Friday, February 16, 2024 #26

 Throughout his autobiography, Nelson Mandela demonstrated a highly nuanced, yet extremely forthright consciousness and conviction of when to set boundaries. Although he never lost sight of the over-arching purpose (far beyond the image of a “goal”) of demolishing forever the cancer of apartheid, and of freeing his people and establishing a one-person-one-vote democracy in which all South Africans would have not a token voice, but a full participating voice in the decisions of the government.

Many times, in the last three-quarters of a century, we have all heard the model, the image and the name of Winston Churchill whenever leaders, not only military leaders and quasi-military leaders, but also corporate and academic and social service agency leaders, and especially parents, evoke Churchill’s name as a model of courage, decisiveness, inspiring men and women to take up the challenge of both fighting and of supporting and resisting and of hunkering down in the face of the Nazi threat from the Third Reich. Clear-headed, dispassionate, apparently fearless and resonating in balanced phrases, sentences, epithets and what today we would call ‘bumper-stickers,’ The British bull-dog is revered perhaps more today as a twentieth century mythological hero who led the fight to preserve democracy, freedom, and to defeat the Nazi juggernaut

His, and the West’s, enemy was the Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and his SS troops. Blatant, unabashed determination to rule the whole of Europe, not only represented by the various nations but also by the millions of people, and especially those people who did not conform to the alien-race-depiction of the best and the brightest, the Jews and those whom today we would include in the LGBTQT+ demographic. Racist-motivated tyranny had a demonic face and leader, a thwarted artist who exuded what today we call charisma and the capacity to hold hundreds of thousands’ attention and awe in personal appearances, and millions more through radio and reputation. Much of political propaganda theory and practice was birthed by the Nazis. Disinformation, deception, trickery, schmoozing and manipulation of men like Chamberlain, for one, and thousands, if not millions of others, worked so well that the American military juggernaut had to be dragged into the war on the side of the allies following the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. Anyone who has watched Reni Riefenstahl’s movie, Triumph of the Will, can attest to the magnitude and magnificence of the Fuhrer’s captivation of his troops in the square in Nuremburg in 1934. The shadow of the plane carrying the Fuhrer into the city, as the opening scene is both haunting and horrendous, especially given the tortuous and deadly impact of the regime.

This brief and incomplete depiction of the challenges facing Churchill, including having to twist the arm of both FDR and his American isolationist people, like the giant iceberg that felled the Titanic, marks the twentieth century’s ‘story’ and the implications in its ripples henceforth, right up to today. A ship ‘that could and would not sink’ and a ‘West’ ‘that could and would not yield’ to Fascism, the former a tragedy, the latter a triumph. Both chapters of twentieth century history serve today, and forever, as graphic relief of each other, having left their indelible imprint on the psyche of the world, and especially on the West, in all military academies, governments and especially on the people and the Bundestag of Germany and the people and government of Japan. The vernacular adage, bandied about in North America, that ‘the Pentagon is forever fighting the last war,’ while cliché, is inescapable. None of us wonder at the inordinate popularity of both films, The Titanic and Oppenheimer, another pair of book-ends on the twentieth century myth.

In another twentieth-century coliseum of conflict and foment, on a scale that also foreshadows latter developments in  the public consciousness of human rights, a profound refinement on ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ from fascist government, Mandela and the ANC were busy designing, executing, re-designing, re-evaluating and re-executing their various strategies and tactics to fight and defeat a more ‘contained’ and more focused, yet no less determined enemy, the apartheid, white supremacy governments of South Africa. Comparisons of Mandela and Churchill have pointed to significant differences in both the scope of the conflicts as well as the leadership ‘styles’ of both men.

The African Journal of Emerging Issues (, carries a piece by Joyce J.C. Kiplimo, entitled, A Comparative Analysis of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela’s Self-Leadership Styles: Impact on their Nations and the World. In this highly articulate and timely piece, we read:

The study found that both Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela practiced self-leadership to varying degrees. Churchill was more of a traditional leader who relied on his charisma and willpower to motivate his followers. However, he also demonstrated self-leadership skills such as self-awareness, goal-setting, and adaptability. Mandela, on the other hand, was a more transformational leader who focused on inspiring and empowering his followers. He also demonstrated strong self-leadership skills, such as self-awareness, goal-setting, and emotional intelligence.

Defeating a military enemy, whose determination is to run roughshod over Europe and a very different, both qualitatively and quantitatively, engagement and demands a very different kind of leadership. Also, traditional leadership of the alpha-male variety, in the Herculean archetype, is a very different chapter of western history, as compared with a Protean (Proteus, Greek God of change and transformation) archetype. Although transformation in the Proteus model involves the god himself changing from one animal image to another, from, we read:

Proteus was said to have been able to see the past, present and future. However, this was an ability he did his best to keep to himself. He would only reveal his prophecies to people once they had bound him, and this was incredibly difficult to do because of his ability to shapeshift into many different forms….Proteus’ ability to shapeshift and his role as a shepherd of seals are explored in Homer’s Odyssey…He is also notable because of his relationship with Poseidon. His name and ability to shapeshift have given rise to the English word protean, which refers to someone or something that changes easily. This ability to shapeshift could tell about the Greek’s beliefs about the sea. The sea changes constantly and can make objects look different as they sink and waves appear. This is similar to the ways in which the Old Man of the Sea, Proteus, could change shapes.

