He is revered and respected but a few negative attributes are not commonly talked about. During the struggle to end apartheid, he was instrumental in leading the negotiations with the then president, F. W. De Klerk. This was by virtue of his position as president of the African National Congress, his 27-year detention in Robben Island and the broad national and international appeal that his quest had generated. He succeeded in negotiating a political settlement that later made him president but did not secure economic rights for the majority black population. He failed to implement the nationalization of the gold and diamond mines as per the economic charter that had been approved. This meant that the whites still maintained control of key sectors of the economy, a situation that made him follow orders from them. For example, he was accused of handing over a draft ANC economic program to Harry Oppenheimer, former chairperson of Anglo-American and Debeers mining companies for approval before presenting it to the people. Mandela made revisions to suit Oppenheimer’s and other businesspersons’ wishes. This makes Nelson Mandela hypocritical to the cause of black empowerment.
In addition, he failed to fulfill his wish to redistribute land to simplify the chances of blacks owning this valuable asset. He did so by going against public opinion and making the Reserve Bank independent of government control thereby placing it under private ownership whose owners were well-known apartheid sympathizers. Armed with the backing of the new constitution that he himself promulgated, the land question became very emotive because there was a clause in the constitution that protected private property of which the Reserve Bank owned in large quantities. Effectively, it reduces his moral standing as a man who cannot bend the rules to benefit a few people at the expense of the majority. This is in contrast to one of his speeches in which he said, “…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities…” (Mandela’s Rivonia Trial Speech 1).
He is known to have used peaceful means to end apartheid but this is factually incorrect. In fact, he was one of the founders of ANC’s military wing called Umkhontho we Sizwe which was responsible for using violence especially bombings targeting colonialists. This was as a response to the constant discrimination against blacks. This is what often led to him to be arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. He would then be jailed and occasionally released but his longest stint in jail was for 27 years.
Consequently, the often near religious following and respect that he commands worldwide is a sign of pretence of the masses. They do not want to discuss the flaws of Mandela just because he achieved greater things for his fellow citizens than his failures. This is wrong because it makes him seem supernatural yet he did mistakes just like any other normal human being would. The series of disappointments that he committed should not be overlooked because some of them are the causes of the current problems facing South Africa. For instance, wealth inequality among the blacks and whites. The gap between the rich and the poor could not have been that big if he had fixed these problems early enough. Therefore, in a way, he let down the black community and to some extent did not realize his goal of equality for all types of people.
Mandela’s Rivonia Trial Speech. News24. January 24, 2011. Web. December 3, 2013.
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