Nelson Mandela – an African nationalist

Nelson MandelaThe death of Nelson Mandela removes a renowned political leader and world figure from the South African and international stage writes South African socialist Norman Traub. As a political leader of the African National Congress (ANC) from the late 1940s , he played a key role in the national liberation struggle. Following the negotiated settlement and the first democratic elections held in South Africa in 1994, he became president. The democratic rights achieved by the oppressed black population was a big step forward. However, the social conditions of  severe deprivation which they had to endure under the rule of the racist regimes remain and is  devastating the lives of millions.

Mandela was the son of a chief, who was an adviser to the king of the Thembu tribe. He was born in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape, educated in missionary schools and then attended Fort Hare University. He came into conflict with the university authorities and was expelled before he could complete  his degree. He left for Johannesburg, where he studied  to become a lawyer and he joined the ANC. This was soon after the end of the second world war. He and Oliver Tambo, who later became president of the ANC in exile, set up a joint law practice in Johannesburg. Mandela, together with Robert Sobukwe and other young radicals   in the ANC formed the ANC Youth League, a militant pressure group in the ANC.  I remember as a student at the university in Johannesburg, attending a meeting addressed by Mandela and Sobukwe and being struck by the commanding presence of Mandela and the charisma of Sobukwe. At the time of its formation in 1912,the ANC was the first organisation formed to unite Africans. Its leaders saw its political role as appealing to the Great White King in Britain to undo the injustices inflicted on Africans by successive white regimes in South Africa. Its policy was to participate in elections to dummy institutions, such as Advisory Boards in the towns and Bungas in the countryside and whose advice was ignored by the White Parliament and City Councils, where the real power lay.  The petit bourgeois leadership of the ANC was tied to the white liberals, the representatives of British capitalism in South Africa. The Youth League came up with a Programme of Action to struggle for the rights of national freedom, political independence and self determination and the rejection of white leadership and all forms of segregation. This was at a time when the National Party, controlled by the Afrikaner petit bourgeois, funded by the Afrikaner bourgeoisie and influenced by Nazi ideology, was elected to run the white government.

In 1949 the ANC conference adopted the Programme of Action and called for a boycott of inferior political institutions. The long serving members in the ANC executive including those who had joint South African Communist Party(SACP) ANC membership, were against the boycott. Mandela had in 1948 visited IB Tabata, who was his senior, also came from the Eastern Cape and was a leader of the All African Convention(AAC). In 1935, when the franchise was taken away from African males in the Cape and replaced by the Native Representative Council(NRC),  a dummy institution; the All African Convention(a federation of African organisations) was formed to oppose the legislation. It rejected the discriminatory legislation introduced by the white government and adopted a policy of non collaboration with the oppressor and the boycott of all inferior institutions. As Tabata explained in a subsequent letter to Mandela, (which can be downloaded from the APDUSA website, the ANC, which at the time had been organisationally in the doldrums, was resuscitated to smash the unity  achieved by the formation of the AAC  and its policy of non collaboration. He went on to explain that politically the Youth League did not belong to the ANC and that if it followed its political principles it would find itself outside the ANC. In spite of the adoption of the Programme of Action, the ANC continued  its policy of working within the dummy institutions, created by the white government.

South Africa a police state

When the National Party came to power it passed increasingly repressive legislation, such as the Group  Areas Act, which extended residential and occupational segregation for the blacks. The laws which the government passed came to be known as apartheid laws, though they were an extension of the segregation acts passed by previous white governments. Other government legislation, such as the Suppression of Communism Act and the banning of  organisations and individuals, was designed to cripple the struggle against racist oppression. South Africa was fast becoming a police state. Faced with this situation, the ANC, turned increasingly to working together with  the Coloured and Indian organisations and the SACP. Influenced by Gandhi’s tactics of passive resistance, the ANC and its allies launched the Defiance Campaign. This was a passive resistance campaign which involved volunteers defying unjust laws  and courting arrest by marching into “white entrances” of post offices, railway stations, breaching curfew regulations and pass laws. Mandela as “National-Volunteer- in-Chief” played a central role in this campaign. This campaign was designed to exploit the divisions in white politics, appealing to the English section of the electorate to pressurise the government to change course. This tactic did not seriously inconvenience the white government or population. Thousands of the volunteers were arrested and many were imprisoned. The laws remained in place, disillusionment spread among those taking part in the campaign, which collapsed.  The problem was that as a reformist organisation, the ANC  did not view the struggle as a whole and protested against separate acts of oppression. Without a co-ordinated strategy against oppression and the necessity of building the organisation into a fighting instrument, there was no prospect of overturning the system. Not understanding that racial oppression was an instrument of class exploitation, the struggle became an “anti-apartheid struggle”, not one for the overthrow of the capitalist system as a whole.

