Mort de Nelson Mandela: Mandela ou l’anti-Arafat (Robben Island was a tremendous school in human relations – the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with)

https://i2.wp.com/www.rightsidenews.com/images/stories/December_2013/Editorial/US_Opinion/320x276xANC_MANDELA_COUPLE_JOE_SLOVO_COMMUNIST.jpg.pagespeed.ic.naRfeQ9VR6.jpgNelson Mandela (L) is embraced by PLO leader Yasser Arafat as he arrives at Lusaka airport February 27, 1990.  REUTERS/Howard BurdittJe ne saurais trop insister sur le rôle que l’Église méthodiste a joué dans ma vie. Nelson Mandela (23e anniversaire de la Gospel Church power of Republic of South Africa, 1995)
Sans l’Église, sans les institutions religieuses, je ne serais pas là aujourd’hui.  Nelson Mandela (parlement mondial des religions, 1999)
Nous qui avons grandi dans des maisons religieuses et qui avons étudié dans les écoles des missionnaires, nous avons fait l’expérience d’un profond conflit spirituel quand nous avons vu le mode de vie que nous jugions sacré remis en question par de nouvelles philosophies, et quand nous nous sommes rendu compte que, parmi ceux qui traitaient notre foi d’opium, il y avait des penseurs dont l’intégrité et l’amour pour les hommes ne faisaient pas de doute. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Fatima Meer, 1977)
J’assiste encore à tous les services de l’Église et j’apprécie certains sermons.  Nelson Mandela (lettre de Robben island)
Partager le sacrement qui fait partie de la tradition de mon Église était important à mes yeux. Cela me procurait l’apaisement et le calme intérieur. En sortant des services, j’étais un homme neuf. (…) Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes. Nelson Mandela (lettre à Ahmed Kathrada, 1993)
J’ai bien sûr été baptisé à l’Église wesleyenne et j’ai fréquenté ses écoles missionnaires. Dehors comme ici, je lui reste fidèle, mais mes conceptions ont eu tendance à s’élargir et à être bienveillantes envers l’unité religieuse. Nelson Mandela (1977)
La relation entre un homme et son Dieu est un sujet extrêmement privé, qui ne regarde pas les mass media. Cela dit, les institutions religieuses m’ont aidé à garder le moral pendant mon séjour en prison. Les prêtres nous rendaient visite régulièrement pour célébrer la messe; plusieurs sermons nous ont renforcés dans notre détermination. Les religieux ont fréquemment agi comme des intermédiaires entre les prisonniers et leurs familles, aussi. Et l’Eglise a veillé à nous fournir des livres, quand l’administration pénitentiaire les autorisait. Nelson Mandela (interview à l’Express, 1995)
The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence. Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, « Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence. » Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, « Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor … » Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle. Nelson Mandela (Time, 1999)
Trois modernes ont marqué ma vie d’un sceau profond et ont fait mon enchantement: Raychandbhai [écrivain gujarati connu pour ses polémiques religieuses], Tolstoï, par son livre « Le Royaume des Cieux est en vous », et Ruskin et son Unto This Last. Gandhi
In planning the direction and form that MK would take, we considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. Because it did not involve loss of life it offered the best hope for reconciliation among the races afterward. We did not want to start a blood feud between white and black. Animosity between Afrikaner and Englishman was still sharp fifty years after the Anglo-Boer War; what would race relations be like between white and black if we provoked a civil war? Sabotage had the added virtue of requiring the least manpower. Our strategy was to make selective forays against military installations, power plants, telephone lines, and transportation links; targets that would not only hamper the military effectiveness of the state, but frighten National Party supporters, scare away foreign capital, and weaken the economy. This we hoped would bring the government to the bargaining table. Strict instructions were given to members of MK that we would countenance no loss of life. But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Mandela (Long walk to freedom, 1995)
He needed that time in prison to mellow. Desmond Tutu (Sky News)
Perhaps the most difficult case to make is that of the ANC in South Africa. If ever a group could legitimately claim to have resorted to force only as a last resort, it is the ANC. Founded in 1912, for the first fifty years the movement treated nonviolence as a core principle. In 1961, however, with all forms of political organization closed to it, Nelson Mandela was authorized to create a separate military organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In his autobiography Mandela describes the strategy session as the movement examined the options available to them: We considered four types of violent activities: sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals: sabotage. These fine distinctions were lost on the court in Rivonia that convicted Mandela and most of the ANC leadership in 1964 and sentenced them to life imprisonment. For the next twenty years an increasingly repressive white minority state denied the most basic political rights to the majority black population. An uprising in Soweto was defeated, as was an MK guerrilla campaign launched from surrounding states. In 1985, the government declared a state of emergency, which was followed within three weeks by thirteen terrorist bombings in major downtown areas. Reasonable people can differ on whether or not the terrorism of the ANC was justified, given the legitimacy of the goals it sought and the reprehensible nature of the government it faced. The violent campaign of the ANC in the early and mid-1980s, however, was indisputably a terrorist campaign. Unless and until we are willing to label a group whose ends we believe to be just a terrorist group, if it deliberately targets civilians in order to achieve those ends, we are never going to be able to forge effective international cooperation against terrorism. Louise Richardson
In the end, Mandela was arrested before the armed struggle reached that stage. Then, as he languished in prison—a powerful symbol, but no longer accountable as a commander—terrorism did come to the fore. The infamous Church Street bombing in 1983, for instance, targeted the South African Air Force headquarters, killing 19 people and wounding 217, among them many innocent bystanders. When at last the white South African government, facing the possibility of wider civil war and pressured by international sanctions, turned to Mandela for secret talks, it could do so knowing he had the authority to negotiate without the taint of direct involvement with the carnage. His combination of pragmatism and humanity was key. The Daily Beast
Crucially, Mandela was open to escalation to terror tactics and guerrilla war. The ANC’s 1982 attack of the Koeberg nuclear plant — yes, crucial infrastructure — killed 19 people. Unsurprisingly, the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Mandela himself was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008. Natasha Lennard
Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst. After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. (…) Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage. The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam. Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims. WRONG! Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Deroy Murdock
Envoyé à la cour du roi, Rolhlahla se prépare à assurer la succession à la chefferie, à l’école des pasteurs méthodistes d’abord, puis, en 1938 à l’University College for Bantu de Fort Hare, seul établissement secondaire habilité à l’époque à recevoir des «non-Blancs». Les fondateurs blancs de Fort Hare entendaient former une élite noire capable de servir leur dessein colonial. Mais face à la conjugaison d’esprits éveillés, l’épreuve de la réalité étant la plus forte, l’université «bantoue» s’est transformée en pépinière du nationalisme d’Afrique australe, d’où sortirent notamment les frères ennemis zimbabwéens Joshua Nkomo et Robert Mugabe ou le «père de la Nation» zambienne, Kenneth Kaunda. (…) Fondé à Bloemfontein en 1912, l’African native national congress (ANNC) avait abandonné son initiale coloniale «native» (indigène) en 1923 pour devenir ANC. Largement inspiré par les idées légalistes du promoteur de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, Booker T. Washington, l’ANC avait entrepris d’informer la communauté noire sud-africaine sur ses droits ou ce qui en restait, faisant aussi campagne par exemple contre la loi sud-africaine sur les laissez-passer. (…) En 1951, Tambo et Mandela sont les deux premiers avocats noirs inscrits au barreau de Johannesburg. L’année suivante, ils ouvrent un cabinet ensemble. En 1950, les principales lois de l’apartheid ont été adoptées, en particulier le Group areas act qui assigne notamment à «résidence» les Noirs dans les bantoustans et les townships. Le Supression communist act inscrit dans son champ anti-communiste toute personne qui «cherche à provoquer un changement politique, industriel, économique ou social par des moyens illégaux». Bien évidemment, pour l’apartheid il n’y a pas de possibilité de changement légal. Mais en rangeant dans le même sac nationalistes, communistes, pacifistes et révolutionnaires, il ferme la fracture idéologique qui opposait justement ces derniers au sein de l’ANC. Pour sa part, Nelson Mandela rompt avec son anti-communisme chrétien intransigeant pour recommander l’unité de lutte anti-apartheid entre les nationalistes noirs et les Blancs du SACP. Elu président de l’ANC pour le Transvaal et vice président national de l’ANC, Nelson Mandela est également choisi comme «volontaire en chef» pour lancer en juin 1952 une action de désobéissance civile civile de grande envergure à la manière du Mahatma Ghandi, la «défiance campaign», où il anime des cohortes de manifestants descendus en masse dans la rue. La campagne culmine en octobre, contre la ségrégation légalisée et en particulier contre le port obligatoire des laissez-passer imposé aux Noirs. Tout un arsenal de loi sur la «sécurité publique» verrouille l’état d’urgence qui autorise l’apartheid à gouverner par décrets. Condamné à neuf mois de prison avec sursis, le charismatique Mandela est interdit de réunion et assigné à résidence à Johannesburg. Il en profite pour mettre au point le «Plan M» qui organise l’ANC en cellules clandestines. La répression des années cinquante contraint Mandela à faire disparaître son nom de l’affiche officielle de l’ANC mais ne l’empêche pas de participer en 1955 au Congrès des peuples qui adopte une Charte des Libertés préconisant l’avènement d’une société multiraciale et démocratique. Le Congrès parvient en effet à rassembler l’ANC, le Congrès indien, l’Organisation des métis sud-africain (SACPO), le Congrès des démocrates -composé de communistes proscrits depuis 1950 et de radicaux blancs- ainsi que le Congrès des syndicats sud-africains (SACTU). Le 5 décembre 1956, Nelson Mandela est arrêté avec Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix 1960) et des dizaines de dirigeants du mouvement anti-apartheid. Ils sont accusés, toutes races et toutes obédiences confondues, de comploter contre l’Etat au sein d’une organisation internationale d’inspiration communiste. En mars 1961, le plus long procès de l’histoire judiciaire sud-africaine s’achève sur un non-lieu général. L’ANC estime avoir épuisé tous les recours de la non-violence. Le 21 mars 1960, à Sharpeville, la police de l’apartheid transforme en bain de sang (69 morts et 180 blessés) une manifestation pacifique contre les laissez-passer. L’état d’urgence est réactivé. Des milliers de personnes font les frais de la répression terrible qui s’ensuit dans tous le pays. Le 8 avril, l’ANC et le Congrès panafricain (le PAC né d’une scission anti-communiste) sont interdits. Cette même année de sang, Nelson épouse en deuxièmes noces Winnie, une assistante sociale, et entre en clandestinité. En mai 1961, le succès de son mot d’ordre de grève générale à domicile «stay at house» déchaîne les foudres de Pretoria qui déploie son grand jeu militaro-policier pour briser la résistance. En décembre, l’ANC met en application le plan de passage graduel à la lutte armée rédigé par Nelson Mandela. Avant d’en arriver à «la guérilla, le terrorisme et la révolution ouverte», Mandela préconise le sabotage des cibles militaro-industrielles qui, écrit-il, «n’entraîne aucune perte en vie humaine et ménage les meilleures chances aux relations interraciales». Le 16 décembre 1961 des explosions marquent aux quatre coins du pays le baptême du feu d’Umkhonto We Sizwe, le «fer de lance de la Nation», la branche militaire de l’ANC. D’Addis-Abeba en janvier 1962 où se tient la conférence du Mouvement panafricain pour la libération de l’Afrique australe et orientale, à l’Algérie fraîchement indépendante d’Ahmed Ben Bella où il suit une formation militaire avec son ami Tambo, Nelson Mandela sillonne l’Afrique pour plaider la cause de l’ANC et recueillir subsides et bourses universitaires. Le pacifiste se met à l’étude de la stratégie militaire. Clausewitz, Mao et Che Guevara voisinent sur sa table de chevet avec les spécialistes de la guerre anglo-boers. A son retour, il est arrêté, le 5 août 1962, grâce à un indicateur de police, après une folle cavale où il emprunte toutes sortes de déguisements. En novembre, il écope de 5 ans de prison pour sortie illégale du territoire mais aussi comme fauteur de grève. Alors qu’il a commencé à purger sa peine, une deuxième vague d’accusation va le clouer en prison pour deux décennies de plus. Les services de l’apartheid sont parvenus à infiltrer l’ANC jusqu’à sa tête. Le 11 juillet 1963, les principaux chefs d’Umkhonto We Sizwe tombent dans ses filets. Avec eux, dans la ferme de Lilliesleaf, à Rivonia, près de Johannesburg, la police de Pretoria met la main sur des kilos de documents, parmi lesquels le plan de passage à la lutte armée signé Mandela. RFI
Les dirigeants révolutionnaires cambodgiens sont pour la plupart issus de familles de la bourgeoisie. Beaucoup effectuèrent leurs études dans des universités françaises dans les années 1950. Dans une atmosphère parisienne cosmopolite et propice aux échanges d’idées, ils se rallièrent à l’idéologie communiste. Ses principaux dirigeants (Pol Pot, Khieu Samphân, Son Sen…) furent formés à Paris dans les années 1950 au Cercle des Études Marxistes fondé par le Bureau Politique du PCF en 1930. Wikipedia
Il est malheureux que le Moyen-Orient ait rencontré pour la première fois la modernité occidentale à travers les échos de la Révolution française. Progressistes, égalitaristes et opposés à l’Eglise, Robespierre et les jacobins étaient des héros à même d’inspirer les radicaux arabes. Les modèles ultérieurs — Italie mussolinienne, Allemagne nazie, Union soviétique — furent encore plus désastreux. (…) Ce qui rend l’entreprise terroriste des islamistes aussi dangereuse, ce n’est pas tant la haine religieuse qu’ils puisent dans des textes anciens — souvent au prix de distorsions grossières —, mais la synthèse qu’ils font entre fanatisme religieux et idéologie moderne. Ian Buruma et Avishai Margalit
Today’s black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers everywhere. This, despite the fact that nearly one black teenager a day is shot dead on the South Side of Chicago—to name only one city—by another black teenager. This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today’s civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone). The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman. The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a « poetic truth. » Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one’s cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: « America is a racist nation »; « the immigration debate is driven by racism »; « Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon. » And we say, « Yes, of course, » lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason. In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument. One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today’s civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman? Shelby Steele
I think he probably is the one man who stands out as having a moral integrity and a far-sighted view. I think that′s why other politicians such as Bill Clinton or Tony Blair feel a great awe of him, because he has those qualities which I′m not sure they have themselves.′ (…) He started as a tribalist, then he became a nationalist, and then he became a multi-nationalist or a multi-culturalist, and gradually saw a wider and wider world.  (…) there were of course two sides of him. He was a practising lawyer, and he had tremendous respect for the law, and was always quoting it – as he does now – but at the same time he was very aware that it was impossible to achieve any kind of redress through non-violent means. He never really believed in the Ghandi-ist principle of ′turn the other cheek′. Long before 1960 he was inclined to go further towards the suggestion of violence. But at that point the logic became almost incontrovertible. There was no alternative. But perhaps more important was the fact that his own people were turning towards more dangerous kinds of violence. So it would have been impossible for him to maintain any leadership if he was purely pacifist.′ (…) There′s no doubt in my mind that it (Robben Island) tremendously increased his self-discipline and his understanding of people. It was a tremendously enclosed world, and for most of the time he was only with 30 of his colleagues together with the warders so it had the intensity of a boarding school, albeit with much more discipline and harshness. So for somebody who was strong enough, who had the necessary confidence in themselves, it was a tremendous school in human relations. It was the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with, actually. ′During his twenty-seven years in Robben Island, Mandela was able to extend his influence beyond the ANC to the rival groups, which was very important when he got out. But above all he acquired an increased sensitivity to other people. He sharpened his skills of debate and persuasion tremendously, and probably his greatest gift is his capacity to persuade. You can see how, for someone who had that sense of self-respect and dignity, the jail experience was almost a training ground. Anthony Simpson
Né le 18 juillet 1918 dans l’ancien Transkei, mort le 5 décembre 2013, Nelson Mandela ne ressemblait pas à la pieuse image que le politiquement correct planétaire donne aujourd’hui de lui. Par delà les émois lénifiants et les hommages hypocrites, il importe de ne jamais perdre de vue les éléments suivants :(…) Aristocrate xhosa issu de la lignée royale des Thembu, Nelson Mandela n’était pas un « pauvre noir opprimé ». Eduqué à l’européenne par des missionnaires méthodistes, il commença ses études supérieures à Fort Hare, université destinée aux enfants des élites noires, avant de les achever à Witwatersrand, au Transvaal, au cœur de ce qui était alors le « pays boer ». Il s’installa ensuite comme avocat à Johannesburg. (…) Il n’était pas non plus ce gentil réformiste que la mièvrerie médiatique se plait à dépeindre en « archange de la paix » luttant pour les droits de l’homme, tel un nouveau Gandhi ou un nouveau Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela fut en effet et avant tout un révolutionnaire, un combattant, un militant qui mit « sa peau au bout de ses idées », n’hésitant pas à faire couler le sang des autres et à risquer le sien. Il fut ainsi l’un des fondateurs de l’Umkonto We Sizwe, « le fer de lance de la nation », aile militaire de l’ANC, qu’il co-dirigea avec le communiste Joe Slovo, planifiant et coordonnant plus de 200 attentats et sabotages pour lesquels il fut condamné à la prison à vie. (…) Nelson Mandela n’a pas apaisé les rapports inter-raciaux. Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1994, en 24 ans, alors que l’ANC était « en guerre » contre le « gouvernement blanc », une soixantaine de fermiers blancs furent tués. Depuis avril 1994, date de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Nelson Mandela, plus de 2000 fermiers blancs ont été massacrés dans l’indifférence la plus totale des médias européens. Bernard Lugan (historien français controversé)
At present his legacy in some respects still exists in emergent form, has yet to express its true contours. This is to my mind the key difference between how he is viewed at home and internationally, where the lacquer of adulation laid thick upon the « human-rights legend » has long since hardened. Abroad, Mandela is the African the world loves to love, even if in a strikingly over-compensatory way. Africa the continent of famine, corruption and social abjection has produced, at least, this one fine human being, Europeans and Americans appear to breathe as they cluster around him. A hostile Sunday Times (London) magazine article, which appeared the weekend before his 18 July birthday, opined that the one task Mandela can still competently carry out is to smile his dazzling smile, only now it is on command. There is little that is meaningful in it: in his old age he has become a mask of his former charismatic self, to which the world has grown accustomed to genuflect. For the international community the paradox is that by heaping excessive adoration upon the head of this one seemingly superhuman African, we have left Africa, the continent, its people, more lacking of attention by contrast. There have been many great Africans yet their reputation has been dangerously eclipsed by this one over-hyped African hero of our times. Yet it is here, within the gap between his fully manifested yet relatively shallow international fame, and his still-latent local significance, that, it seems to me, the potential for renewed understandings of Mandela have the opportunity to emerge, which, when all is said and done, is a good thing. Within this gap, then, I would venture to place the following desiderata. Let us not allow our image of Mandela to petrify into cliché, especially yet not only while he is still alive amongst us. Let his meanings evolve and change in rhythm with his times. Let his legacy organisations perhaps relax a little in wanting to predetermine how the future will see him. His achievement on its own dwarfs the efforts of such tireless PR policing. What is not in doubt is that Mandela is a great and humane human being not in spite of his Africanness, as his western acolytes (according to the Sunday Times) believe, but because of his Africanness. Perhaps most important, let us not forget that his greatness as an African was dependent on the cooperation of hosts of other Africans, little and great, ordinary and extraordinary, as he himself has always recognised. Elleke Boehmer
Tout au long de leur vie, Yasser Arafat et Nelson Mandela, icônes respectives de la cause de leur peuple, récompensés à une année d’écart par le Prix Nobel de la Paix affichaient la solidarité et la complicité de vieux camarades de lutte. Libération
Les Israéliens voient en Mandela un leader qui prit la décision de principe de faire la paix avec ses ennemis et tint parole. Les Palestiniens voient en lui un combattant nationaliste qui refusa de compromettre ses principes, même si cela impliquait d’immenses souffrances personnelles — et comme un leader guidé par ces mêmes principes, lorsqu’il fallut faire les compromis historiques nécessaires pour minimiser les effusions de sang tout en poursuivant ses objectifs. Et dans les deux cas — comme dans d’autres — Arafat ne tient tout simplement pas la comparaison. Time

