Nelson Mandela – From militant to pacifist ubuntu

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By Maidei Jenny Magirosa

NELSON MANDELA, South Africa’s first black president was laid to rest during a state funeral in Qunu at a family estate in the Eastern Cape on December 15 2013.
The world watched and remembered the man who is hailed as a freedom fighter. He helped abolish the white racist apartheid system of South Africa after coming out of prison where he served 27 years.
During the halcyon days of the apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela was seen as a communist villain and well hated during his long imprisonment at Roben Island. When he came out of prison in 1994, Mandela was a hero, forgiving and well liked by the Western world.
At his funeral last Sunday, it was all praise for a man who spent 27 years of hardship fighting for the rights of the Africans.
Mandela was indeed a remarkable man.
But, what did he believe in?
Was he a communist, a Pan Africanist, a Christian or a man who simply carried his African philosophy of hunhuism or Ubuntu in his everyday life?
Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 and named ‘Rolihlahla’, a name that meant ‘trouble maker’.
When he went to school, the English teacher changed his name, as they often did in colonial days.
Nelson Mandela explained the background to his name:
“On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name.
“This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education.
“That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson.
“Why this particular name I have no idea.” 
Some of the laws of discrimination that Mandela fought against were created during Cecil John Rhodes’s time, before Mandela was born.
For example, in 1908, the white colonialist establishment said Africans will have no rights in political rule.
In 1913 the racist government passed the Natives Land Act that only allowed the black majority to own land in 7,3 percent of the country.
An African was allowed on white owned property only if he or she was a house servant or farm worker.
Later on, beginning in 1950, new racist apartheid laws were introduced.
Among the rules was the banning of mixed marriages, the establishment of separate toilets, trains, parks, beaches, and offices for blacks and whites.
Then there were the pass laws which stipulated that Africans must carry documents of personal details of their identity at all times.
During Apartheid Africans were subjected to brutal repression, harassment, torture and murder.
There are massive records showing this brutality.
Many were killed during protests and strikes against the racist regime.
One of the most tragic massacres was carried out by the forces of the Apartheid regime in the Soweto massacre of 1976 where more than 700 people were killed. Earlier on there was the Sharpeville massacre of 1961 which resulted in the murder of 69 people.
After Mandela’s death, the South African Communist Party, (SACP) Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila said that Nelson Mandela was a leader of the Communist Party at the time of his arrest.
He explained: 
“At his arrest in August 1962, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our party’s central committee.
“To us as South African communists, Cde Mandela shall forever symbolise the monumental contribution of the SACP in our liberation struggle.” 
As leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), in those days, it can be argued that Nelson Mandela’s ideology was largely influenced both by Lenin and Stalin’s drive towards the freedom of all oppressed races and nationalities.
This aspect of Mandela’s life as a communist or one who believed in socialism was not mentioned at his funeral.
Instead, he was highly praised and respected for leading the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Furthermore, the US did not mention its role in the imprisonment of Mandela at all. Apart from aiding the capture of Nelson Mandela, the US officially listed Nelson Mandela and the ANC as a terrorist organisation from the time of Reagan’s presidency up until 2008.
They called the ANC a terrorist party because Mandela was and the ANC were fighting for a ‘multi-racial socialist society’.
According to Steven Argue in his essay titled Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: From Eulogies of Racist Imperialist Hypocrites to a Revolution Betrayed by Capitalism, the CIA aided the racist South African government in its arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962.
Senior CIA officer Paul Eckel admitted to this fact at the time of Mandela’s arrest when he said, 
“We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch.
“We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.
“They have picked him up.
“It is one of our greatest coups.” 
When Barack Obama gave the Nelson Mandela eulogy, this aspect of America’s involvement was not mentioned nor was an apology made.
According to President Obama, “We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”
The singer, Bono said, “Stubborn till the end for all the right reasons, it felt like he very nearly outstared his maker.
“Today, finally, he blinked.
“And some of us cry, knowing our eyes were opened to so much because of him.” The UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, Mandela was “a hero of our time,” stating that, “A great light has gone out in the world.”
In the spirit of reconciliation that Mandela’s stood for, it makes good diplomacy to look at the positive rather than the negative.
At the same time, truth should come out and not be pushed under the carpet.
In the end, as Nelson Mandela lies in his ancestral home, we remember some of his profound words.
There were many of his sayings that encourage confidence and self esteem not only for Africans, but for human nature in general.
Toward the end of his political career, Mandela was a humanist and his words resonate with concepts of our African philosophy of hunhu/ubuntu.
He once said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

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