The racist regime in response to  the Defiance Campaign and other protests ,passed further repressive laws aimed at crippling the resistance of the black population. The oppressed people were subject to  a merciless onslaught by the police state, including mass imprisonments, killings, torture, banning of the political organisations and  emergency rule.  Following the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, the ANC and its ally the SACP, turned from passive resistance to sabotage.  Sabotage consisted  of blowing up telephone lines and transportation links,  and other targets that would “frighten National Party supporters, scare away foreign capital and weaken the economy. This we hoped would bring the government to the bargaining table”(Mandela-  Long Walk to Freedom p.336). A special organisation “Umkhonto we Sizwe” was set up to carry out this programme . Nelson Mandela left the country in January 1961 and travelled to various African and Western European countries to negotiate military and diplomatic support for the sabotage campaign. In the course of his 6 months journey, he received military training in Ethiopia but was summoned urgently back to South Africa before he could complete the course of training.  Over 200 acts of sabotage, from setting fire to post boxes, attacks on public buildings and attempts to destroy railway signal systems, were carried out. The sabotage campaign did not get very far in fulfilling its aims. The impact on the white community was limited by the scanty press coverage and the usually superficial damage that resulted from the bombings. Nelson Mandela operating clandestinely, was arrested shortly after his return to South Africa in August 1962. The police were able to infiltrate a number of their spies into Umkhonto. As a result of infiltration and betrayals most of the national high command of the organisation were identified and captured, many of  them at Rivonia in 1963. Ben Turok of Umkhonto subsequently said ‘the sabotage campaign failed on the main count-it did not raise the level of action of the masses themselves’.  How could it, when the masses were not involved in the decision to engage in or carry out acts of sabotage?

Mandela on trial

Mandela and the leaders of Umkhonto captured at Rivonia were brought to trial in 1963 on a charge of sabotage. The lawyers defending those charged feared that the death sentence would be imposed at least on some of the accused and in particular on Mandela. When he gave evidence in his defence, Mandela ended his speech in court with the following “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.” His brave stand was reported widely in South Africa, despite the fact that by law he could not be quoted  in the media in his own country.    The world had been paying attention to the trial and night long vigils were held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London before the verdict was delivered. He was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was to spend 27 years in prison, mostly on Robben Island.

While the sabotage campaign in the country had been smashed , as part of the ANC programme, 300 recruits were sent across South Africa’s borders for military training in sympathetic African countries, the Soviet Union and China. However,  Umkhonto had not gone beyond the planning stage of a guerrilla war and disaffection occurred among those, who having received military training were confined to the ANC training camps in East Africa, with no immediate prospect of returning to South Africa to engage the enemy. The ANC conference at Morogoro in 1969 stressed that it was necessary to convert urban based sabotage to guerrilla war based in the countryside. After 1975, with the support of Frelimo in power in Mozambique and MPLA in Angola, it was once again possible for Umkhonto to establish regular contact with its supporters in South Africa. It was able to infiltrate military trained cadres into South Africa, who carried out acts of sabotage, mainly in the urban areas. Without the involvement of the masses there was no prospect of engaging in guerrilla war.   The few hundred sabotage attacks carried out by trained military cadres equipped with powerful explosives, created more damage than those carried out in the first sabotage campaign. However, at no stage was the ANC sabotage campaign a  serious challenge to the functioning of the South African state, its army and its economy. The ANC in exile came increasingly under the control of the SACP, which with its connections to the Soviet Union was able to ensure a steady flow of finance and military equipment from the USSR. Both the ANC and the SACP had many contacts in Western Europe and the US and organisations in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, like the Anti- Apartheid Movement in Britain, were established in many countries. Countries, like Sweden and Norway provided financial aid, scholarships and other support for the ANC.

On Robben Island, the political prisoners fought against the harsh regime imposed on them by the prison authorities and over the years had to resort to hunger strikes and other forms of resistance to try to gain the status of political prisoners. They won significant concessions, such as ending manual labour and better conditions for studying. Mandela studied for a further law degree from London University. He was able in prison to provide legal assistance to many prisoners, although prison regulations strictly forbade this. Inside the country  South Africa  was  experiencing a dark period of severe repression. The widespread resistance of the peasantry in the countryside against the state reached its height in Pondoland in 1960, where eleven men were killed at Ngquza Hill by the police. In the towns, it was not before the early 70s that African workers , having all the years been denied the right to form trade unions, challenged their bosses and the state by engaging in what were then unlawful strikes in Durban. Within a short time they  had established a number of trade unions. By 1979 they had formed the Federation of South African Trade Unions(FOSATU), which was the foundation stone of the non racial trade unions. The flame of rebellion spread to the African children in 1976, who in what came to be known as the Soweto uprising, heroically resisted the Bantu Education Act, with its compulsory provision that certain subjects such as arithmetic be taught in Afrikaans. The rebellion against this compulsory teaching started in Soweto, and the reaction of the state was the killing of two children, shot by the police. The revolt spread from Soweto to other parts of the country. The police showed no mercy  in putting down the rebellion, at the end of which it is estimated there were 575 dead and 2389 wounded.

Mass strikes

In the 80’s the apartheid regime was in crisis. The vacuum in black politics following the slaughter at Sharpeville in the early 60s, had been broken by the Soweto uprising and the advent of the black trade unions in the 70s. There were many strikes and the youth  led the fight against racist education, setting up committees, which welded them into a disciplined force. South Africa was in deep recession, with a balance of payments crisis and increasing foreign debt. Thousands of workers were sacked and wage reductions imposed on many of those employed. Having rejected dummy institutions, such as the tricameral parliament for Coloureds and Indians and township councils for the Africans, the blacks engaged in a series of mass struggles. The government responded by sending in the police and army to the black townships to try and break the resistance of the population. The youth, trade unions and community organisations called a   regional strike centred around Johannesburg  in  November 1984, with a set of economic and political demands. About a million people participated in  the strike. For the first time in an action of this scope the independent workers movement, through the main trade union organisations, emerged as the backbone of the struggle against the apartheid regime.  Outside the country, the campaigns of disinvestment from South Africa and the cultural and sports boycotts organised by the solidarity movements in many countries, were very effective. Businesses and institutions such as universities were refusing to invest in South Africa and the damage done to sport and culture in the country, was causing disaffection with the government among sections of the white population. Perhaps the greatest blow to the South African economy  was the refusal in 1985 of foreign banks such as Chase Manhattan to roll over South African debt. The message from overseas finance capital to the South African government was loud and clear, either you come to terms with the black South Africans or we will no longer do business with you.  What the capitalists feared most was that a revolutionary situation was developing in South Africa and that they were in danger of losing not only the capital they had invested in the country but the opportunity for further profitable investment in the country

