Remembering Mandela, The Revolutionary
On 5 December 2013, the world lost an extremely resilient and intelligent man. The ex-South African president and freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, passed away at the age of 95. Mandela is credited for being a key figure in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa, and is often remembered through his wise quotations. He served 27 years as a political prisoner, and is revered for still having hope in the potential for humankind despite that.
In the wake of his death, it seems many groups and people of certain ideology who once strongly opposed Mandela and labeled him a terrorist, have begun to twist his history around. It did not take long for conservatives and liberals alike to paint Mandela as a non-violent, peaceful activist who was wrongly done by. However, many are arguing that Mandela should be remembered for who he truly was. For a time period, Nelson Mandela served as the head of the militant wing of the African National Congress, called the UmKhonto we Sizwe, also known as MK. The MK was an organization that held violent protests in response to the white supremacist government of South Africa. In 1987, the late Margaret Thatcher proclaimed, “The ANC [African National Congress] is a typical terrorist organization … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.” Ironically, one of the first political leaders to give a statement of sorrow on Mandela’s death was
self-identifying steadfast Thatcher supporter, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister. Furthermore, Nelson Mandela read the works of Karl Marx, and upon his first face-to-face meeting with Fidel Castro, swiftly said, “Before we say anything, you must tell me when you are coming to South Africa.” Before that, Nelson Mandela was a staunch Castro supporter. In fact, it was a little ironic that Bill Clinton expressed grief at the loss of Mandela, but never took him off the US terrorism watch list during his presidency or until he was a 90-year-old, in 2008. The US continues to boycott Cuba and shade the Castro regime as a horrid one, at best. Mandela was also closely associated with the South African Communist Party, which he was a member of before his imprisonment, and afterwards he appointed ex-leader Joe Slovo as the Minister of Housing during his presidency.
Some critics of Mandela’s post-death conversation have concluded that people are remembering Mandela’s Martin Luther King Jr. similarities, but forgetting his radical Malcolm X side. Although Mandela effectively stood up to world powers and attempted to end a racist regime out of the love for his people and justice, prominent Slovenian communist philosopher Slavoj Žižek pointed out that the socio-economic problems of black South Africans still remains today, even without a legal apartheid state. He points out that Mandela’s true desire was to end poverty, Mandela himself once saying, “Like slavery and apartheid, [poverty] is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings,” and his focus was especially with the poverty felt most by the South African black population. Žižek concluded, “If we want to remain faithful to Mandela’s legacy, we should thus forget about celebratory crocodile tears…We can safely surmise that, on account of his doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter, old man…His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.”
Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly a passionate, strong person. After a long stay in prison, he still believed in the power of reconciliation. He loved people. He stood up for his beliefs, but also took compromises in hopes of helping his oppressed brothers and sisters. Perhaps if we do indeed support him, we should remember, mourn, and celebrate the great Mandela for who he really was.