Fils de chef héréditaire, élève d’école missionnaire, méthodiste, étudiant en droit, avocat, pacifiste gandhien, tribaliste, nationaliste, marxiste, communiste, stagiaire des camps militaires algériens, chef de l’aile militaire de l’ANC, terroriste, terroriste repenti, humaniste, multiculturaliste …

Attention: un camarade de lutte peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où nos médias et nos journaux croulent sous les hommages au véritable saint laïc qu’était devenu l’ancien président sud-africain Nelson Mandela

Pendant qu’en Afrique du sud même la tentation zimbabwéenne ne semble pas encore totalement écartée …

Et qu’après l’avoir refusé pendant des années, la veuve du dirigeant historique palestinien en est encore à contester, neuf ans après sa probable mort de poivrot aux amitiés douteuses,  la dernière autopsie de « l’erreur » de sa vie …

Comment ne pas voir, avec son biographe Anthony Simpson, l’inestimable effet qu’eurent finalement, sans compter tant son instruction anglaise et chrétienne qu’à l’instar de Gandhi (mais contrairement à un Pol Pot) sa formation de juriste britannique, ses 27 ans d’internement  sur l’ancien terroriste repenti ?

Ou, avec son ancien organisateur, la véritable renaissance médiatique qu’apporta à celui qui fut un moment tenté de faire sauter des hôpitaux, le prétendu concert-anniversaire de Wembley de juin 1988 ?

Mais aussi en contraste, avec le magazine Time, tout ce qui a pu manquer comme l’incroyable gâchis que fut presqu’en même temps la vie d’un autre terroriste qui lui, en dépit de son prix Nobel, le restera …

A savoir l’ex-leader palestinien Yasser Arafat ?

Unfortunately, Arafat’s No Nelson Mandela

Tony Karon

Time

Jun. 05, 2001

« The problem with Yasser Arafat is that he’s no Nelson Mandela. » I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve head that complaint, both from Palestinians and Israelis.

It’s an apples and oranges comparison, of course, given the widely different historical and political contexts that produced the PLO chairman and the imprisoned guerrilla leader who led South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid. But the fact that it occurs so often on both sides of the intractable Middle East divide makes it worthy of examination.

The Israelis see in Mandela a leader who took a principled decision to make peace with his enemies, and kept his word. The Palestinians see him as a nationalist fighter who refused to compromise his principles even when that meant immense personal suffering — and as a leader guided by those same principles when making the historic compromises necessary to minimize bloodshed while pursuing his goals. And in both instances — and others — Arafat falls short by comparison.

Intifada as a bargaining chip

Arafat’s leadership abilities are once more in the spotlight, as the latest cease-fire effort plunges him into yet another strategic crisis. While many of those who have waged the intifada on the ground these past nine months believe that a long-term, low-intensity war will eventually drive the Israeli soldiers and settlers out of the West Bank and Gaza — as it did in Lebanon — Arafat’s agenda has been somewhat different. He can only achieve his goal of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza through negotiation with Israel and the international community, and so as much he chants the slogans of struggle he has, throughout, looked upon the uprising that has killed almost 500 Palestinians and more than 100 Israelis and ruined thousands of lives and livelihoods, as a means of improving his bargaining position. He has spent much of the uprising shuttling around foreign capitals trying to win support for renewed negotiations, hoping the uprising would function strengthen his hand at the table.

Last weekend he called it off, « in the higher interests of the Palestinian people, » after the Europeans made it clear that funding for Arafat’s Palestinian Authority would be withheld if he failed to take steps against terrorism. But the Palestinian leader has a problem, of course, because while a recent opinion poll in the West Bank and Gaza found that 76 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings inside Israel, only a minority would give Arafat’s notoriously corrupt administration a positive rating.

Palestinians are angry at Arafat, too

Indeed, as much as it suited Arafat’s immediate agenda, the intifada was also viewed by many observers of Palestinian politics as an outpouring of anger against the Palestinian Authority. And many grassroots leaders of the uprising have made clear that they have no interest in a return to the negotiating table, regardless of Arafat’s own intentions.

That’s a major problem for Arafat, since any cease-fire would ultimately require the Palestinian Authority to begin re-arresting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad members released when the current intifada began. Arafat will have to convince his own security forces, who have been on the frontline of confrontation with Israel, that they need to once again round up some of the Islamist militants alongside whom they’ve fought these past nine months, in order to ensure Israel’s security — and in exchange for no political gains beyond, perhaps, the easing of some of the collective punishments imposed by Israel in response to the uprising.

Arafat’s dilemma is, in many ways, of his own making. And the Palestinians, who will at some point in the not-too-distant future have to choose his successor, may want to pay close attention to Arafat’s mistakes — and, perhaps, to Mandela’s example.

Pulling the keffiyeh over Palestinian eyes

The problem is ultimately a lack of communication. Arafat never made clear to his own people the massive compromises involved in the Oslo Peace process — the fact that the Palestinians were signing away their claim to most of historic Palestine, and that the best the millions of Palestinians descended from those made refugees by Israel’s foundation in 1948 could hope for under the circumstances was some form of financial compensation. Arafat told his people that he was in negotiations with Israel that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. On the ground, though, all they could see was the arrival of a class of PLO bureaucrats from Tunis who began to rapidly enrich themselves on the aid money pouring into the Palestinian Administration, and the continued expansion, at their expense, of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

In contrast, Mandela negotiated with a lot more transparency, and always held himself accountable to his supporters, working to persuade them of the necessity of compromise rather than simply pretending it wasn’t happening. He had rejected terrorism on principle: his soldiers were always under orders to avoid attacking civilians, even when their unarmed supporters on the ground were being massacred by the apartheid regime. And the South African leader also always displayed a keen understanding of his adversary’s motivations and concerns, which gave him the ability both to read their tactics and articulate positions that could assuage their fears.

Arafat proclaimed his intention to fly the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem, but sent one of his lieutenants, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to negotiate a formula for « sharing » the Holy City that involved the Palestinian Authority setting up shop in the village of Abu Dis, which falls outside of Jerusalem’s current municipal boundaries and declaring it their capital. When details of the plan leaked, Arafat denied and disowned it. And that may have been symbolic of his leadership style throughout the negotiation process.

No wonder, then, that Arafat hit a wall at Camp David, when the Israelis put their final offer on the table and it fell well short of what Arafat — or any other Palestinian leader —would be able to accept and survive politically (or even physically). He’d been speaking out of two different sides of his mouth all along, but now the game was up. And that left him no room to maneuver, except stir up confrontation in the hope that it would force the Israelis and their American backers to offer him a better deal.

Little gained, much lost

That hasn’t happened. In fact, he’s being offered a lot less than last year, and it’s unlikely that any Israeli government will ever again trust him as a negotiating partner. But the Israelis still need him, because he remains the frontline of their defense against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Ultimately, Arafat’s primary weakness may be his distance from his own people. Mandela came of age politically in a mass movement based in the dusty streets of South Africa’s townships, before finding himself forced underground and eventually jailed. Circumstances forced Arafat, by contrast, almost from the outset to engage in the underground politics of conspiracy — small groups of trusted insiders launching guerrilla attacks and melting back into the civilian population. Later, as the leader of an exiled Palestinian movement more often than not at odds with its Arab hosts, those methods kept Arafat alive and maintained the coherence of a movement attempting to represent a nation that straddled the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza and a diaspora scattered across the Arab world.

But once back home, Arafat’s time-honored methods translated into rampant cronyism and a singular failure to nurture a democratic political culture in the areas under his control. And while that may have kept things stable, for a time, it appears to have worked against Arafat when the time comes to take unpopular decisions.

Of course, the Israelis would be wrong to think a Palestinian leader who was more like Mandela would be more pliant. Quite the contrary. They’d find it a lot harder to conclude a deal with a Mandela, or any leader of more democratic bent than Arafat. But in the end, they’d be able to rest a lot more assured that such a deal would hold.

Voir aussi:

Anger at the Heart of Nelson Mandela’s Violent Struggle

The future president of South Africa once considered guerilla warfare and terrorism to overturn Apartheid. Imprisoned for so long, his anger mellowed.

Christopher Dickey

The Daily Beast

12.06.13

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography he tells a story about a sparrow. This was in the early 1960s when the late South African leader was hiding out on a farm near Johannesburg with members of the Communist Party and the African National Congress and some of their families. They were plotting what was called “armed struggle” against the Apartheid regime. (Many others would call it terrorism.) But at the time Mandela’s only gun was an old air rifle he used for target practice and dove hunting.

“One day, I was on the front lawn of the property and aimed the gun at a sparrow perched high in a tree,” Mandela writes in Long Walk to Freedom. A friend said Mandela would never hit the little creature. But he did, and he was about to boast about it when his friend’s five-year-old son, with tears in his eyes, asked Mandela, “Why did you kill that bird? Its mother will be sad.”

“My mood immediately shifted from one of pride to shame,” Mandela recalled. “I felt that this small boy had far more humanity than I did. It was an odd sensation for a man who was the leader of a nascent guerrilla army.”

Of course autobiographies always rely to some extent on recovered memories, some of them recovered myths. But Mandela’s thinking about warfare, revolution and terrorism—tempered by pragmatism and humanity—is almost as instructive as his later actions in support of peace.

In the early 1960s, just before his arrest and incarceration for more than a quarter century, Mandela was, in fact, a very angry man. As his longtime friend Bishop Desmond Tutu once told Sky News, “he needed that time in prison to mellow.”

