06/09/2013 by socialistfight
A Short Biography Of Nelson Mandela
Latief Parker, September 2013
Nelson Mandela was born on 18th July 1918, and attended Fort Hare and Witwatersrand Universities, where he studied law, although he failed to complete his degree. He practiced as an attorney with Oliver Tambo in Johannesburg from 1953.
Mandela was a founder member of the ANC Youth League in 1944, and was appointed its president in 1950. In 1952, he played an important role in the ANCs Defiance Campaign opposing the institution of Apartheid implemented by the Afrikaner nationalists after they came to power in 1948. He was repeatedly arrested for anti-apartheid activities, and was prosecuted but found ‘not guilty’, with other ANC leaders, in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. He co-founded the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961, and led a bombing campaign against government targets. He was arrested in 1962, convicted of incitement and leaving the country illegally, and sentenced to 5 years in prison. In 1964 he appeared as accused number one in the Rivonia Trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster, and was eventually released as a result of the pressures applied by International Finance Capital and foreign governments. However, the international community was insistent that South Africa continued to practice free market economics. Mandela became president of the ANC in 1991, and participated in negotiations to establish universal elections in 1994. He served as President of South Africa for five years.
The impact of the global downturn of the 1970s after the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement and the US dollar’s departure from Gold Standard resulted in increasing unemployment, and a rise in unrest throughout Southern Africa. In 1973, major strikes occurred in Durban, in 1975, the former Portuguese empire – Mozambique and Angola – achieved independence, and in 1976, South Africa was shaken by the Soweto uprising. Protest movements that had been founded much earlier began to re-flex their muscles, for example: the Unity Movement, of the Trotskyist tradition, the Stalinist South African Communist Party (SACP), and the Pan African Congress (PAC) founded following a split from the ANC in the 1950s. The PAC was anti-communist, and opposed the close alliance between the ANC and SACP.
As a result of the increasing instability, foreign investors withdrew their money from South Africa, further destabilising the situation. By the mid-1980s, Western governments and media concluded that Mandela would be the best man to ensure the continuation of the capitalist system in South Africa. Up to that stage he had been labelled a terrorist by the US and the UK, but in the late 1980s he suddenly became the darling of the West, and was labelled a freedom fighter and humanitarian. A massive public campaign was launched internationally to rehabilitate him and the ANC as international heroes and saviours of South Africa.
It is crucial to any understanding of the current South African situation to examine the deals that were struck by Mandela in power. Firstly, he guaranteed the rights of private property and the free market. This guaranteed that the majority of the mineral licences, including gold, diamonds, platinum and uranium would remain in the hands of the multinationals. Company tax was virtually halved, increasing the profits of the multinationals, while the mineworkers were asked to tighten their belts and not demand higher wages. Exchange controls were lifted, and the giant South African companies like Anglo American and de Beers were allowed to externalise their assets, and be quoted on the London and New York stock exchanges.
The ANC slavishly implemented IMF policies, and cut the subsidies to healthcare, food and education. Today, out of 155 developing countries, South Africa is rated 154 in education, below much poorer African states. More than 50 per cent of the population live below the poverty datum line. Unemployment is as high as 50-60% amongst black people. Crime is rampant, and South Africa has one of the highest murder and rape rates in the world. HIV-AIDS has only become less prevalent as a result of international aid. Infant mortality rates are high, and life expectancy has only recently started increasing as a result of the availability of HIV drugs.
While Mandela pleaded poverty as a result of the legacy of apartheid, and travelled around the world ‘cap in hand’ begging, he struck a multibillion Rand arms deal with a number of European governments. Both Mandela and the ANC became extraordinarily wealthy as a result of the corrupt payments they received for facilitating this deal. To this day the arms deal have not been fully exposed, and there have been no prosecutions. The mismanagement of the economy has seen the infrastructure decay, and this has added to the misery of people who continue to live in squatter camps with no basic facilities. In spite of the rhetoric of nationalisation included in the Freedom Charter, the ANC has become the junior partner of finance capital, aiding and abetting the stripping of the resources of the country.
It is source of continued amazement to the South African left that the international community holds Mandela in such high regard. He was never a communist even though cold war warriors continue to make the claim. In 1955, Mandela wrote in Liberation that following the institution of the Freedom Charter ‘trade and private enterprise will flourish as never before.’ Mandela succeeded in creating a ‘non-European bourgeoisie’ that is corrupt, venal, rapacious and tribalist because it is based on black nationalism. As is customary in South Africa the proletariat have been forced to pay the price. South Africa today is little changed from the days of apartheid: it is a profoundly racist and violent society.