Nelson Mandela’s Unfinished/Unstarted Work

Nelson Mandela is credited for shepherding a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa. But his South Africa and his African National Congress were hardly democratic —€” and he left the essential work of the revolution unfinished. Today, poverty among blacks remains much higher than among whites. The system never really changed.

Many black South Africans are disillusioned by Mandela and his ANC government. Residents of the townships are suffering horribly, yet this “black” “democratic” government hasn’t done much more for them than the old apartheid regime. This was due to two terrible decisions by Mandela in 1994. First, he decided against seeking justice against the apartheid-era criminal whites. Obviously this was the result of pressure from the USA and the West. The ANC called it “reconciliation.” Others called it a sellout. These horrible murderers got away with murder. The lesson to the murderers of the future is, don’t worry, you won’t pay for your crimes.

Second, Mandela and the ANC decided not to implement the communist programme of their socialist and communist allies. Income and wealth redistribution were left on the table. The result is a South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks. Heckuva job, Nelson.

The lionization of Mandela follows a familiar pattern. Radicals and revolutionaries who betray their former militancy to become accommodationist scoundrels win Nobel Peace Prizes, high office and nice tweets after their die. That’s why former “terrorists” like Mandela, Gerry Adams, Gandhi and Yassir Arafat who stop fighting for their causes and accept establishment sinecures get lionized. Those who hold firm and keep fighting for the people, like Malcolm X, are scorned — compared to the relatively safe/peaceful MLK. The media loves the sellouts, hates the heroes.

I am already being criticized for releasing today’s cartoon about Mandela’s unfinished work because it’s the “wrong time.” That’s what people always say about critical obituary cartoons. But that’s ridiculous. This is exactly the right, appropriate time to weigh Mandela’s life — the good and the bad.

Obituary cartoons have long been a bane of editorial cartooning. A famous person dies and appears at the pearly gates, being welcomed in some incredibly cheesy way to the hereafter. The message, such as it is, “this guy died and it is sad.”

I decided a while ago that obit cartoons could also be an opportunity to provide a corrective to the ocean of praise that follows a Great Man’s death. Reagan, for example, was a turd. Among other things, he intentionally starved AIDS research during the 1980s. So when he died, I showed him in hell.

That’s what today’s cartoon is about: a request that we think outside the box. My cartoon isn’t the full measure of Mandela. Neither are the ones that praise his resistance against apartheid before he sold out to become president. The full assessment will await his biographers. As usual, I’m simply pointing out: “Hey, there’s also some bad stuff here, and we should do something about those.”

16 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela’s Unfinished/Unstarted Work

  1. First. Ted, the site is still buggy. The home page says zero comments, but when I click the “more” link to read the rest of the post, I discover there are 9 comments.

    Now. Moving along. Mandela. Want to know a secret? Most Americans don’t care about South Africa or Nelson Mandela. They certainly aren’t interested in the internal struggles that S. Africa has been going through since the end of Apartheid. They sure as hell don’t care that economically, the haves and the have nots are still just like before. All we’re getting right now is the usual, nauseating false sanctimoniousness. The DKers will say they’ve cried hot tears of bitter sorrow. Jesse Jackson will make sure some cameras catch him with tears in his eyes. Etc.

    But in the end, something shiny will come along …

  2. As a South African, I have a closer proximity to reality.

    “Nelson Mandela is credited for shepherding a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa. But his South Africa and his African National Congress were hardly democratic —€” and he left the essential work of the revolution unfinished. Today, poverty among blacks remains much higher than among whites. The system never really changed.”

    Mandela did indeed ensure a peaceful transition, and thankfully so. But your comment about the transition not being democratic is false. The 1994 national election was absolutely democratic; millions of previously oppressed black people voted for the first time. The ANC was voted in, and a new, powerful Constitution became South Africa’s grounding. The transition was not so much a revolution, but rather a liberation of black people and, by extension, white people. Mandela was smart enough to know that change would be gradual; had he acted in a tyrannical way, investors would have pulled out, businesses would have collapsed, and trade would have collapsed, and masses of wealthy whites would have emigrated (taking money and skills with them). Just look at Zimbabwe to see how Mugabe’s redistribution of wealth turned out.

