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Forum Post: Nelson Mandela, Revered Statesman and Anti-Apartheid Leader, Dies at 95

Posted 4 years ago on Dec. 5, 2013, 9:43 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Nelson Mandela, Revered Statesman and Anti-Apartheid Leader, Dies at 95

By Yahoo News5 hours ago


Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95 of complications from a recurring lung infection.

The anti-apartheid leader and Nobel laureate was a beloved figure around the world, a symbol of reconciliation from a country with a brutal history of racism.

Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after nearly 30 years for plotting to overthrow South Africa's apartheid government. In 1994, in a historic election, he became the nation's first black leader. Mandela stepped down in 1999 after a single term and retired from political and public life.


Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918, he was one of the world's most revered statesmen and revolutionaries who led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

A qualified lawyer from the University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand, Mandela served as the president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

His political career started in 1944 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC), and he participated in the resistance against the then government¹s apartheid policy in 1948. In June 1961, the ANC executive approved his idea of using violent tactics and encouraged members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela's campaign. Shortly after, he founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, and was named its leader.

In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment. In 1963, Mandela was brought to stand trial along with many fellow members of Umkhonto we Sizwe for conspiring against the government and plotting to overthrow it by the use of violence. Sentenced to life in prison

On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

His statement from the dock at the opening of the defense trial became extremely popular. He closed his statement with: "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. 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."

Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of those years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known across the world as the most significant black leader in South Africa.

He became a prominent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gained momentum in South Africa and across the world. On the island, he and other prisoners were subjected to hard labor in a lime quarry. Racial discrimination was rampant, and prisoners were segregated by race with the black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Mandela has written about how he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months.

Free and fair

In February 1985, President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he unconditionally reject violence as a political weapon, but Mandela rejected the proposal. He made his sentiment known through a letter he released via his daughter. "What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts," he wrote. In 1988, Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release. Throughout his imprisonment, pressure mounted on the South African government to release him. The slogan "Free Nelson Mandela" became the new battle cry of the anti-apartheid campaigners. Finally, Mandela was released on Feb. 11, 1990, in an event streamed live across the world. After his release, Mandela returned to his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, the first national conference of the ANC was held inside South Africa since the organization had been banned in 1960.

President Mandela

Mandela was elected president of the ANC, while his friend Oliver Tambo became the organization's national chairperson. Mandela's leadership and his work, as well as his relationship with then President F.W. de Klerk, were recognized when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. South Africa's first multiracial elections, held on April 27, 1994, saw the ANC storm in with a majority of 62 percent of the votes, and Mandela was inaugurated in May 1994 as the country's first black president. As president from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Honors and personal life

Mandela received many national international honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. In July 2004, the city of Johannesburg bestowed its highest honor by granting Mandela the freedom of the city at a ceremony in Orlando, Soweto.

In 1990, he received the Bharat Ratna Award from the government of India and also received the last ever Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.

In 1992, he was awarded the Ataturk Peace Award by Turkey. He refused the award citing human rights violations committed by Turkey at the time, but later accepted the award in 1999. Also in 1992, he received the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civil service award of Pakistan. Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," was published in 1994. He had begun work on it secretly while in prison.

Mandela and his wives

Nelson Mandela's love life has seemingly run parallel to his political one — and can be divided up into three key eras. The young activist married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. The couple, who had four children, divorced in 1958 — shortly before Mandela became an outlaw with the banning of the ANC.

Mandela's second marriage — and probably his most famous — largely coincided with the time he spent locked up at the hands of the apartheid regime. In 1958 he walked down the aisle with Winnie Madikizela, who stood by his side and actively campaigned to free him from prison. Winnie became a powerful figure in her own right while Mandela was imprisoned, but a series of scandals involving her led to the couple's estrangement in 1992, her dismissal from his cabinet in 1995, and their official divorce in 1996. The couple had two children. Winnie Mandela was also later convicted of kidnapping. His third marriage, to Graca Machel — the widow of former Mozambique President Samora Machel — came on his 80th birthday as he entered his role of world statesman.

Yahoo Australia contributed to this report.



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[-] 6 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

The Mandela Barbie

Friday, 13 December 2013 10:25 By Greg Palast, Truthout | Op-Ed


I can't take it anymore. All week, I've watched Nelson Mandela reduced to a Barbie doll. From Fox News to the Bush family, the politicians and media mavens who body-blocked the anti-Apartheid Movement and were happy to keep Mandela behind bars, now get to dress his image up in any silly outfit they choose.

Poor Mandela. When he's not a doll, he's a statue. He joins Martin Luther King as another bronzed monument whose use is to tell us that apartheid is now "defeated" - to quote the ridiculous headline in the Times.

It's more nauseating than hypocrisy and ignorance. The Mandela Barbie is dressed to serve a new version of racism, Apartheid 2.0, worsening both in South Africa - and in the USA.

The ruling class creates commemorative dolls and statues of revolutionary leaders as a way to tell us their cause is won, so go home. For example, just months ago, the US Supreme Court overturned the Voting Rights Act, Dr. King's greatest accomplishment, on the specious claim that, "Blatantly discriminatory evasions are rare," and Jim Crow voting practices are now "eradicated."

"Eradicated?" On what planet? The latest move by Florida Republicans to purge 181,000 voters of color - like the stench from the shantytowns of Cape Town - makes clear that neither Jim Crow nor Apartheid has been defeated. They're just in temporary retreat. Nevertheless, our betters in the USA and Europe have declared that King slew segregation, Mandela defeated apartheid; and therefore, the new victims of racial injustice should just shut the f$#! up and stop whining.

The Man Who Walked Beside Mandela

To replace the plastic and metal Mandelas with flesh and blood, I spoke to Danny Schechter. Schechter knew Mandela personally, and more deeply, than any other American journalist. "One of the great reporters of our generation, Schechter produced South Africa Now, a weekly program for PBS Television stations, from 1988-91, bringing Mandela's case to Americans dumbed and numbed on by Ronald Reagan's red-baiting.

Schechter has just completed the difficult job of making the official documentary companion to the Hollywood version of Mandela's life, Long Walk to Freedom.

The fictional movie is about triumph and forgiveness. Schechter's documentary, Inside Mandela, has this aplenty, but knowing Mandela, Schechter includes Mandela's anger, despair and his pained legacy: a corroded South Africa still ruled by a brutal economic apartheid. Today, the average white family has five times the income of a black family. Welcome to "freedom."

The US and European press have focused on Mandela's saintly ability to abjure bitterness and all desire for revenge, and for his Christ-like forgiving of his captors. This is to reassure us all that "good" revolutionaries are ones who don't hold anyone to account for murder, plunder and blood-drenched horror - or demand compensation. That's Mandela in his Mahatma Gandhi doll outfit - turning the other cheek, kissing his prison wardens.

Schechter doesn't play with dolls. He knew Mandela the man - and Mandela as one among a group of revolutionary leaders.

Mandela's circle knew this: You can't forgive those you defeat until you defeat them.

And, despite the hoo-hah, Mandela didn't defeat apartheid with "nice" alone. In the 1980s, says Schechter, South African whites faced this reality: The Cubans who defeated South African troops in neighboring Angola were ready to move into South Africa. The Vietnamese who had defeated the mighty USA were advising Mandela's military force.

And so, while Mandela held out a hand in forgiveness - in his other hand he held Umkhonto we Sizwe,a spear to apartheid's heart. And Mandela's comrades tied a noose: an international embargo, leaky though it was, that lay siege to South Africa's economy.

Seeing the writing on the wall (and envisioning their blood on the floor), the white-owned gold and diamond cartels, Anglo-American and DeBeers, backed by the World Bank, came to Mandela with a bargain: black Africans could have voting power . . . but not economic power.

Mandela chose to shake hands with this devil and accept the continuation of economic apartheid. In return for safeguarding the diamond and gold interests and protecting white ownership of land, mines and businesses, he was allowed the presidency, or at least the office and title.

It is a bargain that ate at Mandela's heart. He was faced with the direct threat of an embargo of capital, and taking note of the beating endured by his Cuban allies over resource nationalization, Mandela swallowed the poison with a forced grin. Yes, a new South African black middle class has been handed a slice of the mineral pie, but that just changes the color of the hand holding the whip.

The 1% Rainbow

In the end, all revolutions are about one thing: the 99% versus the 1%. Time and history can change the hue of the aristocrat, but not their greed, against which Mandela appeared nearly powerless. So was Mandela's life a waste, his bio-pic a fraud? Not at all. No man is a revolution.

We have much to learn from Mandela's long view of history, his much-lauded pacific warm-heartedness as well as his much-concealed cold and cruel resolve. The crack in the prison wall of apartheid, the end of racial warfare, if not yet racial peace, is a real accomplishment of Mandela - and his comrade revolutionaries - most of whose names will never be cast in bronze.

Reading Schechters' new book Madiba (as Mandela is known to Black South Africans) and seeing Schechter's un-Hollywood film, you can take away one strong impression: From Moses to Martin to Mandela, our prophets never reach the Promised Land.

That is for us still to accomplish. The journey is long. Start walking.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (22858) 4 years ago

10 Political Prisoners Still Behind Bars. Let's remember them in the spirit of Mandela.

"Nelson Mandela Was Released From Prison After 27 Years. These 10 Political Prisoners Are Still Waiting"


[-] 5 points by beautifulworld (22858) 4 years ago

Nelson Mandela death: Apartheid - 46 years in 90 seconds:


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Racism and Dishonesty in "Post-Racial" America: An Interview With Kiese Laymon

Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00
By Bethania Palma Markus, Truthout | Interview


Novelist Kiese Laymon is brutally honest about his experiences growing up black in the South in a discussion that covers his work and views on racial politics in America.

Essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon is unflinchingly upfront about his experiences growing up black in the South. His novel Long Division features a youngster named City who travels through time from the 1980s, to post-Katrina Mississippi in 2013 and back to the 1960s, where he confronts manifestations of racism in each time period. His collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, is a poignant, brutally honest view into the history of a gifted artist analyzing the world around him. Here's an excerpt from one of his most popular and incisive essays, "The Worst of White Folks":

The worst of white folks, I understood, wasn't some gang of rabid white people in crisp pillowcases and shaved heads. The worst of white folks was a pathetic, powerful "it." It conveniently forgot that it came to this country on a boat, then reacted violently when anything or anyone suggested it share. The worst of white folks wanted our mamas and grandmas to work themselves sick for a tiny sliver of an American pie it needed to believe it had made from scratch. It was all at once crazy-making and quick to violently discipline us for acting crazy. It had an insatiable appetite for virtuoso black performance and routine black suffering. The worst of white folks really believed that the height of black and brown aspiration should be emulation of its mediocre self. The worst of white folks inherited disproportionate access to quality health care, food, wealth, fair trials, fair sentencing, college admittance, college graduations, promotions and second chances, yet still terrorized and shamed other Americans who lacked adequate access to healthy choices at all. White Americans were wholly responsible for the worst of white folks, though they would do all they could to make sure it never wholly defined them.

At 39, the associate English professor at Vassar College has two new books and an essay in the works. In his latest for literary magazine Guernica, Laymon and his mother have a conversation about the realities of racism and the underlying dishonesty of President Obama's new "My Brother's Keeper" initiative.

Laymon answered some questions for Truthout about his work and thoughts on the state of racism in America.

Bethania Palma Markus for Truthout: Guernica asked you to write a piece about the South, and you decided to frame it as a conversation with your mother. You talked about how frightening it was for you to do this. What makes it scary, and why did you make that decision?

Kiese Laymon: That's a tough question. Any time you open up your relationship to a region, it's scary. Multiply that fear times a thousand when you open up your relationship with your mother, especially if your mother is really skeptical of strangers looking at our relationship to each other.

O.K., this is a long one. Bear with me. It takes a little setting up: In an excerpt from your Guernica piece, you say in regard to President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, "If the president isn't willing to even say the words 'black love' or 'white supremacy' or 'patriarchy' he can be black boy's keeper, but he can't be an honest lover of black boys. They're trying to fix black boys on the cheap, without reckoning with white supremacy. You fix a 'what.' You don't fix a 'whom.' What really needs fixing?" You also write that Obama's job is "to lie to a nation of liars." Why do you think this country is currently so dishonest with itself, to the point its first black president will not be honest about racism?

I think the country is currently dishonest because we've really never been anything other than dishonest. Parts of the nation just didn't want a black man running the nation. Other parts of the nation wanted the feeling of deliverance that a black man could run the nation. But few white parts of the nation, whether they're left or right, wanted that black president to really talk about the damage that white supremacy has done to the nation and the world. Honestly, a lot of black folks knew how hard this was going to be. A lot of us knew Obama wasn't some race-conscious righteous crusader. We just hoped he'd be less damaging than the other guy. We knew there would be backlash. We knew he would talk down to us as president because he talked down to us as a candidate. Still, I think a number of us just hoped he didn't get shot, truth be told. I don't think we overestimated Obama at all. I think we may have underestimated the power and reach of white supremacy and neoliberalism.

It seems the pressure to be dishonest is more intense now than I can remember. I know someone complained to the dean at Vassar College about your unflinching Facebook posts and you were hauled in to the office. Then there was the story of Shannon Gibney, the black professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College who got into trouble with the college because she explained racial oppression to a white student, which upset him. When I was in college, I wouldn't have dreamed teachers could be punished for teaching facts and challenging their students' perspectives on campus. Seems like there is a growing pressure to self-censor, to avoid addressing race and class even in environments that used to condone those discussions. Any thoughts as to why this may be?

I think that some white students feel O.K. disciplining their black and brown educators if we make them white, or not innocent. Or if we don't center them. I don't think it's complicated. Often, they feel like they can "tell on us" when we make them feel things they don't want to feel. Most students are wonderful, though, and they realize having their stability challenged is a fundamental part of education.

In the piece, you point out that it's "dishonest and violent to focus on black boys when black girls are catching hell from everything under the sun, and catching hell from black boys and black men." Your mother responds, "Black girls and black women don't really buy the president anything in this country. ... " Can you elaborate on this exchange? In what ways are the values placed on the lives of black boys and black girls different?

Disciplining black men has always been one way politicians on the right and left give the nation an impression that they're tough on crime. The right wants Obama to tell black men and boys to be more responsible. And he does. Imagine Obama talking to young white boys and telling them, "Be more responsible." He's doing exactly what generations of black parents and grandparents have done, except our parents and grandparents said "racism" and "white folks" and "white supremacy." I don't even think the right or left knows how or what to think of black girls and black women in 2014. You should ask them what they think of the experiences of black girls and black women in this country. And what they're doing to ensure black girls and women have more access to healthy choice and second chance. The answers to that question would be shameful and despicable. Or just really, really funny.

You write a lot about your family and your experience growing up in the South, but you are perhaps one of the most brutally honest writers I know of. Do you get a lot of flak from family and friends, or ever get criticized or even threatened for the way you write?

My mother isn't too happy with a lot of my work. But that's O.K. I'm working, and I'll get better. I would never write something hurtful or shameful about anyone I know and publish it without them looking at it and changing what they want. A lot of our experiences are shared. So we should share them before sending them out into the world.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Obama's Praise for Mandela Is an Insult

Sunday, 15 December 2013 00:00 By Patrick O. Strickland, Truthout | Op-Ed


When President Obama denounced world leaders who praised Nelson Mandela while crushing dissent and resisting reform in their own countries, he should have had a look in the mirror.

Much attention has been dedicated to President Obama's distasteful decision to take a "selfie" photograph with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helling Thorning Schmidt at the recently deceased South African leader Nelson Mandela's memorial. Yet, given what the president of the United States stands for, Obama's presence at the late antiapartheid fighter's funeral, in and of itself, ought to be cause enough for outrage.

Addressing the crowd at Mandela's memorial in Johannesburg, Obama denounced world leaders for praising Mandela while simultaneously crushing dissent in their own countries. "There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," he proclaimed.

"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people."

Nonetheless, under Obama's watch, US tax dollars have subsidized institutionalized racism in the United States and across the globe. Obama's bold words come just months after a Florida court issued an innocent verdict for the now 30-year-old George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teenager armed with nothing more than a can of Arizona Ice Tea and a bag of Skittles. "You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,"Obama said in the aftermath of the verdict. "Another way of saying that is: Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

Yet during his first term and a half, Obama has proved that he has no interest in dismantling racist institutions, many of which are inherent to the capitalist empire that he oversees, both at home and abroad. As a SocialistWorker.org editorial observed at the time,

He has avoided, in spite of the ever-worsening crisis of the Black community, every opportunity to champion programs that would provide special help to African Americans. He usually hasn't defended himself against the racist smears of Republican opponents, much less stood up against the right-wing when it spews hate and stereotypes about Blacks more generally.

This record tells us something important about racism and how to challenge it. The systematic discrimination against African-Americans won't be changed by symbolic actions or better education or the legal system.

Against the backdrop of passivity in a society that has two different standards of justice for whites and blacks, it's more than a little ironic that Obama decided to deplore world leaders for failing to live up to Mandela's moral record.

Mandela was also a symbol of steadfastness and resistance, particularly for spending 27 years in the South African apartheid regime's prisons. Meanwhile, Obama repeatedly reneged on promises to close down Guantanamo Bay, the outhouse of American justice, where at least 779 detainees have been held since September 11th, 2011. As Human Rights Watch notes, some 600 were released without ever being charged with a single crime - many of them had been held for several years. Last week, Guantanamo military authorities announced they will no longer make public the number of Guantanamo detainees presently on hunger strike against their unjust detention.

To make matters worse, Obama oversees a murderous drone program that is estimated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to have killed up to 3,613 people in Pakistan alone. In certain instances elsewhere, these drone strikes have amounted to extrajudicial executions of US citizens, such as 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was struck and killed in Yemen despite having no accusations against him.

Speaking about the indiscriminate and racist nature of the US drone program, scholar and activist Cornel West explained on Democracy Now! that "President Obama is a global George Zimmerman because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children" in countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Needless to say, it's safe to assume that most of these children wouldn't have been targeted for Obama-approved murder had they been white, or had they not been Muslims.

As the mainstream media and politicians across the world, many of whom are from the stripe that persecuted Mandela, try to sanitize the late resistance leader's legacy, Obama's most appalling display of hypocrisy is demonstrated by his bottomless well of support for Israel's apartheid and colonization regime.

Mandela, who was a staunch supporter of Palestinian liberation and self-determination, died on December 5. Just days before, thousands of Palestinians across present-day Israel, the besieged Gaza Strip, occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank and protested the Prawer Plan, Israeli legislation that, if fully implemented, would have evicted up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their homes in the Negev region of southern Israel for the crime of not being born Jewish.

Although the Prawer Plan was cancelled, their villages are unrecognized, and these Palestinians, despite their nominal Israeli citizenship, are punished by being denied basic services such as health care, electricity, education, roads and water, among others. Despite several visits to the region to facilitate the ongoing negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Secretary of State John Kerry failed to mention the Prawer Plan, even as housing demolitions were taking place in the Negev.

