Herewith my take on the Nelson Mandela story for public consumption; clearly some of my friends think I’ve gone crazy, since I have a background of opinion which varies very differently from what they’ve been force-fed over the years. In a divorce proceeding for instance, there’s always her story, his story, and somewhere in between, there’s the truth. So here’s the short, but no less truthful version, of the Nelson Mandela saga gathered from the memories of history classes in 1950s England, what the subsequent outcomes were, and the closing of the story with the passing of Mr. Mandela on December 5th 2013…
The apartheid regime of Afrikaan South Africa was no paragon of virtue by any stretch of the imagination, and there was no love lost between them and the Brits, as we kids growing up in the ’50s were taught in history lessons; nor for that matter, was the neighboring Rhodesian government to the north of South Africa (since named Zimbabwe) any better. And while we’re at it, let us also not forget the withdrawal from the Indian continent by the Brits which caused an even bigger massacre, even with the calming influence of Mahatma Gandhi. Then there was the Suez Canal debacle…
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
The European rule in the African continent was in many ways a complicated occupation; occupiers distrusting each other while attempting to keep the native peoples in check. As for England, they threw their hands in the air in 1960 when Harold MacMillan gave his “Winds of Change” speech which absolutely enraged the Dutch South African government. So yes, you could say that Mandela was a terrorist, or a freedom-fighter, or something else; but in many ways he was no different in temperament to what our own 56 signers of the Declaration confronted the tyrannical German-speaking King of England George III about ~ “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for himself and the rest of his fellow-South Africans. And, miracle of miracles (if you were on the right side of course) freedom from almost 30 years imprisonment embraced him, and lo and behold, he becomes leader of the very nation that locked him away; the vote went his way across all levels, white, black, Indian and whatever else, with a popular margin of 62% ~ Paul Revere couldn’t have ridden a better night ride.
So there it is. One man’s heroism is another man’s defeat, and as the Brits endured the atrocities of “the Irish troubles” (the IRA or, Irish Republican Army) and the Canadians the “Front de liberation du Quebec” (known as the FLQ) and the Jamaican Rastafarians swinging their machettes for freedom in the Jamaica of the mid-60s, it was (and still is) difficult to untangle just exactly who are the heroes, and who the villains. In the pragmatic words of my boyhood hero Sir Winston Churchill (no sloth himself when addressing matters of freedom): “It’s not enough we do our best: sometimes we have to do what’s required” and history generally looks after the rest of the story…
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Yesterday, December 5th 2013, a man who was once feared, died. His main tactic embraced far less violence in a resistance to apartheid, than that engaged in by the armies of the North and South in the battle to free the slaves of American plantations. In many ways similar in nature to Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela feared God more than his enemies. Following his release from a deserved stint in prison for his acts of violence and terrorism in his resistance fight, it was unanimously feared that he would exact revenge against those who opposed him; creating still more violence and division in what many saw as a justified revenge against his opposition. But he shocked and surprised everyone. He emerged as a reconciler, gracious, loving, and forgiving. Rather than causing division and seeking revenge, he embraced, received, loved, and slowly but surely, won over the respect and admiration of his enemies. But how? How did a man so bent on angry retribution become such a transformed figure who destroyed the evil of racial prejudice and the injustices of apartheid politics? Simple ~ Jesus Christ. Here is why he emerged a very real changed man, after nearly 30 years in prison, supposedly left to rot and die a broken man. God works in ways different than we mere humans. Whenever we can all get on the same wavelength as God, the world indeed would be a far, far better place. Beginning with America, which is currently balancing on the cusp of God’s grace…
Nelson Mandela at the Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference
20 April 1992, Moria
Reading from the “Lamentations of Jeremiah ” ~ Chapter 5:1-5
“Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us:
consider, and behold our reproach,
Our land is turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners,
We are orphans and fatherless, our Mothers are as widows,
We have to pay for our water; and our wood is sold unto us,
Our necks are under the yoke of oppression, we labour, and we have no rest.”
Khotsong Masione! Peace unto you! Uxolo Mazayoni !
Permit me, Your Grace, to thank you for your kind invitation to attend your Easter Conference here at the holy city of Moria. Moria, a tabernacle erected by the Zionist Christian Church as a site of annual pilgrimage and renewal! I am honoured that you have invited me on this occasion to pay my respects to the leadership and the members of this mighty church on the sub-continent. Since my release from prison, I have attempted to find a time suitable to both myself and His Grace, Bishop Lekganyane, so that we could confer about our common aspirations and the challenges facing our nation in these trying times. My coming here today is a long-awaited moment. I come to the Holy City of Moria as a pilgrim, with other pilgrims, senior members of the African National Congress as a mark of respect and as an act of communion.
I present Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary-General of the ANC; Thomas Nkobi, our Treasurer- General; Joe Nhlanhla, a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, and others.
We bring to your gathering heartfelt greetings from the entire membership of the ANC. Khotso e be le lena! May Peace be With You!
We have joined you this Easter in an act of solidarity, and in an act of worship. We have come, like all the other pilgrims, to join in an act of renewal and re-dedication. The festival of Easter, which is so closely linked with the festival of the Passover, marks the rebirth of the resurrected Messiah, who without arms, without soldiers, without police and covert special forces, without hit squads or bands of vigilantes, overcame the mightiest state during his time. This great festival of rejoicing marks the victory of the forces of life over death, of hope over despair. As we bow our heads in prayerful worship this day, our minds cannot but dwell on the evil of violence that today stalks our land. We cannot but call to mind the cries of mothers violated, brutalized and outraged by armed foreign mercenaries and killers in our midst. As we lower our heads in supplication to the Lord of Hosts, the blood-curdling battle cries of armed men, sweeping through a township like a swarm of locusts in a maize field, ring in our ears, and we know that in some home, this night shall be a night for mourning.
We pray with you for the blessings of peace! We pray with you for the blessings of love! We pray with you for the blessings of freedom! We pray with you for the blessings of reconciliation among all the people of South Africa! The full sermon-speech …
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Sources: Thanks to Greg Williams for the Zionist Church sermon-speech ~ Find him on Facebook
memories of history classes in 1950s England
Mandela was a terrorist, or a freedom-fighter, or something else
Rather than causing division and seeking revenge
America on the cusp of God’s grace…