    “Second, Mandela and the ANC decided not to implement the communist programme of their socialist and communist allies. Income and wealth redistribution were left on the table. The result is a South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks. Heckuva job, Nelson.”

    As I said, thank god he was smart enough not to implement communist tyranny. Thank god he was smart enough to realise that economic growth lay in the hands of business opportunities. South Africa does not look the same as it did before. In fact, some of the richest South Africans are black. Sure, it’s not all peachy, but the economic disparities don’t exist because of Mandela’s refusal to redistribute the property of white people (which would have made everyone poor).

    I live here. I know. Our economy is growing. Millions of black people drive expensive cars on our rapidly expanding highways; millions of black people fly on our many airlines; millions of black people invest in technology like our advanced cellular networks; millions of black people consume from our rapidly expanding market place such as shopping malls and business parks popping up everywhere.

    Mandela’s job was never to stop poverty and to take the property of white people. His job was to usher in a new era of democracy and equal opportunities for all, thanks to a powerfully new Constitution and a peaceful transition.

    Yes, millions of black people are still very poor. But, equally, millions no longer are. To say that “South Africa that looks the same as before: rich whites, poor blacks” is naive and shallow.

    You can argue this all you want, but the evidence is against you.

    • Great defense of the tyranny of capitalism. You’re good with reaching the few-rich-many-poor inequality that approximates life in the US. Happy days. Hurray for you.

      The US has an ever widening gap between the rich and poor, and a Black President too! Hallelujah!

      I’m betting you’re on the upside of the inequality from your positive outlook. Must feel comfortable that the State has and uses the power to crush those on the downside of the inequality, just as was done to Mandela.

      All is good, from a certain perspective, when the poor surrender and die quietly so as to not discomfort the rich.

    • You live in South Africa? So what? Facts are facts, and let’s look at the facts:

      ———————
      Eighteen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is now judged to be one of the most unequal societies in the world and its 19 million children bear the brunt of the disconnect.

      The Unicef report found that 1.4 million children live in homes that rely on often dirty streams for drinking water, 1.5 million have no flushing lavatories and 1.7 million live in shacks, with no proper bedding, cooking or washing facilities.

      Four in 10 live in homes where no one is employed and, in cases of dire poverty, the figure rises to seven in 10.

      A total of 330,000 children – and five million adults – are currently infected with HIV, and 40 per cent die from the pandemic annually.

      The figures were contained in a leaked report detailing Unicef’s joint plans with government to tackle the problems.

      Aida Girma, Unicef’s South African representative, said that two thirds of child deaths were preventable with simple improvements in primary care for children.

      She added that if “drastic” changes were not made immediately, South Africa would fail to achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals of eradicating child and maternal mortality and malnutrition.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9280481/More-than-half-of-South-Africas-children-live-in-poverty.html
      ———————

      THOSE are the facts, and they are undeniable. As Ted said, heckuva job Nelson. He botched things. I mean, this twenty years after the end of Apartheid and South Africa is a disaster. Your anecdotes about millions driving expensive cars is just that: Anecdotes. Read my post again, because those are called FACTS. Even if you live in South Africa you’re bound by the facts, same as everyone else. So can the anecdotes and self-righteousness — that’s not flying here.

      Ted is right. Mandela should have stuck to his radical roots, but the international celebrity and worship was just too tantalizing for him. To the detriment of those suffering so badly today.

      • LOL, okay.

        Your mind is made up and, despite not understanding and contextualising your own facts (copied and pasted from a tabloid, no less), nothing will change your mind. (Hint: a lot of those stats apply to rural areas and not the urban areas.)

        But know this. South Africa is a FAR better place today than it was in 1994. The fact that Ted’s cartoon is almost entirely rejected by most South Africans who’ve seen it, is evidence enough. I don’t have to prove anything.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to make coffee and carry on watching millions of South Africans celebrate Mandela’s life.

      • That’s a big statement, @jerm. Many South Africans have written me to express their agreement, and on the Intertubes it has been a hit in the RSA, and in a good way.