Though Obama and company watched America's favorite colonial outpost silently carry out its plan, the steadfast resistance of activists across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories resulted in Prawer's cancellation.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have had to wade through sewage in recent weeks due a severe fuel crisis caused by Israel's ongoing blockade and siege of the narrow coastal enclave. And in occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank, millions of Palestinians live under a brutal stripe of martial law. Their neighbors, state-subsidized Israeli settlers, continue to steal and colonize their land at a breakneck pace.

Israel's apartheid regime does not colonize and dispossess millions of Palestinians to the silence or indifference of the Obama administration - it does so to the tune of 3 billion US dollars in annual monetary support, paid for by American taxpayers.

Admittedly, nothing is shocking about President Obama or other world leaders attempting to capitalize on Mandela's passing for their own crude political gains. Yet, when the White House is so obviously a glass house, the leader of the free world would be well-advised not to denounce others for failing to follow in the footsteps of the Madiba.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Mr. President: Honor Nelson Mandela's Wishes and Free Leonard Peltier

Sunday, 15 December 2013 12:43 By Ruth Hopkins, Indian Country Today Media Network | Op-Ed


Since the passing of fellow Indigenous tribesman Madiba Nelson Mandela, much of mainstream media has attempted to paint him in their own colonial image, once again revising history to make the Federal Government and it’s allies look good, and thereby use him to suit their own purposes.

Memorials project Mandela as a gentle elder statesman, who championed peace and reconciliation. This is true, in fact Mandela was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize- but this rosey and passive portrayal of the international icon and his life is far from complete. Yes, Mandela’s end goal was one of peace and self-determination for Africans, but he didn’t strictly adhere to non-violent means. Like Malcolm X, Mandela held that there were times when armed resistance and civil disobedience were necessary to fight a subjugating colonial government.

Grandfather Mandela, named “Rolihlahla” (translated “Troublemaker”) by his father, was once a young freedom fighter Mandela. He fought in a guerilla war against apartheid, white supremacy, and the plague of colonialism that forcibly relocated Natives of South Africa from their traditional homelands and segregated and oppressed his people.

While politicians are busy patting each other on the back for supporting Mandela, know that collectively, those hands are unclean. During his lifetime, Mandela was wrongfully labelled a terrorist. In the 1960s, Nelson Mandela was the living embodiment of dissent in the face of colonial oppression. The United States government was involved in his initial capture and imprisonment. The CIA told South African authorities where Mandela was. As a result, Nelson Mandela was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 27 years in a very small cell, and the health problems he suffered due to spending all those years in prison conditions contributed to his death. It is a miracle that he lived to 95.

Mandela was a smart man and saw beyond the revisionist history of the United States largely perpetrated by mainstream media, stating, “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.”

If anyone knew what a political prisoner was, it was Nelson Mandela. He had 27 years to think on it. He recognized Native American activist Leonard Peltier as a fellow political prisoner, and called for his release. Mandela is far from alone in his request. Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the National Congress of American Indians, various governing bodies around the globe, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama, among many others, have all called for Leonard Peltier’s freedom. Leonard Peltier (Anishinabe/Dakota) is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of two FBI agents shot during armed conflict on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. The Pine Ridge Reservation was established in 1889 by the U.S. Government. After breaking Treaty with the Lakota, the U.S. military forcibly relocated the Oglala there.

During the 1970s, Pine Ridge was a dangerous place. The community was virtually at war with itself as traditional Oglala, assisted by members of the American Indian Movement, defended themselves against pro-government Tribal members, backed by the chairman’s private militia “Guardians of the Oglala Nation” (GOON), and the FBI. Lakota along with AIM, who took over Wounded Knee in 1973, were subjected to a 71 day siege by federal forces. Over the next three years, some 60 AIM members, along with their supporters were murdered on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This is the atmosphere in which the shootout leading to the deaths of the two FBI agents occurred.

Leonard was extradited from Canada after two other individuals were found not guilty of the murders. That extradition was based on an affidavit that was later recanted. Leonard’s trials and subsequent appeals have been replete with error, including the manufacturing and hiding of evidence, false testimony, the withholding of over 900 FBI documents related to the participation of 24 other people in the shootout, and multiple constitutional violations.

Even Mr. Peltier’s parole hearings have been erroneous. In 1993, the Pennsylvania Parole Commission unjustly denied his parole, conceding later that prosecution in the case “lack[ed] direct evidence that he personally participated in the execution of two FBI agents.” Leonard, who has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has suffered severe beatings and mistreatment behind bars. Today Leonard Peltier is at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, Florida.

Leonard Peltier, now an elder, has already spent nearly 40 years behind bars. His next parole hearing is set for July 2024, over a decade from today. Without parole or Presidential clemency, Peltier won’t be released until 2040. He maintains his innocence.

Madiba is Nelson Mandela’s clan name, so taken from an 18th century Thembu chief. Mandela understood the complex Indigenous and colonial dynamics at play in the Peltier case. He knew that Leonard should be freed, and said so.

President Obama, photo ops and handshaking at the White House Tribal Nations Conference is a nice gesture of solidarity, but for true healing and reconciliation to begin, we must acknowledge our painful history and set about fixing those injustices.

Like Malcolm X said, “You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches and then pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress…”

Honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy by doing what your Presidential predecessors failed to do and free Native activist Leonard Peltier. Please, let our Mandela come home.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Celebrating Resistance on the Anniversary of South Africa's First Democratic Vote

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 09:54
By John Pilger, Truthout | Op-Ed


On my wall in London is my favorite photograph from South Africa. Always thrilling to behold, it is Paul Weinberg's image of a lone woman standing between two armored vehicles, the infamous "hippos," as they rolled into Soweto. Her arms are raised, fists clenched, her thin body both beckoning and defiant of the enemy.

It was May Day 1985; the last great uprising against apartheid had begun. Twelve years later, with my 30-year banning from South Africa lifted, there was a pinch-me moment as I flew into Jan Smuts and handed my passport to a black immigration officer. "Welcome to our country," she said.

I quickly discovered that much of the spirit of resistance embodied in the courageous woman in Soweto had survived, together with a vibrant ubuntu that drew together African humanity, generosity and political ingenuity - for example, in the dignified resolve of those I watched form a human wall around the house of a widow threatened with disconnection of her electricity, and in people's rejection of demeaning "RDP houses" they called "kennels"; and in the pulsating mass demonstrations of social movements that are among the most sophisticated and dynamic in the world.

On the upcoming 20th anniversary of the first democratic vote on April 27, 1994, it is this resistance, this force for justice and real democratic progress, that should be celebrated, while its betrayal and squandering should be understood and acted upon.

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela stepped out on the balcony of Cape Town City Hall with the miners' leader Cyril Ramaphosa supporting him. Free at last, he spoke to millions in South Africa and around the world. This was the moment, an historic split-second as rare and potent as any in the universal struggle for freedom. Moral power and the power for justice could triumph over anything, any orthodoxy, it seemed. "Now is the time to intensify the struggle," said Mandela in a proud and angry speech, perhaps his best, or the last of his best.

The next day he appeared to correct himself. Majority rule would not make blacks "dominant". The retreat quickened. There would be no public ownership of the mines, banks and rapacious monopoly industries, no economic democracy, as he had pledged with the words: "a change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable." Reassuring the white establishment and its foreign business allies - the very orthodoxy and cronyism that had been built, maintained and reinforced fascist apartheid - became the political agenda of the "new" South Africa.

Secret deals facilitated this. In 1985, apartheid had suffered two disasters: The Johannesburg stock market crashed and the regime defaulted on its mounting foreign debt. In September that year, a group led by Gavin Relly, chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation, met Oliver Tambo, the ANC president and other liberation officials in Mfuwe, Zambia.

The Relly message was that a "transition" from apartheid to a black-governed electoral democracy was possible only if "order" and "stability" were guaranteed. This was liberal code for a capitalist state in which social and economic democracy would never be a priority. The aim was to split the ANC between the "moderates" they could "do business with" (Tambo, Mandela and Thabo Mbeki) and the majority who made up the United Democratic Front and were fighting in the streets.

The betrayal of the UDF and its most effective components, such as the National Civic Organisation, is today poignant, secret history.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

In 1987 and 1990, ANC officials led by Mbeki met 20 prominent members of the Afrikaner elite at a stately home near Bath, in England. Around the fireplace at Mells Park House, they drank vintage wine and malt whisky. They joked about eating "illegal" South African grapes, then subject to a worldwide boycott, "It's a civilized world there," recalled Mof Terreblanche, a stockbroker and pal of F.W. De Klerk. "If you have a drink with somebody . . . and have another drink, it brings understanding. Really, we became friends."

So secret were these convivial meetings that none but a select few in the ANC knew about them. The prime movers were those who had profited from apartheid, such as the British mining giant Consolidated Goldfields, which picked up the tab at Mells Park House. The most important item around the fireplace was who would control the economic system behind the facade of "democracy."

At the same time, Mandela was conducting his own secret negotiations in Pollsmoor Prison. His principal contact was Neil Barnard, an apartheid true believer who headed the National Intelligence Service. Confidences were exchanged; reassurances were sought. Mandela phoned P.W. Botha on his birthday; the Groot Krokodil invited him to tea and, as Mandela noted, even poured the tea for his prisoner. "I came out feeling," said Mandela, "that I had met a creative, warm head of state who treated me with all the respect and dignity I could expect."

This was the man who, like Verwoerd and Vorster before him, had sent a whole African nation to a vicious gulag that was hidden from the rest of the world. Most of the victims were denied justice and restitution for this epic crime of apartheid. Almost all the verkramptes - extremists like the "creative, warm" Botha - escaped justice.

