Mandela’s mission still leaves country in poverty


So Nelson Mandela has passed on. This must be the first time ever, in the entire history of the human race, that a politician will be missed.

A friend of mine, Lois Davis, was at his first rally after he’d been released and she filmed the event. It took place in the Soccer City stadium in Soweto.

It’s a remarkable piece of film. You can see all the people pouring towards the stadium in their pickup trucks, or walking along the dusty roads.

As they get near the venue they start to run. There is such excitement in the air, such joy. It’s like a wave of bliss breaking over the landscape. The people are dancing as they go.

Once in the stadium, it is like a rock concert rather than a political rally. Everyone is jigging about, clapping their hands and pumping their fists into the air. How many politicians get this kind of reception?

It wasn’t only that he was a freedom fighter, willing to suffer for his beliefs. It wasn’t only that he spent 27 years in gaol. He was so gracious, so willing to forgive.

He famously refused to condemn his gaolers, saying that they were victims too.

Even as I write the great and the good from all over the world are flocking to South Africa to attend his funeral. Everyone wants a piece of him. But I wonder how much of the real Mandela we are getting in our news reports right now?

In the elevation of Nelson Mandela to virtual sainthood, we seem to have forgotten all the other anti-apartheid fighters who worked alongside him. People like Joe Slovo or Chris Hani, and other members of the South African Communist Party.

In the end, it has to be said, he failed in his mission. He helped to end the racial apartheid of South Africa, only to see it replaced with an economic apartheid.

The country is as divided now as it ever was, but not between black and white any more: between rich and poor. The fact that some of the rich are black, hardly makes a difference.

From The Whitstable Gazette.

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number. Send letters to: The Editor, Gazette House, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE, email

You can see Lois Davis’ film here:


  1. Here’s the Freedom Charter. Good or bad, right or wrong, *this* was the mission, this was the manifesto, this was the promise, this was the deal. The ANC negotiators, led by Thabo Mbeki, son of an SACP stalwart, betrayed the Charter at the secret Lusaka talks leading up to ’92 as a precondition for continued Western patronage, at a time when there was no other game in town.

    The SACP and the Iraq CP stand alone in the world as brave, honorable and heroic Communists precisely because they were dauntless and dedicated in opposition to heinous tyranny, *and* because they never got into power to give us all another object lesson in Leninist tyranny. Apparently — unbelievably — there are *still* people who need to be taught that lesson. You can bet that brave, independent, critical minds like the Slovos and Hani and Maharaj (the one who’s still alive, now acting as a shill trying to distract from the booing of Zuma) would have been the first to be purged by the renamed-but-identical apartheid secret police under an SACP regime. The SACP never broke with Moscow; indeed, it was sometimes critical of Moscow’s post-Prague reformist revisionism; the Kremlin was not being true to the great legacy and memory of Stalin, you see. No crime was a crime if it was a Communist crime to the SACP — not even the “disappearing” of two of its own members on a visit to Russia.

    In 1976, from the comfort of exile and with practically no presence left inside SA, the ANC (acting effectively as the SACP) scolded the children who were busy fighting and dying on SA’s streets, starting (as it turned out) the final phase of the revolution, all inspired by the non-Marxian Steve Biko, telling them to go back to school and read what Papa Karl said: it was the urban industrial proletariat who would lead the revolution, not schoolkids, so they had better stop embarassing their authoritarian betters.

    Having got that off my chest… I welcome you reinforcing something that Mandela was *always* without fail at pains to emphasize, namely that his efforts and achievements were *never* individual, but always in solidarity with an organized movement. The challenge from the SA struggle for those who want to replace capitalism now is how do we effectively avoid a) Marxist criminality, bureaucracy and idiocy and b) capitalist recuperation. I don’t pretend it’s not extremely difficult to see a way; however, I take comfort from the memory of how unlikely, distant and difficult the overthrow of apartheid always seemed… until it came!


  2. Thanks for your comment Phil. My point was only that Mandela’s legacy has been sanitised by the exclusion of people like Slovo and Hani. I won’t argue with you over the rest as I’m not well enough informed about these issues. I did like Hani, though and I suspect that if he hadn’t been assassinated we might have had a different SA than we have now. That’s an opinion, not a fact, of course, and I bow to your greater knowledge.


  3. I feel that to end apartheid without a civil war was a great achievement.And for a number of men to come out of jail without being destroyed inside.Until recently education for blacks was very limited,
    Yet we have universal education here and that is a big joke,,,,
    I am wondering if we are indeed evil in some basic way?


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