Regardless of what you think you know about the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was one of the most ferocious threats against the white power structure on the continent of Africa. Far from being a pacifist, Mandela led the ANC paramilitary wing, The Spear of the Nation, in a campaign of sheer terror and guerilla warfare against South Africa’s white power structure.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a Khoisan, was born on July 18, 1918 into a family of privilege – descendant of royal advisors who for three hundred years helped defend their kingdom from white invaders. His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, served as chief of the town of Mvezo. When Mandela’s father died, the 9-year old Mandela was sent to live with a Thembu king, where he studied at a missionary school and learned strategies and lessons directly from the King himself. At the age of 19, he attended Fort Hare University, but left after the King had arranged a marriage for Mandela. He left for Johannesburg where he initially found employment as a guard at a mine. However, the employer quickly terminated Mandela after learning that he was the Regent’s runaway ward. Mandela later started work as an articled clerk at a Johannesburg law firm, Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, through connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu. Both men would later found a low or no cost law firm for poor South African Blacks
The March Massacre
In March of 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of unarmed protesters killing 69 people, including 8 women and 10 children, and injuring over 180, including 31 women and 19 children. At the time, Mandela gave up providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many blacks who lacked attorney representation in the area and headed up non-violent resistance movements it the African National Congress. The nonviolent strategy failed, and South Africans soon realized the truth: you cant fight violence with non-violence. Infuriated, Mandela created the Spear of the Nation, an armed wing of the African National Congress, and wadged a guerilla warfare campaign against military and government targets.
Fellow ANC member Wolfie Kadesh explains the campaign led by Mandela: “When we knew that we were going to start on 16 December 1961, to blast the symbolic places of apartheid, like pass offices, native magistrates courts, and things like that … post offices and … the government offices. But we were to do it in such a way that nobody would be hurt, nobody would get killed.” Mandela said of Wolfie: “His knowledge of warfare and his first hand battle experience were extremely helpful to me.”
Mandela became a wanted fugitive as a result of his terrorist acts against the apartheid government. By then, the US CIA was well organized, and had established a working relationship with white South African police who asked for their help in dealing with the ANC threat. The CIA conducted surveillance of the young Mandela and reported their intelligence to the South African secret service. It was with the help of the American CIA that on 5 August 1962 Mandela was captured and imprisoned for 27 years.
“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 will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela, defense statement during the Rivonia Trial, 1964.
While in prison, Mandela was given the lowest classification of all criminals; he received less food than the typical prisoner, and was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. He was subjected to hard labor in South Africa’s limestone quarries. The light coming from the bright white stone was so intense that they scorched Mandela’s tear ducts – to this day, he is unable to shed tears. During his imprisonment, he would also learn of the death of his son in a car accident, and the death of his mother. He was not allowed to attend either funeral, but the white guards were happy to inform him that she died in poverty on the dirt floor of a hut. Those same guards would slip newspaper clippings into Mandela’s cell to torment him. He found out about his wife’s arrest for passing out ANC literature. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela would be placed in solitary confinement for 18 months in Pretoria Central Prison, one of South Africa’s most notorious institutions of execution and torture. Naked for the entire 18 months, her conditions were such that since she had no clothes, her menstruation flowed down her leg and would cake up, and she frequently suffered life threatening illnesses.
Despite all, Mandela never carried himself as anything other than a President. Robben Island Prison was nicknamed “Mandela University”, a place where the minds of young Black Radicals could be shaped. There, he incessantly preached the need for the destruction of the apartheid system and implanted his vision in his fellow prisoners. The people of South Africa and the world never forgot about Mandela during his incarceration, and he became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. It was only after international pressure and the internal threat of civil war in South Africa did then President Frederik Willem de Klerk release Mandela. In 1990, on the day of his release, he came out the same vision that he went in with:
“Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the Spear of the Nation was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.”
In the process of destroying the injustice that was apartheid Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, serving from 1994 unitl 1999. His 30 year old vision had become a reality.
Although “Madiba” has retired from public life, he has been outspoken on a few key issues, such as that of the Iraq war.” What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust”, he said. He also later attacked the U.S on its human rights violations, specifically in regards to the use of atomic weapons:”If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.”