Freedom Rider: Talking About Mandela

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Nelson Mandela belongs to history now. We should be able to look at his whole life, his whole record in perspective. That perspective ought to include who is praising Nelson Mandela nowadays and why.

Freedom Rider: Talking About Mandela

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Nelson Mandela’s passing provides an important and rare opportunity for discussion of some very serious issues. We should not fear principled critique of people we admire but instead we have been treated to maudlin self-indulgence, useless idol worship and wrongheaded defense of Mandela’s memory.

Everyone looms large in death, and it is especially difficult to be truthful when a person of Mandela’s stature passes away. South Africa’s apartheid system was an international pariah, reviled by most of humanity and Mandela was the icon who it was hoped would bring it down forever.

Black Americans saw themselves in images of Sharpeville and Soweto. Mandela stood in for our assassinated leaders, political prisoners and victims of COINTELPRO. The South African struggle became our struggle and our chance to achieve what we were denied here at home. Of course Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment brought near universal joy but it should have also raised more questions.

Mandela was one of the signatories of the Freedom Charter, which among other things demanded the nationalization of South Africa’s resources and reparations for the theft of African land by the Europeans. He was a member of the South African communist party, as were other leaders of the African National Congress. We should have known that the South African government wasn’t letting him go free without exacting a huge price. It is difficult to look the gift horse in the mouth, but the silence created a vacuum which made it easier for the rule of international capitalists to stay in place, even as they appeared to give up political control.

Mandela’s early history is something to honor and remember but now his memory comes wrapped in the poison pill of acceptance by the corporate media and disreputable democratic and republican politicians. Now when right wingers condemn Mandela as a communist, his admirers cringe and deny what is true. Instead of examining what a communist is and why the party was supported by the movement, we see black people instead take the position of our enemies and use the word as a slur. We must remember that scorn from certain quarters is a badge of honor.

Contrast the reaction to Mandela’s death with that of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. While Chavez was equally beloved around the world, the American government gave no glowing tributes and sent no high level delegation. Chavez was every bit as deserving of praise and honor but unlike Mandela he succeeded in standing up to empire. He personally protested against George W. Bush and even called him the devil at the United Nations. Hugo Chavez prevailed when American presidents wanted him out of office. He won re-election and shamed this country when he donated Venezuelan oil to help poor Americans stay warm in the winter. Of course Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton were absent from his funeral.

Nelson Mandela had difficult choices to make. He chose to accept an IMF loan with strings attached that kept millions in poverty. He and his successors turned their backs on the Freedom Charter. No one can know his intentions but the results of those decisions were disastrous for the masses of black people in South Africa.

Mandela’s release from prison should have been seen as a new stage in the struggle and not the end of it. Those of us who came of age during the anti-apartheid movement and who truly loved the man have to admit the short comings of love when liberation is at stake.

There are many lessons to be learned during this time of mourning. Our emotions play an important role in inspiring us to take action against injustice but they can also betray us when we lack an understanding of what liberation really is.

Liberation may or may not come with a presidential inauguration. It certainly hasn’t come if the usual suspects in the corporate media, Pennsylvania Avenue and Downing Street suddenly give words of praise. The success of certain individuals is not liberation either. There are now black millionaires in South Africa but that does little good to the impoverished masses.

Liberated people don’t live in squalor. They earn more than a living wage. They need not fear loss of job or life if they protest their salaries or working conditions. They have free health care and education. They don’t fear incarceration and they don’t live in stratified societies. They live in safety and the law treats them all as equals to one another. They can protest and oppose the power structure without fear of repercussion. South Africa doesn’t fit these criteria, neither does the United States, and we who love freedom and justice shouldn’t spare anyone when we express these simple and obvious truths.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)


Taking an Honest UnVarnished Look At Mandela's Legacy

Naomi Klein's 'Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism' gives a good analysis on how Mandela & the ANC were maneuvered into abandoning the people's 'Freedom Charter' [see 'How Mandela’s Dream of Black Power Became a “Neoliberal Nightmare” ' @ ]. Then w the break-up of the USSR & Russia turning from Marxist-Leninism & toward capitalism, many 3rd World socialist movements IE: the ANC’s allies S.Africa's Communist Party & Labor Unions [COSATU]- became somewhat disoriented & misguided- ultimately allying w more 'Centrists Reformist {neo}Liberal' elements from the US & EU. 

