December 21st 2013

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Australia's year of the three prime ministers

EDITORIAL: Australia needs to rethink East Timor policy

SOUTH AFRICA: Nelson Mandela: some inconvenient truths

CULTURE AND CIVILISATION: A clear and present danger:
Religious liberty and the family in the late-modern age

LIFE ISSUES: Belgium euthanasia experience teaches bitter lessons

VICTORIA: Liberal Party votes to restore GP's conscience rights

SCHOOLS: Extra money not the best way to raise standards

OPINION: The values needed to underpin Australia's economic growth

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: High Court challenge to same-sex 'marriage' in ACT

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Scant media coverage of Parliamentary Prayer Service

CULTURE: The most dangerous idea in human history

TAIWAN: From putrid to clean and green in 30 years

BOOK REVIEW: Not the end of history but the return of history

BOOK REVIEW: A time for militancy

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SOUTH AFRICA: Nelson Mandela: some inconvenient truths

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, December 21, 2013

The late Nelson Mandela has been portrayed in the mainstream media as a statesman and humanitarian without blemish. It is true that when apartheid ended and he came to power in South Africa, he did not emulate Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe and massacre his political opponents. Instead, he tried to ease the transition to black-majority rule by setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, recent media reports have emphasised only one side of Mandela. CultureWatch commentator Bill Muehlenberg here provides some balance.

It was not originally my intention to say anything about the passing of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), but with so much hagiography and historical revisionism taking place since his death, it seems an article to help bring a bit of balance might be in order. The impression we are getting from many is this: not only was Nelson Mandela messianic in nature, but he is now in the bosom of heaven.


Left to right: Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela

and Joe Slovo, general secretary of the

South African Communist Party,

at a rally to re-launch the SACP, July 29, 1990. 

I do not claim to be an authority on the man, but whether he was a genuine Christian who repented of his sins is not clear. I hope he was, and those who have proof of this are welcome to bring it forward.

If he were such a great Christian, plenty of Christians suffered under him, as South African missionary Dr Peter Hammond has said.

One article reports: “Mandela was deeply involved in terrorist activity and is responsible for promoting wickedness in the land. ‘I wouldn’t generally want to celebrate somebody who made his position in life by blowing people up,’ he stated on a recent broadcast….

Hammond outlined that Mandela was the head of the military wing of the African National Committee (ANC), which Hammond also referred to as ‘the abortion, necklacing and corruption party’. He said that 1,000 Africans were killed by necklacing in the country through the ANC, an act where terrorists would ‘put an automobile tire over someone, pour petrol over them [and] set them alight’.

Hammond also described numerous other acts of violence that he alleges were committed by the ANC under the order or oversight of Mandela. ‘Missionaries and their kids [were] murdered, bayoneted on the fields — whole families killed by landmines planted in the roads,’ he said. The South African missionary stated that Mandela’s wife Winnie also participated in violent acts. ‘Winnie Mandela actually was found guilty in court of the murder of a 12-year-old boy,’ he explained. ‘And it was upheld on appeal. She was sentenced to five years in prison, [but] she hasn’t served a day’.” (Christian News Network, November 26, 2013).

I wish here to look at some more political and historical issues. The truth is, to say Mandela was a great man is misleading in many respects. Certainly, he was charming and gracious, and his moves for national reconciliation were to be applauded. No one is denying that.

But that is not all there is to the man. Simply put, he was also a Marxist and a terrorist who was imprisoned after being found guilty of committing 156 acts of violence and terrorism. Consider some more detail here.

Mandela was imprisoned for involvement in these terrorist attacks. The guerrilla force, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, or ‘Spear of the Nation’), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party, was founded in 1961 by him and his advisor, the Lithuanian-born communist Joe Slovo, who was secretary general of the South African Communist Party in 1986.


The ANC prepares to “necklace”

a suspected opponent. 

Slovo planned many of the ANC terrorist attacks. In 1962, Mandela was arrested along with 19 others, many of whom were communists, in a police raid on ANC headquarters at a farm in Rivonia, a Johannesburg suburb. In the Rivonia Trial of 1963-1964 the defendants were ‘tried for 221 acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the government and conspiring to aid foreign military units’.

Does anyone remember the Pretoria Church Street bombing? As one write-up puts it: “The Church Street attack on May 20, 1983, killed 19 and injured more than 200 people when a car with 40kg of explosives was detonated outside the SAAF (South African Air Force) headquarters. Two MK cadres, who were in the car at the time, were also killed because the bomb exploded two minutes early.

