Every generation needs heroes. However, the elevation of Nelson Mandela to sainthood by an adoring world is not only wrong, it is a slap in the face to all those who suffered irreparable loss directly by his hands or by the hands of African National Congress/South African Communist Party mobs.
Mandela denied any involvement in the Soviet-backed SACP, which is tantamount to denying that his hands were not part of his body. There are numerous pictures of Mandela by the side of SACP leader Joe Slovo underneath the hammer and sickle, hands raised, giving the communist clinched-fist salute.
Mandela was one of the people who helped transform the ANC from an organization dedicated to bringing about reform through peaceful political means into one committed to the violent overthrow of the government.
Mandela was charismatic and adept at political expediency, often doing what was right, but often doing what most certainly was wrong.
In the late 1980s, after Congress had over-ridden a Reagan veto to impose economic sanctions against South Africa, I spent several weeks in that country as part of a fact-finding mission sponsored by Renaissance Women.
We traveled from one end of the country to the other, meeting with key individuals in the struggle against apartheid as well as key economic, political and religious groups.
We also talked with people in the pews and on the streets who were just trying to earn a living and escape the violence. The most fearful were blacks in the Soweto township where Winnie Mandela’s thugs, known as her “Soccer Club,” went about brutalizing her neighbors who sent their children to school against the wishes of the ANC and would not join terrorist groups.
When we asked black children living in Soweto what was their biggest concern, it was being murdered by Mandela’s militia on the way home from school.
Fourteen-year-old Stompie Moekhetsi Seipei was one who did not survive. Mrs. Mandela later was convicted of kidnapping this child. She has since been found guilty of the torture/murder of countless other men, women and children by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Nevertheless, she has not served any time for her crimes. Instead, she now sits on the Executive Committee of the ANC, which is the de-facto government of South Africa. So much for reform!
I thought it a good sign when Nelson Mandela divorced this woman two years after he was released from prison. However, he raised money for her defense and then married Graca Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, the brutal dictator of Mozambique.
Before my arrival in South Africa, I though apartheid was the law of the land. After my arrival, I found this despised law largely ignored. There were integrated neighborhoods, churches and businesses. Segregation was more economic than racial, much the way it is in this country.
I discovered that most of South Africa’s economic problems stemmed from the hundreds of people seeking a better life who were pouring into the cities each day from the tribal areas. The government offered job training programs and housing starts to the new arrivals but was having a hard time keeping up with the influx.
I also gained insight on the press restrictions that had been imposed by the government. Moderate reformist blacks long had claimed there was collusion between the press and the ANC. TV crews would arrive outside a home or business, set up their cameras and, a few minutes later, a mob would appear to torch the place and provide the world with “terrorist theater.”
I came away convinced that President Reagan was right to veto sanctions against South Africa, which harmed the overwhelming majority of blacks who were making key economic and political gains. They undermined governmental reforms which had been under way for more than a decade and drove President F. W. de Klerk to sell out moderate black leaders like Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Bishop Elijah Mokoena and Mayor Tomsanga Linda in order to make an unholy bargain with the ANC. This assured de Klerk’s political survival, but it put his country on a path to social and economic collapse.
No amount of hand-wringing or political hindsight on behalf of James Baker, Reagan’s treasury secretary, can change these facts. It’s a thinly veiled effort by Baker to appear relevant during this international Mandela love-fest.
As for Mandela, I can’t imagine the mother of Stompie Moekhetsi or the mothers of the other moderate blacks who lost their lives in this struggle are shedding tears at his death.