Nelson Mandela: reconciler, black Ruthless Criticism

Translation from GegenStandpunkt 1-2014

International bereavement today:

Nelson Mandela: reconciler, black

Nelson Mandela, “the ideal man” (Die Welt), dies, and the German press, in the name of humanity, mourns “the most peaceful man in the world” (BILD). On the occasion of his death, the necrologists once again celebrate his unique mixture of wisdom, kindness, and visionary power. Qualities which rank him, almost unanimously in public opinion, up there with Mahatma Ghandi, maybe even above him. We read, among other things:

“Instead of pushing the frightened whites into the corner, the ANC chief sought to win his jailers over to the vision of the Rainbow Nation: he knew that the experiment of the multicultural state could only succeed with the participation of the economically dominant minority.” “Mandela's wise dealings with his old enemies, the suppression of any sense of revenge which had certainly built up over 27 years in jail, was the key to South Africa’s path from tyranny to democracy, a democracy that was not preceded by a bloody revolution, but was based on persuasion and inight. If South Africa is today a largely stable and truly democratic country, then this is thanks to Mandela. His life’s work is a state in which the independence of the judiciary is guaranteed, in which there is freedom of expression, and free and fair elections are the norm.” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [FAZ], Dec. 5/ Frankfurter Rundschau, Dec. 6/ FAZ, Dec. 6, 2013)

In this verdict about the essentially non-violent transition from violent apartheid to essentially non-violent conditions, one may regard a bit of civil war during the initial phase, one or another recently gunned down miners’ strike, world record violent crime rates, and so on, as a fair price – it is Africa, after all! By and large, the leader of the ANC has successfully managed to take South African blacks with him on his journey: the journey toward reconciliation with “frightened whites” who have the peculiarity, besides their frame of mind and skin color, of still being “the economically dominant minority” in South Africa. And in view of this circumstance, the real miracle is so bueatiful that it can’t be mentioned often enough:

“As the first black president of South Africa in 1994, Mandela decided, contrary to the fears of many, to take a pragmatic course in economic policy. The initial primary objectives of the socialist-oriented resistance movement of the African National Conference (ANC), were dropped very quickly after his election. At a widely acclaimed speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1991, Mandela instead emphasized the important role of private property and promised investors ‘safe returns’ without fear of expropriation.” (FAZ, Dec. 10, 2013)

The goal of the celebrated transition is therefore the reason for the celebration of its peaceful course: the great reconciler, with his reconciliation with the capitalism that was handed down from the defeated apartheid, reconciled his ANC with this goodbye to any socialist nonsense and reconciled the rest of his black people with the perspective that their liberation is complete with their equal admission to this capitalism.

In the eyes of his admirers, Mandela’s light shines all the brighter when it occurs to them that the success and lasting subsumption of the formerly racially marginalized and economically impoverished blacks into the new rainbow capitalism was by no means inevitable and even now still isn’t:

“Today, four out of ten black South Africans are leaving school without a diploma and have no chance in the labor market due to a lack of qualifications. 10.3 million people and thus 20 percent of the total population in South Africa live on social assistance. The salary of a cashier in the supermarket is not enough to pay for health insurance. The state hospitals are so run-down that healing is more a matter of luck than medical skill. In this outrageously rich country, there are countless children who have never seen water flowing from a tap.” “With the death of Mandela, the country loses a symbolic figure on whom millions of South Africans projected hopes of economic well-being after the end of the apartheid regime.” (FAZ, Dec. 7, 2013)

The gist of the Frankfurter Allgemeine’s evokation of mismanagement and social tension is clear: judicial equality and democratic civil rights are the political-legal modes in which the mass of propertyless blacks have to deal in practice with their usefulness or simple uselessness for the capitalist property of South African and foreign investors, and they have to intellectually and civically stomach it – that’s just how it is. And that does not say anything against this type of liberation and reconciliation, but rather points out the importance of the leader who they always followed.

And the importance of finding, as quickly as possible, a “personality of his stature” for a leader to replace the “symbolic figure” and keep the blacks in line. This way, the western public can continue to be reconciled with Mandela’s antiracist liberation work.