In South Africa, the white bourgeoisie, faced with the crisis on their doorstep, had reached similar conclusions to the imperialist bourgeoisie. They too believed it was necessary to talk to the  black leaders. In 1985 a top level delegation of white businessmen, including mining and industrial magnates flew to Lusaka to meet the leaders of the ANC in exile. When they returned to South Africa they  expressed their belief that they “could do business with the ANC leaders”. Further meetings  between white business leaders and  intellectuals  with the ANC leaders took place. In prison, Nelson Mandela independently, had reached the conclusion that it was necessary to approach the government with a view to them  initiating negotiations with the ANC. He was able to speak to a cabinet minister, Kobie Coetzee but initially there was no response to his request for negotiations. But as the crisis facing the racist regime deepened, the government formed a special committee, headed by Coetzee to engage in secret negotiations with Mandela.

“Protect the minorities”

A  “satisfactory” solution to the crisis in South Africa was one of the top items on the agenda for US imperialism. The US sponsored a conference in Bermuda in 1989 attended by members of the US Congress and Senate, at which representatives of the National Party, ANC, Inkatha and other South African parties were present. The conclusion the conference reached was that “All parties now accept that the conflict will be resolved through negotiation”. The US and the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, played a key role in the negotiations, which led to the agreement reached on the withdrawal of Cuban and South African troops from Angola and the settlement of the Namibian conflict. Chester Crocker, the spokesman for the US acknowledged its indebtedness to the Soviet Union for its role in the negotiations “There is no doubt that the Soviets have indeed used their role and influence not on two but on the three parties to the agreement(International Herald Tribune 11th December 1988)”. The South African government were also not to slow to commend the role the Soviet Union was playing in the world. The South African Defence minister, Magnus Malan was reported to have said that the USSR had broken its mould of “confrontation seeker” in favour of economic and technological advances and closer ties with the West.

The pressures for a negotiated settlement in South Africa intensified.  F.W. de Klerk replaced Piet Botha as  South African president and  soon after his appointment he had a meeting with Mandela. Mandela raised the question of “group rights” in the National Party  five year plan, which would “protect the freedom of minorities”  in a new South Africa. He told  de Klerk that this was a way of preserving white domination and was unacceptable to the ANC. He called for the unbanning of the ANC and all other political organisations, lifting the State of Emergency, release of political prisoners and allowing the exiles to return.  Two months later, in February 1990 in Parliament, de Klerk  announced the  lifting of the bans on the ANC, PAC, the SACP and 31 illegal organisations, the freeing of political prisoners and other measures to dismantle the apartheid state. The time for negotiations had arrived. It would be a further 4 years before the first democratic elections in 1994 took place. Over 10,000 people were killed in the black townships from the time of  de Klerk’s inauguration as president in 1989 till the  holding of elections. Infighting among black political organisations accounted for some of the killings, mostly between the ANC and Inkatha, whose leader was Chief Buthelezi. Inkatha had been used by the racist regime as an instrument of divide and rule. The  government instead of trying to calm the situation , by its  actions was egging the parties on. It hoped that through this policy it would be able to weaken the ANC  and strengthen its position at the negotiating table. It consistently advocated group rights and a federation of states. It  tried to establish a position, whereby minority parties had veto powers in the new political dispensation. It was mass action, which culminated in a general strike in August 1992 with four million workers staying at home, which catapulted de Klerk into breaking the deadlock in the negotiations and signing a Record of Understanding with Mandela. In further negotiations, it accepted the demand of the ANC for full democratic rights in a unitary state. However, tribalism was kept alive artificially by the entrenchment of the rule of the chiefs in the constitution. The property rights of the whites, who owned most of the wealth of the country, the mines, the factories and 87% of the land, were guaranteed in the new constitution. In February 1993, the government and the ANC announced an agreement in principle on a five year government of national unity and a multiparty cabinet.