Mandela had given up on Ghandian passive resistance after the massacre of protesters in Sharpeville in 1960. “Our policy to achieve a nonracial state by nonviolence had achieved nothing,” he concluded. But from the beginning, Mandela’s anger was controlled, and his use of violence calculated. He never trained as a soldier, but he made himself a student of revolution. Mandela sent fighters for training and indoctrination to China when it was still ruled by that revolutionary icon, Mao Tse-Tung. He studied Menachem Begin’s bloody struggle against the British in Palestine.

Mandela learned much from the Algerian war against the French, which was then at its height, and not the least of those lessons was the vital role of global propaganda: “International public opinion,” one Algerian envoy told him, “is sometimes worth more than a fleet of jet fighters.”

So, when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology. The little sparrow notwithstanding, the question was not just one of morality or humanity, but of whether the means would serve his ends.

“We considered four types of violent activities,” Mandela recalled: “sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals.”

When it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology

This was imminently practical. The last thing Mandela wanted to do was unite, through fear, the often bitterly divided white Anglo and Afrikaner populations. So, strict instructions were given “that we would countenance no loss of life. But if sabotage did not produce the results we wanted, we were prepared to move on to the next stage: guerrilla war and terrorism.” (My emphasis.)

In the end, Mandela was arrested before the armed struggle reached that stage. Then, as he languished in prison—a powerful symbol, but no longer accountable as a commander—terrorism did come to the fore. The infamous Church Street bombing in 1983, for instance, targeted the South African Air Force headquarters, killing 19 people and wounding 217, among them many innocent bystanders.

When at last the white South African government, facing the possibility of wider civil war and pressured by international sanctions, turned to Mandela for secret talks, it could do so knowing he had the authority to negotiate without the taint of direct involvement with the carnage. His combination of pragmatism and humanity was key.

As Mao famously said, “a revolution is not a dinner party.” But if its leaders are as wise as Mandela, at the end of the day they can find a way for everyone to sit down at the same table.

Voir également:

The graduates of Robben Island

The bars of apartheid’s most infamous jail could not cage the spirit of its ANC prisoners. Anthony Sampson , who has known Nelson Mandela for 45 years, returned with him to the island that schooled a generation of political leaders (The Observer, February 1996)

Anthony Sampson

The Guardian

18 February 1996

It was a bewilderingly cheerful excursion, almost as if a president were revisiting his old university.

Last week, to mark the sixth anniversary of his release, President Mandela went back again to the notorious Robben Island off Cape Town where he spent most of his 27 years in prison.

He brought with him Mrs Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway – one of the few western countries, he stressed, which had always stood by him.

He showed her his tiny cell, joked about his experiences, and then went to the quarry where he had hacked stones for 13 years, now looking like a bright open-air amphitheatre, where he welcomed the new woman governor, Colonel Jones, who is gradually closing down the prison.

In this weird setting I found him relaxed and outspoken, as if reverting to an earlier role. He reminisced about how he had been warned by President George Bush to give up the armed struggle, and to drop his old allies Castro and Gadaffi.

He insisted it would be quite wrong for an old freedom fighter to renounce old friends: ‘your enemies are not our enemies’. And he explained he had just invited Castro to visit South Africa, and was thinking of inviting Gadaffi.

He was clearly buoyed up by his country’s international status, its economic growth and, above all, its sporting victories in rugby, soccer and cricket. ‘When I am invited by the Queen of England to London in July,’ he said, ‘I will apologise to her for what we did to her cricketers.’

He saw the new patriotism in sport as crucial to the nation-building. But he was also impatient that in other fields both whites and blacks were slow to recognise that they were all part of the same nation.

In the quarry, he presented Mrs Brundtland with a piece of the limestone, brightly packaged in a cardboard box – the first of a line of souvenirs to be sold to finance a fund for ex-political prisoners. I was given a box, with Mandela ‘s smiling face alongside the piece of lime – a neat symbol of the transmuting of the ghastly prison experience into a friendly commercial process.

Mandela as usual gave no hint of bitterness about the wastage of a quarter-century, no reference to the blazing sun in the quarry which damaged his eyesight, to the beating of his friends, or to the arrogance and inhumanity of the men who had kept him locked up – some of whom he had been welcoming at the opening of parliament two days before.

Alongside him was his closest Indian colleague, Ahmed Kathrada, who shared his ordeals on the island, and is now responsible for its future. He was careful to contradict exaggerations about the past brutalities. And he is full of enthusiasm for proje cts to make proper use of the island’s surprising beauties, including wild birds, Cape penguins, ostriches and springbok. He is now specially keen on the idea of a University of Robben Island, originated by British educationalist Lord (Michael) Young.

Watching it all, I still could not understand how these men had emerged from those inhuman cells more rounded, more humorous and tolerant than before. I had first known them both 45 years ago when I was editing the black magazine Drum in Johannesburg, and they were committed young leaders embarking on a passive resistance campaign.

And I had reported Mandela ‘s trial in the Pretoria court-room in 1964 before he was sentenced to life imprisonment, when he had sat listening to the venomous prosecutor Percy Yutar, and had sent a message asking me to help edit his own speech to court.

After the judge sentenced him, most white South Africans assumed with relief that he would never emerge again. By the time of the all-white elections in 1970 I could find no white politician who took the ANC seriously. But in the meantime, the isolation of Robben Island was forging a more formidable and thoughtful kind of leader.

In the Sixties, Mandela was already a tested and courageous leader, but aloof and quite stiff in public, inclined to cliches. By his release in 1990, he had acquired a common touch, magnanimity and sense of humour which was surprising to everyone.

He had last shown it at the opening of parliament, two days before last week’s return to Robben Island, in the middle of his formal speech about his government’s reforms. He took a long drink of water and then, aware of the tense silence, raised his glass towards de Klerk’s side of the house, and said ‘Cheers!’ – to roars of laughter. His command of the House was absolute.

It is here no doubt that Robben Island has contributed to this mastery and warmth. In those sub-humanconditions he had insisted, with his mentor Walter Sisulu, on thinking the best of everybody. He had retained and developed his natural dignity and courtesy, influencing both his fellow-prisoners and his warders. As a younger islander put it to me: ‘he treated the warders as human beings, even if they did not treat him as such’. And he simply refused to accept subservience.

His chief lawyer, George Bizos, remembers one scene which summed up his stubborn dignity, when he was being marched out in the most humiliating circumstances, flanked by armed guards and wearing short trousers and shoes without socks. Encountering Bizos, he exclaimed: ‘George, let me introduce you to my guard of honour!’.

More important, he and his closest colleagues established a pattern of behaviour which influenced nearly all the other political prisoners, to treat the island not as a place of bitter constraint and wasted lives, but as an opportunity for constant intellectual debate and political education.

One document written in 1978, which has only recently come to light, evokes all that vigour. It carefully sums up the two main arguments between Marxists and broader ANC supporters and concludes in the non-Marxist camp. It reads like a lively seminar at a left-wing university, with only one reference to’conducting the discussions under very difficult conditions,’ as a reminder that it was written on Robben Island (where Mandela approved it before it was confiscated).

They also had intense discussions about culture and sport. Mandela recalled: ‘We realised that culture was a very important aspect to building a nation’ and these concerns bore fruit in South Africa’s recent sporting victories.

Talking to Robben Islanders over the past two weeks, and reading their recollections, I’ve come to realise how far they form a distinctive elite, with a special self-respect and discipline – not so unlike the old stereotype of the Edwardian English gentleman with the stiff upper lip confronting emotional foreigners or natives. They reminisce about it as if it were a public school or a Guards’ barracks, but with a more intellectual background and idealism – more like members of the wartime French Resistance – and with much more time to develop their minds and memories (since they had to keep much of the argument in their heads). ‘We had time to think on Robben Island’, said Govan Mbeki, ‘about how we could really beat the authorities.

‘You must eventually like the place if you are to survive,’ recorded Tokyo Sexwale. ‘I loved it because it was a place of fresh air, fresh ideas, fresh friendships and teaching the enemy. We transformed Robben Island into the University of the ANC.’ Sexwale afterwards married his white prison visitor and became premier of Gauteng (the province centring on Johannesburg).

‘I can see another Robben Islander a mile away,’ I was told by ‘Raks’ Seakhoa, a poet who now runs the Congress of South African Writers. ‘I can see it when they find themselves in a conflict, this containment and channelling of anger. I’m really thankful for it. The way that we lived on Robben Island, you became an all-rounder, an organiser. When I came out, I submitted an article to a newspaper. They thought ‘this guy must have been at Rhodes University or something’.’

Robben Island remains the central symbol of both the evils of apartheid and the need for reconciliation. As Auschwitz is preserved in remembrance of the death camps, so is it a monument to intolerance and racism but like wartime heroes, the islanders hold the promise of a brave new world.

Mandela does not need to remind anyone of the ordeals he endured on the island. Some of his friends are exasperated by his friendly visits to the people who helped to put and keep him there – from his bullying old persecutor President Botha and Percy Yutar, the creepy prosecutor at his trial, to Mrs Verwoerd, the widow of the architect of apartheid, in her all-white enclave. It was like the story of the hardened criminal who gets out of jail to murder each of the people who had locked him up – turned upside down.

But those visits help to underline his moral authority, and the collapse of the alternative system. When he met Yutar, towering over the sycophantic little man, he could not resist saying: ‘I didn’t realise how small you were’. Forgiveness, after all, can be a kind of revenge, a kind of power.

Nor does Mandela need to remind younger, more radical black politicians that he has sacrificed more than any of them. They may criticise him for being too moderate towards the whites, but no one dare ever accuse him of being a sell-out. And only rarely does he need actually to spell out the message of the island: ‘if I can work alongside with the men who put me there, how can you refuse. . .’

But it is not just Mandela ‘s island and it also offers some answer to the obsessive question among whites, including foreign businessmen: what happens after Mandela retires in 1999?

He has given one answer himself: that for 27 years his people achieved their country’s liberation quite well without him, so why can’t they do without him in the future?

Robben Island forged a whole breed of younger leaders with many of Mandela ‘s strengths, who now hold key positions in the cabinet, or as premiers of the provinces. These include Patrick Lekota in the Orange Free State, Popo Molefe in the North West, and perhaps the most formidable, Tokyo Sexwale.

Sexwale, with his Robben Islander’s confidence, does not conceal his ambition. In his Johannesburg drawing-room I noticed a framed newspaper cartoon showing Thabo Mbeki, Mandela ‘s deputy, and ANC chairman Cyril Ramaphosa as two boxers slugging each other in the ring, not noticing the third figure of Tokyo climbing under the ropes.

These prison graduates, with their discipline and tolerance, offer much reassurance for a future South Africa without Mandela . Like him, they do not need to prove their heroism with macho postures for their followers and they have learnt the secrets of self-reliance and building a community in the strictest school of all.

They form the core of the present ANC leadership as assuredly as aristocrats and army officers once formed the core of the British Conservative Party – or as ex-fighters such as Jan Smuts and Louis Botha dominated the Afrikaner leadership after the Boer War, when they too were determined on reconciliation.

Yet today the process of reconciliation is worryingly one-sided. The majority of the whites have felt no great pressure to concentrate their minds and widen their awareness. ‘We can neither heal nor build,’ said Mandela in his opening speech to parliament, ‘with the victims of past injustices forgiving and the beneficiaries merely content in gratitude.’ It was followed by loud applause on the black side of the House, and only a few claps on the white side.

Mandela warned white businessmen against paying only lip service to affirmative action and assuming they could simply do business as usual. Such people too easily believe their problems have been miraculously solved by the arrival of a black president who has forgiven everyone, defused black anger and re-opened their country to the world.

No black leader, least of all Mandela , can afford such complacency. He has only to look to the Transkei, where he was born. It was turned into a bantustan and is a reminder of the evils of apartheid as vivid as Robben Island. Now it is an impoverished part of the Eastern Province.

Ten days ago I stayed in Umtata, the former capital of the Transkei: it is like a sacked city, with empty tower-blocks and slum streets the surrounding countryside is tragically desolate, with horrendous unemployment and crime.

Yet beside the main road, only a few miles out of Umtata, Mandela has built a spacious but unpretentious bungalow where he spends holidays. It is an emphatic statement that he will never be divorced from his own people.

The most serious problem of South Africa’s future is not the leadership of blacks after Mandela , but the leadership of the majority of whites. The English speakers have reverted to ‘business as usual’, leaving the politics to Afrikaners and others. But since F. W. de Klerk took his one great leap into the dark, there has been no comparable leadership, and an Afrikaner vacuum.

There has been no white equivalent to the Robben Island experience to concentrate minds, to compel them to see across their immediate self-interest and to push ahead with concessions and reconciliation. They may have been forgiven their past blunders but it will be unforgiveable if they fail to do their share of rebuilding the nation which was so nearly wrecked.

Voir encore:

Mandela: The Man Behind The Myth – An interview with Anthony Sampson

Harpers Collins.ca

Anthony Sampson is one of the most admired writers of today, and his brand new book is an outstanding biography of an outstanding man. Mandela: The Authorised Biography tells the full story of the last great statesman on the world stage. Since his release from South Africa′s notorious Robben Island prison in 1990, Mandela has been the focus of global attention, and his reputation as a politician and statesman has stood up to public scrutiny remarkably well. But who is the real Nelson Mandela? If anyone can answer this question, it is Anthony Sampson, who has known him for over forty years.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most extraordinary political figures of the twentieth century. His years of confinement in a South African prison made him a hero to many people around the world, and the story of his release and rise to power in the country′s first democratic elections filled a continent with hope. Now, as he approaches retirement, Nelson Mandela has allowed an acquaintance of many years to write his official biography. Anthony Sampson has been given access to all Mandela′s diaries, letters and papers, and many of the people to whom he has been closest have spoken out about Mandela, the man and the myth.

Mandela is the most admired politician in the world – is this admiration justified?

′I think it is, particularly when you look at all the others. I think that part of the reason why he′s admired is that he fills a tremendous gap. People have been longing for a politician who is removed from immediate pressures. There′s a tremendous shortage of great statesmen around the world compared, say, to forty years ago.

′I think he probably is the one man who stands out as having a moral integrity and a far-sighted view. I think that′s why other politicians such as Bill Clinton or Tony Blair feel a great awe of him, because he has those qualities which I′m not sure they have themselves.′

Not many people know about Mandela′s royal ancestry, and the fact that he was descended from the Tembu royal family. Did this play an important part in the formation of his character?

′I think it certainly gave him tremendous extra confidence. It is extraordinary to realise that within that very poor part of South Africa there was this particular sense of pride in traditions. And tribal loyalty remained intact despite European domination for more than a century. So that experience certainly deepened his consciousness, even though he was later deeply humiliated and ignored in white Johannesburg.′

Would you say that pride in his history and culture was the driving force for his success?

′Certainly it gave him a terrific sense of self-respect in the early years. He was fascinated by the history of his own people, particularly the Tembu tribe, he knew a lot about it, but of course his whole story was one of gradually widening those horizons. He started as a tribalist, then he became a nationalist, and then he became a multi-nationalist or a multi-culturalist, and gradually saw a wider and wider world. But it is true that that original pride in his ancestry was at the origins of his self-respect, and his dignity.′

Does he find the spotlight hard to bear?