In order for the white power elites to fully maneuver Mandela & the ANC into their ‘trap’ 3 things had to happen- the threat of protracted violence & bloodshed had to be squarely on the table [which apparently Mandela & others understandably wanted to avoid], & also the removal from the scene of 2 key players- which at the time I for one failed to fully understand all of the implications. Thus we saw: 1} the break-up of Mandela's marriage to Winnie [who’s barely even been mentioned by the lame-stream & even alternative media as they commemorate Mandela]  & 2} the assassination of Chris Hani.

These 2 figures were both more 'radical' & grass-roots oriented than Mandela & had enough stature & influence w the S.African masses to check any move by the ANC to abandon its commitment to the 'Freedom Charter'. Of course Winnie [once called the 'Mother of the Nation'] as Mandela's wife [18 yrs his junior] could have definitely influenced him to adhere to the principals of the Freedom Charter. Thus reactionary elements linked to the Apartheid Regime- apparently in cahoots w elements within the ANC- hyped a scenario to tarnish Winnie's rep [including allegations of adultery] & break-up her marriage to Mandela [curiously though 'accused' of accessory to murder- she never went jail].  

Contrast that w those convicted of Hani’s murder, stating that they were acting under orders by the Apartheid regime linked 'Conservative Party'- allegations that was effectively white-washed & swept under the rug. After getting a ‘pass’ by the so-called 'Truth and Reconciliation {c}Omission', The Conservative Party remained active till 2003 when it formed Freedom Front Plus party in the 'new' S.Africa.


PS: Sis Kimberley is so on point about this ad-nauseum meme about Mandela was sooo-good to forgive his [& S.African's] white oppressors of the white supremacist Apartheid regime.
White people NEVER seem to either forget or forgive their marked Black & Brown enemies. Did they forgive H Rap Brown, Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Leonard Peltier, Herman Wallace [who after releasing him from 40 straight yrs of solitary confinement, literally while on his point death-bed, the persecutor's office re-indicted him]- Khadaffi, Fidel, Chavez, Mugabe, etc,…??? Answer- HELL NO!!!


Other Notable Articles on Mandela's Legacy: 'If Nelson Mandela Really Had Won, He Wouldn't Be Seen as a Universal Hero' [@ ]

'The Other MandelaA Revolutionary Without Revolution' [@ ]

'The Media and Mandela' [@ ]

'Why the West Loves Mandela and Hates Mugabe'  [@ ]

'Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair – Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy' [@ ]

PS: Probably the best analysis of Mandela's legacy, including his / its short-comings, is the article by Bro Tony Monteiro here @ BAR [ ].


Very   good   article  on   an  almost   taboo   topic.  The  sad   truth  is   the   euro-american   media  made  Nelson  Mandela a  world  wide  icon.  And  as  Malcolm  X  said,  "when  white people  start   telling   you   how   great  some   black   leader   is,  its  someone   they   control."

I  personally   believe  Mandela  was  just  a  symbolic  face  for  the  ANC,  who  was   clueless as  President  about    what  was   really    going   on.   What  is  not  in   dispute  is    that  Mandela  and   other  ANC  elites  were   rewarded   handsomely    for   maintaining   the   economic   status  quo.  Tokyo  Sexwale  and  Deputy  President  Cyril Ramaphosa  are   BILLIONAIRES.

Posting On Facebook

Why is it that every time I try to post a BAR article to my Facebook page, the only thumbnail that comes up is a bombed-out building or the Three Stooges! What's up with that?

Have to ask the geniuses at FB that one, not us...

That's just the way they've got it rigged.  The only way I can get it to display our graphics is to upload them as "Photos" and paste in the title & author credits along with a link to the title followed by the teaser paragraph.  Go figger.

Like other mainstream media,

Like other mainstream media, Facebook and Google "manage" the flow of information for the empire powers (and assist in spying on you too).  Those who challenge empire propaganda will experience "technical difficulties" in posting their content.


The presence of "fake sign language interpreter" at this very unique center stage, with most leaders of countries who helped steer South Africa from apartheid to "economic apartheid" in attendance, was IRONIC INDEED!

There has been media outcry over the presence of this so called "fake" guy. I just wish these elites can do a bit of reflection on why they do not see similarity on the steps taken to trasnform South Africa into "economic apartheid" with what is now being called "fake intrepreter" saga! The interpreter did not do any economic damage to anybody!



Please, look at my original comment @akechlo - 12/14/2013 - 12:55! 


MK, you make me so proud.

Thank you for the history lesson and being brave enough to look at people's lives as a subject and place them in their historical and factual context. Very balanced approach you have too.