Introduction by Roger Annis
(Reprinted from A Socialist In Canada)
Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison, Feb 11, 1990, with then-wife Winnie
Dec 10, 2013–Today is the day of mass commemoration in South Africa of Nelson Mandela, a great, inspirational figure of modern times. He died on December 5 at the age of 95. Below is a selection of articles that analyzes his life and the evolution of politics in South Africa during and after his tenure as president of the country.
Mandela was the revolutionary leader of the mass struggle against the racist system in South Africa known as Apartheid. He served 27 years in prison for leading the struggle against Apartheid, including co-launching an armed struggle in 1961. He was arrested in 1962 and imprisoned until an international campaign of solidarity won his release in 1990. He was elected president of South Africa in 1994. He retired from politics in 1999 but continued to speak out on issues. He opposed the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 and spoke out in defense of the victims of Africa’s deadly epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
Most of the big capitalist governments of the world supported the Apartheid system that came into place in the early 1900s and was further institutionalized in 1948. Leaders of those governments are today attending the memorial event in Johannesburg, including the drone president of the United States, Barack Obama. Mandela and the ANC political party he led were proscribed as “terrorist” by the U.S. government during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. That proscription remained in place until 2008, including during the terms of two Black secretaries of state–Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.
One of the world leaders attending and speaking today in Johannesburg is Raul Castro, president of Cuba. His country played a decisive role in the overthrow of Apartheid through its military assistance to Angola and Namibia during the 1970s and 1980s. The three countries defeated a military invasion by Apartheid South Africa’s armed forces beginning in 1976 that sought to recolonize Angola, recently liberated from colonial rule by Portugal, and retain Namibia as a South African colony. In recognition of Cuba’s role in bringing about the fall of Apartheid, Cuba was the first country that Mandela visited following his release from prison.
Five other world leaders are speaking today at the mass memorial–from the United States, Brazil, India, China and Namibia.
The article selection below begins with the full text of a commentary by John Minto, published today in New Zealand’s leading daily. Minto is a veteran of the anti-Apartheid movement in New Zealand. That country was a key battleground in one of the fronts of the international fight against Apartheid–boycotts of sporting exchanges. Progressive New Zealanders fought for a boycott of all rugby, cricket and other exchanges with Apartheid South Africa. Protests, including pitched battles in the streets, were waged in New Zealand beginning in 1969, as in many other countries where people supported the liberation movement of the South African people.
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A great man but not a great president –
We should celebrate Mandela’s struggle against apartheid but not overlook the serious failings of his reign.
By John Minto, published in the New Zealand Herald, Dec 10, 2013
When an iconic figure dies, the accolades come thick and fast from a wide range of people who see the wider goodness in a person beyond any day to day political squabbles.
In the case of Nelson Mandela, the accolades are strong for someone seen as a towering figure of the 20th century. United States President Barack Obama, for example, called him “influential, courageous and profoundly good” and it’s easy to make a case to justify each of those adjectives and more.
Mandela was a great man. He was inspirational to South Africa’s black majority as they struggled under the racist oppression of apartheid and he was inspirational also to a generation of people outside South Africa fighting to make a better world. He seemed to embody the best of human qualities after his release from prison in 1990 and as he was elected first President of a post-apartheid South Africa in 1994.