Friday, December 06, 2013

A Real African "Big Man." Nelson Mandela R.I.P.

The death of Nelson Mandela has been commented on and will continue to be throughout the weeks ahead. I liked Max Boot's take here. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/12/05/the-character-of-nelson-mandela/ He died at 95 years of age. He was born in to the colonial Africa of World War I. He was a still young man when South Africa imposed apartheid in the late 1940's. In fighting that system, he was to spend nearly 30 years on a remote rock of a prison island at hard labor. Over that time, one by one, the colonial empires shed their African possessions. As they did so the "Big Men" of Africa took over. These were rulers who had opposed (and sometimes fought) the colonial powers and then upon taking power too often became "Presidents for Life." They often became Soviet clients or at least allies in a latter day "scramble for Africa" this time as a backdrop of the Cold War. Almost all of them were socialists of one kind or another and almost all of them lead their country's to economic decline and tyrrany. First, the French, British and Belgians left the continent and finally, the first to arrive, the Portuguese, were the last to go after a revolution in the early 1970's. Through it all the lager held in South Africa. Eventually, even Rhodesia yielded to British, Commonwealth and world pressure a transition to universal sufferage was arranged and, after a brief interval, Robert Mugabe took over. A near contemporary of Mandela he immediately killed 20k of the Ndebele tribe and put them in mass graves. The world shrugged because he was not white. He still rules the renamed Zimbabwe. It is a sad, impoverished land the feeds on itself. Mugabe has ruled since the early 1980's. Compare South Africa, also a country with a large white minority, and also a country with a negotiated change to democratic rule. South Africa has its problems but they have not--over the past 20 years- involved mass slaughter, unmarked graves and tribal civil war. That that ocurred is almost wholly becuase Nelson Mandela decided to follow George Washington's example and not Nkruma or any of the "Big Men" of Africa. After a single term he left office. The decision to leave office, after setting up reconcilliation comissions, and not seize dictatorial power followed by expropriation and slaughter is almost wholly absent from post-colonial African history. I believe that it is a good thing the lager held until the fall of the Soviet Union which I believe made South African abandonment of apartheid possible without letting it fall into Communist hands. But Nelson Mandela is almost wholly responsible for South Africa not falling back economically and socially after mass suffrage was adopted. Zulu and other tribes, Indian "coloreds", Boer and English all live in the modern South Africa without war, expropriation or mass slaughter. After 50 years of apartheid that is a miracle. And Mandela was the miracle man who made it happen. R.I.P. Update-The comment below from JCC compels me to link to this from Deroy Murdock. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/365631/nelson-mandela-rip-deroy-murdock I did then and do now consider communism far worse than apartheid and far less of a threat as one was visibly shrinking and the other expanding until the mid-80's. Joseph Slobo, a Stalinist, headed the military arm of the ANC. The history of the African continent, Soviet expansion, and the unconcern of the Left when a black leader starts killing thousands of people lead me to believe South Africa would be the same. In point of fact I did not care one way or the other about Mandela in the 1980's. Slobo, a white Communist south African was the face of the ANC for me. And that was reason enough to want the Boers to outlast the Commissars. Which they did by two years to the benefit of South Africa's peaceful transition. But it still would not have happened without Mandela as Murdock notes.

7 comments:

JCC said...

It's a good thing the lager held? It would have been nice if the lager had held without the travesty of apartheid. But oh well - it didn't affect anyone that I know, so I guess that's OK.

The man that JJV lauds in his RIP was classified as a terrorist by JJV icons Ronald Reagan andMargaret Thatcher, and it took an act of Congress to get Bush to take Mandela OFF of the list in 2008. Even Condi Rice thought that was embarrassing.

Dave S. said...

"I believe that it is a good thing the lager held..."

Two sentences later:

"Zulu and other tribes, Indian 'coloreds', Boer and English all live in the modern South Africa without war, expropriation or mass slaughter. After 50 years of apartheid that is a miracle."

Assuming the "lager" is apartheid (as always I await further enlightenment), I interpret those two sentences to say that war, expropriation and mass slaughter following a half-century of sustained, vicious instiutional racism were preferable to Communist rule. Thank God for miracles, I suppose.

jjv said...

Yes. It was better than Communist rule. I make zero bones about it.

JCC said...

That is always the assumption - that the only possible alternative is a communist dictatorship. Which had the delightful side effect of driving any possible moderate impulses into the arms of the communists, because for decades it seemed like the side of liberation, or at least the only effective force against racist tyranny. It was a mirage, of course, but when you are standing shoulder to shoulder with racists, thugs and Pinochet then you tell yourself what you need to in order to be able to sleep at night.

JCC said...

Pardon the mixes sentences at the end there. The communists could only be seen as anything hopeful when compared with living under the thumb of apartheid, Pinochet, etc. - THAT was a mirage. It's the story that the only alternative to holding up apartheid was communist dictatorship that is also the comforting lie that enables fellow travelers to sleep at night. Because when Mandela was finally released, oddly, South Africa did NOT turn into a communist gulag.

Deadly Spoons said...

1980s-vintage American anti-communism is the poorest of lenses through which to view thirty years of another country's history. And, to crib from Nicholas Lemann, I think it is questionable to understand history as a morality play enacted by its leading characters.

Facts are kind of a problem with jjv's post, too, FWIW. Just to pick something easy to verify... paying Mandela the backhanded compliment of "he wasn't a Mugabe" is faultily premised, as we are asked to "compare South Africa, also with a large white minority," to Rhodesia. The white minority in South Africa made up 20% of the total in 1970 (total population then around 25 million). In 1970, the white minority in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) stood at 228,000 out of 5 million, or 4%. So, sure, 228,000 people is a "large" group of people in a vague conversational sense, but not exactly a compelling parallel to South Africa's experience.

FYI If you need a local yardstick, African Americans number 13% of the total U.S. population today. Wikipedia tells us that in 1993 we counted 227,000 Old Order Amish living in the U.S. -- is that a "large group" of Mennonites? Clip clop clip clop clip clop...

jjv said...

Rhodesia had a large Ndebele population. Where are they now? The point is those countries advances with White colonialists and retreated and weakened with Marxist tribal Big men. If a Marxist Tribal Big man kills, impoverishes and exiles millions we never hear of it. If a white immigrant commits trespass they call him up in the hague. South Africa was poised for a blood bath. Not only of Boer and English but also of Zulu. It did not happen because the Soviet Union fell and Mandela got to see that and the fate of the rest of Africa.