′He told me that he worried a lot about it in jail – he saw in the last few years in jail how he was becoming a myth, and he was worried about that. He made it clear that he wasn′t a saint. He doesn′t say so but I think he was conscious of other African leaders who had built a cult around themselves, which was very dangerous. He was keen to avoid falling into that trap. Above all he was very careful not to use the word ′I′ when he came out of prison. He would make a point of speaking on behalf of the people.′

In the 1960′s Mandela put forward the proposal that the ANC abandon non-violence and form its own military wing. To what extent was this due to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and how had race relations deteriorated to such a difficult point that an educated lawyer could consider fighting back?

′It′s a good question because there were of course two sides of him. He was a practising lawyer, and he had tremendous respect for the law, and was always quoting it – as he does now – but at the same time he was very aware that it was impossible to achieve any kind of redress through non-violent means. He never really believed in the Ghandi-ist principle of ′turn the other cheek′.

′Long before 1960 he was inclined to go further towards the suggestion of violence. But at that point the logic became almost incontrovertible. There was no alternative. But perhaps more important was the fact that his own people were turning towards more dangerous kinds of violence. So it would have been impossible for him to maintain any leadership if he was purely pacifist.′

What effect did the years on Robben Island have on Mandela?

′There′s no doubt in my mind that it tremendously increased his self-discipline and his understanding of people. It was a tremendously enclosed world, and for most of the time he was only with 30 of his colleagues together with the warders so it had the intensity of a boarding school, albeit with much more discipline and harshness. So for somebody who was strong enough, who had the necessary confidence in themselves, it was a tremendous school in human relations. It was the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with, actually.

′During his twenty-seven years in Robben Island, Mandela was able to extend his influence beyond the ANC to the rival groups, which was very important when he got out. But above all he acquired an increased sensitivity to other people. He sharpened his skills of debate and persuasion tremendously, and probably his greatest gift is his capacity to persuade. You can see how, for someone who had that sense of self-respect and dignity, the jail experience was almost a training ground.′

By the time he came out of prison in 1990 Mandela was very conscious that he had acquired an almost mythical status. How did he handle this situation?

′He was very careful to avoid personifying the struggle. When the ′Free Mandela′ campaign began in the 1980′s, that was personifying him over his colleagues and some people thought it should be ′free the political prisoners′, but it was necessary to publicise the situation through one person.

′But while he was being personified, he was extremely careful always to speak on behalf of the people, and I think he deliberately suppressed any sort of self-promotion. Which was partly why when he came out of jail he made a speech, written by the ANC, which many people thought extremely boring.′

When he came out of prison he immediately identified himself with the ANC, which shocked many leaders around the world and showed that prison hadn′t made him any more compliant, but rather had had the opposite effect. And in the first two years following his release, as you point out, there was more violence than in the apartheid years. Was he disappointed by this?

′I think it was a shattering time for him. He did everything he could to control that violence, and of course this was used against him at the time by the government of the time. But he very early suspected that a lot of that violence was being secretly encouraged by the government which later proved to be the case. But that was an agonising period.′

What is Mandela actually like as a person?

′He′s a very private person, and I think that only very few people, such as his wife, really know him. His manners, and his alertness to people and especially to new people, is so great, that like many brilliant politicians, he appears equally pleased to see everybody, because he has this extraordinary instinctive ability to relate to people, particularly to children. Behind that he is very reserved.

′He′s sometimes exhausted when he appears to be energetic; you can sometimes see how suddenly his face will change, how a smile can suddenly disappear when the camera is not on him. During that lonely period, before he remarried, there was a feeling that he had to be professionally active to avoid being by himself, which of course is true of many politicians.

′But what is remarkable to me is how tremendously reflective he is. He really thinks things out, and once he has thought things out he is quite stubborn and can be difficult to change. But he′s much more effective than most politicians in my experience. Again that goes back to the prison experience. As one of his colleagues said, ′you can take them out of Robben Island but you can′t take Robben Island out of them′. And I think that′s very true. I think you feel there′s still a little cell inside him. He is much more interesting than most politicians are, because you don′t feel you′re listening to a gramophone record.′

What do you think the future holds for Nelson Mandela after he finishes his term in office?

′He says that he longs to get back to his home in the country and spend his time enjoying the beautiful countryside and being with his family and so on, but of course all people tend to think that before they do actually retire- and he also says he doesn′t want to be involved in international mediation which he has often been quite successful at, as in the Gadaffi operation.

′My own guess is that he will actually continue to travel, he will be asked to do things which he will want to say yes to. He wants to write another volume of his own memoirs. I think he will take things easier – certainly his wife wants him to, but he will continue to travel and he will continue to give his views as well. He won′t be restrained; he will speak out as an ordinary member of the African National Congress – but of course he will be much more than that.′

How will South Africa as a whole fare without him at the helm?

′When people talk about South Africa it always depends what viewpoint they are looking at it from. I think, myself, that South Africa will fare very well. The white South Africans will continue to complain a bit because their lifestyle is being changed. But I think they will resolve many of their problems, including crime which is the most difficult problem, over the next few years. It will have a very vibrant and creative atmosphere.

′The violence will probably continue; it has always been a relatively violent country, like America. But personally I think that South Africa will shake down in a very interesting way. And above all it will be almost uniquely multi-racial, which is why it will be so interesting to the rest of the world, because it appears to have begun to resolve those problems which other countries have not resolved.′

You say in the Introduction: ′It is not easy for a biographer to portray the Nelson Mandela behind the icon: it is a bit like trying to make out someone′s shape from the wrong side of the arc-lights.′ For you as a biographer what were the particular challenges in Mandela?

′He is a person who is very reluctant to talk about his own feelings. He is the absolute classic stiff-upper-lip Victorian Englishman, but he belongs very strongly to the nineteenth century world, which is a result of his missionary education, so he very much dislikes talking about himself and particularly his suffering, and that perhaps was the biggest challenge – to pick up, not so much from him but from his colleagues, exactly what he was feeling at those crucial moments.

′But I suppose the most interesting challenge was to try to trace his own development. I had known him back in 1951 and he had appeared to me to be a very different kind of person than he is now. He was much less certain of his leadership at that point, and it is fascinating to see how much deeper and more thoughtful he has become.′

Voir de même:

Beyond the icon: Nelson Mandela in his 90th year

Elleke Boehmer

12 November 2008

The celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday on 18 July 2008 confirmed once more perhaps the most obvious fact about him: that South Africa’s former president is universally admired, even revered, by world leaders and ordinary people alike. Less noted, however, is the disjunction in his stature abroad and at home. Worldwide, he is invoked as little less than a secular saint, domestically, the strong pride in the achievement of Madiba, the grand old man of the apartheid struggle, is coupled with an awareness that the legend remains a living legend, who still walks and breathes amongst his people today – and that with this presence come continuing responsibilities.

I encountered this notion repeatedly in the course of writing my book, Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008). It struck me again forcibly when his 90th-birthday events in June-July 2008 were underway. Perhaps it is was accentuated by a sad coincidence of timing: for these months of what should have been acclaim and fond and grateful reminiscence took place against the background of vicious « xenophobic attacks » on « foreign » Africans in many of South Africa’s sprawling townships and conurbations. These events roused deep shame and anger in many South Africans, as well as a distinct realisation even among many loyal African National Congress (ANC) members that the « rainbow-nation » dream was over, or at least almost fatally damaged.

The combination of rabid anxiety about the « other » in one’s midst and the approaching celebration of a person famous for embracing friend and stranger alike, meant that people across South Africa looked to Madiba for guidance. There was widespread clamour to know out what he might have to say – as in the past – by way of chastisement, advice and inspiration. Was it not Madiba, after all, who had once announced that he would not demur from criticising his political friends, if he felt they had done wrong or committed atrocity? Would he not then have admonishing words to offer now, concerning the attacks?

The Nelson Mandela Foundation may neatly state that Madiba formally retired from his own official retirement in 2000; and it is true besides that he is a very elderly and now somewhat forgetful man. But many South Africans felt that were he to desist from speaking in his own person at such a time – rather than in the bland voice of his foundation or public-relations representatives – this might betray the values of justice, freedom and political plain-speaking for which he had so long contended.

The global imaginary

Outside South Africa, the moment of Nelson Mandela’s landmark birthday was far simpler and less inscribed with questioning. The concert on 27 June in London’s Hyde Park – in front of the symbolic number of 46,664 guests, officially to launch his foundation’s worldwide HIV/Aids campaign – revealed Mandela’s fans to be in the main content to admire, gasp, and generally be overawed. « There he is, there he is! », the whisper ran through the crowd when the great man briefly appeared to read a prepared statement; and then, « It’s him, it’s him! ». Although standing towards the back of the crowd, I could feel people around me strain forward to see him more clearly, as if to be blessed by the holy man passing through.

From our vantage-point, Mandela was visible only as a very small speck on the stage; yet he also presided in gigantic form on the various screens positioned around the concert area. There was a metaphor in this somewhere, I remember thinking. Mandela wasn’t clearly visible without the help of cinematic projection: the living myth was a function of celebrity imaging – and he was indeed accompanied on stage by a whole range of musical or TV celebrities (Amy Winehouse, Will Smith, June Sarpong, Annie Lennox).

And yet, in reality, what did this all amount to? What did this adulation mean? Should we simply take for granted the appearance of Nelson Mandela, African nationalist, at one time the world’s longest-held political prisoner, as headline act to a line-up of (in truth, rather less than glittering) star performances fit to decorate the contents pages of celebrity magazines such as Closer or Now?

Asking these kinds of questions of « Mandela the symbol » is, after all, the point of my cultural history. What was the fridge-magnet symbol, the tourist website icon, telling us, if anything? Was there not an unmistakable oddity to the fact that the 90th birthday was being celebrated here in London, while there – in Mandela’s native land – many people felt consternation at his relative silence? Wasn’t there something disorienting about this « transplanted » birthday-party; something bizarre about the manic susurration of media stars, paparazzi, and wired-up security detail, enwrapping so very tightly the brief appearance of a elder statesman abroad, as if to imprison him (with cloying images, and saccharine words) all over again?

I was reminded of a batik-cloth image of Mandela I once saw in a Cape Town market, selling at a price that only a tourist of some means could have afforded. Nelson Mandela’s fame seemed here to have been reduced to an inaccessible icon who could no longer address, or indeed be heard by, his people. It was a melancholy contrast with the far younger leader, then United States presidential candidate Barack Obama (who is often compared to Mandela, and who manages to take national-hero status in his stride while yet managing through his fine rhetorical skills to get his message across powerfully and movingly to his supporters).

True, only a day or so before the concert Mandela had at last expressed his regret at the violence against fellow-Africans in his home country, and at the tragic « failure of leadership » in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Everywhere, there was relief that the moral beacon had at last spoken. Yet it was impossible not to notice that his statement had been delivered extremely late in the political day; and it had also taken place abroad, as part of a dinner where luminaries like Bill (and Chelsea) Clinton, and Britain’s prime minister Gordon Brown, had been present. The compunction to speak had finally been triggered not by the great urgency everywhere palpable at home, but abroad, where – it was again impossible not to notice – the icon was in effect under an obligation to speak.

The secular saint could arguably not have sustained at the same level his massive global status had words of sorrow, albeit brief, not been expressed in the international domain. In this way Mandela’s legendary star stayed steady in its path, while at home, despite some pleasure at bathing in his reflected glory, bafflement and disappointment remained. As Madiba’s myth was made safe for his fans abroad, so the myth of the reconciled rainbow country he had helped create, inevitably cracked further open – and now, with the split in the ANC, has cracked wider again. A twist of this 90th-birthday year must be that just when his reputation as the 20th century’s leading postcolonial leader seemed secure, the ways in which that reputation will endure in South Africa itself are suddenly a little less certain than before.

The multiple reality

As was repeatedly acknowledged in discussions in Johannesburg and other cities in mid-2008 that I either witnessed or contributed to, on his home ground the « meaning » of Madiba, the significance of his remarkable career and story of uncompromising struggle and negotiated reconciliation, has yet fully to unfold. What does his message comprise: a poetry of hope and courage; a primer of self-discipline?

At present his legacy in some respects still exists in emergent form, has yet to express its true contours. This is to my mind the key difference between how he is viewed at home and internationally, where the lacquer of adulation laid thick upon the « human-rights legend » has long since hardened. Abroad, Mandela is the African the world loves to love, even if in a strikingly over-compensatory way. Africa the continent of famine, corruption and social abjection has produced, at least, this one fine human being, Europeans and Americans appear to breathe as they cluster around him.

A hostile Sunday Times (London) magazine article, which appeared the weekend before his 18 July birthday, opined that the one task Mandela can still competently carry out is to smile his dazzling smile, only now it is on command. There is little that is meaningful in it: in his old age he has become a mask of his former charismatic self, to which the world has grown accustomed to genuflect. For the international community the paradox is that by heaping excessive adoration upon the head of this one seemingly superhuman African, we have left Africa, the continent, its people, more lacking of attention by contrast. There have been many great Africans yet their reputation has been dangerously eclipsed by this one over-hyped African hero of our times.

Yet it is here, within the gap between his fully manifested yet relatively shallow international fame, and his still-latent local significance, that, it seems to me, the potential for renewed understandings of Mandela have the opportunity to emerge, which, when all is said and done, is a good thing. Within this gap, then, I would venture to place the following desiderata.

Let us not allow our image of Mandela to petrify into cliché, especially yet not only while he is still alive amongst us. Let his meanings evolve and change in rhythm with his times. Let his legacy organisations perhaps relax a little in wanting to predetermine how the future will see him. His achievement on its own dwarfs the efforts of such tireless PR policing.

What is not in doubt is that Mandela is a great and humane human being not in spite of his Africanness, as his western acolytes (according to the Sunday Times) believe, but because of his Africanness. Perhaps most important, let us not forget that his greatness as an African was dependent on the cooperation of hosts of other Africans, little and great, ordinary and extraordinary, as he himself has always recognised.

About the author

Elleke Boehmer is professor of world literature in English in the faculty of English at Oxford University. Her work includes Colonial and Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors (Oxford University Press, 1995/2005); Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial, 1890-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2002/2005); Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation (Manchester University Press); (as editor) Scouting for Boys A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2004/2005); and Nelson Mandela: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008). Elleke Boehmer is also the author of a novel, Nile Baby (Ayebia, 2008)

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Nelson Mandela, R.I.P

Deroy Murdock

National Review on line

December 5, 2013

My friend James Deciuttis once asked me very directly, “Are you ever wrong?” It was not asked with bile, but very straightforwardly, as if asking if I ever had visited Spain.

I told James that if he referred to my writing, speaking, and political activism, I have made many bad calls and misjudgments. I can look forward to a brand-new year of them in just 27 days. In one particular case, however, I really blew it very, very, very badly. But I was not alone.

