Nelson Mandela and the South African Politics Essay

Introduction
Nelson Mandela, together with former South African president F.W. de Klerk earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their significant contribution that changed the social and political landscapes of South Africa. Without their collaborative efforts to push for reforms, South Africa would remain a pariah to the International community. Mandela, as a charismatic leader, led South Africa to a new Renaissance albeit the short period of his presidency. His contributions to the new South Africa were incomparable and they had reaped accolades and admiration from his peers as well as the international community. His job, though a daunting task, was a successful fusion of collaborative but firm leadership. As a leader, Mandela also recognized his limits and set forth the smooth transition to new leadership when the time came for him to welcome his successor.

            His distinctive diplomatic style and leadership, often referred to as “Mandiba Magic” courted both friend and foe toward a diplomatic approach to resolve the South African paradox.[1] Despite being imprisoned for twenty-seven years during the apartheid regime, the elderly statesman bore no grudge against his oppressors. Instead, he engendered everyone to join hands in reconciliation and unity. Retirement did not stop Mandela from continuing his humanitarian efforts. He had set-up foundations that would address issues that persistently plagued South Africa. His friend, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented that: “He’s crazy. He gets about as if he were half his age. He leaves me panting in exhaustion just looking at the schedule he keeps.”[2]  For Mandela, improving the education of South African Children and AIDS awareness remained priorities. Mandela’s philosophy, according to one interview was head over heart. Without it, he could not transcend the difficult times underlying the transformation of South Africa.[3] The tireless effort to bring peace not only to his nation but also on the international milieu defined the man that he is.

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Mandela’s Beginnings as a Leader
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born on July 18, 1918, in Umtata, the capital of the semiautonomous Transkei Territory, to minor chief, Hendry, or Henry, Gadla and his third wife, Nosekeni Fanny.[4] Despite being the eldest son of the chieftain, it was not from the union of the chief with the first wife. This denied his succession to his father’s position. His parents recognized that western education would benefit him. He was sent to study at local schools. The deposition of his father as chief in the later years had placed him under the care and responsibility of paramount chief who saw Mandela through his education at Fort Hare. [5] While under the care of the paramount chief, young Mandela learned about Tembu history and the circumstances that changed South Africa with the arrival of the whites. Mandela credited the arousal of his interest in politics to the elders of the tribe. He would also personally witness the socialist structure of traditional government in force at that time. [6]

            The western education he received shaped his political awareness and philosophy. It transcended the lines of ethnic traditions. By 1938, he continued his studies at Fort Hare to earn a B.A. degree intending to proceed to law school. While in his second year at Fort Hare, Mandela became involved in student politics. Mandela was involved in a strike as a member of the Student’s Representative Council (SRC). He was suspended and sent home on the condition that he could return to school if he would serve within the new SRC and abandoned the boycott. He refused. The paramount chief also asked him to accept the college’s ultimatum. Concurrently, an arranged marriage was also being decided for him. Influences from years of western education led Mandela to question the lack of democratic process in the traditional arrangement. He eventually fled and left for Johannesburg.[7]

            Walter Sisulu offered hospitality to young Mandela while he pursued his law degree. He completed his BA degree in 1942 at the University of Witwatersrand. He continued at the same school for his law degree. Sisulu also arranged for Mandela to do articles in a law firm under the supervision of a white lawyer. Mandela’s benefactor was a member of the African National Congress (ANC) since 1940. Mandela became a member through the Youth League of the ANC. By 1944, he was elected to the executive committee.[8]

            While with the ANC Youth League, young Mandela developed his Gandhian passive resistance to elicit change in society. He believed that Mohandas Gandhi’s prescription for change in India was also applicable to South Africa. He encouraged the ANC membership to adopt the same strategy. In the 1960’s when mass action was banned and ANC outlawed, Mandela became a fugitive and had to be smuggled out of the country and tour other parts of Africa to solicit support and exchange views. His first arrest came in August 5, 1962 temporarily suspended his radical activities. He was charged with “inciting workers to strike in the May 1961 stay-at-home and leaving the country without a valid permit or passport.”[9] Mandela defended himself in court. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labor. At his closing works for the court, he warned the state that,

Violence can only do one thing and that is breed counterviolence. We have warned repeatedly that the government, by resorting continually to violence, will breed, in this country, counter-violence amongst the people, till ultimately, if there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the government–ultimately the dispute between the government and my people will finish up being settled in violence and by force.[10]

            With the continued offensive of the government against the opposition, they created unpopular laws that were aimed to finally quash the dissention. Mandela, along with Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel Bernstein, Bob Hepple,. Dennis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Arthur Goldreich, Harold Wolpe, and James Kanto and twenty-four other co-conspirators were accused of violating the Sabotage Act of 1962 on October 9, 1963. Eight, including Mandela were sentenced to life imprisonment on June 11, 1964.[11]

            For twenty-seven years, Mandela languished in jail away from his family and his causes. Mandela’s influence continued despite being incarcerated. On February 11, 1990, the government recognized the value of Mandela to the negotiation for a settlement in the South African problem. At that time, Mandela was already 71. Mandela’s brand of leadership appeared to be moderate compared to other radical South African activists. He was not entirely passive and would resort to violence when the government would still continue with its hard line stand. Mandela’s approach was seeking social change at minimal social destruction.[12]

            When Mandela won the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, he inherited a host of social, economic and political problems. Mandela and ANC won majority seats in the parliament. ANC won 252 seats, de Klerk’s National Party managed to wrestle 82 seats and Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party won 43 seats.[13]  The years 1994-1999 would be significant in South African history. As the new government of Mandela took on the reins formerly held by the minority whites, a new Renaissance for South Africa was predicted. Being the first non-white president, elected in a democratic process, the international community welcomed South Africa back into its fold.

Mandela’s Contribution to Politics in South Africa
When former President de Klerk restored the legitimate existence of thirty-three organizations including ANC outlawed in previous administrations, he inadvertently set the wheels turning for advancing reforms in South Africa. [14] His decision was a watershed for South Africa’s history. Mandela for his part agreed to sit and negotiate for the future of South Africa. By advocating peaceful means to negotiate reforms, Mandela displayed exceptional leadership despite the political persecutions under the dominant white rule.  Under his leadership, the ANC recovered political prominence. While negotiating, Mandela and the African people encountered obstacles that appeared to put what little progress into the right direction. By 1992, negotiations met a snag and ANC unable to reach an amicable agreement with the government called for new actions to put more pressure on the South African government.[15]  Mandela displayed decisive and firm leadership on the negotiation table. He did not hesitate to state what was on his mind when he felt negotiation was going nowhere. He criticized the government for not doing enough to advance the talks. With strong conviction, he stated that ANC would withdraw from negotiations if ANC demands for an election and inclusion in the constituent assembly, and measures aimed at the cessation of political violence were not met.[16] His pressure was successful because President de Klerk signed the Record of Understanding on August 3, 1992. A tripartite agreement between de Klerk’s government, Mandela’s ANC and the Zulu monarchy. The agreement paved the way for the first democratic elections in South Africa. [17]

            Daniel Liberfeld, in his paper Nelson Mandela as a Peacemaker, presented that Mandela negotiated in politics with utmost patience, self-control and deliberateness. He knew how to play his cards and position his leverage. For Mandela, “confrontation is a tactic, dictated by a deliberate strategy, not by emotion, and anger, when expressed, is calculated”[18] His cooperative and consultative leadership style trained in the context of African National Congress (ANC) was important in bringing success to the peace initiative. His multilateralism brought democratic elections to South Africa after decades of Apartheid rule.

            The African National Congress (ANC) also benefited from the incessant effort of Mandela to negotiate change for South Africa. Majority of the seats in the 1994 election went to ANC. From political exile to the center of the political limelight, like Mandela, the ANC was thrust back into prominence. Under Mandela’s leadership, the ANC worked around a platform aimed at reconstruction and development program.[19]

            His transformational leadership was also instrumental in uniting the segregated African community and convinced the whites that democratic rule shall prevail. Mandela extended reconciliation to former foes. Mandela’s aim was to heal a nation. In his many reconciliatory moves, he invited former apartheid leaders and black activists to lunch. As one of his most magnanimous acts, he extended the same invitations to his former prosecutor in the Rivonia trial, Percy Yutar.[20] He assured the white community that what was done to the black community would not be imposed on them while at the same time assuring the black community that there would be no resurgence of apartheid regime scenarios.[21]

