The first black president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 years. He was a statesman and a gentle, humble man. Mr. Mandela served 27 years of a life sentence before he was released from prison for his anti-apartheid campaign which finally saw the downfall of that oppressive institution.
It is interesting that Mandela’s efforts in South Africa happened concurrently with the civil rights movement in the United States. What is amazing is that in South Africa where blacks were the majority population, it took many more years for apartheid to be abolished while the minority black population in the United States saw significant legal and social advances much earlier. That was something that Mandela marveled at, both while he was in prison and afterward.
Nelson Mandela came under a lot of criticism for his efforts from the United States which supported the white government in South Africa. His support came from the Soviet Union and Cuba and he was branded a communist. That probably is an accurate assessment of his political viewpoint.
But that shouldn’t surprise us if we see that communism, whether it was in Russia or China gained a hold as an appealing political system as the concentration of power and wealth was held by very few. It is for that reason that there was a significant investment by political American blacks in Marxism going back to the 1920’s, long before the Civil Rights law was enacted.
On a national level it is undeniable that communism is one of the most efficient methods of immediately re-distributing wealth. On an individual level we have another word for it – theft. Having the legal authority to seize another person’s property barely elevates the act from an armed robbery accomplished at gunpoint.
Perhaps if the United States and other western countries had backed Mandela’s efforts he might have embraced our capitalistic viewpoint. But how can a person embrace an economic system which promotes individual effort when the majority of people are denied the right to be rewarded for their achievements? Clearly, Mandela had placed his focus on the underlying problem – that black South Africans had no rights and no prospects for a better future.
At the trial which resulted in his conviction, he made the following statement:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Those are the words of Nelson Mandela. Those are the words of a statesman.