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Nelson Mandela: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?

9 December, 2013 (13:35) | Personal | By: Liebrand

nelson_mandela

1918 – 2013

I was born in South Africa and spent most of my childhood there until 1992 when my parents moved our family to the United States. With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela I’ve had many people ask me how I felt about it. This article is to shed some light on my childhood, my perspective then and now.

I was raised to believe that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. I was very vocal about that fact when I first arrived in the United States because many people here praised him. I could never understand how a man that was part of a “terrorist” organization could be praised by so many. I was always on the defensive about this topic.

As I grew up and matured I realized that I never truly understood why I felt the way I did about him. Was it something they taught me in schools? Was it my parents’ beliefs? I’ll never really know but what I do know is what I feel now. Growing up in South Africa I never felt unsafe and I was never taught to hate any other race – I felt that I had a fairly normal childhood. Over the past few days I have thought long and hard about how I feel about Mandela and the current situation in South Africa.

In 1992, my parents made the decision to leave South Africa to give us a better life. I can never thank them enough for their choice because I have a successful career, met and married an amazing woman and have three awesome kids. I often wondered what would have happened to me if I stayed in South Africa. South Africa is one of the most unsafe countries in the world. I’ve lost friends to the bombings and the killing of innocent people – that could have been me.

Is the crime rate caused by Nelson Mandela? I do not think so. It is the cause of a poverty stricken country. You might say, “Well, there is crime everywhere you go in the world.” That is true but the crimes committed in South Africa are worse than murder. The rest of the world knows very little about the brutal killings that happen in South Africa. Woman and children are raped or tortured before they are killed. Some have boiling water poured down their throats or hacked to death with machetes. Even killed by placing tires around their necks and setting them on fire. These crimes are happening to both blacks and whites.

Are these brutal acts of violence ordered by Nelson Mandela? I think not – this is just the current situation in South Africa.

I’ve learn to disconnect the current violent situation in South Africa from the man Nelson Mandela. They are not exclusively tied to each other and the South African people who left pre-apartheid transition need to see this. I am not saying you need to change your opinion / beliefs about Nelson Mandela but I am saying you cannot blame that man for the current situation; the high crime rates, rape, and brutal murders.

Was Nelson Mandela a terrorist? Was he a freedom fighter? It wasn’t until I had a discussion with my Uncle that I truly understood the difference. He said to me “A terrorist is a person who can change things by voting but chooses to use violence instead. A freedom fighter is someone who has no voice and cannot vote and decides to change things with violence.” This put many things in perspective for me – if you look back at the history of South Africa, the black population had no chance to make any changes. The only fighting chance they had was to take to arms.

If you do some searching on the Internet regarding the ANC and bombings in South Africa, you will undoubtedly come up on the following list:

  • 1981 – 2 car bombs at Durban showrooms
  • 1983 – Church Street Bomb (killed 19, wounded 217)
  • 1984 – Durban car bomb (killed 5, wounded 27)
  • 1985-1987 – At least 150 landmines on farm roads (killed 125)
  • 1985 – Amanzimtoti Sanlam shopping centre bomb Dec 23 (killed 2 white women and 3 white children)
  • 1986 – Magoo’s Bar bomb (killed 3, wounded 69)
  • 1986 – Newcastle Court bomb (wounded 24)
  • 1987 – Johannesburg Court bomb (killed 3, wounded 10)
  • 1987 – Wits command centre car bomb (killed 1, wounded 68)
  • 1988 – Johannesburg video arcade (killed 1 unborn baby, wounded 10)
  • 1988 – Roodepoort bank bomb (killed 4, wounded 18)
  • 1988 – Pretoria Police housing unit, 2 bombs (wounded 3)
  • 1988 – Magistrate’s Court bomb (killed 3)
  • 1988 – Benoni Wimpy Bar bomb (killed 1, wounded 56)
  • 1988 – Witbank shopping centre bomb (killed 2, wounded 42)
  • 1988 – Ellis Park Rugby Stadium car bomb (killed 2, wounded 37)
  • Late 1980s – numerous Wimpy Restaurant bombs (killed many, wounded many)

The one thing this list is missing is links to sources for this information. Many of these bombings were targeting military establishments or police facilities (which are filled with corruption). Were innocent people killed? Yes. Were some of these bombings unsanctioned? Probably.

Are all these bombings specifically tied to Nelson Mandela? No. They are tied to the organization for which he belonged.

In April of 2013, President Obama stood in the White House and said “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror” (Source: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-any-time-bombs-are-used-target-civilians-it-act-terror). Many people are trying to relate this statement President Obama made to Nelson Mandela but why? There will always be casualties of war in any conflict – it happens in American wars all the time. Should the United States be considered terrorists because of the innocent people they have killed in their bombings? (Source: http://cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm)?

You are naive to think that innocent people will not be killed during any type of conflict. Some will be sanctioned by the leaders and some will happen out of boredom and some will happen by accident. I do not condone any act of violence towards innocent civilians but all nations are guilty of it and you cannot put that on the shoulders of one man.

In 1985, the South African President offered Nelson Mandela a conditional release from prison if he renounced violence and violent protest as a way to bring change in South Africa. Mandela refused the offer stating that the ANC only adopted violence as a means of protest because they had no other way to make change. It wasn’t until the South African government agreed to negotiate with the ANC if the organization renounced violence (Source: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/president-p-w-botha-offers-nelson-mandela-conditional-release-prison). A terrorist or freedom fighter? Hmmm….

South Africa still has many issues and has a long way to go; in fact the violent crimes may never end there. See the following for examples of the brutality in South Africa:

· http://genocidewatch.org/images/White_Genocide_TVA.pdf

· http://genocidewatch.org/southafrica.html

· http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-news/africa/item/13280-genocide-communism-threaten-south-africa

Even after reading the links above, you cannot honestly make the connection to one man. It’s a country plagued by poverty and low education.

If the release of Mandela from prison helped abolish the apartheid in South Africa then that was definitely a step in the right direction. Everyone should be treated as equal, have the right to vote and the right to a better life. The people of South Africa can now live where they want, they can make change at the ballot boxes and are a freer nation today than they were 20, 30, 60 years ago.

As you see things popping up on the Internet regarding Mandela, the ANC or the situation in South Africa do not make immediately judgments on that without doing some research first. For example, while researching information about the ANC you will more than likely come across the following videos showing ANC leaders singing a pre-apartheid song called “Kill the Boers” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fzRSE_p1Ys). The video does not show that the South African High Court ruled it has hate speech. There are always more sides to a story.

This article is not meant to change your minds, opinions or beliefs about Mandela. Even after all this I cannot say I stronger favor one opinion over another. As I’ve grown up, my perspective on things have changed and I look at the situation a little differently now. Perhaps you should too.


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  • Tom Duff

    Very well written… thanks for sharing that. I liked the definitions of freedom fighter versus terrorist. I had never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense.