Rian Malan Discusses the Truths Behind the Myths About Nelson Mandela
“This Mandela certainly existed, but there were several other Mandelas, some entirely secret, others misunderstood,” says Malan. He questions some of the accepted ideas about Nelson Mandela, who passed away last Thursday, such as whether he was a liberal democrat and if he did mellow during his years in prison.
“My brain told me that Mandela’s interracial charm offensive was a ploy to disarm and confuse his white adversaries, but my heart said otherwise,” Malan writes. He concludes that, “We live in small and snide times, but there is something that must be said about this man: the deadliest weapon in his revolutionary arsenal was not the gun. In the end, it turned out to be love, and the ability to inspire love in others, even us.”
“You know nothing about Nelson Mandela,” spat Julius Malema. It was May 2010, and a foreign correspondent had just asked the African National Congress’s fire-breathing youth leader how he dared compare himself to the secular saint the world is mourning today. In the Western imagination, Mandela stood for racial reconciliation, whereas Malema was given to referring to whites as “criminals” and “the enemy”. Mandela also stood for justice, whereas Malema was an open admirer of the murderous Robert Mugabe.
At first glance, Malema’s presumption seemed obscene, but he was right on at least one score – the truth about Mandela has been obscured by decades of myth-mongering, most of it penned by white liberals intent on portraying him as a benign black moderate, leading an army of hymn-singing Martin Luther King types towards the promised land.