How ironic that it was Botha in the 1980s - well ahead of the ANC a decade later - who dismantled the scaffolding of racial apartheid and, crucially, promoted a rich black class that would play the role of which Frantz Fanon had warned - as a "transmission line between the nation and capitalism, rampant though camouflaged".

In the 1980s, magazines like Ebony, Tribute and Enterprise celebrated the "aspirations" of a black bourgeoisie whose two-garage Soweto homes were included on tours for foreigners the regime sought to impress. "This is our black middle class," the guides would say; but there was no middle: merely a buffer class being prepared, as Fanon wrote, for "its historic mission." This is unchanged today.

The Botha regime even offered black businessmen generous loans from the Industrial Development Corporation. This allowed them to set up companies outside the "Bantustans" (area for blacks). In this way, a black company such as New Africa Investments could buy part of Metropolitan Life. Within a decade, Cyril Ramaphosa was deputy chairman of what was effectively a creation of apartheid. He is today one of the richest men in the world.

The transition was, in a sense, seamless. "You can put any label on it you like," President Mandela told me at Groote Schur. "You can call it Thatcherite, but for this country, privatisation is the fundamental policy."

"That's the opposite of what you said before the first elections, in 1994," I said.

"There is a process," was his uncertain reply, "and every process incorporates change."

Mandela was merely reflecting the ANC's mantra - which seemed to take on the obsessions of a supercult. There were all those ANC pilgrimages to the World Bank and the IMF in Washington, all those "presentations" at Davos, all those ingratiations at the G-8, all those foreign advisers and consultants coming and going, all those pseudo-academic reports with their "neo-liberal" jargon and acronyms. To borrow from the comic writer Larry David, "a babbling brook of bullshit" engulfed the first ANC governments, especially its finance ministries.

Putting aside for a moment the well-documented self-enrichment of ANC notables and suckering of arms deals, the Africa analyst Peter Robbins had an interesting view on this. "I think the ANC leadership [was] ashamed that most of their people live in the third world," he wrote. "They don't like to think of themselves as being mostly an African-style economy. So economic apartheid has replaced legal apartheid with the same consequences for the same people, yet it is greeted as one of the greatest achievements in world history."

Desmond Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission brushed this reality, ever so briefly, when business corporations were called to the confessional. These "institutional" hearings were among the most important, yet were all but dismissed. Representing the most voracious, ruthless, profitable and lethal industry in the world, the South African Chamber of Mines summed up a century of exploitation in six and a half derisory pages. There was no apology for the swathes of South Africa turned into the equivalent of Chernobyl. There was no pledge of compensation for the countless men and their families stricken with occupational diseases such as silicosis and mesothelioma. Many could not afford an oxygen tank; many families could not afford a funeral.

In an accent from the era of pith helmets, Julian Ogilvie-Thompson, the former chairman of Anglo-American, told the TRC: "Surely, no one wants to penalise success." Listening to him were ex miners who could barely breathe.

Liberation governments can point to real and enduring achievements since 1994. But the most basic freedom, to survive and to survive decently, has been withheld from the majority of South Africans, who are aware that had the ANC invested in them and in their "informal economy," it could have actually transformed the lives of millions. Land could have been purchased and reclaimed for small-scale farming by the dispossessed, run in the cooperative spirit of African agriculture. Millions of houses could have been built, better health and education would have been possible. A small-scale credit system could have opened the way for affordable goods and services for the majority. None of this would have required the import of equipment or raw materials, and the investment would have created millions of jobs. As they grew more prosperous, communities would have developed their own industries and an independent national economy.

A pipe dream? The violent inequality that now stalks South Africa is no dream. It was Mandela, after all, who said, "If the ANC does not deliver the goods, the people must do what they have done to the apartheid regime."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Exclusive: NSA, FBI, DIA Sued over Refusal to Disclose US Role in Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 11:58
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, one of the nation's most prolific transparency activists, Ryan Shapiro, reveals he is suing the NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency in an attempt to force them to open their records on one of the country's greatest secrets: how the U.S. helped apartheid South Africa capture Nelson Mandela in 1962, leading to his 27 years in prison. The U.S. has never confirmed its involvement, but details have leaked out over the years. Shapiro already has a pending suit against the CIA over its role in Mandela's capture and to find out why it took until 2008 for the former South African president to be removed from the U.S. terrorist watch list. The NSA has already rejected one of Shapiro's requests for its information on Mandela, citing "national defense."



[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Eyewitness to America Betraying Mandela's South Africa: The Gore-Mbeki Commission

Saturday, 14 December 2013 09:43 By Dr Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Truthout | Op-Ed


At the dawn of the Nelson Mandela administration, I had the extraordinary privilege to sit at the table with the new African National Congress leadership as the Environmental Protection Agency-White House liaison to the South African government. My job was to work with the new ANC leadership to design and provide US technical environmental expertise to assist the majority population's recovery from the environmental and public health disaster the apartheid system imposed on it. This process took place through the flagship foreign policy vehicle, the US-South African BiNational Commission, commonly called the Gore-Mbeki Commission, or the BNC. All bilateral foreign policy activities between the United States and South Africa took place through this commission. A detailed account of these events can be found in my book, No FEAR: A Whistleblower's Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. As a graduate student and professor, I had been an anti-apartheid activist who marched with my colleagues in the Southern Africa Support Project and TransAfrica in front of the South African Embassy to "Free Mandela" and to express our solidarity with the South African revolution. When I was offered the position of executive secretary to the BNC in 1995, I made it clear to the EPA - citing racist US foreign policy in other African countries - that I would not be a part of any diabolical scheme against the South African people. I was a supporter of the South African Freedom Charter and excited about helping the Mandela government implement environmental policies that would reverse decades of harmful and, at times, fatal policies toward the black majority. Soon after assuming my position, I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. In a 1996 letter to my mentor, professor Noam Chomsky, I wrote: "The Freedom Charter is not on the table. I'm heart broken to report that despite the blood sacrifice of so many activists, South Africa is entering a neo-colonial phase."

Vice President Al Gore said of the BNC: "I affirm that the people of the United States of America are committed to the strongest possible partnership with the citizens of South Africa." His counterpart, Thabo Mbeki, then deputy president of South Africa, proclaimed that he appreciated "this relationship of support and engagement for creating a better life for the people of this country."

At the time, CNN's description of aspects of the BNC's mission was closer to the truth: A further goal of the BNC was to hold regular trade talks and cooperate in the fight against international terrorism. There was a stark difference between the stated goals of the BNC and US political strategy. It would become evident that the functional goal of the environment committee of the BiNational Commission was to provide cover for the same US multinational corporations that had participated in the repression of South Africa during apartheid. Under a green banner, they were seeking to continue the previous relationship with Afrikaner leaders they had enjoyed while Nelson Mandela languished in prison for three decades.

I was the US official to whom the first reports of illness and death relating to vanadium mining were given by black South African union leaders and later by the new environmental leadership in the Nelson Mandela government. The United States ignored these reports, choosing to protect American-owned multinational corporations that were operating in South Africa. The reports included symptomology of miners whose tongues were turning green; bronchitis; asthma; bleeding from bodily orifices; impotence in young, healthy male workers; cancers; and, ultimately, death.

Despite the BNC agreeing to send a team of experts from the United States to investigate these horrible reports, no serious investigation ever occurred. Every attempt to convene an independent team of medical doctors was thwarted by EPA management. Instead, the EPA dispatched a single veterinarian to care for its new black African partners, as the United States focused its serious efforts and resources on developing private-sector projects.

The United States had been a faithful ally of the racist apartheid regime. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher considered the ANC a terrorist organization and called Nelson Mandela a terrorist. However, the saturated media coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela has missed another important relationship between the United States and Mandela - the fact that, according to The New York Times, there was a "CIA Tie Reported in Mandela Arrest:"

"The Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader who was jailed for nearly 28 years before his release four months ago. ... The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela's activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service."

The report quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior CIA officer told him shortly after Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be."

By 1996, US policy had not changed from the Reagan administration's - but the PR and public statements did - in response to growing US public outcries from the anti-apartheid movement and international human rights groups. Still, behind the scenes and in agencies like the EPA, the US role was business as usual.

As flowers adorn the front of the statue of Mandela at the South African Embassy, it is worth noting that the statue was paid for by the same corporate concerns that supported Mandela's incarceration, including the Anglo American Corp., the South African Mining Group, South Africa's Synthetic Fuels, chemicals giant Sasol, the South African Gold Coin Exchange and Standard Bank. These corporate co-conspirators think they can fool us with plaques, devotionals and crocodile tears.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Eyewitness to America's Betrayal of Mandela's South Africa: The Gore - Mbeki Commission, Part II

Saturday, 21 December 2013 09:29 By Dr Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Green Shadow Cabinet | Op-Ed


As the Executive Secretary for the Gore-Mbeki Commission Environment Committee, I sat at the negotiating table while the newly elected government of Nelson Mandela formulated its environmental policies. This position provided a unique vantage point for an African-American woman who had marched in front of the South African embassy against apartheid. I was privy to both the U.S. and South African dialogues. I observed that EPA managers felt a solidarity with white Afrikaner officials and were suspicious of the new African National Congress (ANC) leadership. From conversations with colleagues from other departments, I learned that this EPA/Afrikaner solidarity was widespread. The U.S. was giving lip service to the Mandela government while back channeling support to the old-guard Afrikaner hard-liners.