Like many other anti-Communists and Cold Warriors, I feared that releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, especially amid the collapse of South Africa’s apartheid government, would create a Cuba on the Cape of Good Hope at best and an African Cambodia at worst.

After all, Mandela had spent 27 years locked up in Robben Island prison due to his leadership of the African National Congress. The ANC was a violent, pro-Communist organization. By the guiding light of Ronald Wilson Reagan, many young conservatives like me spent much of the 1980s fighting Marxism-Leninism — from the classrooms of radical campuses to the battlefields of Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, both overtly and covertly. Having seen Communists terrorize nations around the world while the Berlin Wall still stood, Mandela looked like one more butcher waiting to take his place on the 20th Century’s blood-soaked stage.

The example of the Ayatollah Khomeini also was fresh in our minds. He went swiftly from exile in Paris to edicts in Tehran and quickly turned Iran into a vicious and bloodthirsty dictatorship at the vanguard of militant Islam.

Nelson Mandela was just another Fidel Castro or a Pol Pot, itching to slip from behind bars, savage his country, and surf atop the bones of his victims.

WRONG!

Far, far, far from any of that, Nelson Mandela turned out to be one of the 20th Century’s great moral leaders, right up there with Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was a statesman of considerable weight. If not as significant on the global stage as FDR, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan, he approaches Margaret Thatcher as a national leader with major international reach.

Mandela invited the warden of Robben Island prison to his inauguration as president of South Africa. He sat him front and center. While most people would be tempted to lock up their jailers if they had the chance, Mandela essentially forgave him while the whole world and his own people, white and black, were watching. This quietly sent South Africa’s white population a message: Calm down. This will be okay. It also signaled black South Africans: Now is no time for vengeance. Let’s show our former oppressors that we are greater than that and bigger people than they were to us.

As Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon beautifully dramatize in the excellent film Invictus, Mandela resisted the ANC’s efforts to strip the national rugby team of its long-standing name, the Springboks. Seen as a symbol of apartheid, Mandela’s black colleagues were eager to give the team a new, less “white” identity. Mandela argued that white South Africans, stripped of political leadership and now quite clearly in the minority, should not be deprived of the one small point of pride behind which they could shield their anxieties.

Mandela then championed the team. He attended its games and rallied both blacks and whites behind it as a national sports organization, rather than an exclusive totem of South Africa’s white minority.

Mandela’s easy manner, warmth, and decency shone through and gave South Africans a common point of unity amid so many opportunities for division.

(As an American, it would be nice right now to have a leader who could bring our nation together, rather than pound one wedge after another into our dispirited population.)

Mandela’s economic record deserves deeper analysis later. However, for now it is worthwhile to remember that he came to power in 1994, less than half a decade after the Iron Curtain collapsed and the triumph of scientific socialism was exposed as a cruel and hollow fantasy. Rather than follow that vanquished model, Mandela looked to economic growth as the path his nation should follow. Among other things, he sold off stakes in South African Airways, utilities, and other state-owned companies. While some wish he had gone further, this was a far cry from the playbook of Marx and Lenin.

So, I was dead wrong about Nelson Mandela, a great man and fine example to others, not least the current occupant of the White House.

After 95 momentous years on Earth, may Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela rest in peace.

Voir aussi:

The concert that transformed Mandela from terrorist to icon

Jaime Velazquez, Agence France-Presse

ABS.CBnews

06/12/2013

JOHANNESBURG – So revered is Nelson Mandela today that it is easy to forget that for decades he was considered a terrorist by many foreign governments, and some of his now supporters.

The anti-apartheid hero was on a US terror watch list until 2008 and while still on Robben Island, Britain’s late « Iron Lady » Margaret Thatcher described his African National Congress as a « typical terrorist organization. »

That Mandela’s image has been transformed so thoroughly is a testament to the man’s achievements, but also, in part, to a concert that took place in London 25 years ago this week.

For organizer Tony Hollingsworth the June 11, 1988 gig at London’s Wembley Stadium had very little to do with Mandela’s 70th birthday, as billed.

It had everything to do with ridding Mandela of his terrorist tag and ensuring his release.

« You can’t get out of jail as a terrorist, but you can get out of prison as a black leader, » he told AFP during a visit to Johannesburg.

Hollingsworth, now 55, envisaged a star-studded concert that would transform Mandela from outlaw to icon in the public’s mind, and in turn press governments adopt a more accommodating stance.

He approached Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, president of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, to pitch his musical strategy.

« I told Trevor that the African National Congress and the anti-apartheid movement had reached their glass ceiling; they couldn’t go further. »

« Everything you are doing is ‘anti’, you are protesting on the streets, but it will remain in that space. Many people will agree, but you will not appeal them. »

« Mandela and the movement should be seen as something positive, confident, something you would like to be in your living room with. »

While Hollingsworth dealt with artists, Mike Terry — head of the movement in London — dealt with the ANC and the skeptics in the anti-apartheid movement.

And there were many, including Mandela himself, who asked several times that the struggle not be about him.

Many others insisted the focus remain on sanctions against the apartheid regime.

« A lot of people were criticizing me for sanitizing it, » Hollingsworth remembered.

Eventually Terry convinced the ANC and Hollingsworth convinced Simple Minds, Dire Straits, Sting, George Michael, The Eurythmics, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder into the 83-artist line up.

With that musical firepower came contracts for a more than 11 hour broadcast.

« We signed with the entertainment department of television (stations). And when the head of the department got home and watched on his channel that they were calling Mandela a terrorist, they called straight to the news section to say, don’t call this man a terrorist, we just signed 11 hours of broadcasting for a tribute about him. »

« This is how we turned Mandela from a black terrorist into a black leader. »

The gig at Wembley attracted broadcasters in nearly 70 countries and was watched by more than half a billion people around the world, still one of the largest audiences ever for an entertainment event.

Despite some broadcasters’ demands for the politics to be toned down the message got out.

Singer Harry Belafonte opened with a rousing acclamation: « We are here today to honor a great man, the man is Nelson Mandela, » he told the capacity crowd.

Nelson Mandela was released from jail 19 months later, after 27 years in prison. A second concert was later held to celebrate.

« Before the first event, the prospect of Nelson Mandela’s imminent release from prison seemed completely unrealistic, » Terry would later say.

« Yet within 20 months he walked free and I have no doubt that the first event played a decisive role in making this happen. »

Mandela went on to negotiate the end of the white supremacist regime and establish multiracial democracy in South Africa.

Few seemed to notice that the concert was actually more than a month before his July 18 birthday.

Voir encore:

Nelson Mandela ‘proven’ to be a member of the Communist Party after decades of denial

A new book claims that, 50 years after he was first accused of being a Communist, Nelson Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

Colin Freeman, and Jane Flanagan in Cape Town

08 Dec 2012

For decades, it was one of the enduring disputes of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. Was Nelson Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress, really a secret Communist, as the white-only government of the time alleged? Or, as he claimed during the infamous 1963 trial that saw him jailed for life, was it simply a smear to discredit him in a world riven by Cold War tensions?

Now, nearly half a century after the court case that made him the world’s best-known prisoner of conscience, a new book claims that whatever the wider injustice perpetrated, the apartheid-era prosecutors were indeed right on one question: Mr Mandela was a Communist party member after all.

The former South African president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, has always denied being a member of the South African branch of the movement, which mounted an armed campaign of guerrilla resistance along with the ANC.

But research by a British historian, Professor Stephen Ellis, has unearthed fresh evidence that during his early years as an activist, Mr Mandela did hold senior rank in the South African Communist Party, or SACP. He says Mr Mandela joined the SACP to enlist the help of the Communist superpowers for the ANC’s campaign of armed resistance to white rule.

His book also provides fresh detail on how the ANC’s military wing had bomb-making lessons from the IRA, and intelligence training from the East German Stasi, which it used to carry out brutal interrogations of suspected « spies » at secret prison camps.

As evidence of Mr Mandela’s Communist party membership, Prof Ellis cites minutes from a secret 1982 SACP meeting, discovered in a collection of private papers at the University of Cape Town, in which a veteran former party member, the late John Pule Motshabi, talks about how Mr Mandela was a party member some two decades before.

In the minutes, Mr Motshabi, is quoted as saying: « There was an accusation that we opposed allowing Nelson [Mandela] and Walter (Sisulu, a fellow activist) into the Family (a code word for the party) … we were not informed because this was arising after the 1950 campaigns (a series of street protests). The recruitment of the two came after. »

While other SACP members have previously confirmed Mr Mandela’s party membership, many of their testimonies were given under duress in police interviews, where they might have sought to implicate him. However, the minutes from the 1982 SACP meeting, said Prof Ellis, offered more reliable proof. « This is written in a closed party meeting so nobody is trying to impress or mislead the public, » he said.

Although Mr Mandela appears to have joined the SACP more for their political connections than their ideas, his membership could have damaged his standing in the West had it been disclosed while he was still fighting to dismantle apartheid.

Africa was a Cold War proxy battleground until the end of the 1980s, and international support for his cause, which included the Free Nelson Mandela campaign in Britain, drew partly on his image as a compromise figure loyal neither to East nor West.

« Nelson Mandela’s reputation is based both on his ability to overcome personal animosities and to be magnanimous to all South Africans, white and black, and that is what impressed the world, » said Prof Ellis, a former Amnesty International researcher who is based at the Free University of Amsterdam. « But what this shows is that like any politician, he was prepared to make opportunistic alliances.

« I think most people who supported the anti-apartheid movement just didn’t want to know that much about his background. Apartheid was seen as a moral issue and that was that. But if real proof had been produced at the time, some might have thought differently. »

Mr Mandela made his denial of Communist Party membership in the opening statement of his Rivonia trial, when he and nine other ANC leaders were tried for 221 alleged acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system. The defendants were also accused of furthering the aims of Communism, a movement that was then illegal in South Africa.

Addressing the court, Mr Mandela declared that he had « never been a member of the Communist Party, » and that he disagreed with the movement’s contempt for Western-style parliamentary democracy.

He added: « The suggestion made by the State that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said. »

Mr Mandela joined the ANC in 1944, when its leadership still opposed armed struggle against the apartheid state. However, by the early 1950s he become personally convinced that a guerrilla war was inevitable, a view confirmed by the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, when police in a Transvaal township opened fire on black demonstrators, killing 69 people.

But while other ANC leaders also came round to his way of thinking after Sharpeville, the group still had no access to weaponry or financial support. Instead, says Prof Ellis, Mr Mandela looked for help from the Communists, with whom he already had close contacts due to their shared opposition to apartheid.

« He knew and trusted many Communist activists anyway, so it appears he was co-opted straight to the central committee with no probation required, » said Prof Ellis. « But it’s fair to say he wasn’t a real convert, it was just an opportunist thing. »

In the months after Sharpeville, Communist party members secretly visited Beijing and Moscow, where they got assurances of support for their own guerrilla campaign. In conjunction with a number of leading ANC members, they set up a new, nominally independent military organisation, known as Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation. With Mr Mandela as its commander, Umkhonto we Sizwe launched its first attacks on 16 December 1961.

Its campaign of « sabotage » and bombings over the subsequent three decades claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, and led to the organisation being classed as a terrorist group by the US.

In his book, Professor Ellis, who also authored a publication on the Liberian civil war, elaborates on other murky aspects of the ANC’s past. One is that bomb-making experts from the IRA trained the ANC at a secret base in Angola in the late 1970s, a link disclosed last year in the posthumous memoirs of Kader Asmal, a South African politician of Indian extraction who was exiled in Ireland. He was a member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, which, Prof Mr Ellis says, in turn had close links to the British and South African Communist parties.

The IRA tutoring, which was allegedly brokered partly through Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, led to the ANC fighters improving their bombing skills considerably, thanks to the expertise of what Mr Ellis describes as « the world’s most sophisticated urban guerrilla force ».

Angola was also the base for « Quatro », a notorious ANC detention centre, where dozens of the movement’s own supporters were tortured and sometimes killed as suspected spies by agents from their internal security service, some of whom were « barely teenagers ». East German trainers taught the internal security agents that anyone who challenged official ANC dogma should be viewed as a potential spy or traitor.

On Friday night, a spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation said: « We do not believe that there is proof that Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) was a Party member … The evidence that has been identified is comparatively weak in relation to the evidence against, not least Madiba’s consistent denial of the fact over nearly 50 years. It is conceivable that Madiba might indulge in legalistic casuistry, but not that he would make an entirely false statement.

« Recruitment and induction into the Party was a process that happened in stages over a period of time. It is possible that Madiba started but never completed the process. What is clear is that at a certain moment in the struggle he was sufficiently trusted as an ANC leader to participate in Party CC meetings. And it is probable that people in attendance at such meetings may have thought of him as a member. »

Mr Mandela, now 94, retired from public life in 2004 and is now in poor health. He did, though, allude to a symbiotic relationship with the Communists in his bestselling biography, The Long Walk to Freedom. « There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us, » he wrote. « But who is to say that we were not using them? »

« External Mission: The ANC in Exile, 1960-1990 », is published by Hurst and Co.

Voir de même:

The sacred warrior

The liberator of South Africa looks at the seminal work of the liberator of India

Nelson Mandela

Time

December 27, 1999

India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberatory movements in both colonial theaters.

He is the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary. His strategy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators, and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally in our century.

Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression, and both of us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that violated our freedoms.

The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence.

Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, « Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence. »

Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, « Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor … »

Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle.

Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 at the age of 23. Within a week he collided head on with racism. His immediate response was to flee the country that so degraded people of color, but then his inner resilience overpowered him with a sense of mission, and he stayed to redeem the dignity of the racially exploited, to pave the way for the liberation of the colonized the world over and to develop a blueprint for a new social order.

He left 21 years later, a near maha atma (great soul). There is no doubt in my mind that by the time he was violently removed from our world, he had transited into that state.

No ordinary leader–divinely inspired

He was no ordinary leader. There are those who believe he was divinely inspired, and it is difficult not to believe with them. He dared to exhort nonviolence in a time when the violence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it redundant; he replaced self-interest with group interest without minimizing the importance of self. In fact, the interdependence of the social and the personal is at the heart of his philosophy. He seeks the simultaneous and interactive development of the moral person and the moral society.

His philosophy of Satyagraha is both a personal and a social struggle to realize the Truth, which he identifies as God, the Absolute Morality. He seeks this Truth, not in isolation, self-centeredly, but with the people. He said, « I want to find God, and because I want to find God, I have to find God along with other people. I don’t believe I can find God alone. If I did, I would be running to the Himalayas to find God in some cave there. But since I believe that nobody can find God alone, I have to work with people. I have to take them with me. Alone I can’t come to Him. »

He sacerises his revolution, balancing the religious and the secular.

