A friend of mine, Karel Solomon, posted the following about Nelson Mandela on Facebook during the week, and I found it very moving.
Karel’s an anti-Apartheid and human rights activist – formally in South Africa and now in Australia. Karel’s a very inspiring guy:
As Nelson Mandela lay critically ill in a South African hospital – many people have asked me how I will remember him. This is what I say:
Mandela, along with his friend Walter Sisulu, formed the Congress Youth League, a branch of the ANC in the early 1940s. In 1956 the ANC adopted the ‘Freedom Charter.’ In a June 1956 article Mandela defended economic positions of the Freedom Charter. He declared that the “nationalization of the banks, the gold mines and the land” would strike a “fatal blow” at the “financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude.
Mandela maintained his anti-capitalist economic positions two weeks before his release from prison, “The nationalization of the mines, banks, and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable.”
Two weeks later, Mandela would be released from prison by F. W. de Klerk. The South African government unbanned political organizations such as the ANC and Communist Party.
Mandela had an astounding change of heart upon being released from prison. After Mandela began holding regular meetings with former Anglo American and De Beers chairman Harry Oppenheimer, they reversed the ANC’s economic position. In his first post-election interview as president Mandela stated: “In our economic policies . . . there is not a single reference to things like nationalization, and this is not accidental . . .” Following the 1994 election in which Mandela was elected president, the ANC submitted its economic program to Oppenheimer “for approval.”
Ironically, between 1997 and 2004 eighteen state-owned firms were sold by the South African government, raising $4 billion. Even stranger, the Minister of Finance elected during the 1994 elections was none other than Gill Marcus. In fact, it was under this new leadership that the central South African Reserve Bank was privatized. Marcus became Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank in 1999, and its Governor in 2009.
Was Mandela’s release dependent on his economic change of heart? Was the offer of the Presidency too huge to refuse? 27 years is a long time to remain in jail – the carrot of Presidency must have been huge.
Some – even in the ANC now question the legacy of the Mandela and the ANC’s economic change of heart. “What is the vote worth – if I have no bread on my table?” some ask.
What I do know is that from 1990, the year of Mandela’s release to 1994, the year of his election 24,000 (Twenty Four thousand !) people were killed in what the world called Black-on-Black violence – or what many South Africans saw as the Mandela’s ANC entrenching a no-opposition policy.
Mandela – Madiba to some – just a man to others.