Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About

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R.I.P. Nelson Mandela Your Memory Will Give Us Strength


Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About


Mandela Castro
Credit: AP

In the desire to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life — an iconic figure who triumphed over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime — it’s tempting to homogenize his views into something everyone can support. This is not, however, an accurate representation of the man.

Mandela was a political activist and agitator. He did not shy away from controversy and he did not seek — or obtain — universal approval. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced an unabashedly progressive and provocative platform. As one commentator put it shortly after the announcement of the freedom fighter’s death,

“Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view.”

As the world remembers Mandela, here are some of the things he believed that many will gloss over.

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism. Mandela called Bush “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly,” and accused him of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war in Iraq. “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil,” he said. Mandela even speculated that then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan was being undermined in the process because he was black. “They never did that when secretary-generals were white,” he said. He saw the Iraq War as a greater problem of American imperialism around the world. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care,” he said.

Mandela Poverty


2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.” Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere.

“Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”

He considered ending poverty a basic human duty:

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Mandela Rowson Comp

3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists, even Osama Bin Laden, without due process. On the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008 himself, Mandela was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush’s war on terror. He warned against rushing to label terrorists without due process. While calling for Osama bin Laden to be brought to justice, Mandela said, “The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.”


4. Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enter the last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” he said. “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

Gaddaffi: A friend of neoliberal governments when it suited their agendas
Gaddaffi: A friend of neoliberal governments when it suited their agendas


5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies. Mandela incited shock and anger in many American communities for refusing to denounce Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had lent their support to Mandela against South African apartheid. “One of the mistakes the Western world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,” he explained to an American TV audience. “We have our own struggle.” He added that those leaders “are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle.” He also called the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat “a comrade in arms.”




6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions. Mandela visited the Detroit auto workers union when touring the U.S., immediately claiming kinship with them.

“Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here,” he said. “The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.”

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7 thoughts on “Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About

  1. Malcolm says:

    I loved Nelson Mandela for the things he spoke about and his actions too. I wished I had met this man, I believe I have the fight of what I believe in because of this man. One man who you admire makes all the difference to your life for the better, as you have something to fight for. I remember 1990’s I wasn’t very old in fact I was less than 15 years old and I remember the news about this man and that he went to prison but came out and he was supposed to be a terrorist maybe he was but look at the things this man has done. South Africa would have been so different without this man. I believe it would have been worse he saw a person for who they are not for the colour of the skin or by their disabilities he didn’t care. What he cared about was their rights as a human being.
    We haven’t any rights as Cameron and his army did that for us. We have to make a stand to put this all correct again. We need to unite and make our present known.

  2. Trevor says:

    There are also things that Mandela’s admirers on the Left won’t talk about either: prime being the fact that millions of blacks have seen very little change to their impoverished lives whilst many of their erstwhile leaders in the ANC have been voraciously enriching themselves at their expense (Cyril Ramaphosa, the ex-trade union boss, who is now worth an estimated $675 million from his multifarious business activities, being just one example amongst many).

    Don’t get me wrong, Apartheid was a thoroughly evil, fascistic system that needed destroying and Mandela played a noble part in its demise, but too many of its dismantlers have since been seduced by power and money into betraying both their principles and supporters in an unsavory rush to join the ranks of South Africa’s new black bourgeoise.

  3. nigel simmons says:

    Cameron will never cease to amaze those that are still looking for any semblance of moral fibre within the man , observers can see he has an innate ability to seem genuinely engaged in an issue but actually is far from it .
    Supposedly a Christian but hypocritically attending a mans funeral that he totally opposed when Mandela was incarcerated typifies his chameleon qualities .Cameron backed apartheid as a young Conservative and even was outspoken against sanctions on South Africa because of it .He even went on a freebies ‘fact finding’ mission in support of President Botha the ex Prime Minister who advocated Apartheid .
    The draconian Welfare Reforms and the immoral consequences they have caused will no doubt have little sympathy or compassion form Cameron so unless we get rid of him our lives will be further darkened .
    An open admission that he has used cocaine in the past is an admission that he has thwarted the law himself but is introducing more of them in order to restrict our freedoms even further .The Tory mentality needs to be examined to have had ID Smith as its leader and now a control freak in Cameron .

  4. Humanity2012 says:

    A Socialist State A Socialist Society and the Abolition of
    Neo Liberalism that is what We Need

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