Why Nelson Mandela?

Last week’s approval by the Senate of a Bill to have Mandela’s name removed from the terror watch list provokes the question as to why his name, placed there following on the introduction of the enabling legislation in the 1980s, had been put there in the first place.

And why, years after Mandela had publicly announced and demonstrated, following on the ANC’s accessing power and had effected a policy of reconciliation and forgiveness toward those who had brutalised indigenous South Africans, and years after he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he should have been regarded, along with the ANC which he had led, as a tacit threat to the United States and its interests? Senator John Kerry placed the issue in its proper context when he declared on Friday, June 27: “Today, the United States moved closer, at last, to removing the great shame of dishonouring this great leader by including him on our Government’s terror watch list.” US President, George W Bush, should be signing the Bill shortly.

There has been no evidence produced that Mandela who was in prison in then apartheid South Africa when the Bill was passed had planned any activity, guerrilla or otherwise, which would have posed a threat to either the United States or its economic interests in South Africa. Indeed, for a not insubstantial part of his languishng in prison, for purely political reasons, Mandela had been in solitary confinement.

“Nelson Mandela does not belong on a terrorist watch list, period”, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse would declare in a statement which had the force of truth and reality. It is to the credit of US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, that in April she had entreated a US Senate Committee, as a news report published in Newsday on Sunday pointed out, to remove the restrictions on the African National Congress which Mandela had headed. The news report would add that a similar Bill (to right the wrong) had also been passed in the US House of Representatives.

A California Democrat, who co-sponsored the House of Representatives Bill, declared in May as being “especially pleased that we are taking this important step to finally right this inexcusable wrong”. Mandela and the ANC should never have been placed on the US terror watch list. Instead, the former rulers of apartheid South Africa, who had, unjustly, imprisoned Mandela and outlawed the ANC should have been with their detestable policy of racial segregration and brutal suppression of the indigenous South African people, the focus of US Senate and US House of Representatives attention. But US financial interests had made large investments in South Africa and any perceived threat to those interests was, in turn, perceived as a threat to the overall interests of the United States. It was a brutally cynical approach.

But Mandela was a realist who understood clearly, after indigenous South Africans were liberated, that had his African National Congress Government moved to fully assert itself as, for example, the Jews had done in 1949, et sequitur, in the new State of Israel that there would have been a more than equal and opposite Western world reaction. The ANC Government allowed the financiers to maintain the status quo and the mining and exports of gold, diamonds and coal by the owners of companies exploiting these resources continued uninterrupted, untouched, unhindered.

The principal importers today of South Africa’s goods and services are the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Japan. Today’s South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of US$160 billion is relatively modest, what with a population in excess of 45 million. Its unemployment rate is in the region of 30 percent of its labour force. For the record its GDP per head is some US$10,130, a mite below that of Trinidad and Tobago’s. In turn, it is slightly more than half that of Israel’s and approximately a third that of the United Kingdom’s as well as the Netherlands and almost five times that of Zimbabwe’s. I do not propose to offer a reason as to why a liberated Union of South Africa chose the course of reconciliation and maintaining the shareholding status quo. I leave that to my readers.


"Why Nelson Mandela?"

More in this section