Tuesday, February 13, 2024

cell913blog.com #25

 There are complex and competing forces working in the South Africa that greeted Nelson Mandela on his release from prison, after twenty-seven years. The government, for its part, wanted to delay negotiations with the ANC; ‘they were counting on the euphoria that greeted my release to die down. They wanted time to allow for me to fall on my face and show that the former prisoner hailed as a savior was a highly fallible man who had lost touch with the present situation…Despite his seemingly progressive actions, Mr. De Klerk was by no means the great emancipator. He was a gradualist, a careful pragmatist. He did not make any of his reforms with the intentions of putting himself out of power. He made them for precisely the opposite reason: to ensure power for the Afrikaner in a dew dispensation. He was not yet prepared to negotiate the end of white rule….His goal was to create a system of power-sharing based on group rights, which would preserve a modified form of minority power in Sough Africa. He was decidedly o0pposed to majority rule, or ‘simple majoritarianism’ as he sometimes called it, because that would end white domination in a single stroke. We knew early on that the government was fiercely opposed top a winner-takes-all Westminster parliamentary system,  and advocated instead a system of proportional representation with built-in structural guaranteed for the white minority. Although he was prepared to allow the black majority to vote and create legislation, he wanted to retain a minority veto. From the start, I would have no truck with this plan, I described it to Mr. de Klerk as apartheid in disguise, a ‘loser-takes-all’ system.

The Nationalists long-term strategy to overcome our strength was to build an anti-ANC alliance with the Inkatha Freedom Party and to lure the Coloured Afrikaans-speaking voters of the Cape to a new National Party. From the moment of my release, they began wooing both Buthelezi and the Coloured voters of the Cape. The government attempted to scare the Coloured population into thinking the ANC was anti-Coloured. They supported Chief Buthelezi’s desire to retain Zulu power and identity in a new Sought Africa by preaching to him the doctrine of group rights and federalism. (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, pp. 577-578)

This set of dynamics followed a series of violent incidents in which the Inkatha Freedom Party, with the support both materially and philosophically, of the South African police forces, had slaughtered dozens of ANC members after each of which horrendous incidents, de Klerk’s government and the Prime Minister personally remained silent, confirming the suspicion of their collaboration. Insights into the fullness of the complexity of the situation facing the ANC, and in particular Mr. Mandela, ostensibly peel the onion(s) of the duplicity of his opponents, viewed from the outside of their actions and the inferred motivations. Mandela’s ‘depth perception’ married to his forceful advocacy for the cause of the removal of apartheid, and has clear-eyed resilience in the face of both overt violence from what could legitimately be considered the ‘inside’ of the African anti-apartheid movement.

Led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi (who) was ‘descended from the great Zulu king Cetawayo, who had defeated the British at the Battle of Isandhlwana in 1879. As a young man, he attended Fort Hare and then joined the ANC Youth League. I saw him as one of the movement’s up-coming young leaders. He had become chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland with the tacit support of the ANC, and even his launching of Inkatha as a Zulu cultural organization was un-opposed by the organization. But over the years, Chief Buthelezi drifted away from the ANC. Though he resolutely opposed apartheid and refused to allow KwaZulu to become an ‘independent’ homeland as the government wished, he was a thorn in the side of the democratic movement. He opposed the armed struggle. He criticized the 1976b Soweto uprising. He campaigned against international sanctions. He challenged the idea of a unitary state of South Africa. Yet. Chief Buthelezi had consistently called for my release and refused to negotiate with the government until I hand other political prisoners were liberated. (LWTF, p. 575)

While Mandela was attempting to develop a relationship with the Zulu king, separated from Buthelezi, Natal became a killing ground. Heavily armed Inkatha supporters had in effect declared war on ANC strongholds across the Natal Midlands region and around Pietermaritzburg. Entire villages were set alight, dozens of people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands became refugees. In March 1990 alone, 230 people lost their lives in this internecine violence. In Natal, Zulu was murdering Zulu, for Inkatha members and ANC partisans are Zulus. In February, only two weeks after my release, I went to Durban and spoke to a crowd of over 100,000 people at King’s Park, almost all of whom were Zulus. I pleaded with them to lay down their arms, to take each other’s hands in peace: ‘Take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea! Close down these death factories. End this war now!’ But my call fell on deaf ears. The fighting and dying continued. (LWTF. P 576)

The ‘big’ picture, attempting to get  the official government of South Africa to refrain from both arresting and imprisoning ANC leadership, as well as confronting the government’s under the table support for the Inkatha Freedom Party,  designed to erode ANC solidarity, while negotiating some kind of agreement with Buthelezi, after at least three such signed ententes failed to bring about an end to the violence…in addition to discerning the private motives, moves and goals of both de Klerk and men like Buthelezi, not to mention their associates like the cabinet ministers in de Klerk’s government…even just listing these complex and competing forces and energies is both exhausting and confusing…amounts to a monumental job description. And yet not only did Mandela navigate his and the ANC’s path forward, and recount the drama(s) in excruciating detail, not only is his writing style not flamboyant, so too is his personal demeanour, in a word, unflappable.