From that perspective in 1998, it was hard to see how the horrific economic situation in South Africa would be any different with the U.S. and the global community fighting to maintain the status quo. Today, largely owing to the success of having bolstered the status quo, there is a 50% unemployment rate among African youth, white families possess five times the income of black families, continued multinational corporate control of the economy and the mining sector, African Economic disenfranchisement—and most notably—the abandonment of the Freedom Charter.

I observed former South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs General Bantu Holomisa and his predecessor the late Deputy Minister Peter Mokaba valiantly resist U.S. determination to re-define the goals of the Gore-Mbeki Commission from one of humanitarian assistance to a private sector feeding frenzy. In public meetings, the U.S./EPA was most accommodating but behind closed doors a different strategy was in play. Although I was the Executive Secretary of the environment committee, EPA—without my knowledge—dispatched a white EPA official to South Africa to consult with former apartheid leaders and to enlist their help in opening markets to the U.S. private sector. The EPA official, in an unclassified memo lays out the problems posed by Black South African Department of Environment and Tourism (DEAT) officials concerning EPA’s private sector proposal:

“As you are aware, DEAT (ANC) officials have been resistant to the co-operative agreements we have signed with the U.S. Environmental Training Institute…They have raised concerns that the involvement of the U.S. private sector in these programs threatens the development of South Africa’s fledgling environmental industry and would do more to increase U.S. exports than achieve South African environmental and economic goals.”

The memo indicates that EPA through back channels had contacted Afrikaners still operating inside the Environment Department (per a negotiated agreement) and requested guidance as to how to proceed. The memo also informed EPA that whites inside the Department had been identified who would work with U.S. officials to advance U.S. economic interests. The paternal relationship between the U.S. and the minority whites in South Africa was still operational although forced underground in the immediate aftermath of South Africa’s independence. An EPA official was dispatched to South Africa to collude with Afrikaners and develop a strategy to pressure the new Mandela government to open its economy to U.S. environmental industries. This information was confirmed in court testimony during my 2000 trial in which I prevailed. (Carol Browner v. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo 2000)

A sympathetic colleague observing the fireworks between me and the agency on its back channel dealings with former apartheid officials anonymously slid a document under my office door. I had not been copied on it. The memo stated that a colleague and I were not in support of EPA’s back channel dealings with apartheid era holdovers—clearly signaling that we could not be trusted with sensitive information and that we would oppose efforts by the U.S. government to pressure South Africa to accept unfavorable private sector programs. Recall that Gore-Mbeki was suppose to provide humanitarian assistance:

“Kathy Washington and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo have expressed concerns that moving ahead with these programs outside the Gore-Mbeki framework could undercut other work they are planning with DEAT under Gore-Mbeki."

Despite concerns voiced by the ANC in which they opposed U.S. private sector initiatives, the EPA sent officials to South Africa to strategize with Afrikaner old guards still operating inside the Mandela government and devised a plan to impose pressure points from both inside the South African government and outside from the U.S.. EPA was not operating in isolation from the U.S. and the global community. The goal was to strengthen the long-terms allies of the U.S. government, namely the white hang-overs from the apartheid regime and to seek “friendly” allies within the new ANC government that might be amenable to U.S. economic (and ultimately their personal) interest.

What tragic challenge confronted the ANC as they attempted to implement the Freedom Charter immediately post independence:

“Want to redistribute land? Impossible – at the last minute, the negotiators agreed to add a clause to the new constitution that protects all private property, making land reform virtually impossible. Want to create jobs for millions of unemployed workers? Can’t – hundreds of factories were actually about to close because the ANC had signed on to the GATT, the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which made it illegal to subsidize the auto plants and textile factories. Want to get free AIDS drugs to the townships? That violates an intellectual property rights commitment under the WTO, which the ANC joined with no public debate as a continuation of the GATT.” - Naomi Klein,The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The ANC had been trapped through its commitments to international monetary organizations whose goals were in complete opposition to the Freedom Charter. The South African Freedom Charter—penned by thousands of South Africans under the vicious oppression of white supremacy—expressed the deepest goals and visions of a new South Africa. Adopted on June 26, 1955 at the Congress of the People, the Freedom Charter begins with the declaration: “The People Shall Govern!" The declaration demands that:

“The People Shall Share in the Country’s Wealth - The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people, the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people. The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It! Restrictions and land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger"

Mandela must have understood the difference between fighting a national liberation struggle and fighting the forces of global capital. Had he attempted to implement the Freedom Charter, he would have had a target on his back and his name would still be on the U.S. terrorist list. Mandela and his colleagues were aware that moving forward to implement the Charter would be considered an act of aggression against global capital. They decided to adopt neo-liberal economic policies that have exploded the inequalities within South Africa. In fact, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signaling a complete surrender to the demands of global capital referred to himself as a “Thatcherite”– identifying himself with the conservative economic policies of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was a critic of Mandela and the ANC.

It is hoped that with the passing of Mandela, a new generation of Black South Africans will re-commit to the spirit and implementation of the Freedom Charter’s declaration “The People Shall Govern". Without a re-distribution of wealth and the nationalization of the banking and mining sectors, poverty among Black people will continue to spiral out of control and another generation of Black South Africans will continue to suffer exploitation as cheap labor. For my part, I blew the whistle on the EPA looking the other way while a U.S. multinational corporation subjected South African vanadium mine workers to lethal working conditions. Anything less would have betrayed the blood sacrifice of countless everyday people who gave their lives for freedom in South Africa.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

"One of Our Greatest Coups": The CIA and the Capture of Nelson Mandela

Monday, 16 December 2013 10:57 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview


As South Africa prepares to hold a state funeral for Nelson Mandela, we look at how the CIA helped the South African government track down and capture Mandela in 1962. In 1990, the Cox News Service quoted a former U.S. official saying that within hours after Mandela’s arrest a senior CIA operative named Paul Eckel admitted the agency’s involvement. Eckel was reported as having told the official, "We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups." Several news outlets have reported the actual source of the tip that led to the arrest of Mandela was a CIA official named Donald Rickard. On Thursday, Democracy Now! attempted to reach Rickard at his home in Colorado. On two occasions, a man who picked up the phone hung up when we asked to speak with Donald Rickard. The activist group RootsAction has launched a campaign to urge the CIA to open its files on Mandela and South Africa, and the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has questioned why corporate media outlets have largely ignored the story. We speak to journalist Andrew Cockburn, who first reported on the CIA link to Mandela’s arrest in 1986 in The New York Times.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As South Africa prepares to hold a state funeral for Nelson Mandela, we end today’s show looking back at what happened on the day of August 5th, 1962, when South African police captured Mandela. On that day, Mandela was arrested while traveling disguised as a chauffeur. He would be held in jail for the next 27 years. On Tuesday, President Obama referenced Mandela’s time in jail during his speech at the memorial.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would, like Abraham Lincoln, hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: While Obama referenced the Kennedy administration in his memorial, he made no mention of the multiple reports that the CIA, under Kennedy, tipped off the apartheid South African regime in 1962 about Mandela’s whereabouts. In 1990, the Cox News Service quoted a former U.S. official saying that within hours after Mandela’s arrest, a senior CIA operative named Paul Eckel admitted the agency’s involvement. Eckel was reported as having told the official, quote, "We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups."

AMY GOODMAN: Several news outlets have reported the actual source of the tip that led to the arrest of Mandela was a CIA official named Donald Rickard. On Thursday, Democracy Now! attempted to reach Rickard at his home in Colorado. On two occasions, a man who picked up the phone hung up when we asked to speak with Donald Rickard. Last year, Rickard denied the reports in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, but refused to talk about his time in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the activist group RootsAction has launched a campaign to urge the CIA to open its files on Mandela and South Africa.

We go now to Andrew Cockburn. He first reported on the CIA link to Mandela’s arrest in 1986 in The New York Times. He’s now the Washington editor for Harper’s magazine. His latest piece, on John Kerry and U.S. foreign policy, is called "Secretary of Nothing." It’s out now in Harper’s.

Andrew, welcome back to Democracy Now!

ANDREW COCKBURN: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what you found out in the mid-’80s. At this point, Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for over 20 years.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right. He had been—I found out—I reported that he had been—as you mentioned, that he had been arrested, thanks to a tip from the CIA, while disguised as a chauffeur. He was actually—what I had heard at the time was he was actually on his way to meet an undercover CIA, an American diplomat who was actually a CIA official. So it made it rather easy for them to alert the South Africans where to find him.

I mentioned—I thought it was particularly interesting to report when I did in 1986, because at that point it was just when the sanctions were being introduced over—voted through by the Congress over President Reagan’s veto. So, and I had noticed that in the sanctions legislation, it said there should be no contact, official contact, with the South African military, and so on and so forth, except when intelligence required that, you know, they did have to have contact. So it was ongoing, this unholy relationship, which had led to Mandela being arrested and locked up for all those years, continued on through the ’60s, through the ’70s, through the ’80s, absolutely flourished, with the—for example, the NSA routinely handing over intercepts of the ANC to the South African secret police. And it was absolutely outrageous.

AMY GOODMAN: This is the National Security Agency that is, of course, the subject of so much global controversy right now, the NSA gathering this intelligence to give to the apartheid regime.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right. I mean, it was—it was just absolutely routine. And, you know, we have to—this was all—maybe they would have done it anyway, but it was certainly in the Cold War context. I mean, there was—it’s hard to remember now what a sort of lather people got into about, you know, the Soviet threat to the trade routes. And there was a naval base, African naval base—or there is one at Simon’s Town, near the Cape. And there was, I remember, sort of the right—the defense lobby were continually going on about the terrible threat of the Soviets maybe getting hold of, you know, Simon’s Town, seizing vital facilities.

