Remembering Mandela, Without Rose-Colored Glasses

By Andrew C. McCarthy.

‘Go safely Umkhonto. Umkhonto we Sizwe. We the members of the Umkhonto have pledged ourselves to kill them — kill the whites.” These are lyrics from the anthem of Umkhonto we Sizwe, or “Spear of the Nation.” The organization is better known as the MK, the military wing of the Marxist African National Congress (ANC). The MK was established by its commander, Nelson Mandela, to prosecute a terrorist war against South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.

Mandela had been out of prison for about two years in September 1992 when, fist clenched in the “black power” salute, he was filmed singing the anthem with a number of his comrades. Interestingly, but not ironically, as Mandela and others repeated the refrain about killing Boer farmers, it was a white man who stood next to him, similarly clench-fisted and singing. The man’s name is Ronnie Kasrils. A Soviet-trained terrorist who helped Mandela found the MK, Kasrils was a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party.

So was Mandela. No surprise there: Communism was, and remains, the animating ideology of the ANC. That makes it the enduring tragedy of South Africa.

I admit to finding this week’s Mandela hagiography tough to take. It was, to be sure, predictable. As we’ve observed time and again, once the culture and the institutions of opinion have been surrendered to the Left for two or three generations, you cannot be too surprised to wake up one day and find that the United States is no longer the country you’ve so confidently described as “right of center.” Still, while high-wattage fawning was to be expected in the mainstream media, the conservative press, too, tripped over itself to praise Mandela. That was disheartening.

Race, of course, is at the bottom of all this. We are all properly repulsed by the apartheid system of legally coerced racial segregation. Institutionalized racism is a thing of the past in the United States, but the blight lingers, overshadowing the heroic moral crusade to overcome it and become a nation that fully lives its founding ideals. An event like Nelson Mandela’s death, like the airbrushing of Mandela in life, becomes less about him than it is an occasion to reaffirm our historic, impersonal guilt — it being as facile to proclaim the ability to redeem other people’s sins as to exhibit charity with other people’s money.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jenkins: When Communists Took Over South Africa


As we now know, Nelson Mandela was a Communist Party member and leader since the early 60s, though he and his allies denied it all his life. On his death, the South African Communist Party itself came clean, with deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila explaining that Mandela’s membership had been kept a fiercely-guarded secret for “political reasons.”

No kidding. The armed struggle, which Mandela had initiated in 1961, would prove a damp squib. It was Mandela’s international celebrity plus the collapse of the Berlin Wall that created the opening for fruitful change in South Africa.

The story is told how Mandela came out of jail spouting traditional Marxist rhetoric but was set straight by Western business leaders at Davos. Another version holds that he was simply reading a script placed in his hands by the Communist Party and promptly switched when word arrived from Moscow that no resources would be forthcoming to help with nationalization, so the incoming government had better play up to Western capital.

Yet another version holds that Mandela already knew which way the wind was blowing when he got out of jail and was just waiting for his comrades to catch up. This version is perhaps the most convincing.

To a visitor to South Africa in the months after Mandela’s 1990 release from prison, the most striking thing was the speed with which baggage was being shed. The end of the Cold War had transformed the country’s politics. White minority rule had been justified on grounds of South Africa’s alleged encirclement by Marxist states. Now a former military intelligence chief was telling me such scare talk had outlived its usefulness, adding with a shrug, “We got most of this from the States.”

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