            The  “Mandiba Magic” also touched the white community when he attended the Rugby Cup held in Cape Town in 1995. The dominantly white crowd welcomed Mandela with the same warmth that was proffered to him by the black community. Mandela’s support for the majority white players in the event demonstrated his color blindness and his charisma as a leader. [22]

            Mandela vowed to pursue peace through diplomacy and reconciliation. When he became president, he created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It was his acknowledgment of the troubled past of the South Africans. He also recognized the need for reconciliation than retaliation or revenge. The TRC, under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu undertook investigations of atrocities committed on South African citizens during the Apartheid regime. Mandela believed not all atrocities were committed by the whites against blacks. The TRC questioned witnesses and reviewed the evidences. The TRC also tried to identify those who initiated or committed those acts. The proceedings were televised. Those found culpable and apologized for their acts were pardoned. Mandela understood that for any progress to be made to the new South Africa, trust must be re-established with the government.[23] This strategy, though controversial successfully reduced political violence while Mandela was president.

            Under Mandela’s regime, the new constitution was proposed on May 8, 1996. The new constitution set guidelines to the new political structure of South Africa. Moreover, the new constitution aimed to “balance the rights of individuals and groups and define the collective goals and purposes of the nation.”[24] To limit the concentration of power on a few, the new constitution structured the government into three levels. They are composed of the “local government, known as municipalities; nine provinces, each with its own elected legislature and an executive; and a three-branch national structure.”[25]

            To many he was considered as the “father of democracy” and most South Africans had difficulty visualizing a future without the charismatic leader. With his advanced age of 80, Mandela declined a second term and left the reins of government to a younger but able successor, Thabo Mbeki. He was undoubtedly the unifying force of South Africa. [26] Amidst the problems that affected South African social and economic life, Mandela managed to rise above and became a symbol of the new South Africa. He had bequeathed to the South African nation “a rare legacy of political compassion and new hope for racial harmony.”[27]

            His leadership was not limited on the home front. Mandela worked to pursue the external role of South Africa. Of primary importance to Mandela was the re-establishment of human rights in the country. He emphasized the need for South Africa to develop a “culture of human rights and to overcome the malaise of Afro-pessimism.”[28] One can attribute his success at bringing back South Africa into the good graces of the international community to the use of his brand of diplomacy. He earned the support of the international community and successfully campaigned for the lifting of the sanctions against South Africa. Mandela as a diplomat practiced principled diplomacy and understood the necessity to cultivate soft power. Before anyone found merits in operating under the principles of soft power, Mandela articulated the principle with excellent results. The tenets of soft power include “public diplomacy, moral messages, exemplar behavior and respect for differences.”[29] When the international identified power with military might and economic dominance, Mandela understood the relevance and use of soft power to assert the South African agenda.

            As a leader, he approached the problem with principled democracy. With “moral audacity and political tenacity…he promoted reconciliation in domestic affairs.”[30]  His leadership, honed during the years of his long incarceration was effective in resolving the thorny issues of South Africa. Although, his rule was not flawless, he had achieved what many would consider impossible at that time. His had more friends than permanent enemies. He would opt to look forward than dwell on the past that would only harbor feelings of revenge and resentment. By pushing South Africa forward, Mandela re-established the South African identity in the international milieu.

            He advocated that the international community should work with South Africa rather than providing dole outs to get the country out of their economic quagmire. Former President Clinton recognized Mandela’s proposition. “We have been asking what can we do for Africa, what can we do about Africa,” President Clinton said. “We must now ask what can we do with Africa.”[31]

Conclusion
Mandela’s legacy to South Africa is incomparable. While assuming leadership in the mid-1990’s, he demonstrated to his countrymen and the international community on how to deal with the South African problem. To the international community, he reiterated that South Africa no longer wanted a supporting role in development. Rather, South Africa would like to participate as partners. Mandela gave South Africa a new voice in the international community. Although, the ideal state had not been reached, Mandela prepared the blue print from which his successors could build and continue the reforms.

            Bibliography
Arnold, Guy. The New South Africa. (Basingstoke, England, Macmillan. 2000).

BBC News Online. Profile: Mandela’s Magic Touch (August 28, 2001) ;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1513244.stm; (Accessed March 10, 2007)

  Ba’Nikongo, Nikongo. South Africa to the Future: Challenges of African Politics Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Commentaries in African Studies: Essays about African Social Change and the Meaning of Our Professional Work. 25 (1) (1997), pp.11-15.

