The most academically gifted Jews of the world, traveling to Germany for postgraduate studies through a distinguished Adolph Hitler Scholarship. Imagine the 1940s that did not see war, but rather the Third Reich’s commitment to end the extermination of Jews under one condition; that Jews forgive the Nazis and forfeit all rights to prosecute. Imagine the Nazis allowing continued Jewish citizenship in Germany. But only a citizenship that effectively maintains the concentration of economic resources and structures that by-and-large ensure Jews are destined to be disproportionately impoverished, malnourished, and diseased.
Imagine a peace process between Jews and Nazis that, decades later, has Jews living in huts that lack utilities, while Nazis maintain plush homes nestled within pristine landscapes. Away from the harsh realities of Jewish women who walk miles to retrieve drinking water from polluted ponds that are used for bathing and human waste. Imagine the Jews yielding all means of protecting themselves from the murderous whims of the very policing agencies that once rounded them up and conveyed them over to authorities that transported them to interment camps, ovens, and mass graves. Imagine the world cheering a new-found fairness in policing when in-fact, authorities continue to use military-grade weapons to kill Jewish workers protesting for fair wages.
Imagine a charismatic Jewish leader who brokered the arrangements that exiled justice, protected riches gained through terror, and ensured future substandard status of his fellow Jewish people. And imagine the creation of narratives about this Jewish leader that goes, “Let’s celebrate his work for lifting the Jewish people out of their misery!“
Of what we have learned about the holocaust, now ask this question, “Could we ever imagine the above things being so?“
And yet, this is precisely what is taking place in South Africa today during the celebration of Nelson Mandela. In deference to his suffering 27 years in decrepit South African prisons, we find great courage in the younger Nelson Mandela. However, people live phases of life. For instance, the Apostle Paul was at one point, a killer of Christians, but in his later and latter phases was chiefly responsible for the spread of the gospel in Asia Minor and Europe. Similarly, the politician Mandela was very different than the activist Mandela.
The politician Mandela was a catalyst for an agreement to end apartheid. During the 2-year period of negotiations, a cordial relationship between F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela was stretched to its limits. And outside the meeting rooms, a civil war had claimed over 10,000 lives. Amid pressures domestically and abroad to consummate an agreement, issues of land redistribution coupled with infrastructure supports simply did not factor into a sustainable post-apartheid South Africa where the majority-rule black population would also benefit from stable domestic [race] relations and stronger foreign trade relations. What emerged was an agreement that, by some accounts, is the most shameful mirage of justice, retribution, and reconciliation to occur in modern civilization.
Political thinkers that romanticize the myth of Mandela cite South Africa’s peaceful move to democratic processes that ensure the right to vote irrespective of race. The significance of the end of the state’s arbitrary denationalization of black South Africans cannot be overstated. Author Patti Waldmeir went as far as to label the peaceful transition as a “miracle“. Economists point to the growing black middle class with greater access to jobs, construction of homes, and the South African Rand as an active currency for international trade. Sociologists note the significant step forward for a people to no longer separate as a formal policy of the state in education, public facilities, healthcare, and other institutions/systems. These are powerful indicators similar to America’s migration from slavery and jim crow segregation.
However necessary, these indicators are by no means sufficient to deem South Africa’s post-apartheid experiment a success. Why call this an experiment? Simple: rarely, if ever in the history of modern democracies has a minority population been virtually in total control of a nation’s wealth. In this sense, Mandela’s deal defies basic assumptions about ordering modern societies. While their histories of racial oppression are similar in many respect, South Africa is considerably different than the United States. Unfortunately, political thinkers, the media, and other entities that shape public opinion in the West carefully avoid this reality that raises serious questions about justice (or lack thereof) in the nation’s conversion from apartheid.
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”30%”]… rarely, if ever in the history of modern democracies has a minority population been virtually in total control of a nation’s wealth.[/pullquote]
And those differences underscore the failings of the terms and conditions reached in dismantling South African apartheid. Most importantly, that unlike the United States, South Africa is overwhelmingly black. Today, 79 percent of the population is black. However, 80 percent of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 5 percent of the population. This is tantamount to blacks share-cropping on American plantations in the sense that the plantation owners, while much fewer in number, were in control of the lion share of the resources. For instance, today 36,000 predominantly white farmers provide for 95 percent of South Africa’s domestic food production. Whereas 2.6 million predominantly black farmers account for a minuscule 5 percent of the remaining agricultural output, essentially unable to compete with larger operations.
[pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”30%”]… 36,000 predominantly white farmers account for 95 percent of produce, while 2.6 million predominantly black farmers account for only 5 percent of agriculture output.[/pullquote]
Ending apartheid without wealth transfer set South Africa’s black majority on a course of labor-consumption versus ownership-production. And without control of the nation’s capital (resources), this arrangement stymies living standards improvements. If the need for capital is in-question, consider the plight of African Americans with a $1 trillion income base, still languishing by virtually every socioeconomic measure. While this is problematic for African Americans who comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, it is completely unacceptable for blacks that represent well over three-quarters of the South Africa’s population.
Geographic differences between South Africa and the U.S. highlight additional shortcomings of the agreement to transfer democratic power without transferring capital. Black South Africans are neighbors to other black nations on the continent of Africa. There are regional implications to blacks owning and controlling the wealth of resource-rich South Africa. Blacks in South Africa controlling their country’s resources could translate into greater autonomy to assist other African nations. With an economy as impressive as any Sub-Suharan Africa nation, Libya was increasingly playing this role of regional partner before the toppling of the Gaddafi administration. Greater control of resources would have positioned black South Africans to influence the direction of Africa in-general as opposed to continuing a principle concern for economic interests in the West.