Awakening

His awakening came on the hilly terrain of the so-called Bambata Rebellion, where as a passionate British patriot, he led his Indian stretcher-bearer corps to serve the Empire, but British brutality against the Zulus roused his soul against violence as nothing had done before. He determined, on that battlefield, to wrest himself of all material attachments and devote himself completely and totally to eliminating violence and serving humanity. The sight of wounded and whipped Zulus, mercilessly abandoned by their British persecutors, so appalled him that he turned full circle from his admiration for all things British to celebrating the indigenous and ethnic. He resuscitated the culture of the colonized and the fullness of Indian resistance against the British; he revived Indian handicrafts and made these into an economic weapon against the colonizer in his call for swadeshi–the use of one’s own and the boycott of the oppressor’s products, which deprive the people of their skills and their capital.

A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in particular is due to the continuing dependence on foreign markets for manufactured goods, which undermines domestic production and dams up domestic skills, apart from piling up unmanageable foreign debts. Gandhi’s insistence on self-sufficiency is a basic economic principle that, if followed today, could contribute significantly to alleviating Third World poverty and stimulating development.

Gandhi predated Frantz Fanon and the black-consciousness movements in South Africa and the U.S. by more than a half-century and inspired the resurgence of the indigenous intellect, spirit and industry.

Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and equality.

He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry. He preaches the gospel of leveling down, of emulating the kisan (peasant), not the zamindar (landlord), for « all can be kisans, but only a few zamindars. »

He stepped down from his comfortable life to join the masses on their level to seek equality with them. « I can’t hope to bring about economic equality… I have to reduce myself to the level of the poorest of the poor. »

From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are gifts from God to be used for the collective good.

He seeks an economic order, alternative to the capitalist and communist, and finds this in sarvodaya based on nonviolence (ahimsa).

He rejects Darwin’s survival of the fittest, Adam Smith’s laissez-faire and Karl Marx’s thesis of a natural antagonism between capital and labor, and focuses on the interdependence between the two.

He believes in the human capacity to change and wages Satyagraha against the oppressor, not to destroy him but to transform him, that he cease his oppression and join the oppressed in the pursuit of Truth.

We in South Africa brought about our new democracy relatively peacefully on the foundations of such thinking, regardless of whether we were directly influenced by Gandhi or not.

Gandhi remains today the only complete critique of advanced industrial society. Others have criticized its totalitarianism but not its productive apparatus. He is not against science and technology, but he places priority on the right to work and opposes mechanization to the extent that it usurps this right. Large-scale machinery, he holds, concentrates wealth in the hands of one man who tyrannizes the rest. He favors the small machine; he seeks to keep the individual in control of his tools, to maintain an interdependent love relation between the two, as a cricketer with his bat or Krishna with his flute. Above all, he seeks to liberate the individual from his alienation to the machine and restore morality to the productive process.

As we find ourselves in jobless economies, societies in which small minorities consume while the masses starve, we find ourselves forced to rethink the rationale of our current globalization and to ponder the Gandhian alternative.

At a time when Freud was liberating sex, Gandhi was reining it in; when Marx was pitting worker against capitalist, Gandhi was reconciling them; when the dominant European thought had dropped God and soul out of the social reckoning, he was centralizing society in God and soul; at a time when the colonized had ceased to think and control, he dared to think and control; and when the ideologies of the colonized had virtually disappeared, he revived them and empowered them with a potency that liberated and redeemed.

Voir par ailleurs:

Nelson Mandela, un chrétien discret

Issu de l’Église méthodiste, Nelson Mandela, décédé le 5 décembre au soir, évitait d’en faire état en public. À bien l’écouter, cependant, cette dimension a été centrale dans sa vie.

Laurent Larcher

La Croix

6/12/13

Rares, parmi ceux qui chantent les louanges de Nelson Mandela en France, sont ceux qui évoquent son christianisme. Une dimension souvent gommée au profit de son « humanisme ». Pour leur défense, il est vrai que Nelson Mandela a toujours été discret, en public, sur ses liens avec le christianisme. Dans un entretien accordé à l’Express en 1995, il répond, un peu abrupt, au journaliste qui l’interroge sur le rôle de sa foi chrétienne dans sa lutte contre l’apartheid : « La relation entre un homme et son Dieu est un sujet extrêmement privé, qui ne regarde pas les mass media ».

Et dans son autobiographie, Conversation avec moi-même (La Martinière, 2010), il évoque à peine cette dimension dans sa vie (à deux reprises !). On le voit, Nelson Mandela n’a pas été un prosélyte : « Toujours faire de la religion une affaire privée, réservée à soi. N’encombre pas les autres avec ta religion et autres croyances personnelles. », écrit-il à Thulare, en 1977, de la prison de Robben Island.

« Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes »

Pour autant, au fil de sa vie, de ses écrits et de ses confidences, Nelson Mandela n’a pas toujours été silencieux sur son rapport au christianisme. En premier lieu, il a été baptisé dans l’Église méthodiste et formé dans les écoles wesleyennes (une Église qui se sépare d’avec l’Église méthodiste en 1875) pour être précis. À Fort Hare, dans l’une de ces institutions, il a même été moniteur le dimanche. Que pensait-il de cette appartenance ? Visiblement, le plus grand bien !

À plusieurs reprises, il exprime sa dette envers son Église : « Je ne saurais trop insister sur le rôle que l’Église méthodiste a joué dans ma vie », déclarait-il à l’occasion du 23e anniversaire de la Gospel Church power of Republic of South Africa, en 1995. Et devant le parlement mondial des religions, en 1999 : « Sans l’Église, sans les institutions religieuses, je ne serais pas là aujourd’hui ».

Emprisonné à Robben Island, il assiste, écrit-il en 1977, « encore à tous les services de l’Église et j’apprécie certains sermons ». Dans sa correspondance avec Ahmed Kathrada, en 1993, il évoque la joie qu’il ressentait à fréquenter l’Eucharistie  : « Partager le sacrement qui fait partie de la tradition de mon Église était important à mes yeux. Cela me procurait l’apaisement et le calme intérieur. En sortant des services, j’étais un homme neuf. » Et il affirme au même : « Je n’ai jamais abandonné mes croyances chrétiennes ».

le christianisme de Mandela prend la forme d’une sagesse universelle

S’il lui est arrivé d’exprimer sa fidélité au christianisme, il semble cependant que sa spiritualité se soit modifiée au cours de son existence. Ainsi, sa rencontre avec le marxisme lui ouvre un nouvel horizon : « Nous qui avons grandi dans des maisons religieuses et qui avons étudié dans les écoles des missionnaires, nous avons fait l’expérience d’un profond conflit spirituel quand nous avons vu le mode de vie que nous jugions sacré remis en question par de nouvelles philosophies, et quand nous nous sommes rendu compte que, parmi ceux qui traitaient notre foi d’opium, il y avait des penseurs dont l’intégrité et l’amour pour les hommes ne faisaient pas de doute. », écrit-il à Fatima Meer en 1977.

Peu à peu, le christianisme de Mandela prend la forme d’une sagesse universelle : « J’ai bien sûr été baptisé à l’Église wesleyenne et j’ai fréquenté ses écoles missionnaires. Dehors comme ici, je lui reste fidèle, mais mes conceptions ont eu tendance à s’élargir et à être bienveillantes envers l’unité religieuse », constate-il en 1977.

La même année, il fait cet aveu : « J’ai mes propres croyances quant à l’existence ou non d’un Être suprême et il est possible que l’on puisse expliquer facilement pourquoi l’homme, depuis des temps immémoriaux, croit en l’existence d’un dieu. » Puis de dire en 1994 : « Je ne suis pas particulièrement religieux ou spirituel. Disons que je m’intéresse à toutes les tentatives qui sont faites pour découvrir le sens de la vie. La religion relève de cet exercice. ».

« une affaire strictement personnelle »

Tout au long de son existence, il s’est méfié du caractère dévastateur qu’il voyait en puissance dans la religion : « La religion, et notamment la croyance en l’existence d’un Être suprême, a toujours été un sujet de controverse qui déchire les nations, et même les familles. Il vaut toujours mieux considérer la relation entre un individu et son Dieu comme une affaire strictement personnelle, une question de foi et non de logique. Nul n’a le droit de prescrire aux autres ce qu’ils doivent croire ou non », écrit-il à Déborah Optiz en 1988.

Nous touchons là, sans doute, la raison pour laquelle Nelson Mandela évitait d’aborder en public, en particulier face aux médias, son rapport au christianisme. À cela s’ajoute son souci de ne pas heurter la sensibilité et les convictions de celui à qui il s’adressait. Il s’en explique à Maki Mandela en 1977 : «Sans le savoir, tu peux offenser beaucoup de gens pour qui tout cela n’a aucun fondement scientifique, qui considèrent que c’est pure fiction. »

Cette réserve ne l’a pas empêché d’assigner un rôle aux religions dans la société : en particulier sur le plan de la justice et de la morale. Alors qu’il présidait à la destinée de l’Afrique du Sud, il leur adressa cette feuille de route en 1997 : « Nous avons besoin que les institutions religieuses continuent d’être la conscience de la société, le gardien de la morale et des intérêts des faibles et des opprimés. Nous avons besoin que les organisations religieuses participent à la société civile mobilisée pour la justice et la protection des droits de l’homme. »

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : un homme une voie

RFI

Première partie : Une conscience noire dans les geôles de l’apartheid

En retrouvant la liberté, un dimanche, le 11 février 1990, Nelson Mandela a recouvré un destin, dans le droit fil du mythe qu’il était devenu en 27 ans de prison. «Malgré mes soixante-et-onze ans, j’ai senti que ma vie recommençait. Mes dix mille jours de prison étaient finis», écrivit-il plus tard dans son auto-biographie, Long Walk to Freedom. Cette deuxième vie serait celle d’un président de la République arc-en-ciel et d’une autorité morale universelle. La première aura été celle d’un freedom fighter, un combattant de la liberté, un adepte de la non-violence conduit à la lutte armée par la ségrégation raciale, un «terroriste» au temps où l’idéologie de l’apartheid s’affichait comme ligne de défense de l’Occident travaillé par la guerre froide, un «communiste» (qu’il n’a jamais été) dans une Afrique du Sud où même le nationalisme était white only, réservé aux Afrikaners, les «Africains» blancs de souche boer.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela est né le 18 juillet 1918 dans le village de Qunu, près d’Umtata, au Transkei. Il appartient à une lignée royale Xhosa du clan Madhiba, dont le nom a désormais fait le tour du monde comme raccourci affectueux pour désigner le fils de Henry Mgadla Mandela, un chef Thembu qui le laisse orphelin à 12 ans. Envoyé à la cour du roi, Rolhlahla se prépare à assurer la succession à la chefferie, à l’école des pasteurs méthodistes d’abord, puis, en 1938 à l’University College for Bantu de Fort Hare, seul établissement secondaire habilité à l’époque à recevoir des «non-Blancs».

Nationalisme et pacifisme

Les fondateurs blancs de Fort Hare entendaient former une élite noire capable de servir leur dessein colonial. Mais face à la conjugaison d’esprits éveillés, l’épreuve de la réalité étant la plus forte, l’université «bantoue» s’est transformée en pépinière du nationalisme d’Afrique australe, d’où sortirent notamment les frères ennemis zimbabwéens Joshua Nkomo et Robert Mugabe ou le «père de la Nation» zambienne, Kenneth Kaunda. Derrière les expériences propres à chacun des jeunes gens se profilent des peuples déchus de leurs droits de citoyens et confinés dans la misère par une barrière de couleur défendue par les pouvoirs blancs, un fusil à la main et une bible dans l’autre. Les colons ont fait de l’identité noire une condition sociale. Une conscience noire est en gestation. Reste à trouver les armes pour la défendre. A Fort Hare, Mandela discute de l’enseignement du Mahatma Ghandi (né en Afrique du Sud) avec son meilleur ami, Oliver Tambo (mort le 24 avril 1993). Convaincu des vertus de la non-violence, il découvre aussi, non sans scepticisme, les thèses marxistes introduites clandestinement dans les chambrées studieuses par le South african communist party (SACP), interdit.

En 1940, Mandela et Tambo sont chassés de Fort Hare après avoir conduit une grève pour empêcher que le Conseil représentatif des étudiants soit transformé en simple chambre d’enregistrement. Il finira ses études par correspondance. Pour les financer, il embauche en 1941 comme vigile aux Crown Mines de Johannesburg. Le choc est violent dans l’univers minier du développement séparé où la richesse des Blancs ruisselle dans la sueur et le sang des Noirs. Nelson Mandela a 23 ans, une stature de boxeur. Servir l’ordre économique de la ségrégation raciale en maniant la chicotte, le jeune homme entrevoit le privilège douteux que sa naissance lui réserve. Quelques mois plus tard, une rencontre avec Albertina, l’épouse d’un militant de la cause noire, Walter Sisulu, fait bifurquer son destin. Walter Sisulu l’emploie dans sa petite agence immobilière, lui paye des cours de droit et le place dans un cabinet d’avocats blancs, des juifs communistes opposés à la ségrégation raciale.

Programme d’action unitaire

Oliver Tambo a rejoint son ami Mandela à Johannesburg, comme professeur de mathématiques. Les jeunes gens épousent des collègues infirmières d’Albertina Sisulu. Ils partent s’installer dans la township d’Orlando où leur rencontre avec l’instituteur zoulou Anton Lembede sera déterminante. En effet, après l’instauration de la discrimination raciale qui fonde le «développement séparé» concocté après la guerre des Boers (contre l’imperium anglais) en 1902, au lendemain de l’institution, en 1911, du «colour bar» qui limite le droit au travail des non-Blancs, ces derniers ont entrepris d’organiser une résistance. Dans les années quarante, elle paraît bien essoufflée. Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu et Oliver Tambo vont tenter de ranimer la flamme et de lui donner des couleurs nationalistes en créant, en 1944, une ligue de la jeunesse au sein de l’ANC dirigé alors par le docteur Xuma.

Fondé à Bloemfontein en 1912, l’African native national congress (ANNC) avait abandonné son initiale coloniale «native» (indigène) en 1923 pour devenir ANC. Largement inspiré par les idées légalistes du promoteur de l’émancipation des Noirs américains, Booker T. Washington, l’ANC avait entrepris d’informer la communauté noire sud-africaine sur ses droits ou ce qui en restait, faisant aussi campagne par exemple contre la loi sud-africaine sur les laissez-passer. Mais les revendications de l’ANC avaient fini par s’user sur la soif de respectabilité de ses dirigeants et sur la violence de la répression du pouvoir blanc. Avec la ligue de la jeunesse, la Youth League, l’ANC prend un tournant qui lui permet d’avoir une action efficace lors des grandes manifestations de mineurs en 1946 et 1949. Mandela est élu secrétaire général de la ligue en 1947 puis président peu après. En 1949, l’ANC adoptera le programme d’action de la Youth League qui réclame «la fin de la domination blanche». Entre temps, le Parti national (PN), au pouvoir à Pretoria depuis 1948, a érigé l’apartheid en idéologie et en programme de gouvernement. Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix en 1960) préside l’ANC.

