Arguments on Mandela and the African National Congress


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born 1918), the South African resistance leader who, after years of imprisonment for opposing apartheid, has emerged to become the first president of a black-majority-ruled South Africa and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has long fought for the struggle of black Americans against racism, discrimination, and economic inequality and symbolized the strength of resistance and the beauty of black pride. Although Mandela is proud by choice to be Black in nature, I have to reason against him in some ways. This research paper will try to present that although Mandela championed his race, he refused to cooperate with the South African government and this certainly ran in contrast with his principle of uniting his people, whether white and black in color. This paper is also aimed to contain why Mandela defied or somehow failed to tell the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to stop the violence while he was in jail.

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Nelson Mandela and the ANC

            It should not be taken lightly that Nelson Mandela personifies struggle. After spending nearly three decades of his life behind bars, he is still leading the cause against apartheid (or social policy in South Africa) with extraordinary vigor and resilience. This fight has sacrificed his private life and his youth for his people as he remains South Africa’s best known and loved hero. Born at Qunu, near Umtata on 18 July 1918, Mandela was destined to be a leader as to be traced with his early history when he became the chief’s ward and was groomed for the chieftainship when his father, Henry Mgadla Mandela, the former chief councilor to Thembuland’s acting paramount chief David Dalindyebo, died. Mandela has participated in a student strike and was expelled; traveled the country organizing resistance to discriminatory legislation; predicted mass removals, political persecutions and police terror; launched a campaign of sabotage against government and economic installations; and even recommended that community activists “make every home, every shack or rickety structure a center of learning”.

            Mandela prefaced life’s challenge with the affirmation: I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man. Another classics of Mandela’s resistance to apartheid are his statements in court during the Rivonia trials, and which have been an inspiration to all who have opposed it, ended with these words:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

            In so much have been said and attributed to Mandela, his critics have also stated a handful of unfavorable judgment against his personality and the things he fought for. His antagonists and the opponents of his political party, the ANC, have questioned his crusades and his true impact with the people of South Africa and the rest of the world. Mandela’s successor has not even evaded the critical analysis of whether the support of South African blacks can be retained without rejecting that of whites. Although white South Africans are still reeling from the impact of Mandela’s  preach of “national reconciliation” in a rainbow nation and while many whites who felt guilt, with some reason about the past, have eventually been delighted to grasp the proffered hand of black friendship, I still see that there is a need to somehow argue with Mandela for one reason that his fights have resulted into upheaval and noncooperation to the South African government.

            In one of his tirades, Mandela excoriated the enemies of the “national democratic revolution” and linked the media, opposition parties, non-governmental organizations, and sundry others in a vast counterrevolutionary conspiracy. He and other ANC spokesmen have suggested that South Africa’s crime wave, a murder rate which was compared 11 times as high as New York City’s, was deliberately encouraged by whites. Mandela dismissed as puppets some of the condemned businesses and newspapers which are actually run by blacks. Whites are the more frightened by this change in rhetoric because of what is happening then across the border in Zimbabwe. There, President Mugabe, after 17 years of economic failure, has announced the expropriation of hundreds of white-owned farms, a move that is expected to cause agricultural production to fall by 35 per cent (the value of the currency has already dropped 60 per cent). For the first time, many South African whites, Asians, and Colored and not a few blacks are looking into the abyss and wondering whether, after all, South Africa will follow Zimbabwe down. Mandela could not have been a picture of greatness after all as forces beyond his control are in play. Even his speeches were a collective ANC effort, with the dominant influence being that of his successor, Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki, who as deputy president has been running the government for some time already, has worried that once he formally took over he would be compared unfavorably to Mandela the hero. If only Mbeki moved in a more radical direction, he could have plenty of supporting statements from the great man himself.

            Amidst euphoria in 1994, Mandela and the ANC government have in most respects been an enormous failure. With promises of jobs, unemployment even has risen. With an aim to build a million houses, not even a third of that number has been built. Extravagant promises in health and education have gone unrealized as well. The most important expectation of all was that the ANC, as a fully “legitimate” majority party, would have the authority to restore law and order. Unfortunately crime has soared. And with unwise affirmative action appointments and over ambitious attempts to legislate everything, the state administration appeared on the edge of collapse. Everywhere one looks — the ports, the post office, the deeds office, the schools, the police — there is general collapse and failure. This is even eminent of the several jail breaks a week.

            Come to think of it, this should come as no surprise. Samuel Huntington points out that in transitions to democracy the first of the new governments without exception have been failures; that most of the second governments are failures too; and that it is only with the third that there is much hope of improvement. So, in this context, South Africa is simply on par. But Mandela and the ANC activists promised , as expected, nothing less than instant social, psychological, and economic liberation. Many of these failures were reared on vulgar Marxism, and if liberation has not brought them what was promised, Mandela was quick to believe that it was the result of a white conspiracy. For ANC and Mandela, their deeds were so deeply reassuring but for everyone else, it was so disturbing.

