Brad Cibane
Brad Cibane

Mandela the Dalai Lama: A distorted narrative of black resistance

Black people — especially those among us who are still nursing wounds and raw apartheid pain — are being blackmailed into accepting a distorted narrative of black resistance.

Nelson Mandela — the fervent leader of the mass resistance movement, the founder of the African National Congress’s youth brigade, the calculated strategist who was part of the lot that deposed the formidable ANC president-general Dr AB Xuma in 1949, the first commander in chief of the revolutionary armed forces (the Spear of the Nation) — is being reduced into a mere campaigner for peace, an African Dalai Lama if you will.

It has become politically incorrect to speak of Mandela the militant freedom fighter, to speak of the ANC stalwart who, without trepidation, handed his freedom to the oppressor in order to free the nation. Mandela is being reduced to a monk who spent 27 years in prison meditating about peace.

Mandela was among the few that founded the ANC Youth League to be “brains-trust and power-station of the spirit of African nationalism”. The March 1944 Manifesto of the youth league declared that “Africans must struggle for development, progress and national liberation so as to occupy their rightful and honourable place among nations of the world”.

Instead, the narrative is now portrayed as being one of nation-building and reconciliation. The black struggle for equality and human dignity is rendered superfluous.

The endless courting of reconciliatory politics, in the context of the South African struggle for freedom and equality, is misplaced. Reconciliation assumes that there was conflict, what some term “racial conflict”. South Africa has never experienced race conflict. South Africans experienced oppressive domination on the basis of race. Therefore, what South Africans needed (and continued to need) is not peace and reconciliation, its freedom and equality.

The conflict that ensued between 1990 and 1994 was not race conflict, it was senseless violence among blacks.

The distortion has grave consequences. For, if one accepts that the black struggle was about peace and unity, then that struggle is over! The remnants of centuries of economic exclusion, of inferior education and land dispossession can be ignored.

In 1946, after the government had killed 12 striking miners and wounded 324 others, the ANC Youth League — under Mandela’s leadership — declared that the “mine workers’ struggle is our struggle … we demand a living wage for all African workers!”

Is this struggle over?

In an article published by Liberation in 1956, Mandela declared that “demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the [Freedom] Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude”. He went on to explain that: “Such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people. The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous non-European bourgeois class.”

Have we achieved these objectives?

During his now-famed courtroom speech delivered from the dock in 1964, Mandela prophesised that “[the Freedom Charter] calls for redistribution, but not nationalisation, of land; it provides for nationalisation of mines, banks, and monopoly industry, because big monopolies are owned by one race only, and without such nationalisation racial domination would be perpetuated despite the spread of political power”.

During the same speech, Mandela took pains to explain that the African struggle was about “poverty and lack of human dignity”. Mandela noted that “The whites enjoy what may be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery. Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition and disease. Tuberculosis, pellagra and scurvy bring death and destruction of health.” He declared that “Africans want to be paid a living wage.”

Yet, in a bizarre article published in her online newsletter SA Today, Democratic Alliance’s leader Helen Zille — writing during the farmworkers’ strike in the Western Cape – takes the opposite view, “As tough as it is to survive on the daily minimum wage, it is far tougher to earn nothing at all”.

Zille goes on to explain that “And so it is easy to see how the dominant (but entirely misleading) narrative arose: ‘heartless white farmers and labour brokers make super profits by using divide-and-rule tactics to drive down workers’ wages as their lives deteriorate’.” She dubs this narrative “a stereotype”.

For as long as we accept a narrative that reduces the black struggle to one of non-racism, or peace and unity, Africans will continue to live through pittance. The status quo will subsist and the black race will continue to be dominated by monopolists.

The black struggle has never been about race. Mandela said in 1964 that political division on the basis of race is “entirely artificial”. Instead, our struggle has always been about the “ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”. It is this ideal, for which Mandela was prepared to die.

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    • Richard

      Africans have sought political emancipation before all else, because that is the obvious manifestation of power. Real power is (and always has been) economic. For various historical reasons this is understandable, to name just one, Africans used barter, not money, so the abstract power of money was not really comprehended.
      That there was no real idea of how to achieve equality, apart from enacting laws, shows the vagueness of the whole concept. You cannot simply make yourself equal to others by saying you are, you can only do it by showing that you are.

    • Rachael

      A very good analysis on Madiba and what he fought for. When people (with power and influence) don’t want to admit the deeper issues, they come up with bells and whistles. The same thing can be said of the Dalai Lama and what he is really fighting for – survival of a culture and the basic rights of a people. As an aside, the current SA Govt failed to uphold the very principles that you are talking about when it denied a visa to the Dalai Lama under when it could not shake off the “oppression” from China.

    • aim for the culprits

      but the challenge is the powerful are too powerful to challenge and can easily pay off challengers (BEE/show-ponies of various sorts).

      far easier to go after wage earners. people who earn because of skills they studied and trained hard and with discipline for. they then leave to earn triple in other parts of the world that actively recruit them. suckers.

    • Grant

      Two small notes:

      1) There was a racial conflict. A war was fought for many years in Namibia and Angola with incursions into Zambia, Mozambique and plenty of other places. The SADF fought a complex proxy war against the ANC and other liberation movements supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba. We had a racial war, mingled with the Cold War. Luckily for all of us it was not fought in our country and nobody won that war. It ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the event that changed the geopolitics of the planet and ultimately released Nelson Mandela.