      • Your response is even more pathetic than your initial comment. You dismiss the facts because they were published in a tabloid? You mean the facts that are from a Unicef report? Is Unicef a tabloid?

        Only a pathetic goof dismisses such facts in the manner you have. You’re completely unserious and not worth the time. You offer nothing again but anecdote, and the reason is obvious: The facts make your comments irrelevant and force you to confront a reality that doesn’t sit well with you — namely, that Mandela failed.

        South Africa is a mess. No amount of anecdotes about “millions of black people driving BMWs” is going to change those facts.

      • “Your response is even more pathetic than your initial comment. You dismiss the facts because they were published in a tabloid? ”

        Quite correct. Are you one of those who prefers believing what tabloids publish?

        “Only a pathetic goof dismisses such facts in the manner you have.”

        Yes, resort to ad hominems. That totally strengthens your argument.

        “a reality that doesn’t sit well with you — namely, that Mandela failed.”

        You can’t be for real. Mandela failed? Failed what, exactly? He ushered in a democratic system, as well as a new Constitution, like he wanted. He almost single-handedly stopped a violent revolt of blacks against whites (and vice-versa). He very quickly created strong diplomatic routes with countries previously sanctioning us. And so on and so on. Our expanding GDP means more employment every year. Our hosting of world events is more evidence. God, why am I even bothering.

        Mandela failed? WTF? What was he expected to do? Wave a magic wand and turn SA into Wonderland? LOL. He certainly did not fail. In fact, he succeeded in many ways, and even he acknowledged it himself.

        Rather stick to American realities. South Africa isn’t your forte.

      • @jerm: leave it to me to bring up the really uncomfortable question of why it is so great that Nelson Mandela prevented a violent revolution by blacks against South African whites. I don’t really see why that is such a good thing. Frankly, after nearly half a century of apartheid, South Africa’s whites had it coming. Moreover, look at what happened – or rather what did not happen – as a result of maintaining a sort of peace: blacks who sought liberation did not achieve it. You cannot be free when you’re living in grinding poverty.

  3. I was taught that eulogies (and only eulogies) were for the dead. (I was also taught to never say good things about the living, since they might go to their head.)

    In the real world, pragmatists always praise the powerful, proclaiming them the Good and the Great, especially when the powerful are still alive and can hurt the pragmatist.

    Pragmatists save all their criticisms for when the objects of their criticisms are no longer able to retaliate.

    But I thought Mr Rall was more idealist than pragmatist.

    Not, however, it seems in the case of Mandela.

    • It is so much easier to criticize Ted than the system that deserves criticism.

      But criticizing the system requires too much work, intelligence, and courage.

      So in the interest of pragmatism, and operating within your own estimation of your abilities, I see you choose to be critical only of Ted’s message.

      After all, a man’s got to know his limits, so back under a rock with you.

  4. At the moment I’m listening to a panegyric on the Swedish Public Radio – amazingly enough a few words – but only a few ! – have been devoted the fact that the successor to Apartheid has hardly been a more equal society, but rather a brutal class regime, in which a few well-connected blacks have managed to shoulder their way into circles hitherto monopolised by rich whites (sound familiar ?). What price «reconciliation», when police still shoot striking miners protesting over inhuman working conditions ?…

    Requiescat in pace, Mr Mandela – but a lot of work remains to be done, in South Africa and elsewhere….

    Henri

  5. People are desperate for heros. That’s interesting; is it just about stories or something else? Why do we need heros to get anything going? What keeps us from just getting up and doing it, together?

    It seems like a terrible failure of communication, as if we have failed to adequately invent language, and must endlessly rely on the existence of extroverted narcissists to get things moving. And that trick never works.

  6. Mandela, a wasted life, 27 of his 95 years spent in jail.

    Followed by life on the Unitary State’s terrorist watch list until it was certain by 2008 that no revenge (I call it justice) would be inflicted on the criminals who imprisoned him under unjust laws.

    This, in what is celebrated as, and passes for, civilization before so many eyes blinded to truth by shiny things. So very sad in so many ways.

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