Earlier this year I predicted that upon the death of Nelson Mandela there would be those who respond as if Jesus himself had just died. I am now calling that prediction fulfilled. President Obama, former Presidents Clinton and Bush (43) are all in South Africa today for the Mandela memorial service. The outpouring of praise for Mandela has come from all corners of the globe and it will probably not be long before statues are erected and landmarks are named in his honor. Glowing remarks about Mandela have come from sources that have even surprised and shocked me, including the Baptist Press, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. With so many jumping on the Mandela bandwagon perhaps it is prudent to take another look at the life being honored.
Nelson Mandela formed the terrorist group Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 when he and others decided that violence was the best way to combat the racist policies of the South African government. This group was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Over the next twenty-nine years the group launched many attacks, car bombings and other explosions, causing many deaths. After apartheid ended and Mandela was freed he wasted no time in lavishing praise upon communists dictators and terrorists, praising Fidel Castro, Moammar Qaddafi and Robert Mugabe. Mandela never renounced violence or his terrorist past. In fact, while he was in prison for twenty-seven years the South African government twice offered to release him if he would simply renounce violence. Both times he refused.
During his one term as president of South Africa the economy of the country severely deteriorated. According to the Centre for Research on Globalization, 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. While president he signed into law the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which permits abortion on demand and the South African constitution became the first in the world to recognize sodomite marriage. Perhaps the folks at the Baptist Press might want to take note of those tidbits.
What exactly is it that Nelson Mandela accomplished that warrants worldwide praise? What did he do? Yes, yes, I can hear you shouting that he brought about the end of apartheid and led a racially peaceful transition from decades of state sponsored racism. And what did he do from his prison cell that brought about the end of apartheid? Nothing. He was merely a symbol. A symbol of worldwide disapproval of the racist government in South Africa. The media and all those lavishing accolades on Mandela use the fact he was in prison for twenty-seven years as a badge of honor, stating that he was there merely for opposing apartheid. What they fail to mention is just how he went about opposing it. When he was arrested for violent attacks in 1962 the authorities found on the farm where he was hiding thousands of hand grenades, anti-personnel mines and many tons of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder and black powder. He admitted and pled guilty to 156 acts of public violence, including the Johannesburg railway station bombing. On the Fox News “Special Report” show, Jesse Jackson admitted Mandela told him he was planning bombings of hospitals and schools in South Africa when he was caught. Even Amnesty International abandoned him, citing his support for violence as the reason why they could no longer advocate for his cause.
And yet, with this record, he is considered a man of peace. While it is certainly possible that twenty-seven years in prison can change a man, Mandela rejected opportunities to renounce violence to earn release and never once expressed remorse or regret for the lives he ended or destroyed with his bombings and other violence. Even in the last few years he was filmed singing a song about killing white people. And of the United States he said, “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.”
President Obama said of Mandela that the world has lost “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.” I’m sure none of Mandela’s victims would agree with that statement. I’ve read the writings of more than one person in the last week who had the audacity to compare Mandela to George Washington. Even Newt Gingrich appeared to be justifying Mandela’s violence, saying that America’s Founding Fathers also stood up against tyranny and that George Washington spent eight years in the field fighting the British army. Perhaps I’m just not reading the right history books but I haven’t been able to locate one instance of George Washington blowing up innocent people or plotting to blow up hospitals and schools. Violence is not the only way to bring about social change. I refer you to the successes of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, both of whom spent years working nonviolently to successfully bring change to their countries. To endorse the tactics of Nelson Mandela and the Umkhonto we Sizwe is to endorse the tactics of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, Carlos the Jackal and Mohamad Atta. They all used violence in their attempts to bring change to the world. Are they also profoundly good human beings, President Obama?
To be sure, the apartheid government of South Africa was reprehensible and the oppression it fostered can die on the ash heap of history. Disdain for the worship of Mandela should not be mistaken for endorsement of the racist government he opposed. I’m sure the history books will record Mandela as a peace-loving man who spent years as a prisoner of conscience and brought social justice to his country. In reality he was an unrepentant terrorist who, through no actions of his own, became the living symbol for the opposition to racism. That state leaders would gather in South Africa to memorialize Mandela is a slap in the face to those who have nonviolently opposed oppressive governments. Rosa Parks sat down in a bus and set off a wave of social change that brought an end to segregation and government-endorsed racial discrimination. In South Africa, Mandela would have blown up the bus, killing all aboard. Hardly a man to be worshipped.