News Release

Mandela: Beyond the “Safe Character”

Share BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at
Baraka is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He has written extensively on Africa. He is in the U.S. until Monday.

BILL FLETCHER, billfletcherjr at, @billfletcherjr
Fletcher is a columnist for and a former president of TransAfrica Forum. He just wrote: “Nelson Mandela will be mourned and celebrated. But something else will happen. There will soon, probably very soon, be efforts to reinterpret his life. I do not mean leaving things out, as happened in the otherwise excellent film just released about his life. Rather, as we have experienced here in the USA with great leaders like King and Malcolm, there will be efforts to convert Mandela into a very safe character in order to advance the ends of the global elite. We will, for instance, not hear much about Mandela’s refusal to renounce armed struggle against apartheid, even though such a renunciation could have resulted in his release much earlier. We will not hear much about his expressions of gratitude to the Cuban people for their consistent support to the people of Angola, Namibia and South Africa who were fighting the South African apartheid regime. We will not hear about Mandela’s consistent, unwavering support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation.”

PATRICK BOND, pbond at
Bond is the director of the center for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He is author of many books on South Africa, most recently South Africa — the Present as History: From Mrs Ples to Mandela and Marikana.

In his new interview with The Real News: “Mandela Led Fight Against Apartheid, But Not Against Extreme Inequality,” Bond says: “The mood here in South Africa is terribly somber. This was the day that everyone knew would come. … I happened to work in his [Mandela’s] office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these [economic] policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party.” Bond cites a former Mandela cabinet member, Ronnie Kasrils: “He basically says that as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid.”

Bond just published the piece “Nelson Mandela’s Years in Power: Was he Pushed or Did he Jump?


Mandela was on the U.S. government terrorist list until 2008. See USA Today piece from 2008: “U.S. has Mandela on Terrorist List.”

When Mandela visited the U.S. in 1990, he caused a major controversy by expressing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, see: Los Angles Times: “Mandela Defends Ties to Arafat, Kadafi.”

In early 2003, Mandela attacked the prospect of the U.S. invading Iraq. See CBS News reported titled “Mandela Slams Bush On Iraq,” which quotes Mandela: “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. … If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in response that Bush “understands there are going to be people who are more comfortable doing nothing about a growing menace that could turn into a holocaust.” Video of some of Mandela’s attack on Bush is at