A huge pall of smoke rose hundreds of feet into the air as debris and bodies were strewn around the scene of the explosion. It exploded at the height of the city’s rush-hour as hundreds of people were leaving work for the weekend. Glass and metal were catapulted into the air as shop-fronts and windows were blown out. Many passers-by had limbs amputated by the flying debris. Others bled to death.

In his book Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela wrote that, as a leading member of the ANC’s executive committee, he had ‘personally signed off’ in approving these acts of terrorism. This is the horror which Mandela had ‘signed off’ for while he was in prison — convicted for other acts of terrorism after the Rivonia trial. The late SA president P.W. Botha told Mandela in 1985 that he could be a free man as long as he did just one thing: ‘publicly renounce violence’. Mandela refused.” (The South Africa Project website, Mandeville, Louisiana, undated).

And, as Lee Jenkins also notes, “Tellingly, not only did Mandela refuse to renounce violence, Amnesty (International) refused to take his case stating ‘[the] movement recorded that it could not give the name of “Prisoner of Conscience” to anyone associated with violence, even though as in “conventional warfare” a degree of restraint may be exercised’.”

He continues, “Despite being synonymous with freedom and democracy, Mandela was never afraid to glad hand the thugs and tyrants of the international arena. General Sani Abacha seized power in Nigeria in a military coup in November 1993. From the start of his presidency, in May 1994, Nelson Mandela refrained from publicly condemning Abacha’s actions. Up until the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November 1995 the ANC government vigorously opposed the imposition of sanctions against Nigeria….

Two of the ANC’s biggest donors, in the 1990s, were Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and President Suharto of Indonesia. Not only did Mandela refrain from criticising their lamentable human rights records but he interceded diplomatically on their behalf, and awarded them South Africa’s highest honour. Suharto was awarded a state visit, a 21-gun salute, and The Order of Good Hope (gold class).” (The Backbencher, June 27, 2013).

He also lists some of the other attacks ‘signed off’ by Mandela:

Amanzimtoti shopping complex KZN, December 23, 1985.

Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, March 17, 1988.

Durban Pick ’n Pay shopping complex, September 1, 1986.

Pretoria Sterland movie complex, April 16, 1988 — limpet mine killed ANC terrorist M.O. Maponya instead.

Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, May 20, 1987.

Roodepoort Standard Bank, June 3, 1988.

Yet many want to argue that Mandela, once he came to power, changed his policies and later eschewed violence. Well, yes and no. While he worked for reconciliation, he continued to hobnob with and praise most of the world’s bloodiest dictators and terrorist leaders.

As another commentator Charles M. Phipps writes: “After apartheid ended and Mandela was freed he wasted no time in lavishing praise on communists and thug dictators. In 1991 he and his wife Winnie went to Cuba, which they called their second home, to celebrate the communist revolution with Fidel Castro.

While there he said, ‘Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro.… Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious imperialist campaign designed to destroy the advances of the Cuban revolution. We too want to control our destiny.… There can be no surrender. It is a case of freedom or death. The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.’

Mandela also said of Cuba, ‘There’s one thing where that country stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is its love for human rights and liberty.’ Of Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, Mandela said he admired his commitment to fight for peace and human rights in the world.

And in a speech given in Harlem, he referred to four Puerto Rican terrorists who shot and wounded five Congressmen and said, ‘We support the cause of anyone who is fighting for self-determination, and our attitude is the same, no matter who it is. I would be honoured to sit on the platform with the four comrades you refer to’.” (The Free Republic, June 27, 2013).

Surprisingly, even Christians and conservatives have been getting involved in the hagiographies and the rewriting of history — even at this early stage after Mandela’s passing.

But, as Christian missionary Peter Hammond reminds us, there is no reason to canonise the man, since Mandela was hardly a conservative or Christian icon: “There’s a lot of Christians out there who idolise Nelson Mandela because they’ve been given false, misleading and incomplete information,” he said. “He has pushed for the legalisation of abortion, pornography [and] homosexual relationships.… [He was] trying to legalise prostitution. He’s a radical liberal.” (Christian News Network, November 26, 2013).