And it was an absolute—I mean, people, not surprising—well, people have sort of forgotten just how—what a Cold War battleground southern Africa was. Not only did they turn over Mandela, but they had this very close relationship. U.S. military intelligence cooperated very closely with South African military intelligence, giving them information about what was going on, what they were collecting in the rest of southern Africa. And, in fact, you know, the two countries—CIA and the South Africans collaborated on, you know, assisting the UNITA in the horrible civil war in Angola that went on for years and years with thousands of people dying. So, you know, this wasn’t just a flash in the pan, the tip-off that led to the coordination on the arrest of Mandela. It was absolutely a very deep, very thorough relationship that went on for decades.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in that vein, I wanted to ask you about the 1996 report by Jeff Stein in Salon that the CIA was involved in sabotaging the ANC for years.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Stein quotes Mike Leach, a former South African intelligence operative who worked closely with the CIA, and Leach claimed that the CIA shared the recipe for a prussic acid, a, quote, "clear compound which, if inhaled, would give a massive coronary. If a doctor’s not looking for [prussic] acid he’ll put (the cause of death) down to natural causes." Another trick, Stein writes, was to, quote, "launder anti-apartheid T-shirts in a fiberglass solution and hand them out to demonstrators, who would soon be convulsed in uncontrollable itching." The CIA reportedly also offered training in bugging and wiretaps.

ANDREW COCKBURN: Well, that’s right. It shows that, you know, this is the agency that gave us the exploding cigar sent to Fidel Castro, or designed to be sent to Fidel Castro. You know, the sort of fascination with these rather puerile tricks went on and, yeah, were considered. I’d never heard any report that they actually did manage to give anyone a coronary or cause them frantic itching, but it was certainly, certainly in the scheme.

I mean, there was, you know, the CIA—and the other side of it is, of course, the CIA was meanwhile spying on the South Africans and had very good report on the, for instance, the South African nuclear program and the collaboration, the very active collaboration, of the Israelis in that program, which they fed back to Washington, when of course nothing was ever done about it. So, you know, they knew perfectly well what was going on, but no action was ever taken.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Cockburn, you write in your 1986 piece that the clause in the new law, the comprehensive anti-sanctions—the comprehensive anti-apartheid sanctions bill that was introduced by Ron Dellums, the clause in it exempted intelligence cooperation from sanctions. That’s very important.

ANDREW COCKBURN: That’s right. I mean, that was slipped in—well, not slipped, I don’t know—inserted, obviously, in the legislation by the intelligence people here. Even though they may have regretted the whole imposition of sanctions anyway, they made sure that their unholy relationship was ongoing. And this, you know, 1986, and as I said, we know—we saw the fruits of it ongoing through the rest of that decade with the war in Angola. I mean, it was a huge operation that people have completely forgotten about now.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew, we have to wrap up, but the Philadelphia journalist and professor Linn Washington wrote a piece this week, "Obama Failed to Deliver Long-Overdue Apology to Mandela." Your thoughts, as we wrap?

ANDREW COCKBURN: Well, I think, yeah, he did, certainly. And it would be nice if, you know, there was some acknowledgment of just how—you know, of the relationship that helped sustain apartheid for all those years. I mean, it couldn’t—I don’t think it would have existed or survived with such force, let alone keeping—you know, sending Mandela to jail, if it hadn’t had such thoroughgoing support from this end, from here in Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Andrew Cockburn, I want to thank you for being with us. And, of course, President Obama has continually talked about the inspiration Nelson Mandela was in his own life and activism. Andrew Cockburn, Washington editor for Harper’s magazine, in 1986 wrote a piece about the CIA’s involvement in the capture of Nelson Mandela. His latest piece, on John Kerry and U.S. foreign policy, which we hope to talk to you about at a future time, "Secretary of Nothing," it’s out now in Harper’s.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa

Thursday, 12 December 2013 11:40 By Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now! | Video Report



As the world focuses on Tuesday’s historic handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, we look back at the pivotal role Cuba played in ending apartheid and why Castro was one of only five world leaders invited to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. In the words of Mandela, the Cubans 'destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor ... [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa.' Historian Piero Gleijeses argues that it was Cuba’s victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa. We speak to Gleijeses about his new book, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991, and play archival footage of Mandela meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the historic moment Tuesday when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro as both men participated in the memorial service for anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The White House said the handshake was unscripted. It marked the first time a U.S. president has shaken hands with a Cuban leader since 2000. In Washington, Republicans expressed outrage over the exchange. During a hearing in the House, Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida sparred with Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it did not represent any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Mr. Secretary, sometimes a handshake is just a handshake. But when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raúl Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raúl Castro uses that hand to sign the orders to repress and jail democracy advocates. In fact, right now, as we speak, Cuban opposition leaders are being detained, and they’re being beaten while trying to commemorate today, which is International Human Rights Day. They will feel disheartened when they see these photos. Could you please tell the Cuban people living under that repressive regime that a handshake nonwithstanding, the U.S. policy toward the cruel and sadistic Cuban dictatorship has not weakened? Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Ladies and gentlemen, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela. And the president is at an international funeral with leaders from all over the world. He didn’t choose who’s there. They’re there to honor Mandela. And we appreciate that people from all over the world and from all different beliefs and walks of life who appreciated Nelson Mandela and/or were friends of his came to honor him. And I think, as the president said—I urge you to go read his speech, or if you didn’t see it or haven’t read it, because the president said in his speech today honoring Nelson Mandela, he said, "We urge leaders to honor Mandela’s struggle for freedom by upholding the basic human rights of their people"—

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: And would you say Raúl Castro is upholding their basic human rights?


AMY GOODMAN: The uproar over President Obama’s handshake with President Raúl Castro has drawn attention to the close relationship between the South African anti-apartheid movement and Cuba. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba with then-President Fidel Castro. This is a clip when they first met.

NELSON MANDELA: Before we say anything, you must tell me when you are coming to South Africa. You see—no, just a moment, just a moment, just a moment.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] The sooner the better.

NELSON MANDELA: And we have had a visit from a wide variety of people. And our friend, Cuba, which had helped us in training our people, gave us resources to keep current with our struggle, trained our people as doctors, and SWAPO, you have not come to our country. When are you coming?

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] I haven’t visited my South African homeland yet. I want it, I love it as a homeland. I love it as a homeland as I love you and the South African people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more on Cuba’s key role in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, we’re joined now in Washington, D.C., by Piero Gleijeses, professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He uses archival sources from the United States, South Africa and Cuba to provide an unprecedented look at the history in his latest book, Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991_. You can read the book’s prologuepretoria on our website at democracynow.org.

Professor Gleijeses, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this key relationship, why Cuba was so seminal to the anti-apartheid movement.

PIERO GLEIJESES: Cuba is the only country in the world that sent its soldiers to confront the army of apartheid and defeated the army of apartheid, the South African army, twice—in 1975, 1976, and in 1988. And in Havana, when he visited Havana in July 1991—I won’t to be able to repeat exactly the words of Nelson Mandela, but Nelson Mandela said, "The Cuban victory," referring to the Cuban victory over the South Africans in Angola in 1988, "destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor and inspired the fighting masses of South Africa. Cuito Cuanavale," which is a victory of the Cubans in Angola, "is the turning point in the liberation of our continent and of my people from the scourge of apartheid." So, in—

AMY GOODMAN: For a country that knows very little, Professor Gleijeses, about the Cuban experience, its military intervention in Angola, can you step back for a moment and explain what President Castro—what Fidel Castro and these Cuban soldiers did?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Sure. In 1975, you have the decolonization of Angola, Portuguese colony slated to become independent on November 11, 1975. There is a civil war between three movements: one supported by the Cubans, the Cubans that supported over the years in its struggle against the Portuguese; the other two supported by South Africa and the United States. And the movement supported by the Cubans, the MPLA, which is in power in Angola today, having won free election, was on the verge of winning the civil war. And it was on the verge of winning the civil war—a paraphrase from what the CIA station chief in Angola at the time told me—because it was the most committed movement with the best leaders, the best program. And in order to prevent their victory, the victory of the MPLA, in October 1975, urged by Washington, South Africa invaded. And the South African troops advanced on Luanda, and they would have taken Luanda and crushed the MPLA if Fidel Castro had not decided to intervene. And between November 1975 and April 1976, 3,6000 Cuban soldiers poured into Angola and pushed the South Africans back into Namibia, which South Africa ruled at the time.

And this had an immense psychological impact—talking of South Africa—in South Africa, both among whites and among blacks. And the major black South African newspaper, The World, wrote in an editorial in February 1976, at a moment in which the South African troops were still in Angola, but the Cubans were pushing them back—they had evacuated central Angola. They were in southern Angola. The writing was on the wall. And this newspaper, The World, wrote, "Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban victory in Angola. Black Africa is tasting the heady wine of the possibility of achieving total liberation." And Mandela wrote that he was in jail in 1975 when he learned about the arrival of the Cuban troops in Angola, and it was the first time then a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.

This was the first real contribution of Cuba to the liberation of South Africa. It was the first time in living memory that the White Giants, the army of apartheid, had been forced to retreat. And they had retreated because of a non-white army. And in a situation of internal colonialism, this is extremely important. And after that, the Cubans remained in Angola to protect Angola from the South African army. Even the CIA acknowledged that the Cubans were the guarantee for the independence of Angola. And in Angola, they trained the ANC, the African National Congress, of Mandela. And very close relations developed between the two. I don’t know if you want me to go on and talk about the next moment, or you want to interrupt me with some questions.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes, Professor Piero Gleijeses, if you could speak specifically about the role of Che Guevara in Africa?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Yeah, Che Guevara had nothing to do with South Africa. The role—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Africa, though, in the Congo and Angola.