En 1951, Tambo et Mandela sont les deux premiers avocats noirs inscrits au barreau de Johannesburg. L’année suivante, ils ouvrent un cabinet ensemble. En 1950, les principales lois de l’apartheid ont été adoptées, en particulier le Group areas act qui assigne notamment à «résidence» les Noirs dans les bantoustans et les townships. Le Supression communist act inscrit dans son champ anti-communiste toute personne qui «cherche à provoquer un changement politique, industriel, économique ou social par des moyens illégaux». Bien évidemment, pour l’apartheid il n’y a pas de possibilité de changement légal. Mais en rangeant dans le même sac nationalistes, communistes, pacifistes et révolutionnaires, il ferme la fracture idéologique qui opposait justement ces derniers au sein de l’ANC. Pour sa part, Nelson Mandela rompt avec son anti-communisme chrétien intransigeant pour recommander l’unité de lutte anti-apartheid entre les nationalistes noirs et les Blancs du SACP.

Désobéissance civile et clandestinité

Elu président de l’ANC pour le Transvaal et vice président national de l’ANC, Nelson Mandela est également choisi comme «volontaire en chef» pour lancer en juin 1952 une action de désobéissance civile civile de grande envergure à la manière du Mahatma Ghandi, la «défiance campaign», où il anime des cohortes de manifestants descendus en masse dans la rue. La campagne culmine en octobre, contre la ségrégation légalisée et en particulier contre le port obligatoire des laissez-passer imposé aux Noirs. Tout un arsenal de loi sur la «sécurité publique» verrouille l’état d’urgence qui autorise l’apartheid à gouverner par décrets. Condamné à neuf mois de prison avec sursis, le charismatique Mandela est interdit de réunion et assigné à résidence à Johannesburg. Il en profite pour mettre au point le «Plan M» qui organise l’ANC en cellules clandestines.

La répression des années cinquante contraint Mandela à faire disparaître son nom de l’affiche officielle de l’ANC mais ne l’empêche pas de participer en 1955 au Congrès des peuples qui adopte une Charte des Libertés préconisant l’avènement d’une société multiraciale et démocratique. Le Congrès parvient en effet à rassembler l’ANC, le Congrès indien, l’Organisation des métis sud-africain (SACPO), le Congrès des démocrates -composé de communistes proscrits depuis 1950 et de radicaux blancs- ainsi que le Congrès des syndicats sud-africains (SACTU). Le 5 décembre 1956, Nelson Mandela est arrêté avec Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli (prix Nobel de la paix 1960) et des dizaines de dirigeants du mouvement anti-apartheid. Ils sont accusés, toutes races et toutes obédiences confondues, de comploter contre l’Etat au sein d’une organisation internationale d’inspiration communiste. En mars 1961, le plus long procès de l’histoire judiciaire sud-africaine s’achève sur un non-lieu général. L’ANC estime avoir épuisé tous les recours de la non-violence.

Le 21 mars 1960, à Sharpeville, la police de l’apartheid transforme en bain de sang (69 morts et 180 blessés) une manifestation pacifique contre les laissez-passer. L’état d’urgence est réactivé. Des milliers de personnes font les frais de la répression terrible qui s’ensuit dans tous le pays. Le 8 avril, l’ANC et le Congrès panafricain (le PAC né d’une scission anti-communiste) sont interdits. Cette même année de sang, Nelson épouse en deuxièmes noces Winnie, une assistante sociale, et entre en clandestinité. En mai 1961, le succès de son mot d’ordre de grève générale à domicile «stay at house» déchaîne les foudres de Pretoria qui déploie son grand jeu militaro-policier pour briser la résistance. En décembre, l’ANC met en application le plan de passage graduel à la lutte armée rédigé par Nelson Mandela. Avant d’en arriver à «la guérilla, le terrorisme et la révolution ouverte», Mandela préconise le sabotage des cibles militaro-industrielles qui, écrit-il, «n’entraîne aucune perte en vie humaine et ménage les meilleures chances aux relations interraciales».

Sabotages et lutte armée

Le 16 décembre 1961 des explosions marquent aux quatre coins du pays le baptême du feu d’Umkhonto We Sizwe, le «fer de lance de la Nation», la branche militaire de l’ANC. D’Addis-Abeba en janvier 1962 où se tient la conférence du Mouvement panafricain pour la libération de l’Afrique australe et orientale, à l’Algérie fraîchement indépendante d’Ahmed Ben Bella où il suit une formation militaire avec son ami Tambo, Nelson Mandela sillonne l’Afrique pour plaider la cause de l’ANC et recueillir subsides et bourses universitaires. Le pacifiste se met à l’étude de la stratégie militaire. Clausewitz, Mao et Che Guevara voisinent sur sa table de chevet avec les spécialistes de la guerre anglo-boers. A son retour, il est arrêté, le 5 août 1962, grâce à un indicateur de police, après une folle cavale où il emprunte toutes sortes de déguisements. En novembre, il écope de 5 ans de prison pour sortie illégale du territoire mais aussi comme fauteur de grève. Alors qu’il a commencé à purger sa peine, une deuxième vague d’accusation va le clouer en prison pour deux décennies de plus.

Les services de l’apartheid sont parvenus à infiltrer l’ANC jusqu’à sa tête. Le 11 juillet 1963, les principaux chefs d’Umkhonto We Sizwe tombent dans ses filets. Avec eux, dans la ferme de Lilliesleaf, à Rivonia, près de Johannesburg, la police de Pretoria met la main sur des kilos de documents, parmi lesquels le plan de passage à la lutte armée signé Mandela. Le 9 octobre 1963, il partage le banc des accusés du procès de Rivonia avec sept compagnons : Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbéki dit Le Rouge (le père de l’actuel président sud-africain), Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Mtsouledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg et Lionel Bernstein.

En avril 1964, Mandela assure lui-même sa défense en une longue plaidoirie où il fait en même temps le procès de l’apartheid. «J’ai lutté contre la domination blanche et contre la domination noire. J’ai défendu l’idéal d’une société démocratique et libre dans laquelle tous les individus vivraient ensemble en harmonie et bénéficieraient de chances égales. C’est un idéal pour lequel j’espère vivre et que j’espère voir se réaliser. C’est un idéal pour lequel, s’il le faut, je suis prêt à mourir», dit-il avant d’accueillir sans ciller le verdict attendu de l’apartheid, la prison à perpétuité pour tous, à l’exception de Bernstein, acquitté. Conformément aux principes de la ségrégation raciale, le Blanc Denis Goldberg est incarcéré à Pretoria. Les autres prennent le ferry qui les conduit au bagne de Robben-Island, au large du cap «de Bonne espérance». Mandela y restera dix-huit ans, jusqu’en avril 1982 où il est transféré secrètement dans le quartier de haute sécurité de la prison de Pollsmoor, à vingt kilomètres du Cap. Son régime de détention sera bien plus tard allégé, l’apartheid tentant de le récupérer en vain plusieurs fois, jusqu’à ce que le plus ancien prisonnier de conscience du monde, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, «Madhiba», arrache la liberté de construire la nation arc-en-ciel de ses vœux, le 11 février 1990.

Voir enfin:

En Afrique du Sud, les fermiers blancs ont peur

Patricia Huon, Correspondante en Afrique du Sud

La Libre Belgique

11 octobre 2013

International Une campagne dénonce « le massacre » des Blancs. Les chiffres ne le confirment pas.

Un nuage de ballons rouges s’envole dans le ciel ensoleillé de Pretoria, devant le siège du gouvernement sud-africain. Baptisé « Octobre Rouge », l’événement n’a rien à voir avec un rassemblement communiste ou le roman d’espionnage de l’Américain Tom Clancy. Les quelques centaines de personnes rassemblées hier dans plusieurs villes d’Afrique du Sud sont venues, souvent en famille, pour protester contre ce qu’elles qualifient d’ »oppression » et de « massacre » des Sud-Africains blancs.

A leur tête, des chanteurs afrikaners populaires, Steve Hofmeyr et Sunette Bridges, qui enchaînent photos-souvenirs et autographes. Dans le défilé, sur fond de musique en afrikaans, flottent les anciens drapeaux d’Afrique du Sud et des républiques boers et s’affichent quelques tenues militaires, des symboles fortement associés à l’extrême droite.

Violence raciale

Pour les manifestants, la population blanche est victime d’une violence dirigée contre elle en raison de sa couleur de peau. « Stop au génocide blanc » , clame une pancarte, illustration de l’angoisse qui a saisi les anciens maîtres du pays depuis l’avènement de la démocratie.

« Je suis ici pour mes enfants. Notre culture est menacée » , lance Tina Vermeer, une mère de famille vêtue d’un t-shirt rouge, qui peine à s’exprimer en anglais. « L’Afrique du Sud d’aujourd’hui, c’est l’apartheid à l’envers » , ajoute-t-elle. Pour elle, comme pour toutes les personnes présentes, le Black Economic Empowerment, cette forme de discrimination positive à l’emploi pour corriger les inégalités du passé, est perçu comme une injustice.

Les quatre millions de Blancs sud-africains représentent un peu moins de 8 % de la population du pays. Statistiquement, ils ne sont pas à plaindre. Un ménage blanc gagne en moyenne six fois plus qu’une famille noire. Malgré les politiques mises en place, les Sud-Africains blancs continuent d’avoir un meilleur accès à l’éducation et à l’emploi. Le chômage touche plus de 25 % de la population noire, contre environ 5 % chez les Blancs. Les postes à responsabilité sont toujours détenus à près de 80 % par des Blancs.

La population noire est aussi la première victime de la criminalité. Selon les statistiques de la police, plus de 85 % des victimes de meurtres sont noires et moins de 2 % blanches.  » Peut-être souffrent-ils aussi de la violence , reconnaît Sunette Bridges. Mais ils ne sont pas abattus par des Blancs. Pourquoi alors les Noirs viennent-ils nous tuer alors que nous les laissons en paix ? »

La peur ne s’explique pas avec des statistiques. Les meurtres, souvent très violents, de fermiers blancs choquent. Et la crainte d’être le prochain Zimbabwe, d’où les anciens colons ont été expulsés de leurs propriétés, reste ancrée. Elle a été ravivée par les récentes provocations de Julius Malema, ancien leader des Jeunes de l’ANC (le parti au pouvoir), appelant à une nationalisation sans compensation des terres et des mines.

La campagne « Red October », si elle a attiré pas mal d’attention, n’a reçu que relativement peu de soutien. A Pretoria, la manifestation a rassemblé moins de 400 personnes. Sur les réseaux sociaux, beaucoup parmi les Sud-Africains blancs, ont tenu à se distancer des propos tenus par le mouvement. Et Trevor Noah, un célèbre humoriste sud-africain qui se délecte souvent des contradictions de l’Afrique du Sud post-apartheid, affirme sur son compte Twitter : « En tant que Sud-Africains, nous devrions protester contre TOUTE forme de crime et de corruption. Ces problèmes nous touchent TOUS de manière égale. »

Voir enfin:

Nelson Mandela : l’icône et le néant

Communiqué de Bernard Lugan[1]

6 décembre 2013

Né le 18 juillet 1918 dans l’ancien Transkei, mort le 5 décembre 2013, Nelson Mandela ne ressemblait pas à la pieuse image que le politiquement correct planétaire donne aujourd’hui de lui. Par delà les émois lénifiants et les hommages hypocrites, il importe de ne jamais perdre de vue les éléments suivants :

1) Aristocrate xhosa issu de la lignée royale des Thembu, Nelson Mandela n’était pas un « pauvre noir opprimé ». Eduqué à l’européenne par des missionnaires méthodistes, il commença ses études supérieures à Fort Hare, université destinée aux enfants des élites noires, avant de les achever à Witwatersrand, au Transvaal, au cœur de ce qui était alors le « pays boer ». Il s’installa ensuite comme avocat à Johannesburg.

2) Il n’était pas non plus ce gentil réformiste que la mièvrerie médiatique se plait à dépeindre en « archange de la paix » luttant pour les droits de l’homme, tel un nouveau Gandhi ou un nouveau Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela fut en effet et avant tout un révolutionnaire, un combattant, un militant qui mit « sa peau au bout de ses idées », n’hésitant pas à faire couler le sang des autres et à risquer le sien.

Il fut ainsi l’un des fondateurs de l’Umkonto We Sizwe, « le fer de lance de la nation », aile militaire de l’ANC, qu’il co-dirigea avec le communiste Joe Slovo, planifiant et coordonnant plus de 200 attentats et sabotages pour lesquels il fut condamné à la prison à vie.

3) Il n’était pas davantage l’homme qui permit une transmission pacifique du pouvoir de la « minorité blanche » à la « majorité noire », évitant ainsi un bain de sang à l’Afrique du Sud. La vérité est qu’il fut hissé au pouvoir par un président De Klerk appliquant à la lettre le plan de règlement global de la question de l’Afrique australe décidé par Washington. Trahissant toutes les promesses faites à son peuple, ce dernier :

– désintégra une armée sud-africaine que l’ANC n’était pas en mesure d’affronter,

– empêcha la réalisation d’un Etat multiracial décentralisé, alternative fédérale au jacobinisme marxiste et dogmatique de l’ANC,

– torpilla les négociations secrètes menées entre Thabo Mbeki et les généraux sud-africains, négociations qui portaient sur la reconnaissance par l’ANC d’un Volkstaat en échange de l’abandon de l’option militaire par le général Viljoen[2].

4) Nelson Mandela n’a pas permis aux fontaines sud-africaines de laisser couler le lait et le miel car l’échec économique est aujourd’hui total. Selon le Rapport Economique sur l’Afrique pour l’année 2013, rédigé par la Commission économique de l’Afrique (ONU) et l’Union africaine (en ligne), pour la période 2008-2012, l’Afrique du Sud s’est ainsi classée parmi les 5 pays « les moins performants » du continent sur la base de la croissance moyenne annuelle, devançant à peine les Comores, Madagascar, le Soudan et le Swaziland (page 29 du rapport).

Le chômage touchait selon les chiffres officiels 25,6% de la population active au second trimestre 2013, mais en réalité environ 40% des actifs. Quant au revenu de la tranche la plus démunie de la population noire, soit plus de 40% des Sud-africains, il est aujourd’hui inférieur de près de 50% à celui qu’il était sous le régime blanc d’avant 1994[3]. En 2013, près de 17 millions de Noirs sur une population de 51 millions d’habitants, ne survécurent que grâce aux aides sociales, ou Social Grant, qui leur garantit le minimum vital.

5) Nelson Mandela a également échoué politiquement car l’ANC connaît de graves tensions multiformes entre Xhosa et Zulu, entre doctrinaires post marxistes et « gestionnaires » capitalistes, entre africanistes et partisans d’une ligne « multiraciale ». Un conflit de génération oppose également la vieille garde composée de « Black Englishmen», aux jeunes loups qui prônent une « libération raciale » et la spoliation des fermiers blancs, comme au Zimbabwe.

6) Nelson Mandela n’a pas davantage pacifié l’Afrique du Sud, pays aujourd’hui livré à la loi de la jungle avec une moyenne de 43 meurtres quotidiens.