            It was all too common a generation ago to see African countries with peasant economies go into spirals of decline under hegemonic Marxist parties. But today’s South Africa is a country of six-lane highways, jet planes, and computers. It is locked into the global market economy far more tightly than the peasant economies to its north. I tend to agree with Mandela’s critics that whenever something doesn’t work properly, that it is because of the inheritance of apartheid. Lately, this can be altered with the notion that it is not just apartheid that needs to be redressed but three hundred years of colonialism. The whole truth in this is that apartheid has bequeathed South Africa a badly educated and psychologically damaged black elite. Mandela’s flock who belongs to that elite nonetheless insisted that its political predominance must be matched as rapidly as possible by “transformation” or in their own believed words –  black predominance in every other public arena as well. Given the complexity of South Africa’s government including its economy, the current disarray is the inevitable result. Mandela’s programs are huge unfunded wish-list of projects. It became clear in 1994 that carrying out Mandela’s program was simply impossible because the currency was collapsing.  Inflation, public spending, and debt have all been brought down. The government was caught in a major bind. A long list of unfulfilled promises by Mandela and the ANC during the April 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections are proof of his solid noncooperation with the South African government. What was needed was the logic of economic rationality which does not stop at cutting the public debt: it ought to mean giving priority to law and order, halting the crazier forms of affirmative action, deregulating the labor market, and pushing ahead with privatization. Mandela tried to make South Africa the sort of country where the white minority will be happy to stay because its concerns are being addressed. For historical reasons South Africa’s white, Asian, and Coloured populations constitute the country’s major reservoir not only of capital but also of educated manpower, entrepreneurial and technical skills, and managerial expertise. If the South African economy is to grow — or even to stay on the rails — these groups have to be kept tolerably satisfied; already the economy has been damaged by the brain drain resulting from white emigration. Mandela’s rule has led to a prodigious growth in the number of middle-class blacks, but most of these people either are employed in government or are the beneficiaries of government patronage; this class is in no way a substitute for the people who have kept the economy moving. Thus the government is caught on the horns of not one but many dilemmas. It wants to keep pushing jobs and contracts toward those it politically and ethnically prefers, but this is damaging not only the economy but also the government’s ability to deliver on anything else. Mandela put it in a way that is saw white businessmen as the enemy, but as the state machine implodes it finds itself more dependent on them than ever. It has promised black emancipation and finds itself presiding over the rocketing growth of inequality among blacks as the middle class fattens on government largesses and the poor continue to sink. It is now apparent to everyone that Mandela refused to cooperate with the government as the great promises of liberation have not been kept. Even within the ANC there is deep inward panic over the possibility that the first black-run government in South Africa will slip into the same cycle of corruption and incompetence seen elsewhere on the continent. Mandela’s refusal really represented a desperate throwing up of hands, a refusal to confront these dilemmas, and a determination to blame the whites for any and every problem. (Johnson, 1998).

            While in jail for nearly three decades, Mandela also refused and failed to tell the ANC to stop violence. When South Africa’s first democratic elections made Nelson Mandela President and brought the ANC to power, hard questions remain about apartheid’s poisonous legacy and the ‘morbid symptoms’ that tarnish the Rainbow Nation. Enver Carim’s Keeping His Promise novel opened a shattering act of brutality and tracked the quest for vengeance. Despite some overblown writing and a hectoring style, this novel made a compelling case that the endemic violence in South African society is a lingering national psychosis to be worked through rather than a failure of democracy. Mandela’s failure to stop violence was known with  many of apartheid’s torturers and killers to walk free and, indeed, remain in positions of power. (Baird, 2004).  Because of Mandela’s refusal to have ANC stop violence, it has done little to ease doubts about the unwisdom (or worse) of its programs.

            In new South Africa today, crime breeds fear. South Africa has long been violent. The violence now has a different quality: for many of the perpetrators, it has become a way of life. It is ineradicable. Insofar as the violence is politically motivated, the image given of it in the Western press is willfully misleading. There is no doubt that the government and security forces have perpetrated many killings. The portrayal in the press of the ANC as essentially civilized and peace-loving is absurd, at best wishful thinking by those with a guilty racial conscience, at worst a deliberate falsification. The ANC now has a long history of brutal torture in its camps outside of South Africa, in Angola, Tanzania, and elsewhere, under conditions worse than those created by the government. This brutality was not an aberration, but an essential means of forging totalitarian discipline. A few thousand victims of torture would be but a small price to pay. As the monster of apartheid begins a death rattle, it continues to spawn “some hideously deformed stepchildren, the worst of which is violence,” a noted South African cleric has warned. Bishop Peter Storey, a South African Methodist, told delegates to a major World Council of Churches meeting in Johannesburg that people who have “endured the pain of bondage must now learn the exercise of freedom.” Black South Africans will have to do this against the background of “a confusing and complex mosaic of violence” in which none of the country’s political factions “has completely clean hands,” Storey said, according to a report from the World Council. Violence and confusion continue to confront South Africa. Storey noted that while South Africa is “negotiating a revolution of great proportions,” the violence affecting the nation has been isolated and geographically limited. He reported that nearly all of the 4,000 people who died in South African political violence in 1993 were killed in two regions: the East Rand and Natal.

            Mandela and the ANC’s pretension to be the sole legitimate representative of South African blacks was never accepted because of the aftermath of the former’s refusal to cooperate with the government other than his and violence that it has resulted. Preventing the likes of Mandela from coming into power in anything like its current form should be the  objective in South Africa after apartheid goes.


Baird, Vanessa. (2004) Keeping His Promise: Exploring Mandela’s Emotional Legacy. New        Internationalist.

Black on black – power struggle in South Africa between the African National Congress and       the Inkatha Movement – editorial. National Review. August 26, 1991. Retrieved          from 10 December 2007    <>

Daniels, Anthony. (1993) The new killing fields – violence in South Africa. National Review.      Retrieved from 10 Dec. 2007.       <>

Johnson, R.W. (1998) ANC agonistes: can Nelson Mandela’s successor retain the support of        South African blacks without rejecting that of whites? – African National Congress.          National Review.

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