PIERO GLEIJESES: Yes, I understand. The role of Che Guevara in 1964, 1965—in late 1964, Che Guevara was sent by Fidel Castro as Fidel Castro’s top representative to Sub-Saharan Africa—it was the first visit by a top Cuban leader to Sub-Saharan Africa—because the Cubans believed that there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help. And Che Guevara established relations with a number of revolutionary movements. One of them, the MPLA, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola, that was based in Congo-Brazzaville. And in 1965, the first Cubans fought in Angolan territory together with the MPLA. But the major role played by Che Guevara is that he led a group of Cubans into Congo, the former Belgian Congo, where there was a revolt by the followers of the late Lumumba against the central government enforced by the United States. And the United States had created an army of white mercenaries, the White Giants, mainly South African and Rhodesians and then Europeans, to crush this revolt. And the Cubans went at the request of the rebels, at the request of the government of Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania to help the rebels.



AMY GOODMAN: Professor, I wanted to go back to Angola—


AMY GOODMAN: —and this time bring in former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. This is Kissinger explaining why the U.S. was concerned about the Cuban troops that Fidel Castro had sent to fight in Angola. After Kissinger, you’ll hear Fidel Castro himself.

SECRETARY OF STATE HENRY KISSINGER: We thought, with respect to Angola, that if the Soviet Union could intervene at such distances, from areas that were far from the traditional Russian security concerns, and when Cuban forces could be introduced into distant trouble spots, and if the West could not find a counter to that, that then the whole international system could be destabilized.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] It was a question of globalizing our struggle vis-à-vis the globalized pressures and harassment of the U.S. In this respect, it did not coincide with the Soviet viewpoint. We acted, but without their cooperation. Quite the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Fidel Castro and, before that, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from the film CIA & Angolan Revolution. Professor Gleijeses?

PIERO GLEIJESES: OK, two points. One, Kissinger didn’t mention that the Cubans intervened in response to the South African invasion and that the United States had connived with the South Africans and urged the South Africans to invade. So here, there is a rather important issue of chronology.

The second point is that in the last volume of his memoirs, Kissinger, who in general is a very arrogant person, acknowledges that he made a mistake. And the mistake he made was in saying that the Cubans had intervened as proxies of the Soviet Union. And he writes in his memoirs that actually it had been a Cuban decision and that the Cubans had intervened and confronted the Soviets with a fait accompli. And then he asks a question in his memoirs: Why did Castro take this decision? And Kissinger’s answer is that Fidel Castro was probably—I’m quoting—"was probably the most genuine revolutionary leader then in power." So, there are two Kissingers, if you want, and there is the Kissinger of his memoirs, where he says a few things that actually are true.

AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, what do you make of the furor right now? You just heard Congressmember Lehtinen from Florida attacking John Kerry, you know, the significance of the handshake between President Obama and President Raúl Castro right there at the Soweto stadium at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

PIERO GLEIJESES: I think it’s pathetic and reflects the ethics of the United States and the policy of the United States. Obama, President Obama, was received with applause in South Africa when he spoke, etc., because he is the first black president of the United States. But the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation. This handshake—going beyond this particular issue, the handshake was long overdue. The embargo is absurd, is immoral. And we have here a president who bowed to the king of South Africa—of Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry, which certainly is no democracy. I mean, even Obama should know it. So it’s an absurd situation. The problem with Obama is that his speeches are good, his gestures are good, but there is no follow-up. So, unfortunately, it is just a gesture, a long-overdue gesture that does not change a shameful U.S. policy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Piero Gleijeses, before we conclude, let’s turn to Fidel Castro speaking in South Africa on his visit in 1998.

PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] Let South Africa be a model of a more just and more humane future. If you can do it, we will all be able to do it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Fidel Castro speaking in 1998 in South Africa, with former president, who just passed away, Nelson Mandela applauding him. Piero Gleijeses, we just have a minute. Could you talk about what most surprised you in your research in the Cuban archives about this history?

PIERO GLEIJESES: Well, there are a lot of things. One is the independence of Cuban policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. There are clashes between Fidel Castro and Gorbachev. There are clashes between the leaders of the Cuban military mission in Angola and the Soviet leaders, which I quote actually in my book and which make really fascinating reading. This is one thing.

But another thing that impressed me very much is the respect with which the Cubans treated the Angolan government. This is very important, because the Angolan government really depended on Cuba for its survival, the presence of the Cuban troops as a shield against South African invasion, which was a constant threat, and the very large and generous technical assistance that Cuba was providing to Angola. And the tendency would be to treat a government that’s so dependent with some kind of superiority. And this is something I’ve never found in international relations, this kind of respect with which Cuba treated what, by all objective counts, should have been a client government. And it’s particularly striking for someone who studies the United States and lives in the United States, because seriously the United States government does not treat government that depends on Washington with much respect.

AMY GOODMAN: Piero Gleijeses, thank you so much for being with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Professor of American foreign policy at SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. We will post the prologue of your book on our website. The book is just out; it’s called Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991, just published by University of North Carolina Press. Go to democracynow.org to read that prologue. When we come back, we’ll talk about Russia and gay and lesbian policy. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

The People's Sanctions

Saturday, 07 December 2013 09:19 By Francis Njubi Nesbitt, Foreign Policy in Focus | Op-Ed


How Nelson Mandela and ordinary citizens from all over the world strong-armed corporations, changed US foreign policy and ended apartheid in South Africa.

A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender. Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force.

—Woodrow Wilson, 1919

Are economic sanctions an effective alternative to the use of force in international relations? Scholars are divided on the issue. Many have questioned Wilson’s judgment.

Yet the passing of Nelson Mandela brings to mind one grassroots campaign for economic sanctions that brought down a ruthless racial minority government: The campaign for sanctions against South Africa.

The anti-apartheid movement was one of the first grassroots campaigns to use economic sanctions to depose a government. It is a remarkable example of how a small group of activists helped change the course of history.

Citizens all over the world—from employees of transnational corporations and account-holders in major banks to consumers, cities, states, colleges, and universities—divested funds from companies that did business with South Africa. The goal was to cut apartheid South Africa off from the rest of the world.

By the 1980s, most of the world’s countries had imposed political, economic, and military sanctions on the South African regime. The exceptions were South Africa’s major trading partners: the United States and Britain. These countries disingenuously argued that sanctions would hurt black Africans most.

In the United States, however, a vigorous grassroots movement demanded that cities, states, pension funds, banks, and universities divest their resources from companies doing business in South Africa, making it a liability for anyone to do business in the racially segregated state. Eventually, international corporations pulled out in a massive exodus that helped to bring down the apartheid system.

Civil Disobedience

This movement used nonviolent direct action tactics to pressure corporations, universities, and eventually Congress to impose sanctions on South Africa for its apartheid policies. It was launched on November 21, 1984, when four African-American leaders entered the South African embassy in Washington, DC and refused to leave until the South African regime dismantled apartheid and released all political prisoners.

TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, U.S. Congressman Walter Fauntroy, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, and law professor Eleanor Holmes Norton had been invited to discuss U.S.-South African relations with South African ambassador Bernadus G. Fourie. But the conversation they helped to launch reverberated far beyond the embassy walls.

After spending a night in jail, the four announced the formation of the Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) and began daily demonstrations outside the embassy. “Ours was an act of conscience in response to the repressive action of the South African government with respect to the noble, nonviolent protests of black South Africans over the last few months,” Fauntroy told reporters after the anti-apartheid activists were released on November 22.

Fauntroy said the FSAM would appeal to the conscience of grassroots Americans and move the struggle to “a new level.” He said this shift in strategy was necessary because efforts to persuade Congress to impose sanctions had failed. He called for demonstrations to be held daily outside the embassy and at South African consulates throughout the country.

The sit-ins took hold in more than two dozen other cities, including Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Cleveland, with weekly demonstrations at South African consulates, federal buildings, coin shops that dealt in gold Krugerrand coins, and businesses with South African interests. Meanwhile, hundreds of public figures, including Gloria Steinem, Harry Belafonte, Amy Carter, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, Coretta Scott King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and at least 22 members of Congress were arrested outside the embassy in Washington.

Soon, reporters began to compare the sit-ins to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Eight days after the first sit-ins, TheWashington Post reported: “The anti-apartheid movement, in the space of a few weeks, appears to have galvanized black support like no other social issue since the civil rights movement of 20 years ago.”

“It could have been a scene from the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” Time magazine added: “a large crowd of demonstrators, most of them black, marching in peaceful protest down an avenue in Washington, chanting slogans and carrying signs. But the series of rallies that have been taking place on Embassy Row during the past two weeks are against racism in another country; the apartheid government of South Africa.”

The movement was a coalition of religious, student, civil rights, and women’s groups. It spread quickly to hundreds of college campuses across the country, where rallies and sit-ins questioned the investment of university pension funds in companies doing business with South Africa. Hundreds of students were arrested at institutions like Harvard, Columbia, the University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois. Over 5,000 people were arrested across the country in a 12-month period.

In 1985, Citibank announced that it would no longer provide South Africa with loans. Later that year, Chase Manhattan refused to roll over short-term credit and demanded that South Africa repay its debts in full. Other banks followed suit. These financial sanctions had a devastating effect on South Africa’s economy. But activists still needed Congress to impose comprehensive sanctions.