Too often, those who are interested in the history of some period of time in a foreign land, even if they have read and studied the biographies of leaders in specific historic transformations, are familiar with a scattering of specifics, and a broad and general sketch of the kind of leaders whose names epitomize their historic accomplishments. Perhaps that observation is especially relevant to this scribe, who, after re-reading the Long Walk to Freedom, became a fervent and committed student of Mandela. Call it heroism, or call it a private search for something to renew hope in a world seemingly hurling headlong to the edge of a very deep, dark and unforgiving chasm of senseless, hopeless doom.

The grist and sinew of Mandela’s being, the struggles and commitment to endure, to forge on especially when the clouds of weariness, exhaustion, desperation, alienation, isolation and scepticism of his comrades would and could have withered Mandela’s commitment are, at least in the view of this scribe, nothing short of epic.

Heroes are the stuff on which we can and must hang our hopes on. We live in a time when popularity, wealth, public high profiles, and a culture of both meanness and vengeance seem to haunt our public discourse. Not only are we oppressed by the ethos of the public arena, but we are losing (or have lost) trust and confidence in the leaders who remain on the public stage. We are a restive, impatient, dissatisfied and obstreperous populace. We are frightened, anxious, irritable, and depressed, as a general depiction of the ‘times’. We watch those whose ambition for power eclipses their motives to address the issues confronting ordinary men and women. We listen as hollow words of domination, elimination of Hamas, for example, ‘removal of fascism’ from Ukraine, and acts of both intransigent deprival of education, of food, of homes, of welcome of refugees, of the ravages of rising temperatures are wantonly either ignored or assuaged  in ‘newspeak’… We seemed to have outlived and gone beyond the dangers envisioned by Orwell in his 1984, and what was once considered stable, legitimate and ordered among nations is dissolving into what appears like chaos. This week, former Secretary of Labour in the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, in his Substack post exposing the vacuity and danger of Robert F. Kennedy Junior, discloses a cancerous financial tumor in the Kennedy campaign for the presidency:

Robert F. Kennedy Junior has apologized to relatives after his Super Bowl ad last Sunday, which mirrored an ad broadcast by his uncle John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960. The Super Bowl ad included images of RFK Jr. spiced into the original 1960 ad and a jaunty jingle that repeated the Kennedy surname 15 times in 30 seconds. RFK Junior said the ad was the work of his SuperPAC and he had nothing to do with it. Rubbish. Junior placed the ad at the top of his X feed, and it remained there Monday. The ad cost $7 million. Timothy Mellon—grandson of Andrew Mellon and heir to the Mello banking fortune- gave RFK Junior’s SuperPAC $156 million. Hmmm. Mellon is also a major donor to PACs supporting Trump. RFK Junior’s candidacy is backed by a PAC that also funds Majorie Taylor Green. No one should doubt that Trump and Trump donors are behind RFK Junior’s campaign, with the goal of siphoning off enough votes from Biden to ensure a Trump victory.

Reich ends his piece this way: If Junior had any respect for the principles his father fought and ultimately died for, he would withdraw his candidacy immediately.

Lies about vaccines causing autism, others about Fauci performing ‘genocidal experiments,’ others about COVID vaccine killing more than it saved…and the list goes on, all of them originating from the RFK Junior campaign cannot be discounted or trivialized. However, the very fact that he is eagerly allowing his name to be suckered into the Trump campaign and orbit signify his unworthiness for the Oval Office. We already know that his indirect benefactor (and direct beneficiary), Trump, must never be permitted even close to the Oval Office again, borrowing a sentiment from ousted Republican Liz Cheney.

It is not reasonable or even worthy of imagining that any single leader, such as a Mandela, could confront the multiple forces of destruction, embedded in the narcissism and desperate need for power of the most weak and heinous who seek public office, in too many quarters. It is in his spirit, commitment, courage, integrity, authenticity, perspective, attitude, beliefs and tolerance of the others, many of whom he did not agree with on deep issues, that we might take some inspiration, some motivation, some courage to begin to seek out the ways we might, individually, without headlines, without personal gain, and without the assurance that we will eventually succeed completely in eradicating those forces that would gladly and glibly surgically remove what human rights we have attained. We are never going to be able to achieve the singular, demonstrable and measurable victory over those forces that would and do seek to dominate, to tyrannize, to terrorize and to rule.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke)

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything (Einstein).

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by good people. (Martin Luther King)

Jut this morning, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Chairman of the Republican National Committed, Michael Steel, used profanity twice in his attempt to awaken both his former party and the people of America, (and by extension the people of the West) to the serious dangers and threat that are embodied in the Republican Party’s isolation, nationalism and in the most recent nefarious comment by the disgraced former president to the effect that he would encourage Russia to attack any and all NATO members who had paid their 2% of GDP into NATO. His determination to destroy NATO, and thereby give free reign to Putin’s expansionism into the rest of Europe is an existential threat not only to the people of Western Europe but also to democracy, and the principles of an old and  hackneyed phrase, “peaceful co-existence,” long ago out of favour in diplomatic circles.


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