President Mandela

ANC provides homes for Cape Town families

ANC provides homes for Cape Town families

In April 1994, the first democratic elections were held, the ANC receiving 63% of the votes. Mandela was sworn in as president of South Africa and Thabo Mbeki and de Klerk as deputy president.  Just before the election, the ANC and the SACP had unveiled a document, whose purpose was redistribution of some of the wealth to the black population. The foreword to the document stated, “No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life”. The title of the plan was the “Reconstruction and Development Plan”(RDP). As part of the programme, one million houses were to be built in five years, 350,000 houses were  to be electrified in the first and four subsequent years and clean water, sanitation and health care were to be available to all by the end of the fifth year.    Primary health care was to be extended and ten years of free education to be provided to all South Africans. The land was to be redistributed through a land claims court and the value-added tax on basic foodstuffs ended. The RDP document  however  committed itself to fiscal discipline and macro-economic conservatism. It stated “ We must finance the RDP in ways that do not cause undue inflation or balance of payments difficulties.” It added  “The vast bulk of the RDP will be financed by existing resources organised, rationalised and directed within the RDP guidelines, without additional borrowing or a rise in general taxation.” Not a word about nationalisation of the mines or industries promised by the ANC in the 1955 Freedom Charter. Mandela’s State of the Nation address to the new democratic  parliament in August 1994 revealed the real nature of the ANC economic policy.  In place of nationalisation, Mandela promised to maintain financial discipline and reduce the budget deficit, which then stood at 6.8% of gross domestic product. He said he would do this without raising taxes. There was no hint  in his speech of refusing to pay the illegitimate debt accumulated by the apartheid government  in trying to maintain apartheid and awarding  huge pensions to  cabinet ministers and civil servants. Commenting on Mandela’s speech, Patti  Waldmeir of the Financial times said “ Such has been the revolution in the economic rhetoric of the ANC that President Mandela might have drawn yesterday’s State of Nation address to the multi-racial parliament from a textbook on orthodoxy.”(My Life Under White Supremacy p.297-Nikani)

A totally inadequate sum of R2.5 billion  was budgeted for the first year of the RDP. There were no definite sources for funding the programme, the funds were to come from savings from the various ministries. It took just one year for the RDP to be discontinued and its tasks taken over by the line ministries. Far fewer than the one million homes were built during five years. The cost of electrifying homes was to be borne by Eskom, the electricity public utility. Mandela claimed that 63% of households were connected to the electricity grid at the end of his term of office. However, of the 2.5 million homes with no electricity on Mandela’s coming into office, hundreds of thousands of homes remained without electricity when he left office. As far as the ‘substantial funds’ for land distribution that the RDP had called on the government to provide within the framework of the new constitution, they were just not there.  The Ministry of Agriculture had to take over and  worked out a land reform plan. In terms of the original land distribution target, the government was to transfer 30% of the country’s agricultural land(30 million hectares) to black ownership by 1999.  The actual number of hectares the government had transferred by 1999 was 355,000 to 39,000 households, which works out as 0.6% of the land. This project had to be abandoned because of the lack of funds. Black poverty is rooted in land deprivation and failure to deal with the land question showed that the government was unable to make any  real impact on solving the problem of poverty. On unemployment, instead of reducing the level of unemployment, which was estimated to be 5 million, when the ANC led government came to power, the job losses at the end of Mandela’s term of office were more than 500,000.

ANC sides with the bosses

After the  failure of the RDP, the government closed down the RDP office and terminated the RDP special budget. In June 1996, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Policy(GEAR) statement was issued. It was designed to cement neoliberal orthodoxy. While the RDP was doomed to failure from the start, the government was determined to do all in its power to make GEAR work. A major aim of GEAR was to achieve an economic  growth rate of 6% by the year 2000. In order to do this the government aimed to keep wage increases down to no more than 0.8% above the official inflation rate, at least until the year 2000. This meant that the majority of workers, who were grossly underpaid, would find the government siding with the bosses against them in their ongoing struggle for a living wage. Another key strategy of GEAR was the privatisation of state assets, which went hand in hand with a programme to cut government spending. Both meant a large scale loss of jobs.

The late Neville Alexander, in the fourth Strini Moodley Annual Memorial Lecture in 2010,( can be downloaded from made the point that “the bourgeoisie and a few of the leaders of the Congress Alliance were clear that the 1993-94 agreements were in essence about stabilising the capitalist state and system in South Africa and creating the conditions for its expansion as a profitable venture.”  Professor Terreblanche’s summary of the hidden negotiations  dealing with the economic aspects of the negotiated settlement in his “ A History of Inequality in South Africa 1652-2002” said that there was no innocence on the side of the leadership of the ANC and of prominent leaders of the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions(COSATU), the federation of trade unions which had been established when FOSATU joined up with other unions in 1979. This was the case in spite of disagreements on policy, which fact became evident most dramatically with the eventual imposition of the macroeconomic policy of GEAR. The following statement gives a crystal clear picture of what actually happened.

At stake was not only the economic policy of a democratically elected government but also the nature of South Africa’s future economic system. Given that South Africa was the most developed country in Africa, the stakes were extremely high, and the negotiations were strategically hugely important for the corporate sector. For almost 20 years all the joint attempts of the corporate sector and the NP [National Party] government to find a new accumulation strategy had been unsuccessful. After almost 20 years of prolonged stagflation, the latter was desperate to convince the core leaders of the democratic movement what the economic ideology and economic system in a democratic South Africa should be.

The strategy on which the corporate sector and the ANC agreed during the informal negotiations in 1993 can be described as the fourth phase of the AAC-led [Anglo-American Corporation] search for a new accumulation strategy. […] The main characteristic of every phase of the AAC-led search for a new accumulation strategy was that the supreme goal of economic policy should be to attain a high economic growth rate, and that all other objectives should be subordinated to this. By convincing ANC leaders to accept the AAC’s approach, the corporate sector in effect persuaded – or forced – the ANC to move away from its traditional priority, namely to uplift the impoverished black majority socially and economically. (Terreblanche, Sampie. 2002. A History of Inequality in South Africa 1652–2002. pp. 95-96)

