country. The full article is on The Guardian.

Excerpt:

What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalising South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence.