Mandela's Disturbing Legacy: Mandela Could Have Made A Difference - Betrayal Defines His Legacy
06 December 2013
By Stephen Lendman
On December 5, Mandela died peacefully at home in
Johannesburg. Cause of death was respiratory failure.
He was 95.
Supporters called him a dreamer of big dreams. His
legacy fell woefully short. More on that below.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Nelson Mandela
Children's Fund, and Mandela Rhodes Foundation issued
the following statement:
"It is with the deepest regret that we have learned of
the passing of our founder, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
"The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa will
shortly make further official announcements."
"We want to express our sadness at this time. No words
can adequately describe this enormous loss to our
nation and to the world."
"We give thanks for his life, his leadership, his
devotion to humanity and humanitarian causes."
"We salute our friend, colleague and comrade and thank
him for his sacrifices for our freedom."
"The three charitable organisations that he created
dedicate ourselves to continue promoting his
He'll be buried according to his wishes in Qunu
village. It's where he grew up. In 1943, he joined the
African National Congress (ANC). He co-founded its
He defended what he later called Thatcherism. On trial
for alleged Sabotage Act violations, he said in court:
"The ANC has never at any period of its history
advocated a revolutionary change in the economic
structure of the country, nor has it, to the best of
my recollection, ever condemned capitalist society."
In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison. He was
mostly incarcerated on Robben Island. It's in Table
Bay. It's around 7km offshore from Cape Town.
In February 1990, he was released. In 1993, he
received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with South
African President FW de Klerk.
Nobel Committee members said it was "for their work
for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime,
and for laying the foundations for a new democratic
De Klerk enforced the worst of apartheid ruthlessness.
In 1994, Mandela was elected president. He served from
May 1994 - June 1999.
He exacerbated longstanding economic unfairness. He
deserves condemnation, not praise.
John Pilger's work exposed South African apartheid
harshness. Doing so got him banned. Thirty years later
He wanted to see firsthand what changed. He
interviewed Mandela in retirement. His "Apartheid Did
Not Die" documentary followed.
"Behind the modern face of democracy, the scourges of
inequality, unemployment and homelessness persist," he
White supremacy remained unchanged. It's no different
today. A few blacks share wealth, power and privilege.
The vast majority of black society is worse off than
Mandela embraced the worst of neoliberal harshness.
His successors follow the same model.
Pilger posed tough questions. He asked Mandela how ANC
freedom fighting ended up embracing Thatcherism.
Mandela responded saying:
"You can put any label on it you like. You can call it
Thatcherite but, for this country, privatization is
the fundamental policy."
Pilger discovered that 80% of South African children
suffered poor health. One-fourth under age six were
During Mandela's tenure, more South Africans died from
malnutrition and preventable diseases than under
Concentrated wealth is more extreme than ever. White
farmers control over 80% of agricultural land. They
dominate choicest areas.
Pilger said about one-fourth of South Africa's budget
goes for interest on odious debt.
He explained how five major corporations control over
three-fourths of business interests. They dominate
South African life.
Concentrated wealth and power are extreme. Whites
control about 90% of national wealth. A select few
black businessmen, politicians and trade union leaders
benefit with them.
The dominant Anglo-American Corporation is hugely
exploitive. Gold mining exacts an enormous human cost.
Pilger said one death and 12 serious injuries
accompany each ton of gold mined. One-third of workers
contract deadly lung disease. They're left on their
own to suffer and die.
Post-apartheid democracy reflects the worst of free
market capitalism. It's bereft of freedom. Reform
Mandela's "unbreakable promise" was forgotten. In
1990, two weeks before freed from prison, he said:
"The nationalization of the mines, banks and monopoly
industries is the policy of the ANC (and changing) our
"Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support
and encourage, but in our situation state control of
certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable."
In 1955, ANC's Freedom Charter declared "South Africa
belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and
that no government can justly claim authority unless
it is based on the will of all the people."
"The people shall govern! All national groups shall
have equal rights!"
"The people shall share in the country's wealth!"
"The land shall be shared among those who work it!"
"All shall be equal before the law!"
"All shall enjoy equal human rights!"
"There shall be work and security!"
"The doors of learning and culture shall be opened!"
"There shall be houses, security and comfort!"
"There shall be peace and friendship!"
"Let all people who love their people and their
country now say, as we say here:
THESE FREEDOMS WE WILL FIGHT FOR, SIDE BY SIDE,
THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES, UNTIL WE HAVE WON OUR LIBERTY"
Liberation was supposed to be economic, social and
political. White worker wages were manyfold more than
black ones. White mine workers earned 10 times more
Post-apartheid promised change never materialized.
Mandela embraced the worst of free market orthodoxy.
Before his election, journalist Anthony Sampson said
he agreed "to reduce the deficit, to high interest
rates and to an open economy, in return for access to
an IMF loan of $850 million, if required."
It comes with strings. Structural adjustments mandate
harshness. They require privatization of state
enterprises, mass layoffs, deregulation, deep social
spending cuts, unrestricted market access for Western
corporations, corporate tax cuts, marginalizing trade
unionism, and harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers.
Mandela told South African workers to "tighten (their)
"(A)ccept low wages so that investment would flow."
"We must rid ourselves of the culture of entitlement
that leads to the expectation that the government must
promptly deliver whatever it is that we demand."
"Apartheid never died in South Africa," said Pilger.
"It inspired a world order upheld by force and
Mandela stood at the crossroads. He seemed poised to
lead a new direction. His popularity and bigger than
life persona empowered him.
He had a unique chance to reject neoliberal orthodoxy.
ANC candidates swept 1994 elections.
Mandela became president. A peaceful transition was
achieved. Privileged white interests maintained real
Mandela's agenda could have been different. He could
followed what Chavez successfully instituted in
He chose not to. Black South Africans paid dearly.
Mandela's legacy remains tainted. He relegated his
people to horrific post-apartheid conditions.
"Just call me a Thatcherite," he said. He adopted free
market fundamentalist harshness. Neoliberal shock
therapy followed. It works the same way wherever it's
The toll on black South Africans was devastating. He
and other ANC leaders bear full responsibility. People
living on less than $1 a day doubled.
From 1991 - 2002, unemployment soared to 48%. It
remains disturbingly high. Officially it's around 26%.
It's much higher.
Youth unemployment exceeds 50%. About 80% of
unemployed young people never worked or had jobs
longer than a year.
During the first decade of ANC rule, around two
million South Africans lost homes. Another one million
lost farms. Shack dwelling increased 50%.
One-fourth or more of South Africans have no running
water or electricity. Around 40% of schools have no
About 50% of South Africans have inadequate
sanitation. Around 40% have no telephones.
HIV/AIDS remains a major problem. South Africa has the
world's largest number of affected people. Officially
it's over five million. Unofficially it's higher.
It's more than in North America, Latin America,
Eastern Europe and Central Asia combined.
Post-apartheid, life expectancy declined by 13 years.
In 2011, it was 58, according to the World Health
Organization. It ranks below Afghanistan at 60 years.
Overall South African conditions remain deplorable.
They exceed the worst of apartheid harshness.
Neoliberal exploitation exacted a horrific toll.
Mandela could have made a difference. He chose
Thatcherism over economic fairness. Betrayal defines
He relegated millions of black South Africans to
permanent destitution, unemployment, hunger,
malnutrition, homelessness, lost futures and early
His bigger than life persona is undeserved. So are
eulogies praising his accomplishments. They reflect
figments of historical revisionism.
Stephen Lendman lives in
Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging
Financial War on Humanity." http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen
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