As Alexander concluded in his lecture “ There ought to be no doubt in anyone’s mind after a close reading of this text that, and why, the bourgeoisie, the self same capitalist class of yesterday, is in command of all the strategic position, no matter what the “democratic posturing of the politicians might be.” Today, the ANC, SACP coalition government, presides over one of the most unequal societies in the world . In a talk I gave to Socialist Resistance earlier on this year dealing with the present situation in South Africa, I said the following,

“ Mass unemployment and poverty wages , continue to plague post apartheid society. In fact , unemployment has doubled since 1994. When those workers who have given up  looking for work are taken into account, the figure is a massive 40% of the total work force.  One third of workers earn less than R960(£75) a month, while half the workforce earn less than R2,400(£185). Today , 15 million South Africans are saved from starvation by the social grants they receive. Shanty towns spring up everywhere, particularly in the big cities and it is estimated that 17 million people live in shacks, where there is inadequate access to water electricity and sanitation. The HIV pandemic affects more people in SA than any other country in the world, over 5 and a half million people, just under 12% of the population(2007). However, there has been a dramatic 5 year increase in life expectancy from  54 years in  2005 to 60 in2011. thanks to the biggest programme of HIV drug treatment. Crime and violence are horrific, over 15,000 murders are committed yearly.”


Mandela’s political career starting after the end of the second  world  war when he joined the ANC, spanned a long period of time. He was at the centre of the politics of the ANC from the time he helped form the ANC Youth League in the 40’s till the completion of his term of office as South African president in 1999. His role in the liberation struggle cannot be separated from the politics of the ANC. There were more radical policies championed by other political organisations to those put forward by the ANC, SACP alliance during the liberation struggle. The racist regime and the ANC, SACP alliance opposed these policies, each for their own reasons. Internal as well as external forces ensured that the plans of the organisations advocating them were thwarted at every turn.

An African nationalist

Mandela and his government in 1994 had to deal with the dreadful legacy of apartheid. That legacy hangs as a dead weight on the present. The policies of Mandela’s government  and those that followed him, while providing social grants to millions of people, saving them from starvation, failed  to deal with the causes of continuing social deprivation of the vast majority of blacks.  He and his government, dominated by the ANC, SACP alliance together with the governments that followed his,  share part of the responsibility for the dire situation the vast majority of black South Africans find themselves in today. COSATU, although not in government, as part of the tripartite alliance with the ANC and SACP, was constrained by that alliance in its defence of the interests of the workers from attacks by the state and the bosses. On too many occasions its leadership was found wanting.

The demand for full democratic rights for the oppressed blacks was central to the national liberation struggle. The achievement of this demand in 1994 was a big step forward for the oppressed. It strengthened their confidence that at last they had a say in the running of the country. The struggles they are now engaged in are being conducted on a higher plateau. There is no longer the colour bar to hide the true nature of their struggle, against class exploitation. The workers and landless peasantry are having to propel themselves forward in the titanic struggle to free themselves from class exploitation. Mandela, as an African nationalist, is recognised for his role in the struggle of black South Africans for democratic rights. He and the leadership of the ANC however, could no longer hide when in government, that their class interests were opposed to those of the mass of workers and landless peasantry in South Africa.


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12 Comments on Nelson Mandela – an African nationalist

  1. Wer very sory about madiba’s death bt we hope his soul get a warm welcome to were his soul is going.

  2. I fully agree with Norman Traub´s analysis.

    Here are some supplementary readings and analyses for a fuller understanding of the history and struggle in S.A.:

    Some important titles:

    The following (very selective) works represent some of the more useful guides to this process of incorporation of the ANC into the political discourse from 1985/6:

    Patrick Bond: ELITE TRANSITION – From Apartheid to Neo-Liberalism in South Africa, Pluto Press, London, 2000.

    Willie Esterhuyse: ENDGAME – Secret Talks and the End of Apartheid, Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2012.

    Hein Marais: South Africa: LIMITS TO CHANGE: The Political Economy of Transition, Zed Books, June 1998.

    Hein Marais: SOUTH AFRICA PUSHED TO THE LIMIT: The political economy of Change, UCT Press/ Zed Books, 2011.

    Alec Russel: AFTER MANDELA, The Battle For The Soul of Africa (2009, 2010), Windmill Books/Random House, London.

    The crisis in the external ANC´s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, erupted in the early 1980s in the camps in Angola – see especially the articles and books by Stephen Ellis and Paul Trewhela, below. 

    It was a Pro-Democracy Movement and lasted up till 1984, and ended in a blood-bath and the killing of many of these militants and their jailing in the infamous Quatro prison center: the first major article to break the wall of silence in the Solidarity Movements in the West was in Searchlight South Africa (eds. Baruch Hirson, P. Trewhela) No. 5:

    “Inside Quatro”@

    Stephen Ellis: EXTERNAL MISSION: The ANC in Exile 1960-1990, Hurst and Company, London, 2012.

    “When the ANC refuses to listen”, Mail & Guardian,

    Paul Trewhela: INSIDE QUATRO: Uncovering the exile history of the ANC and SWAPO, Jacana Media, Johannesburg, 2009.

    Mewzi Twala: INSIDE MK: Mwezi Twala – A Soldier´s Story, Jonnathan Ball, Johannesburg, 1994.

    ANC in exile’s human rights record: The Cambridge Seminar, 18 February 2010 – ANC, SWAPO AND ZANU-PF HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD UNDER SCRUTINY AT CAMBRIDGE

    Seminar at the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release

    On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at Cambridge University hosted a roundtable discussion at King’s College on Wednesday 10 February with leading academics on Southern Africa.