      2) On coming to power Nelson Mandela realised that nationalisation of banks, mines etc was a great revolutionary call but a very, very stupid move. Government through income tax owns 30% of the upside of every company with no downside risk. Company profits are therefore partially nationalised anyway. Unlike fully nationalised assets, government does not need to pay in if they make a loss. That is why they implemented BEE. You get to move assets to black South Africans without collapsing the economy which is a certainty the day government nationalises banks and mines. Government has shown it is incapable of running major corporations with anything like the efficiency of the private sector. Mandela realised that and took the smarter path even though he had advocated for nationalisation earlier in his life. It is a sign of greatness to be able to change your views.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Freedom is a two edged sword. You have the freedom to succeed and you have the freedom to fail. The big difference is that you are in control of your own destiny and have no excuses.

      The vast majority of big business are listed companies. The biggest shareholders of the mines are the pension schemes and insurance companies. That means that they ARE owned by the people.

    • Paul Scott

      RIP Madiba!

    • Yaj

      Madiba was persuaded by the powerful influence of certain vested interests-the leaders of big business and the oligopolistic banking sector to follow the path of neoliberal globalisation of the economy against his own better judgement and instincts because at the time it was the prevailing conventional wisdom in ruling circles. The pressure brought to bear on him was understandable given the ascendancy of neoliberal triumphalists of the Western ruling elites in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The threat by the corporate comglomerates to pull out their capital and cripple a post-apartheid economy must have been very real at the time.The pill was also highly-sugar-coated the one the ANC leadership had to swallow to abandon the RDP in favour of Gear. Goldman Sachs were also busy in the background training and grooming Maria Ramos and Tito Mboweni .
      However given the spectacular failure of these policies to deliver even before the global economic crash of 2008 and the Great Recession, we need to urgently go back to the macroeconomic policy drawing board and map out a different future for economic development other than the NDP which promises to be more of the same.
      We need urgent monetary and banking reform see , and tax reform with a land value tax and a levy on financial transactions instead of income tax and VAT. We also need a universal basic income.. A paradigm shift is needed.

    • bernpm

      While we bicker about the past, the world moves on. While we bicker about economic freedom, the world is busy restricting economic freedom on a larger scale than the little economic island, called South Africa.

      Read the following and consider the consequences if multinationals start creating extra powerful units to control economic pricing and traffic.

      The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a huge, ultra-secret deal among twelve major countries that would give corporations unprecedented power — allowing them to use new global tribunals to sue our governments for passing laws that protect us, but reduce their profits! This could apply to everything from labeling GMO foods to protecting internet freedom. Wikileaks has broken the story and opposition is building fast, but the countries are rushing to seal the deal in 48 hours.

      Twelve countries are about to agree a trade deal that would let companies sue our governments to get rid of laws that protect us, but reduce their profits! This affects legislation on everything from internet freedom to GMO labeling. With just 48 hours until the deal is sealed, three countries are wobbling. If we deluge them right now with a call to stand strong, we can stop this global corporate takeover before Monsanto uncorks the champagne:

      to be continued

    • bernpm

      continued :


      WikiLeaks publishes secret draft chapter of Trans-Pacific Partnership (The Guardian)

      Full text of the leaked draft text (Wikileaks)

      The Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is the complete opposite of ‘free trade’ (The Guardian)

      Fast track risky path for Pacific trade pact (Seattle Times)

      For Free Trade’s Sake, Get IP Out of the TPP (Huffington Post)

      Philip Morris Leads Plain Packs Battle in Global Trade Arena (Bloomberg)

      There is a petition now doing the round to try and stop this treaty from being signed!!

    • Richard

      Do you think black resistance has a narrative? It seems to me more like the so-called “Arab Spring” which is a vague discontent, resulting in governmental replacement, but no real idea of what is to come next.

    • Asif

      The solution for those with an immature intellect is nationalisation. With nationalisation, the government will share in the profits as much as it will bare the sure losses. A massive skills exodus has already had an impact in SA just with the uncertainty of our economic strategy.

      Why do we rank so badly in Africa with regard to Maths and Science; and infant mortality rates despite the continents largests budgets for Heathcare and Education? Because, as a nation, we are not willing to put in the hours and committment to ensure success. We want it all by doing very little.

    • Kgositsile Mokgosi

      Further distortion. Our struggle is not uni-centred. It has ideological variance and it’s character is period dependent. It has it’s origins in the defense of African land from seizure by people coming out of the sea in the 1600s who disregarded the human dignity of owners of the land. This is where the Hintsas, Makanas etc held the spear. Despite protracted battle spanning over 200 years occupiers went on to unilaterally establish Union of South Africa to the exclusion of any input from Africans. Pixley-ka-Seme urged Africans to unite beyond “tribal” affiliation to fight for recovery of their land hence formation of ANC in 1912. 44 years later ANC became a civil rights movement with adoption of the Freedom Charter. Africanist broke out to form PAC which brought about the first real threat to the apartheid regime in 1960 hence the banning of the organisations. Mandela founded MK which in 30 years has never captured even 1 sq mm of SA territory. The BC Movement inspired people out of fear culminating in the Soweto Uprisings of 1976 and the assassination of Steve Biko followed by capitulation of the regime as seen by repealing of apartheid laws in the late 70s and ultimate release of Mandela in 1990. The international icon status of Mandela is on the basis that he is a Dalai Lama who makes Africans contend to scratch for space in the colonial establishment that is rooted in land dispossession and economic servitude. Effective ones Sobukwe and Biko are cut out of history

    • Elva Visser

      for how long will the apartheid be raw? 20years 30 years, 40 years 50 years. Let us know when you ready to move on