The movement was finally vindicated in October 1986, when Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-apartheid Act over President Reagan’s veto. The Act was a major success for the Congressional Black Caucus, the Free South Africa Movement, TransAfrica, and other organizations and activists who had worked for decades to get Congress to pass a sanctions bill.

In 1988, Congress strengthened sanctions against South Africa, banning all trade, investment, and bank loans. It prohibited intelligence and military cooperation between Washington and Cape Town, cut air links, banned all exports and imports, and prohibited U.S. ships from carrying oil destined for the country, leading almost immediately to a 50-percent drop in trade with South Africa. The European Parliament followed suit soon after.

These sanctions meant total isolation for the apartheid regime. Within months, the country’s economy was on the verge of collapse. It was clear that it could not survive without sustaining its trade and financial ties to the West. Liberals and business leaders in the country demanded reforms.

The crisis forced South African President F.W. de Klerk to the negotiating table. On February 11, 1990, he announced the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. The pressure continued to come from the left and right, eventually forcing de Klerk to announce multiracial elections in 1994.

Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president in April 1994 after South Africa’s first free election. He formed a National Unity government that included de Klerk as one of the deputy presidents. Mandela also convened the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate and report on crimes committed by the state and other groups between 1948 and 1994. The TRC held its first hearings in 1996.

The greatest accomplishment of the Government of National Unity was the adoption of a new constitution in 1996. The constitution included a bill of rights that guaranteed equality and prohibited the state from discriminating against individuals for any reason, including race, sex, gender, or racial and ethnic origin. It prohibited such apartheid-era abuses as detention without trial, torture, and the limitation of movement.

Despite the political demise of apartheid, its effects are still evident in the economic sphere. Nearly two decades later, South Africa’s white minority still owns over 80 percent of agricultural land and remains in control of the economy. Recent reports indicate that racial inequality has actually grown since 1994. The ANC’s neo-liberal policies have not redistributed resources or reduced poverty to any significant degree.

But the challenges that remain are precisely what make the lessons learned so far valuable. The successful use of sanctions to bring down the apartheid regime is one of the more obscure lessons of the anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela, but it was an early and integral part of it: The liberation movement called for international sanctions as early as 1952, and the ANC in exile led the sanctions movement around the world.

This was a remarkable movement that mobilized millions of ordinary people to express their opposition to apartheid by withdrawing their support from companies that insisted on doing business with South Africa. This people’s movement eventually forced these corporations to withdraw from South Africa and even changed U.S. foreign policy, a remarkable feat by any measure. This is a lesson that contemporary social movements would do well to study and emulate.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Racializing Lung Function

Sunday, 30 March 2014 10:00
By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | Book Review


Lundy Braun's Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics traces the peculiar history of how 19th century research on lung capacity laid the foundation for a "scientific" framing of racial difference in lung - and other - capacities.

Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics, by Lundy Braun, University of Minnesota Press, 304 pages, $24.95.

Lundy Braun's Breathing Race into the Machine opens with a story about a group of African-American men who became ill with asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer after years of work in Baltimore's steel and shipyard industries. A 1999 lawsuit against Owens Corning, their former employer, challenged the company's denial of disability benefits and charged that Corning had been wrong to rely on distinct medical standards to assess the lung functioning of black and white workers.

Braun notes that Owens Corning's decision to deny the workers' claims was not simply an act of corporate racism but was grounded in a centuries-old theory about physical differences. That theory, she writes, created a hierarchy of "normal" - with white men at the top and everyone else below. Indeed, at the time of the workers' lawsuit, Braun explains that "race-specific criteria for impairment were consistent with the guidelines of the American Thoracic Society, one of the most authoritative associations in pulmonary medicine. Had the company's motion been successful, black workers would have had to demonstrate lower lung function and worse clinical symptoms than white workers before receiving compensation for asbestos-related disease."Race correction could not be applied in this lawsuit after the judge's oral ruling in 1999. However, race correction is still common throughout the world in most medical practices. It is programmed into the spirometers.

Throughout Breathing Race into the Machine, Braun analyzes how difference has been twisted to suggest black physical inferiority and promote practices that privilege white skin. That said, the book is dense and overly laden with acronyms, scientific terms and the names of the many researchers who have been involved in monitoring lung function and creating medical machinery. Still, the big picture - how pre-existing ideas about race, gender and class can influence scientific inquiry - makes the text a valuable contribution to medical anthropology and race studies. Furthermore, the book provides readers with an enhanced understanding of social history.

Braun writes that the ranking of lung capacity by race goes back to the mid-19th century. Dr. John Hutchinson (1811-1861), credited with developing the spirometer in the 1840s, saw the instrument as an invaluable tool to measure breathing, then called "vital capacity." While his interest was in detecting tuberculosis, this was not for treatment purposes; Hutchinson worked for life insurance companies that were eager to minimize payouts.

The spirometer also was used to justify slavery. "By the mid-nineteenth century," Braun writes, "the use of science to support white supremacy was becoming more systematic." Southern physician Samuel Cartwright [1793-1863] is a case in point. Cartwright contended that "the expansibility of the lungs is considered less in the Black than the white race of similar size, age and habit." This, he argued, was proof of physical pathology, which is why he felt African-Americans needed the constant protection of slave masters and overseers.

Studies of Union soldiers of African descent complemented Cartwright's conclusion, because the brutal conditions on plantations meant that enslaved men typically bore the scars of overwork, poor nutrition, crowded homes and a lifetime of inadequate medical care. Not surprisingly, this made them more susceptible to pneumonia, respiratory illnesses, typhoid fever, yellow fever and tuberculosis than their white peers.

Braun reports that this unequal playing field was given short shrift. Even more troubling, at the end of the Civil War, numerous medical experts predicted that blacks would soon die out as a race because their lung capacity was so limited. This "natural" weakness gave lawmakers a convenient rationale for doing nothing to ameliorate poverty and oppression. After all, if African-Americans were going to die anyway, why bother trying to improve their lives?

Black leaders, of course, took issue with this, blaming the appalling conditions in which most lived - and not a dysfunctional respiratory system - for high mortality rates from consumption and other illnesses. But the barons of industrial capitalism were not swayed and paid little attention to the critique. Instead, as the idea of human perfectibility took hold, the field of eugenics bloomed.

In addition, "in the last quarter of the 19th century, under pressure of the explosive growth of urban centers, the beginning of African American migration from the South, and massive immigration of 'the darker races' from southern and eastern Europe, a crisis of Anglo Saxon manhood emerged," Braun writes. As people debated immigration policy, imperialism and the definition of "white," she notes that anthropometry - the measurement of the size and proportion of the human body - gave doctors and other professionals a concrete way to intellectualize their prejudice.

British eugenicist Francis Galton (1822-1911), for one, used the spirometer to study nearly 10,000 men and women in the late 1800s and used his findings to contend that men were superior to women. What's more, he held up white manhood as the exemplar - a model that influenced Adolf Hitler several decades later. "Galton confirmed what he had long believed," Braun writes. "Superior physique and intellect were tightly correlated. Breathing capacity was a key marker of this group's superiority."

Galton further used his findings to separate people into two groups: savages and the civilized. These categories aligned nicely with prevailing ideas about conquest and allowed Galton to justify England's ongoing colonial wars in Africa, Asia and the West Indies. "Stamped with the imprimatur of science, nineteenth century research on lung capacity in physical education and anthropometry laid the foundation for the scientific framing of racial difference in lung capacity into the twentieth century," Braun adds.

This was especially evident in the way mill and mine workers were treated. US scientists who ignored the impact of discriminatory Jim Crow policies and assumed comparability between the races were able to "prove" that blacks were less hearty and more prone to hookworm, malnutrition and lung ailments. Yes, it sounds ridiculous today. But at the time, Braun writes, "it made cultural sense." In fact, when researchers subsequently crafted a "correction factor" for lung function in people assumed to be black, few people bristled or questioned why the model of normal was white and male.

The upshot is that normal for blacks has been set at 13 percent below that of whites, a standard that has had a profound material impact on who is considered disabled.

Braun highlights the experience of South African gold miners to illustrate this. Starting in 1916, she reports, black workers were called "Native labourers" rather than miners. Miners were exclusively white. The difference was more than semantic: Labourers who became ill were able to collect a small, one-time, lump-sum payment, while white miners were awarded a monthly stipend. Until black trade unions were formed in the 1970s, Braun notes, "Black workers were largely excluded from the controversies over disease definitions, staging and disability to which the spirometer contributed." The assumption that science - in this case using the spirometer as a diagnostic tool - is objective, she adds, helped reinforce ideas about "innate" biological differences, as well as racial rankings in political life.

This conclusion underscores the central point of Breathing Race into the Machine, a point that rings true in many areas of scientific research and has throughout history: "Social conditions influence scientists and how they interpret their findings."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 4 years ago

I have been following the bits here and there on his illness and I understand that the man is 95 but, it really is difficult to believe that he has passed away.

[+] -4 points by davidhums (9) from New York, NY 4 years ago

I worked for Nelson Mandela in the late 90s for about a year. He was a great man. Strong and caring. A real role model for all of us, especially for burgeoning anarchists.

[+] -4 points by tylerdurden2 (-3) 4 years ago

god please stop with the idolatry. if you look into his history he is not some saint. he was not a good man nor was his wife and family. the hero worship has to stop. these cults of personality are just that. whether it's mandella, obama, or ron paul. they only people who are going to save us and make a better world are us.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

How exactly is the mere posting of a historic person's passing hero worship idolatry?

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 4 years ago

FFS, your a moron.

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 4 years ago

Idolizing fictional characters played by Brad Pitt is OK though?

Perfect or not, Mandela changed the World for the better.

Ron Paul? Only for the worse.