    Professors Stephen Ellis, Saul Dubow and Jocelyn Alexander – and with Paul Trewhela, the author of Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO (Jacana, 2009).

    The seminar was chaired by the BBC World Service’s Africa Editor, Martin Plaut.


    Making a fraud of Mandela’s legacy, 12 December 2013

    @… Detail

    Paul Trewhela says there is an urgent for electoral reform to address our democratic deficit
    @… Detail&pid=71619

    Some more recent articles:

    Charles Longford: South Africa: still an Apartheid State, @

    Charles Longford: On Nelson Mandela’s inspiring achievements and tragic failures, @…onary/14386#.Uq YN0GTuJlR

    Mandela’s Dream of Black Power Became a “Neoliberal Nightmare”, @… are/5360825

    John Pilger: From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa – Mandela’s Tarnished Legacy – (

    Patrick Bond: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed? The Mandela Years in Power – @

    Michael Roberts Blogg: Mandela’s economic legacy, @…

    Obama and Mandela, @

    Happy reading Comrades and all the best for 2014!

  3. Thanks Selim for posting the comprehensive list commenting on Mandela’s life as well as the books on the incorporation of the ANC into the political discourse from 1985/6. The claim by the SACP that Mandela was a member of their central committee at the time of his arrest in 1962, must if true, go down as one of the most closely guarded secrets of the liberation struggle. It certainly needs further investigation. Much further research is needed into the relationship between the ANC and SACP and their relationship to the other organisations engaged in the liberation struggle.

    • The information that Mandela was a member of the SACP came out, via Stephen ~Ellis, in 2011:

      More interesting, in my opinion, is David Beresford’s repetition (in his Guardian obituary) of the claim that Mandela endorsed Winnie Mandela’s notorious statement about necklacing. This apparently comes from the record of a meeting between the two and Mandela’s lawyer shortly after her statement and was unearthed by Anthony Sampson. When he was president, Mandela denied he had made this endorsement. Presumably, David Beresford is not convinced by this denial.

      The issue of necklacing in the mid-eighties seems to have been airbrushed out of history. There is very little information on the internet that doesn’t just say it was aimed by (supporters of) the UDF at “alleged informers and apartheid collaborators”, whereas my recollection is that many of the victims were supporters of the black consciousness movement (BCM) and some of the most militant fighters against the regime.

      I think it played the role of sidelining those most opposed to the ANC and SACP’s political line of “liberation through class collaboration” and helped to pave the way for the “success” of that strategy. In other words, as they always do, the stalinists got power, in part, by doing the bourgeoisie’s dirty work for them.

      A book from around 1986-7 discussed the activities of the UDF and its supporters in the immediately preceding period. I can’t remember the book’s name, but the story was not a pretty one.

      One thing that Mandela illustrates is the political credibility to be derived from having an appealing (public) persona. This can get you a long way, even if your politics are those of class collaboration, but it requires certain things to be kept as far as possible from the public gaze.

  4. Thanks Norman, well in my opinion the work of both Prof Stephen Ellis and painter and ex-detainee/prisoner Paul Trewhela (works of both mentioned above) and even that of Saul Dubow are worth studying in that regard.

    The special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies (VOL 35, NO 2 JUNE 2009) (ed) by Hilary Sapire and Wayne Dooling – Special Issue: LIBERATION STRUGGLES, EXILE AND INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY has a lot of material for the researcher and activist wanting a “fuller picture”!

    The work of Paul Holden & Hennie Van Vuuren: THE DEVIL IN THE DETAIL – HOW THE ARMS DEAL CHANGED EVERYTHING, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg & Cape Town, 2011 ISBN978 1 86842 367 5 (see also: Paul Holden: THE ARMS DEAL IN YOUR POCKET, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Ct, ISBN – 9 781868 423132, gives details of the biggest scam yet pulled by the ANC kleptocrats; see also my review of the book @ The arms deal: Ten years on –

    More relevant information on the current state of the economy and of society is to be found @ “WHO RULES SOUTH AFRICA? by Martin Plaut and Paul Holden, Jonnathan Ball & Biteback Publishing, 2012, Ldn & CT.

  5. Norman Traub // 2nd January 2014 at 8:43 am // Reply

    In response to Phil firstly, the statement by the SACP(6th Dec.) is somewhat ambiguous. While asserting that Mandela was a member of the SACP and indeed a member of the Central Committee when arrested in 1962, it later goes on to say “After his release from prison in 1990, Cde Madiba became a great and close friend of the communists till his last days”. Reading this quote, a reasonable assumption is that Mandela was no longer a member of the SACP but became a great friend of the party. If he no longer was a member of the SACP when did he resign? From the time of his capture he remained a prisoner of the South African state till 1990. While the assumption may be incorrect, there are many questions that need to be answered ,such as explaining why Mandela repeatedly denied that he was a member of the SACP, also what year did he became a member and the duration of his membership.
    The Beresford obituary of Mandela claims that Mandela endorsed Winnie’s notorious statement about necklacing. Mandela was in prison in the eighties when most of the necklacing took place. Although the organisation was not responsible for initiating these acts, Winnie Mandela’s endorsement of them and the refusal of some ANC leaders to condemn them, says something about the politics of the ANC. Although they were aimed at police informers and collaborators, some victims may have been political rivals. The condemnation of necklacing by influential persons in the black community, such as Archbishop Tutu, who saved a potential victim from death, went some way to limiting the numbers of victims attacked. The ANC and SACP campaign of recognition of the ANC as the only ‘authentic liberation organisation’ was hugely significant in ensuring that it was the main partner in the negotiation process. The black trade unions were flexing their muscles in the 80s and the leadership of FOSATU, the biggest early trade union federation were hostile to the ANC. However, the ANC, SACP campaign which involved organisations like the UDF, which unlike the trade unions were not systematically structured and formed ‘ad hoc’ coalitions with other organisations, was very successful in bringing pressure to bear on the FOSATU leadership through their rank and file trade union membership. The dissolution of FOSATU and the formation of COSATU as the prime non racial trade union federation and a member of the tripartite alliance with the ANC and SACP is a matter of history.