Traditional as compared with transformational, while not seeking to capture the whole comparison of these two historic heroes, leads to a very different posture for the former than the latter. The positions of both men, Churchill and Mandela, were, for a start, very different. Churchill represented His/Her Majesty’s Government as Prime Minister, while Mandela was not elected until after the defeat of de Klerk’s apartheid. The ‘job description’ for Churchill demanded a rigorous and tenacious adherence to both tradition and protocol. He spoke for the government and people of Great Britain, whereas Mandela spoke as a member of the leadership of the ANC, often under arrest, incarceration, in criminal court as defendant, ‘on the ground’ in his own country without an elector mandate of any kind. Churchill’s ability to establish a highly profiled military general/rhetorician, crafter of highly sophisticated prose was integral to his appeal and his capacity to convey and to share confidence and conviction to the British people, especially in the Blitz on London. His ‘cast’ of wartime leaders included the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Mandela, on the other hand, was surrounded by a shifting band of freedom fighters, lawyers, thinkers, representatives of multiple demographics and tribes and varying interests in how to proceed. The barrage of Third Reich bombs as compared with the eruption of police shootings and arrests, imprisonments, paint very different landscapes, ethos and mood and impact. Mandela was a man of the same nation as his political/legal/ethical/moral enemy and also of the same ordinary suppressed, repressed and enslaved native people of South Africa. Churchill, as compared with Chamberlain, was a “Brit” in a fight with a Germany and a German leader, whose shadow on his nation, the German people have been attempting to shed for decades.

The violence of the third Reich’s attacks negated any discussion or consideration of the question of method of defence. Of course, Britain and the Allies would use military combat techniques, strategies and tactics. Mandela’s and the ANC’s campaign resisted vehemently the urge to engage in violence, and only after it appeared that all other less invasive and destructive measures had fallen on deaf ears, did the ANC revert to violent tactics and strategies.

The ‘fight’ against the Third Reich, for Britain and for Churchill provided a singular, historic, ‘echo’ of a previous conflict in 1914-18, also with Germany. War tactics, strategies, and public support in so many ways were the focus of Churchill’s leadership. Negotiating with FDR, Stalin and other allied leaders provided cohesion and support for the allied cause. In South Africa, on the other hand, the oppression of blacks, Afrikaners, Indians, and Coloureds had been going on for decades, if not centuries. In this case the ‘enemy’ was a system, not a national enemy with a highly charismatic and demented leader. Although geographically bounded, while WWII was an international conflict, the fight to oppose and to dismantle the apartheid system, along with the attitudes and denial of human rights that embodied that system, was less a military conflict than a social, political, ethical, moral and human rights conflict.

Essentially, the dismantling of apartheid through the efforts of the ANC and eventually the international community, was a foreshadowing of the social conflicts over human rights that has dominated the last half of the twentieth century and the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Human rights, inherent to all human beings, irrespective of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language or any other status, include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education and many more. International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups….One of the great achievements of the United Nations is he creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law-a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire…..The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10 1948…It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and is has been translated into over ews500 languages.  (

It is not incidental to note the “Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 did not specifically refer to prisoners, although the rights it laid out-including the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence-implicitly covered them. Sever years later, in 1955, the first United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted the Standard minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. This was an important start and in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted expanded rules known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules,” in honour of arguably the most celebrated prisoner of the twentieth century. (The) Mandela Rules provide States with detailed guidelines for protecting the rights of persons deprived of their liberty from pre-trial detainees to sentenced prisoners….The Rules restrict the use of solitary confinement as a measure of last resort, to be used only in exceptional circumstances. Mandela found solitary confinement to be ‘the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There was no end and no beginning; there’s only one’s own mind which can begin to play tricks.’ At the Robben Island prison in South Africa, Mandela led a movement of civil disobedience that led to better conditions for inmates. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, described how the food improved, short trousers were replaced with long ones, newspapers were permitted and manual labour was discontinued. The Nelson Mandela Rules emphasize that the provision of health care for prisoners is a state responsibility, and that the relationship between health-care professionals and prisoners is governed by the same ethifcal and professional standards as those applicable to patients in the community. Moreover, the Rules oblige prison health-care services to evaluate and care fort eh physical and mental health of prisoners, including those with special needs. ‘The minimum requirements contained in the Nelson Mandela Rules are more relevant today than ever. ((UN Chronical,

Clearly, on this sixteenth day of February, when the world has just learned of the death of Alexei Novalny, in a Siberian prison, the Kremlin, and Putin and his cohorts have either never read or never subscribed to, or have read and totally avoided any responsibility for adhering to, the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Honouring Mandela, as these posts are attempting to do, and as the United Nations has also already attempted to do in so many ways, has not resulted in what might be expected as compliance with the Rules, in the case of the most celebrated political prisoner on today’s world news. Navalny’s death is not only a testament to the cruelty-with-impunity-modus-operandi in which Putin operates, it is a shot over the bow of ‘state’ for the world that demonstrates the risks of the current geopolitical climate, ethos and apparent negligence of all the world powers and their leaders. The security agreement signed today between Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Sholtz, while necessary and offering a glint of solidarity in the Ukrainian efforts to withstand the Putin juggernaut, nevertheless demonstrates the far too high level of national autonomy and impunity that permits nations to default on what are obviously clear and present responsibilities (read especially the U.S. Republicans in the House of Representatives).

Mandela’s cause and that of the people of South Africa, would not have been resolved without the world’s taking notice, supportive sanctions and ultimately United Nations endorsement. The international world needs, today, even more international collaboration and co-operation in confronting demonic initiatives in both Gaza and Ukraine. Words alone do not and will not ‘cut it.’


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