Nelson Mandela did not sell-out.

2013-07-18 20:01

Earlier today I was called by eK-FM, a radio station in Tsakane  Ekuruleni to debate what the youth can do in ensuring that the legacy on Nelson Mandela lives on and  is never forgotten.  My reply to Thabang Mashiyane, the talk show host was that we should promote dialogue and debates through media, institutions of learning, churches and in our families.

That we should never shy away to repeat what has already been said and done before because in that way, we will retain our history and correct distortions.

If we say debates like these are tired we run the risk of forgetting our own history and in doing so we will allow distortions to filter down to coming generations and that is something we should all refuse.

On Nelson Mandela’s birthday 18 July 2012  an article was posted on the News24 by YoungStar in which he said Nelson Mandela sold out. I later replied and rebutted his claim with a blog which I updated and reposted here in hope it will further correct the distortion.

Those who say Mandela sold out blame many socio-economic problems in the present to the negotiations that took place between Nelson Mandela and the apartheid government.

I  believe Nelson Mandela never sold Blacks out instead he saved our lives and in that process united a nation that was on an edge of collapse.

Like YoungStar who wrote the letter on News24 last year, I am young. But through history learning  I can say and quote events that Nelson Mandela never sold out.

The Negotiations 

The first and early contact that Nelson Mandela made with the National Party was in 19985 with Kobie Coetsee. These negotiations would lay foundation for  future negotiations that took place in 1990-1993. It is these meetings that Nelson Mandela is said to have started to sell-out.

I  fail to understand how in these meetings Nelson Mandela sold blacks out; then, he was still imprisoned along with other political activists.

The early meetings were about the National Party trying to maintain peace in  South Africa that was going through an outbreak of violence. At some point Nelson Mandela was offered  to go and stay in Transkie if he denounces violence.

In 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he 'unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon. Mandela spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying

"What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts"

As we all know, the doctrine of the ANC is based on the Freedom Charter. YoungStar and co-Nelson Mandela accusers often quote the Freedom Charter document saying Nelson Mandela abandoned it.

“The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil; the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industries and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people,"

This section of the Freedom Charter only became highly debated between 1990 and 1993. Youngster argues that Nelson Mandela  “creatively interpreted” this second to suit Whites; that, nationalisation was in order to comfort the white monopoly capitals.

I then again fail to understand this, Youngster then was 5 years old; He accuses the then leaders of the ANC who drafted and knew what the Freedom Charter meant of re-interpreting it.

If it was to youngster, all the country’s resources, all the companies and all farms controlled by whites should have been taken from Whites to blacks because the freedom Charter states so. That Nelson Mandela or ANC could have just "GRABBED" everything.

He fails to understand that things do not work in that way; He ignores the case study of our neighbour Zimbabwe and how some other African countries failed at doing that.


In 1960 after Congo gained independence, a coalition government led by Prime Minister Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu was formed. Instead of Congo enjoying its independence and freedom it quickly landed itself into an autocratic form of rule. Encouraged by Belgium political violence between 1960 and 1965 erupted. In 1965 Mobuto seized power and things went from bad to worse.

Under the time of state emergency Mobutu Mobuto Mobutu assumed sweeping, almost absolute, powers. Parliament was reduced to a rubber-stamp, before being abolished altogether though it was later revived. The number of provinces was reduced, and their autonomy curtailed, resulting in a highly centralized state. 1967 marked the debut of the Popular Movement of the Revolution which until 1990 was the nation's only legal political party.

Membership became obligatory for all citizens. Among the themes advanced by the MPR in its doctrine, the Manifesto of N'Sele, was nationalism, revolution, and authenticity. Revolution was described as a "truly national revolution, essentially pragmatic," which called for "the repudiation of both capitalism and communism." One of the MPR's slogans was "Neither left nor right," to which would be added "nor even center" in later years.

He (Mobuto) initially nationalized foreign-owned firms and forced European investors out of the country. In many cases he handed the management of these firms to relatives and close associates who stole the companies' assets. This all led to his downfall and the starvation of the “blacks” he was set out to save or in other cult name “father”.

Going Back to YoungSter

What then youngster suggests is that Nelson Mandela/ANC could have taken the Congo Route. Thats why he blames Madiba for not Nationalising mines and the reserve bank.