  6. Here is some additional information by a one-time SACP/ANC “insider”:
    The image of Mandela, by Paul Trewhela – Paul Trewhela on symbolic representation in the 1960s and the present, @

  7. Finally, from someone who actually knows what he is talking about: “ANC suppresses real history to boost its claim to legitimacy”, @

    Quote: ” … Within hours of Nelson Mandela’s death, the South African Communist Party (SACP) at last admitted what I and some other historians had discovered through patient research – namely, that Mandela was at the time of his arrest in 1962 a member not only of the party, but also of its central committee.

    It is astonishing that so many people lied about this for so long. Maybe the SACP’s chieftains will now admit that the ANC’s key statement of principles, the 1955 Freedom Charter, was written by white communists.

    The suppression of knowledge about South Africa’s past goes far beyond these two examples. Three years ago, while I was researching my book External Mission, I was astonished to order files from a public archive and to find them empty.

    I asked the archivist what had happened. Some ANC heavies had taken away the papers, he told me.

    Many historians in South Africa have stories like this. The National Archives in Pretoria has become notorious for its inability to transmit public records for study. Various SACP and ANC archives mysteriously appear and then disappear.

    The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory seems to have been active in suppressing public discussion…”

  8. Norman Traub // 6th January 2014 at 2:24 pm // Reply

    Thanks Selim for the references dealing with Mandela’s membership of the SACP. Professor Ellis has good evidence that Nelson Mandela was a member of the SACP and their central committee, as well as Walter Sisulu being a member. Paul Trewelha , who was a SACP member at one stage, thinks that Mandela probably left the SACP in 1962 after his secret trip abroad, when he reported to the central committee of the SACP that in the newly independent states of Africa, the PAC was perceived to be the most militant organisation in South Africa and therefore deserved their support. At that meeting Mandela probably suggested that in order to obtain the support of the African states, he should leave the SACP and his resignation was accepted. These revelations shed new light on the situation in South Africa at the time. The SACP, together with individual members of the ANC rather than the ANC as an organisation, were responsible for the decision to turn to sabotage and form Umkhonto. Members of the SACP obtained the support of Moscow and Peking before embarking on a sabotage casmpaign. Umkhonto tried to outdo PAC and its armed wing, Poqo in the sabotage campaign. The ANC’s sabotage campaign and the “armed struggle” conducted from outside South Africa, violated all the tenets of guerrilla warfare. The grip of the SACP on the ANC tightened following the decision to engage in sabotage. The Soviet Union and the Eastern European were able to offer military training as well as financial support to Umkhonto, which also received military and financial support from the OAU. The SACP with its connections in Europe was able to build up support for the ANC as “the authentic nationalist organisation” representing the black oppressed of South Africa. European governments like Sweden assisted the ANC diplomatically and financially and the Anti Apartheid movement which was launched, received widespread support in Europe and other parts of the world. During the “ Cold War, the ANC was in the unique position of being an organisation that was feted by Moscow as well as Western European governments.
    The policies of the SACP in the coalition government are indistinguishable from those of its ANC partner as it engages “in the national democratic revolution” . Following the massacre of the platinum miners at Marikana, the role of the SACP was further exposed when they called for the arrest of the leaders of the rival union to the NUM, the AMCU. It would be surprising if support for the SACP among the South African workers is not in decline.

  9. Jara Handala // 6th January 2014 at 11:20 pm // Reply

    1) Unfortunately quite a few of Selim’s links don’t work. A link to the mentioned 2 hour video of the Cambridge Uni. seminar, 10 Feb 2010, that does work is:

    2) A few days before Selim’s comment mentioning the 1984 repression of the ANC/SACP guerrillas in Angola I had a letter on the topic published in the ‘Weekly Worker’:

    I quoted the chilling passage from Mwezi Twala’s book of Oliver Tambo in effect approving of militants being hung from trees as if in a scene from ‘Spartacus’:

    ‘Twala tells us something about Oliver Tambo, Mandela’s voice in exile, that grates somewhat with OT’s gilded image, shattering it to reveal a reflection of strange fruit:

    ‘“Oliver Tambo visited Pango at the height of the terror. The path from the entrance to the admin building was lined – like a scene from ‘Spartacus’ – with men, bloodied and filthy, hanging from trees. When his entourage arrived at admin, where I was officer on duty, Tambo’s chief of staff told us that there would be a meeting at ‘the stage’ (a clearing in the jungle … where we held meetings and discussions). Runners were sent out to notify everyone in the vicinity. On his way to the stage [Tambo] again passed the men tied to the trees. Being officer on duty, I could not attend the meeting, but my deputy went. After a while I saw guards come up from the stage, release the prisoners and take them to the meeting. There, my deputy told me, instead of objecting to their treatment, as I had hoped, Tambo berated them for their dissident behaviour and appeared to approve when Andrew Masondo declared that on the president’s [Tambo’s] next visit they would be in shallow graves behind the stage. The prisoners were returned to their trees … where the president passed the unfortunate men without a glance on his way out, and they hung there for another three months – followed by three months hard labour” (Mbokodo, p51-2, my interpolations).