Carnegie Corporation “A House No Longer Divided: Progress and Prospects for Democratic Peace in South Africa”  (July 1997) <http://wwics.si.edu/subsites/ccpdc/pubs/house/1.htm> (Accessed March 10, 2007).

Deluca, Anthony R. Gandhi, Mao, Mandela, and Gorbachev: Studies in Personality, Power, and Politics. (Westport, CT , Praeger, 2000).

Jacobs, Badia. “Politics-South Africa: Mandela’s Good Intentions Amount to Little

for the Poor” (2003) ;http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=19400; (Accessed March 10, 2007).

Joseph, Joseph. “How Mandela Broke New Ground in Diplomacy” (December 11, 2003) ;http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2003/12/diplomacy_1203_print.htm; (Accessed March 10, 2007).

Juckes, Tim J. Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko. (Westport, CT , Praeger Publishers,1995).

  Kugler, R. Anthony, “Remaking a Nation: President Mandela”  Faces. 22 (6) (Feb 2006). p 32+

Liberfeld, Daniel, “Nelson Mandela as a Peacemaker” (March 2002) ;http://classweb.gmu.edu/hwjeong/Nelson%20Mandela%20as%20a%20Peacemaker.htm; (Acessed March 09, 2007).

“Nelson (Madiba) Rolihlahla Mandela” ;http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/people/mandela,n.htm; (Accessed March 09, 2007)

[1] BBC News Online. Profile: Mandela’s Magic Touch (August 28, 2001) ;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/1513244.stm; (Accessed March 10, 2007).
[2] BBC News Online
[3] BBC News Online.
[4] Juckes, Tim J. Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko. (Westport, CT , Praeger Publishers,1995). p.51.
[5] Juckes, Tim J. p.52
[6] Juckes, Tim J. p.52

[7] Juckes, Tim J. pp.56-57.
[8] Juckes, Tim J. p.58.
[9] Juckes, Tim J. p.104.
[10] Juckes, Tim J. p.105
[11] Juckes, Tim J. pp.106-107

[12] Juckes, Tim J. p. 109.
[13] Juckes, Tim J. p. 171.
[14] Arnold, Guy. The New South Africa. (Basingstoke, England, Macmillan. 2000). p. 8.
[15] “Nelson (Madiba) Rolihlahla Mandela” ; http://www.sahistory.org.za/pages/people/mandela,n.htm; (Accessed March 09, 2007).
[16] “Nelson (Madiba) Rolihlahla Mandela”
[17] Deluca, Anthony R. Gandhi, Mao, Mandela, and Gorbachev: Studies in Personality, Power, and Politics. (Westport, CT , Praeger, 2000).p. 89.
[18] Liberfeld, Daniel, “Nelson Mandela as a Peacemaker” (March 2002) ;http://classweb.gmu.edu/hwjeong/Nelson%20Mandela%20as%20a%20Peacemaker.htm; (Acessed March 09, 2007).
[19] Jacobs, Badia. “Politics-South Africa: Mandela’s Good Intentions Amount to Little for the Poor” (2003)

 <http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=19400> (Accessed March 10, 2007).
[20] Deluca, Anthony R. p.90
[21] Carnegie Corporation “A House No Longer Divided: Progress and Prospects for Democratic Peace in South Africa” (July 1997) < http://wwics.si.edu/subsites/ccpdc/pubs/house/1.htm> (Accessed March 10, 2007).
[22] Deluca, Anthony R. p.90

[23] Kugler, R. Anthony, “Remaking a Nation: President Mandela”  Faces. 22 (6) (Feb 2006). p 32+
[24] Carnegie Corporation
[25] Carnegie Corporation.
[26] Deluca, Anthony R. p.91
[27] Deluca, Anthony R. p.92
[28] Ba’Nikongo, Nikongo. South Africa to the Future: Challenges of African Politics Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Commentaries in African Studies: Essays about African Social Change and the Meaning of Our Professional Work. 25 (1) (1997), p.14.
[29] Joseph, James. “How Mandela Broke New Ground in Diplomacy” (December 11, 2003) http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2003/12/diplomacy_1203_print.htm (Accessed March 10, 2007).
[30] Joseph, James.
[31] Joseph, James.

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