7) Nelson Mandela n’a pas apaisé les rapports inter-raciaux. Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1994, en 24 ans, alors que l’ANC était « en guerre » contre le « gouvernement blanc », une soixantaine de fermiers blancs furent tués. Depuis avril 1994, date de l’arrivée au pouvoir de Nelson Mandela, plus de 2000 fermiers blancs ont été massacrés dans l’indifférence la plus totale des médias européens.

8) Enfin, le mythe de la « nation arc-en-ciel » s’est brisé sur les réalités régionales et ethno-raciales, le pays étant plus divisé et plus cloisonné que jamais, phénomène qui apparaît au grand jour lors de chaque élection à l’occasion desquelles le vote est clairement « racial », les Noirs votant pour l’ANC, les Blancs et les métis pour l’Alliance démocratique.

En moins de deux décennies, Nelson Mandela, président de la République du 10 mai 1994 au 14 juin 1999, puis ses successeurs, Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008) et Jacob Zuma (depuis 2009), ont transformé un pays qui fut un temps une excroissance de l’Europe à l’extrémité australe du continent africain, en un Etat du « tiers-monde » dérivant dans un océan de pénuries, de corruption, de misère sociale et de violences, réalité en partie masquée par quelques secteurs ultraperformants, mais de plus en plus réduits, le plus souvent dirigés par des Blancs.

Pouvait-il en être autrement quand l’idéologie officielle repose sur ce refus du réel qu’est le mythe de la « nation arc-en-ciel » ? Ce « miroir aux alouettes » destiné à la niaiserie occidentale interdit en effet de voir que l’Afrique du Sud ne constitue pas une Nation mais une mosaïque de peuples rassemblés par le colonisateur britannique, peuples dont les références culturelles sont étrangères, et même souvent irréductibles, les unes aux autres.

Le culte planétaire quasi religieux aujourd’hui rendu à Nelson Mandela, le dithyrambe outrancier chanté par des hommes politiques opportunistes et des journalistes incultes ou formatés ne changeront rien à cette réalité.

[1] La véritable biographie de Nelson Mandela sera faite dans le prochain numéro de l’Afrique Réelle qui sera envoyé aux abonnés au début du mois de janvier 2014.

[2] Voir mes entretiens exclusifs avec les généraux Viljoen et Groenewald publiés dans le numéro de juillet 2013 de l’Afrique réelle http://www.bernard-lugan.com

[3] Institut Stats SA .

Voir par ailleurs:

Arafat’s Death and the Polonium Mystery

A twist in the tale seems to debunk the poisoning theory. But even an earlier suspicious finding may have had a less than sinister explanation.

Edward Jay Epstein

The Wall Street Journal

Dec. 3, 2013

The mystery over the death of Yasser Arafat deepened on Tuesday, when the results from a French forensic lab that had tested his remains were leaked. Last month, a Swiss lab reported finding evidence of polonium in Arafat’s body fluids and saliva—buttressing claims by the Palestinian Authority since his death in 2004 that the Palestinian leader had been poisoned. A later Russian forensic examination was reportedly inconclusive.

Now the French have found no evidence that polonium caused his death, attributing Arafat’s demise to natural causes, according to Reuters. His widow, Suha Arafat, told reporters in Paris that she was « upset by these contradictions. » But Mrs. Arafat’s own lawyer and a Palestinian Authority official dismissed the report, signaling yet more chapters to come in the posthumous Arafat saga.

Arafat died from a hemorrhagic cerebrovascular failure at age 75 on Nov. 11, 2004, at the Percy Military Hospital in Clamart, France. He had become violently ill in his compound in Ramallah on the West Bank one month earlier.

He was flown to France for treatment and examined by teams of French, Swiss and Tunisian doctors. While family members prohibited an autopsy, hospital officials found, according to a report leaked to the French journal Canard Enchaine, lesions of Arafat’s liver which indicated cirrhosis, a condition often associated with alcohol consumption.

Since alcohol use is not condoned in Arafat’s Muslim religion, such a medical finding could mar his image. In any case, at the request of Palestinian officials, his 558-page medical record was sealed and turned over to his family.

But the cause of his death remained a subject of continuing speculation with Suha Arafat asserting that he had been murdered. To support this charge, she asked scientists at the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne, Switzerland, to examine the contents of a gym bag, which contained the clothing and sneakers Arafat wore at the time of his illness, as well as his tooth brush.

Institute scientists found traces of polonium—specifically polonium 210, an extremely rare radioactive isotope that can be lethal if ingested—on the contents of the gym bag. Because it emits a steady stream of alpha particles as it

decays, one of polonium’s principal uses is to trigger the detonation of early-stage nuclear weapons. Since detection of the isotope can be a sign of clandestine nuclear bomb-building, its distribution is closely monitored.

At the time of Arafat’s death, only five individuals were known to have been contaminated by lethal doses of polonium—all of them scientists accidentally exposed to it through their work. But Arafat was not known to have visited any facilities where could have accidentally come into contact with the substance.

After the Institute of Radiation Physics report, Suha Arafat authorized the exhumation of Arafat’s body from its grave in Ramallah. Different parts of his remains were sent for analysis to forensic labs in France, Russia and Switzerland. On Nov. 5, the University Center of Legal Medicine in Lausanne reported that Arafat’s saliva (taken from his tooth brush), blood and other body fluids had abnormally high levels of polonium. If so, Arafat had been exposed to a substantial amount of the isotope before his death.

There are at least three different theories that might account for how Arafat might have come in contact with polonium 210. The first theory, and the one that has attracted the most attention, was that he was poisoned by his enemies. Suha Arafat accused the Israel intelligence service Mossad of killing her husband by adding polonium to his food or beverages.

There is no doubt that Israel has produced a supply of polonium for its nuclear program. Droh Sadeh, an Israeli physicist at the Weizmann Institute in Tel Aviv, died from accidental exposure to the isotope in the late 1950s. But the drawback is that there is no medical evidence that Arafat died of radiation poisoning.

Polonium 210, because it emits alpha particles that do not penetrate the skin, can contaminate individuals without causing medical harm. To result in radiation poisoning, it must be ingested, and, if that occurs—as happened in the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB officer, in London—there are observable symptoms, such as hair loss and skin discoloration. But Arafat did not exhibit any symptoms of radiation poisoning to the teams of medical specialists who examined him before his death.

In addition, a review of Arafat’s sealed medical records by forensic scientists and doctors at the Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne showed that the « symptoms described in Arafat’s medical reports were not consistent with polonium-210. » If the medical evidence is to be believed, Arafat did not die from any contact he may have had with polonium.

So what accounts for the polonium 210 signature that the Swiss researchers said they found on Arafat’s person and clothing?

A second theory is that Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah had been contaminated by a surreptitious listening device planted by an adversary intelligence service. Polonium 210 can be used as a source of energy for an electronic device, such as a transmitter—just one gram can produce 140 watts of power. Such an alternative use of polonium 210 was claimed by Iran when it was questioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2001 about the isotope found on Iranian gear. Iran said that it had produced the polonium to power instruments on a space craft (even though Iran did not have a space program).

Since polonium 210 generates pressure as it decays, it can also leak from its container and, attaching itself to dust, contaminate a large area. So it is possible that Arafat was accidentally contaminated—in a detectable but not fatal way—as the result of an espionage operation.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303562904579227942815253368 12/7/2013

Edward Jay Epstein: Arafat’s Death and the Polonium Mystery – WSJ.com Page 3 of 3

A third possibility is that the polonium 210 came from North Korea, which had been acquiring the material in 2004 in preparation for nuclear tests. Yasser Arafat, designated a « Hero » of North Korea by President Kim Il Sung in 1981, made six trips to North Korea, and Arafat’s associates received covert military assistance from the regime. Such trafficking might have brought members of Arafat’s entourage in contact with polonium 210.

There are no doubt other ways in which Yasser Arafat’s quarters could have been tainted by polonium. But however the contamination might have happened, there is no reason to conclude that it was the result of a murder plot. The news on Tuesday threw more cold water on an already implausible theory.

Mr. Epstein’s most recent book is « The Annals of Unsolved Crime » (Melville House, 2013).

COMPLEMENT:

What Nelson Mandela can teach us all about violence

Mandela was a great man. He was also a violent man. Ignoring that fact does him no justice

Natasha Lennard

Salon

Dec 8, 2013

When journalist and commentator Chris Hedges decried “violent” anarchists as a “cancer” in the Occupy movement, the violence he had in mind amounted to little more than a few smashed commercial windows.

Ample digital ink has been spilled in the last day by smart observers urging against the whitewashing of Nelson Mandela’s past. In the eyes of his fervid opponents, and many of his fervent supporters, Madiba was a radical, and a violent one. Compared to the militant actions Mandela would countenance and support from his African National Congress, what gets deemed “violent” or “militant” in the U.S. today is both laughable and problematic. On the occasion of the death of a great and violent man, it seems worthwhile to discuss what does and does not get deemed “violent” — and by who, where and when.

It’s beyond the purview of these paragraphs — and to be honest, I’m tired of the hackneyed polemic — to address whether violence, especially politically motivated violence, is ever justifiable or commendable. Instead, I’ll simply posit that violence is itself a moving goalpost. In the contested terrain of political struggles, however, it’s safe to say that any acts posing a threat (existential, ideological and wherever the twain meet) to a ruling status quo will be deemed violent. Even an act as minimal as a smashed Starbucks window can pass muster here — spidering cracked glass serves as reminder to those who might notice: “We do not consent to a gleaming patina; shit’s fucked up and bullshit.”

But I’m not going to weigh in on the ethics of revolutionary violence. To do so would miss how the concept of violence operates in our society: We erroneously isolate certain acts to deem “violent” or “nonviolent” — then “justifiably violent” or not, and so on — and in so doing we miss that there’s never a singular “violence”: there’s an ongoing dialectic of violent and counter-violent acts.

It’s within such a dialectic that we understand Mandela’s support of violence. His relationship to armed and violent struggle is nuanced and certainly not unique to him. He knew counter-violence was necessary in his violent context. He has also expressed that he and his ANC comrades prioritized the reduction of harm to human bodies. For Mandela, violence was a tactic. As Christopher Dickey noted, “when it came to the use of violence, as with so much else in his life, Mandela opted for pragmatism over ideology.”

Mandela’s own explanation of the his group’s approach to militant tactics was nuanced, highlighting again that violence is not one stable category:

We considered four types of violent activities — sabotage, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and open revolution. For a small and fledgling army, open revolution was inconceivable. Terrorism inevitably reflected poorly on those who used it, undermining any public support it might otherwise garner. Guerrilla warfare was a possibility, but since the ANC had been reluctant to embrace violence at all, it made sense to start with the form of violence that inflicted the least harm against individuals.

Crucially, Mandela was open to escalation to terror tactics and guerrilla war. The ANC’s 1982 attack of the Koeberg nuclear plant — yes, crucial infrastructure — killed 19 people. Unsurprisingly, the ANC was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Mandela himself was on a U.S. terror watch list until 2008. But now he is dead and the work of historicizing is well underway. Attempts, notably by white liberals, to enshrine Mandela as a peaceful freedom fighter do no justice to his actual fight. Musa Okwanga has put it best:

You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.

He could go on: Yes, you will do that, and even as you offer up paeans sanitizing Madiba, you will sit back and watch as young blackness continues to be treated as a crime in U.S. cities. You will decry the flash riots in London and the streets of East Flatbush, as young, unarmed black men are shot by police. You will see violence only as you choose to, and often without thinking.

The deifying and sanitizing of Mandela reflects an all-too prevalent “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) mentality, often adopted by the white liberal commentariat. (The ass-backwards, explicitly racist opinions of the right-wing are not my focus here. Take it as read: they suck.) My friend Lorenzo Raymond has written about what he calls the “Nonviolent In My Backyard” tract of NIMBY — a position occupied by Chris Hedges among others. As Raymond noted of this sort of NIMBY liberal, “Yes, of course, they celebrate militant, spontaneous, non-bureaucratic grassroots uprisings outside of U.S. borders, even if they’re as physically close as Oaxaca or politically close as London. But as soon as the insurrection gets to their neck of the woods, suddenly we must have everything in triplicate, blessed by the elders, and executed quietly and even ‘neatly.’”

The parameters, by NIMBY reasoning, of acceptable or justified radical violence expand as the struggles in question are grow farther from U.S. soil, and when the event is separated by years and decades. We imprison today’s whistle-blowers and canonize yesterday’s insurrectionists. But (and here’s the trick) the ability to do so is premised on the belief (even a tacit one) that our current context is not so bad, but dissent, militancy and violence is fine there and then — just Not In My Backyard.

NIMBY liberalism rejects the background violence of its own context — the structural racism, the inequality, the totalized surveillance, the engorged prisons, the brutal police, the patriarchy, the poverty, the pain. A smashed window, a looted store, a dented cop car can be read as “violent” now only because a certain NIMBYism fails to see such (small) acts as counter-violent responses to ubiquitous violence. Heroic and necessary violence is reserved for distant lands and completed revolutions.

We see this sort of logic writ large in War on Terror ideology. In a fear-mongering propaganda segment on last week’s Sunday morning talk shows, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein and her House counterpart Mike Rogers warned viewers that terrorism is on the rise. “There are new bombs, very big bombs…There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there”, said Feinstein. As I commented at the time, in describing rage at the U.S. as contentless “malevolence,” Feinstein tacitly rejects that the anger and radicalization may be grounded in responses to U.S. violence. Similarly, when British Prime Minister David Cameron described the events of the 2011 London riots as “criminality pure and simple,” he ignored the context which gave rise to the rage — the racist policing and widespread inequality highlighted by the London School of Economics and the Guardian in their study of the riots (and well-known by anyone paying attention to their social context).

I’m not suggesting for a second that the contemporary U.S. or U.K. should be compared to apartheid South Africa. I’m noting only that the treatment — either the validation or the whitewashing — of Mandela’s violent militancy is significant, nay crucial, at this current moment when even low-level dissent and property damage is decried and dismissed as violence, pure and simple. Mandela’s story should remind us that there’s nothing simple nor pure about violence.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

3 commentaires pour Mort de Nelson Mandela: Mandela ou l’anti-Arafat (Robben Island was a tremendous school in human relations – the kind of thing that a lot of politicians could do with)

  1. […] aussi, en contraste avec le magazine Time, tout ce qui a pu manquer comme l’incroyable gâchis que fut presqu’en même temps la vie d’un autre terroriste qui lui, en dépit de son prix […]

    J'aime

  2. jcdurbant dit :

    His final act of greatness was leaving office. Very few black, African leaders had ever left office voluntarily in 1999 when Nelson Mandela did, after just one term. He wanted to make sure that South African democracy did not descend into a cult of personality or dynasty.

    Fareed Zakaria

    J'aime

  3. […] lendemain de la véritable overdose de panégyriques qui a suivi la mort d’autre grand saint laïque qui, à quelques arrangements près avec son passé de terroriste repenti a eu, lui, droit à […]

    J'aime

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