    ‘And the rationale for all this?

    ‘“Mbokodo tried to instil in cadres the belief that the ANC leadership was infallible, and any cadre who refused to voluntarily accept this premise was coerced by threats. Mzwai Piliso [head of Mbokodo] summed up this approach when he said: ‘If you as much as point a finger at the ANC leadership, we will chop off your whole arm’” (p52-3, my interpolation).’

    3) Trotsky would not have been surprised by the SACP’s successful efforts to help South Africans create a capitalist democracy – & to successfully confine any struggle within those limits. And a democracy, please note, with deeply corrupt characteristics.

    The SACP has proved itself to be a reliable capitalist force, modernising its institutions. And Mandela proved himself to be a consistent liberal, both politically & economically. ‘Socialism’ & ‘communism’ were just words to them all, whereas promoting a more viable capitalism was their practice. The anti-apartheid movement was precisely that: an attempt to modernise the rule of capital in South Africa. Within & without the country this they – we – have succeeded in doing, all those sincere activists & campaigners.

  10. Norman Traub // 19th January 2014 at 7:23 pm // Reply

    Hi Jara.Your quote from Twala’s book exposes Tambo’s complicity, as head of the ANC in exile, in the repression of the ANC cadres in the camps in Angola. Many of them had been students involved in the Soweto rebellion against Bantu Education in 1975, who had been recruited by the ANC when they escaped into exile. They had been promised military training and arms to be used when they were sent back to South Africa to fight against the racist regime. Instead of which, they had to endure many years of a harsh regime in the camps in Angola, imposed on them by military and security personnel trained by the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and East Germany. The SACP claims that the ‘national democratic revolution’ in which they are playing their part will be followed by the socialist revolution. A number of cabinet ministers in the ANC led government are members of the SACP, whose life style contrasts so much with the mass of the population living in abject poverty. Zuma, has just renovated his house costing millions of rands of tax payers money. He emerged to become leader of the ANC and South African president in spite of his involvement in the scandal of the 43 billion rand purchase of arms by the previous ANC led government. A book, which deals with the state of corruption in the ANC and the government, which is passing increasingly repressive legislation, is “ After The Party” by Andrew Feinstein. The Anti-Apartheid movement was formed as a solidarity movement in support of the anti-apartheid struggle with the ANC playing an important role in its formation. The movement regarded the ANC as the leading organisation in the struggle. The ANC’s conception of the struggle as an anti-apartheid, not anti-capitalist struggle, accords with its programme and policy. Both its record pre the 1994 democratic election and following its ascent to power as the leading party in government post the 1994 election, attest to the fact that the ANC did not challenge the capitalist state. The activists and supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle by fighting against apartheid sport or boycotting South African oranges or not buying shares in company’s trading with South Africa, were showing their solidarity with the ANC. There were organisations in the liberation movement to the left of the ANC but their views were virtually ignored by the anti-apartheid movement

  11. MANDELA´S LAST WILL, HIS INHERITORS and his socio-economic legacy

    The provisional assessment of Mandela’s estate was about R46 million.


    So, how did this Icon of the Western World get all this cash, IF he did not sell-out his people, make a deal with the Boers from 1985 and white corporate monopoly capitalism inside the country and imperialism abroad, presided over by the “lilly whiter-than-white arsed” Norwegians and their Nobel Prizes?

    Mandela’s will – who got what: @

    Winnie gets nothing from Mandela will:

    Important works on Contemporary South Africa:

    1) Mandela´s South Afrika: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed? The Mandela Years in Power by PATRICK BOND


    2) Selim Gool writes on a brace of new books about South African politics: South Africa in a new transition again – from ‘crony capitalism’ to African despotism?


    3) From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa – Mandela’s Tarnished Legacy, by JOHN PILGER: @

    4) Mandela’s Dream of Black Power Became a “Neoliberal Nightmare”, by James Winter, @

    5) Michael Roberts Blogg: Mandela’s economic legacy, @ http://thenextrecession.wordpr


    1) MARIKANA: A View from the Mountain and a Case to Answer, by Peter Alexander, Luke Sinwell, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope og Bongani Xerzwi, Jacana Media, Johannesburg & Bookmarks Publications, London, 2012 – ISBN 978 1 909026 25 4

    2) “Who Rules South Africa?” by Martin Plaut og Paul Holden, Jonathan Ball, Cape Town go Biteback Publishing, 2012 – ISBN 978 1 84954

    3) EXTERNAL MISSION: The ANC in EXILE, 1960 – 1990, by Stephen Ellis, Hurst & Co, London – ISBN 978 1 84904 262

    4) INSIDE QUATRO: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and Swapo, by Paul Trewhela, Jacana Media, Johannesburg, 2009, ISBN 978 1 77009 776 6

    5) THE DEVIL IN THE DETAIL – HOW THE ARMS DEAL CHANGED EVERYTHING, by Paul Holden & Hennie Van Vuuren: Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg & Cape Town, 2011 ISBN978 1 86842 367 5

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