It is often said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, however, this usually means that the other man has been less than fastidious in his choice of hero, or that the “freedom fighter” in question was on the crowd pleasing side.
On the 27th of June, London's Hyde Park will play host to a concert in honour of Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday and we can be assured that it will receive wall to wall coverage by a star struck and worshipping media, who will continue to laud Mandela as one of the greatest, or indeed the greatest, heroes of our time.
No doubt the beaming old man will appear on stage in one of his trademark multi-coloured shirts and cheerily acknowledge the cheers of the adoring crowd, most of whom have been taught to believe in his sainthood since their first days in primary school, which, for many of them, will have occurred around the same time their hero walked free from Robben Island.
The unquestioning belief in Mandela's universally admired saintliness will again be displayed in the press and by the unending line of politicians and dignitaries who will queue up to genuflect before him and sing his praises. It is a brave politician or journalist who would dare to question the godliness of this legend and consummate showman, and hence no such questions will be raised, nor will his much vaunted “achievements” be subjected to any objective scrutiny.
No matter how many speeches are given or how many news articles are written, it is safe to bet that the full truth about Mandela will not be told.
In fact the truth about Mandela is so hidden in mythology and misinformation that most know nothing about him prior to Robben island, and those who do tend to exercise a form of self censorship, designed to bolster the myth whilst consigning uncomfortable facts into the mists of history.
For most people all they know about Mandela, prior to his release in 1990, was that he had spent 27 years in prison and was considered by many on the left at the time (and almost everyone now) to be a political prisoner. However, Mandela was no Aung San Suu Kyi, he was not an innocent, democratically elected leader, imprisoned by an authoritarian government.
Mandela was the terrorist leader of a violent terrorist organisation, the ANC (African National Congress) which was responsible for many thousands of, mostly black, deaths. The ANC's blood spattered history is frequently ignored, but reminders occasionally pop up in the most embarrassing places, indeed as recently as this month the names of Nelson Mandela and most of the ANC remained on the US government's terrorist watch list along with al-Queda, Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers. Of course the forces of political correctness are rushing to amend that embarrassing reminder from the past. However, Mandela's name was not on that list by mistake, he was there because of his Murderous past.
Before I am accused of calumny, it should be noted that Mandela does not seek to hide his past, in his autobiography “the long walk to Freedom” he casually admits “signing off” the 1983 Church Street bombing carried out by the ANC and killing 19 innocent people whilst injuring another 200.
It is true that Mandela approved that massacre and other ANC killings from his prison cell, and there is no evidence that he personally killed anyone but the same could be said about Stalin or Hitler, and the violent history of the ANC, the organisation he led is not in question.
According to the Human Rights Commission it is estimated that during the Apartheid period some 21,000 people were killed, however both the UN Crimes against Humanity commission and South Africa's own Truth and Reconciliation Commission are in agreement that in those 43 years the South African Security forces killed a total of 518 people. The rest, (some 92%) were accounted for by Africans killing Africans, many by means of the notorious and gruesome practice of necklacing whereby a car tyre full of petrol is placed around a victim's neck and set alight. This particularly cruel form of execution was frequently carried out at the behest of the ANC with the enthusiastic support of Mandela's demonic wife Winnie.
The brutal reappearance of the deadly necklace in recent weeks is something I shall reluctantly focus upon later.
Given that so much blood was on the hands of his party, and, as such, the newly appointed government, some may conclude that those who praised Madela's mercy and forgiveness, when the Truth and Reconciliation tribunal set up after he came to power, to look into the Apartheid years, did not include a provision for sanctions, were being deliberately naive.
Such nativity is not uncommon when it comes to the adoring reporting of Nelson Madela, and neither is the great leader himself rarely shy of playing up his image of fatherly elder statesman and multi-purpose paragon. However, in truth, the ANC's conscious decision to reject a policy of non-violence, such as that chosen by Gandhi, in their struggle against the white government, had left them, and by extension, their leader, with at least as much blood on their hands as their one time oppressors, and this fact alone prevented them from enacting the revenge which might otherwise have been the case.
As the first post Apartheid president of South Africa it would, be unfair if not ludicrous to judge Mandela entirely on the basis of events before he came to power, and in any event there is many a respected world leader or influential statesman with a blood stained past so in the next part I shall examine Nelson Mandela's achievements, and the events which have occurred in South Africa in the 14 short years since he took power in following the post Apartheid election in 1994.