|African leaders whose vision could be toppled by the secret hand of capitalism!|
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ― Nelson Mandela
The chronicle of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and the variety of ways in which his story crossed paths with Jamaica is important to the island's history and that of our diaspora. It must become part of the story of the emerging self-belief of people of African descent. It is also an account of a human being allowing his best and noblest self to prevail.
It is easy and very plausible to tell Mandela's story without also speaking to Jamaica's story. But as a Jamaican it would be remiss of me not to mention, how this little nation, smaller than the population of Soweto and separated by thousands of nautical miles from the shorings of South Africa, prognosticated for the isolation of South Africa in response to apartheid from as early as 1961, three years before Mandela was condemned to Robben Island.
One of Jamaica's prime ministers, Michael Manley, was in numerous ways the designer of the sporting and cultural boycott of South Africa, which, incidentally, was more cogent than economic sanctions to that degree that the psychology of being a white South African was concerned. It is little wonder that Jamaica was one of the first two countries visited by Madiba after his incarceration. He visited Jamaica and Cuba in July 1991, with our beloved Winnie Madikize Mandela at his side, and they received honour from the Jamaican people.
He was a visionary, he had a grand project. He was political. He had an avid sense of strategic timing. Yet he wasn't Machiavellian. He was loved because he was neither Mugabe nor Blair. His vision ran through his life. He was noble. And, like a virtuous father, to be kind, he sometimes could be cruel.
He was distinguished and most especially he had an vast love for his people and for the project of establishing a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
Mandela vigorously defended of his loyalties to Iran, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, all of whom supported him in his battles against South Africa's apartheid regime.
Mandela was on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008, when then-President George W. Bush signed a bill removing Mandela from it. (Obama is yet to oblige Marcus Mosiah Garvey similar courtesies.)
South Africa’s apartheid regime designated Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) as a terrorist organization for its battle against the nation’s legalized system of racial segregation that lasted from 1948 to 1994. (Marxist legal theory at work here: Karl Marx argued that the law is the mechanism by which one social class, usually referred to as the "ruling class", keeps all the other classes in a disadvantaged position).
Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also described Mandela’s ANC as a “typical terrorist organization” in 1987, refusing to impose sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime. President Ronald Reagan did as well.
But Madiba was more than that, he was an African man of moral sense. He was a man of virtue. Moral excellence and moral sense that made him so acclaimed globally since he led a nation at a time when virtue and morality were universally absent amongst global leaders. He slammed Bush and Blair for the war on Iraq: 'What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight and who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.' For Blair he had these words: 'He is the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer prime minister of Britain.'
He rose above acrimony and bitterness. He was unselfish and could reach out to his enemies and cross many divides. He was eminent because he was the great unifier. In many ways he was the designer of the New South Africa.
Mandela was neither magnate nor angel. Mandela wasn't unaccompanied in the grand journey of African redemption in South Africa. One only has to read Bertolt Brecht’s great poem, Questions From a Worker Who Reads, to know: 'Who built Thebes of the 7 gates? / In the books you will read the names of kings. / Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?...'
The fight to emancipate South Africa was a collectivized crusade. Furthermore it was the force of the most oppressed, the workers in the factories, the destitute in the community, blue-collar women and youth that ultimately carried the apartheid government, if not totally to its knees, at the least to talk terms and discuss the conditions of the end of their racial scheme.
All struggle requires a vehicle, a social movement with leaders that can present political focus, tackle the arduous strategic and tactical routes. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela's ANC came to prevail. Even so, Mandela was the first to recognise the parts played by a broad array of social movements that formed the fight for national liberation and the mass democratic movement.
And while Mandela was the one to start dialogue with the apartheid government, he tied himself to the collective leadership of the ANC. He took the first steps, he led but he did so as part of a collective. He was an organisational man. He took pains to explain he was a product of the ANC. He was a man of the black, green and gold – but he could reach beyond organisational limits.
He had this quality of being able to keep people together. Even his critics – and he had them – submitted to him at the end of the day as a moral leader. Without him I can't envision how the transition would have gone.
Aye, zillions of words will be spoken and written on Madiba’s legacy, now, in the months to come, next year and thenceforth. And we will scramble to do this legacy justice. The hardest part will be to catch the essential Mandela, going beyond myth-making whilst precisely evaluating the inconsistent nature of that legacy.
Since the present can't be interpreted without understanding the past, and not everything that is haywire with current day South Africa can be put at the doorway of Zuma or Mbeki. The negotiated resolution that effected a democratic South Africa on the cornerstone of one person one vote will be reckoned as Mandela’s greatest accomplishment. It avoided the scorched earth route of bloodletting which we at present see in Syria. And even so it's those compromises that are nowadays falling apart at the seams. The unharmonious social inequality (very Marxist in nature) that has given rise to South Africa as a country of two nations: one white and relatively prosperous, the second black and poor (I believe arx would have termed these the: bourgeoisie and proletariat respectively).
Social divide the hallmark of society today!
Mandela’s legacy will likewise have to be weighed by the reality that South Africa is more disunited than ever as a result of inequality and social exclusion. The rich are richer and the poor poorer. The great unifier could undertake great emblematic acts of reconciliation to pacify the white nation but because, by definition, this involved sacrificing the redistribution of wealth, reconciliation with the whites was performed at the expense of the large majority of black people.
Mandela was great, but not so great that he could bridge the social divide built into the 21st century capitalist economy that has given us the era of the 1 percenters. It is the ill-fated timing of South Africa's transition, coming about as it did in the period in which global power got inextricably tied into the global corporation, empowered through the conventions of neoliberal globalisation. Reconciliation necessitated the forsaking of ANC policy as vocalised by Mandela on his discharge from jail, 'nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industry is the policy of the ANC and the change or modification of our views in this regard is unimaginable.'
Nevertheless it's this forsaking of nationalisation, nationalisation representing the redistribution of wealth which was determined by the needs of reconciliation not just with the white establishment but with the international capitalist economy. His encounters with the international elite at Davos, the home of the World Economic Forum, convinced him that compromises needed to be made with the financiers. In the words of Ronnie Kasrils: 'That was the time from 1991–1996 that the battle for the soul of the ANC got underway and was lost to corporate power and influence. I will call it our Faustian moment when we became entrapped.'
It's exactly this capitalistic road that's verified such a calamity and which could ultimately demolish Mandela’s life’s work. To do justice to Mandela’s lifetime of commitment and sacrifice for equality betwixt black and white, the fight must continue.
It today has got to stress on subduing inequality and attaining social justice. In this fight the entire African Diaspora will require the greatness and sapience of umpteen Mandelas. Our brethren and sistren in South Africa require an organisation committed to marshalling all South African black and white for the freeing of the wealth of that state from the hands of a bantam elite. It will necessitate a movement akin to Mandela’s ANC, a social movement based on a collective leadership with the blended qualities of Steve Biko, Neville Alexander, Walter Sisulu, Albertina Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Fatima Meer, Chris Hani, Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Robert Sobukwe, IB Tabata and the many greats that led the battle for African liberation. But most importantly the African Diaspora and South Africa will need the multitude who take their fate into their own hands and become their own liberators.
Are these the things that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela struggled to achieve?