Did youngtar think of who was to control these mines if they were to be nationalised?

And how these profits were to be shared?

We don’t live in an ideal world, the economy is globally linked. Investors will never want to invest in a country which all its resources are in the hands of political leaders.

If SA did take control and nationalised everything, those leaders could have committed economic suicide that even Youngstar would have never been able to seat in front of PC connected to the internet and write in such proper academic manner.

At the time of negotiations, ANC leaders including Nelson Mandela were still in many country's terrorist lists. If, as YoungStar suggest we just grabbed everything.

Well, in the process of grabbing we could have lost the international sympathy that crippled apartheid; made the apartheid government look holy and the ANC lose the hard fought liberation struggle.

Remember at the time, the ANC had no economic of security power. Both these powers were still on the hand of the oppressor. If the ANC or Mandela decided to do all what YoungStar wanted it could have been detrimental to us all.

It is after 1990 with the CODESA first stage negotiations that we can look at how Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders ensured that our future as black South Africans will never be like under apartheid.

Not only that, but they also ensured that South Africa does not erupt into a civil war or lands itself into a Rwanda situation where over a million people were killed in a space of 3 months in an ethnic violence. One that we could have seen if the ANC behaved like rebels and grabbed.

Nelson Mandela did not act alone in the negotiations so it becomes grossly unfair to blame everything on him. Even CODESA did not only have two participants, the ANC and the NP; It also had Inkatha Freedom Party, the Democratic Party, the South African Communist Party, the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured Labour Party, the Indian National People's Party and Solidarity Party, and the leaders of the nominally independent bantustans of Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and Venda were also on those negotiations.

Following the collapse of CODESA II, bilateral negotiations between the ANC and the NP became the main negotiation channel. Two key negotiators were Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, and Roelf Meyer of the National Party, who formed a close friendship.

It was Joe Slovo, leader of the South African Communist Party, who in 1992 proposed the breakthrough "sunset clause" for a coalition government for the five years following a democratic election, including guarantees and concessions to all sides.

Pressing issues at this point included minority rights, decisions on a unitary or federal state, property rights, and indemnity from prosecution for politically motivated crimes.

How is it then that Nelson Mandela managed to sell blacks out to whites with so many actors involved?

To my understanding, the negotiations were no one man’s job. They were a collective action between many actors. Political and economic actors.

A book can be written on why Madiba never sold us Blacks out; there is also too much I want to say but now I can only say a little.  I will quote Thabo Mbeki on his letter addressed to Jacob Zuma after his removal in office.

 In the context of the global struggle for the release of political prisoners in our country, our movement took a deliberate decision to profile Nelson Mandela as the representative personality of these prisoners, and therefore to use his personal political biography, including the persecution of his then wife, Winnie Mandela, dramatically to present to the world and the South African community the brutality of the apartheid.

Unlike him Youngster , I wasn’t 5 years when Nelson Mandela was released; I was born a year later. But as a South African citizen I have taken it upon myself to be informed and make voice out sound opinions based on facts not hearsay.

ANC leaders all testify that Nelson Mandela never acted alone. He represented what the ANC leadership and its people agreed with. The way we know him to day was one of ANC's strategies; as Mbeki said, the ANC took a deliberate decisions to profile him as a face of the struggle.

To assume that he acted alone and blame him is to  make him a god of some sort and this he warned us against when he said.

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” 

It is interesting that YoungStar who accused Nelson Mandela sold out is part of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leadership. I really hope and pray that they dont all blame Mandela for selling out.

We can not blame Madiba for the failed education, social, economic and political policies that the ANC  has made in the past. The man has done his duty. He managed to keep our South Africa peaceful; he along with many actors defeated the apartheid government. They did their part; Instead of us blaming them for the past, we must focus on the future and stop posting provocative things that are not good for our country.

They gave us political freedom; its up to us now to shape our future and work together towards socio-economic freedom. Economic freedom wont be achieved through frustration and anger, it will be done strategically.

Esethu Hasane is a final-year student at the University of Cape Town in pursuit of a Degree with Majors in International Relations, Public Policy and Media. Follow him on twitter @Esethu_u and respond to his article.


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