While we again can praise his moves for reconciliation and his willingness to forgive and not remain embittered, as I say, we have far too many other areas that we must also assess, both in the man and in his fruit. David Horowitz offers a somewhat balanced account by way of summary.

He writes: “Mandela began as a terrorist and never turned his back on monsters like Arafat and Castro, whom he considered brothers in arms. When he was released from prison by deKlerk, he showed unexpected statesmanship, counselling reconciliation rather than revenge, no small achievement in a country in which the ‘liberation’ movement (led by Mandela’s wife and party) placed oil-filled inner-tubes around the necks of former comrades and set them on fire.

But if a leader should be judged by his works, the country Mandela left behind is an indictment of his political career, not an achievement worthy of praise — let alone the unhinged adoration he is currently receiving across the political spectrum.

South Africa today is the murder capital of the world, a nation where a woman is raped every 30 seconds, often by AIDS carriers who go unpunished, and where whites are anything but the citizens of a democratic country, which honours the principles of equality and freedom. Liberated South Africa is one of those epic messes the left created and promptly forgot about.” (, December 6, 2013).

Charles M. Phipps adds the following: “Under ANC rule, South Africa has severely deteriorated. According to the Centre for Research on Globalisation, most black South Africans are worse off now than they were under apartheid. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished, costs for electricity, water, food and rent have skyrocketed, unemployment hovers around 40% and South Africa has become the violent crime and rape capital of the world.” (The Free Republic, June 27, 2013).

Daniel Greenfield observes: “For Western liberals, Mandela’s death provides them with permission to stop caring about South Africa. Having reduced South Africa to Mandela, his death permanently removes its existence from their minds. They may show up to the theatre if Denzel Washington or Jamie Foxx decide to play Nelson Mandela.

Otherwise they will comfortably banish the entire country to the dusty attic of forgotten history. Meanwhile one child is raped every three minutes and three children are murdered every day.” (FrontPage Magazine, December 6, 2013).

Speaking of rape, consider the damning figures from this article: “Six cases of rape [in South Africa] are reported to the police per hour.... meaning 144 rapes are reported per day. That’s not counting the number of rapes that go unreported.

According to the Medical Research Council’s (MRC), up to 3,600 women could be raped in the country every day. While women’s groups in South Africa estimate that a woman is raped every 26 seconds, the South African police estimate that a woman is raped every 36 seconds.” (Journalismiziko, Durban University of Technology, September 30, 2013).

Much more can be said about the man and his legacy. Mandela was a great man in some respects, but he was also an evil man in other respects. And, by the way, please do not denounce me or other Mandela critics as somehow being apartheid proponents!

Lee Jenkins answered this sort of accusation as follows: “The apartheid regime was a crime against humanity; as illogical as it was cruel. It is tempting, therefore, to simplify the subject by declaring that all who opposed it were wholly and unswervingly good.

It’s important to remember, however, that Mandela has been the first to hold his hands up to his shortcomings and mistakes. In books and speeches, he goes to great length to admit his errors. The real tragedy is that too many in the West can’t bring themselves to see what the great man himself has said all along; that he’s just as flawed as the rest of us, and should not be put on a pedestal.” (The Backbencher, June 27, 2013).

And that basically is all I have been trying to do here.

Bill Muehlenberg is a commentator on contemporary issues, and lectures on ethics and philosophy. His website CultureWatch is at:


Heather Clark, “South African missionary cautions against new film praising life of Nelson Mandela”, Christian News Network (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), November 26, 2013.

Marketing the Mandela myth”, a review of the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, Movieguide, November 29, 2013.

Remembering the Church Street bomb, Pretoria”, The South Africa Project (Mandeville, Louisiana), undated.

Lee Jenkins, “Three things you didn’t (want to) know about Nelson Mandela”, The Backbencher (London), June 27, 2013.

Charles M. Phipps, “Nelson Mandela — just another thug”, The Free Republic, June 27, 2013.

Mandela signs abortion bill”, The Independent (UK), December 12, 1996.

David Horowitz, “Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013”, FrontPage Magazine, December 6, 2013.

Joseph Farah, “Don’t mourn for Mandela”, WorldNetDaily, December 6, 2013.

Daniel Greenfield, “South Africa in the shadows”, FrontPage Magazine, December 6, 2013.

Nokwazi Qumbisa, “The abnormal reality of rape in South Africa”, Journalismiziko (Durban University of Technology, South Africa), September 30, 2013.

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