Back at-home, perhaps one of the gravest miscalculations of non-transfer of wealth considers the plight of the least of these in South American society. Namely, a redistribution mandate designed to reach into rural South Africa would have paved the way for black South Africans to focus their economic energies on bottom-up strategies verses strategies rooted in priorities set by the U.K., U.S., and other stakeholders. Absent the redistribution of wealth — that was amassed by white South African through grotesque human rights abuses — overwhelmingly poor black South Africans found themselves in the same disenfranchised status.
The small black elite became the buffer between South Africa’s whites and marginalized blacks. And coupled with the means of force granted to elite blacks, the New South Africa in many respects conjures up memories of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The black elite emerged as Orwell’s “Pigs”; Napoleon, Squealer, and other characters who took on the same oppressive mindsets and practices towards to weaker that were resident in their former oppressors. The two worlds of the black elite and black poor are summed-up in the presidency of President Jacob Zuma. The corrupt leader of South Africa directs public funds for private benefits and secures his ability to do so by such measures as reimposing repressive laws that restrict public access to government information on Zuma’s activities. Zuma has surrounded himself with the black elite that ties its economic gains to the gains of Zuma — irrespective of rampant government corruption. Those two worlds clashed in 2012 during the Maikana miners’ strike where black mining workers were killed during a protest over low wages.
For some observers, the transition of political power that left a large part of black South Africa destitute calls into question the motives of the African National Congress [ANC] during the final days of apartheid.
[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”35%”]“The main objective of the ANC and Mandela throughout the transition process was not to achieve peace, but ANC political domination, which they considered identical to ‘democracy’.” Dr. Stuart J. Kaufman, Professor, University of Delaware. [/pullquote]
What largely distinguishes authentic transformers from Mandela is their legacy through the eyes of the most dispossessed. Have you noticed that the voices heard on the significance of Mandela are those of elites in South Africa and the United States, primarily? As for the latter, the Mandela narrative is being shaped by mainstream media’s images. These little reflect the implications of Mandela’s acquiescence to the dictates of former South Africa President F.W. de Klerk then. And these images ignore desperate conditions of black South Africans today. The world is interpreting Mandela’s life through wealthy athletes, actors, nationally-known journalists, American self-appointed civil rights leaders, and other dignitaries who themselves are far removed from the realities of the poor. Hidden from the world are the sentiments of millions of blacks living in ragged huts and dying of diarrhea from the use of public outhouses. Hidden even are the thoughts of Winnie Mandela, whose firsthand account of the promises verses the realities of a free South Africa would be telling.
In contrast to the Mandela legacy, the legacies of persons such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Mosaddegh, the Biblical Moses, and most certainly Jesus Christ, are validated by persons on the vulnerable fringes of society. Society’s upper echelon might reverence Dr. King or Gandhi. But the left-out and locked-out define the overriding legacy of one’s work when that work was called to uplift the dispossessed. The Memphis, Tenn. garbage worker validated Dr. King, and not some White House operative or Fortune 500 CEO. As such, while it is understandable that the mainstream media seek out a Tiger Woods, for instance, to share thoughts on Mandela, the voices of husbands and wives living in a South African rural village have more import on the question of Mandela in his most powerful roles of apartheid-ending broker and national politician.
Imagery is power. Defining legacy is the exercise of power. And each of us must choose whether or not to yield that power to elites, vested in protecting economic disparities in South Africa. This is tantamount to asking, “To whom do I yield power to define the life and legacy of: slave revolter leader John Brown, Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, Niagara Movement founder Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr.; or Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Huey P. Newton? An irresponsible acceptance of another’s narrative would have people of African descent esteeming men like Cecil Rhodes, after whom the Rhodes Scholar was name. The founder of Rhodesia was a brutal colonialist, responsible for terrorizing black Africans. His mining activities and later chairmanship of the DeBeers diamond multinational were part of the many regimes that created repressive conditions for black South Africans under apartheid.
We are now required to define the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Some rightfully did not accept America’s past definition of Mandela as a terrorist simply because the state defined him as such. Likewise, some will not accept the deal Mandela accepted to end apartheid as a wise decision simply because the world defined it as such.
When given the power to define legacies, the powerful in society promote themes that further their interests.
The videos below are the first installment to an ongoing collection. The goal is to provide you, the reader, insights that will not be shared by mainstream sources intent on casting an undeserving positive light on South Africa. You decide whether Nelson Mandela was an agent of change or an instrument to promote a myth of change in this troubled nation.
To some, Mandela is the latter. And with the world community convinced that South Africa is now a success story, international pressures has subsided, leaving black South Africans in a more horrendous position. Mandela is now gone. We who remain must determine whether we are more in-love with the Mandela mythology or with the black South Africans who are still suffering.
Negotiations to dismantle South African apartheid took place during 1990-1993, culminating in country’s first election that featured universal suffragein 1994. The legal apparatus of apartheid was abolished over the entire period of 1990-1996. Please share is page with others. Leave comments. Use the Contact page to send links other videos. Bookmark this page and come back occasionally to view updates to the collection.
South Africa Since the Democratic Charter
Has Mandel’a Dream of a Free South Africa Died
Democracy Now: Soweto Activist: While Mandela Helped Build “The New South Africa,” Struggle Continues For Many
White Flight in South Africa
Black Consciousness, Black Theology, Student Activism and the Shaping of the New South Africa
Decades After Apartheid, Race Still Divides South Africa VOA On Assignment May 24)
Dr. Randy Short Debates The Mandela Legacy on PressTV
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