Who Sold Out Black South Africans?

Or should the question rather be, did Nelson Mandela sell out black South African’s or not?

It reads like a politically blasphemous question but with the state of South African economics, it is an important question to ask. Some blacks in South Africa feel they got the raw end of the deal when apartheid was abolished. It seems apartheid in its essence was done away with as a socio-political problem but its economic ravages are still a reality of present day South Africa. On average, USA Today reported that one white household earns six times more than a black one. Who is blamed for the inequality? It may come as a surprise but a growing number of youths feel it is the late Nobel Prize Laureate, Nelson Mandela.

In a Speaking Tour in the U.K., Julius Malema, firebrand leader of the Economic Freedom Front packed the message in a concise, “The Nelson we celebrate now is a stage-managed Mandela who compromised the principles of the revolution, which are captured in the Freedom Charter.” 

Read the full Freedom Charter 1956

Very rarely in history do we have examples as such as the one in the drafting of the Freedom Charter where for months, ordinary people in their homes, in the factories and in the rural areas were canvassed and consulted on their vision for their country. Often when periods of transition occur, the leaders themselves put together a pact on behalf of the people and at most the people assent to the deal through a referendum. Not so with the Freedom Charter. 

The Congress Alliance ensured that all South Africans, across barriers of race, gender, class and creed were given the opportunity to shape their vision for a better South Africa, which is why the Freedom Charter was one thing not to be broken because it was created for the people of South Africa, by the people of South Africa.

The ANC had a rule which they were not going to break, which was stated in the Freedom Charter 1956 which states that the resources for the country will be used for the people of South Africa. And they were determined not to break that rule but this was compromised during the negotiations of the abolishment of apartheid. 

“Any deviation from the Freedom Charter is a ‘sell out’ position.” Said Julius Malema. Although none of us can ever take for granted the Freedom Madiba fought and negotiated for, Julius seems to think that Mandela sold himself out. Judging from how long the negotiations took we can assume that it was not a easy settlement to come to and that there were sacrifices and compromise that had to be made at that time.

Watch the Full Interview with Julius Malema

Post-apartheid, the young nation of South Africa seemed to have found its mojo. Young South Africans were hopeful but twenty-five years later, it seems hope remains just that- hope. Executives in corporations are still pre-dominantly whites who make up less than 15% of the population. The land promised to the black populace is still in the hands of whites. Means of production are still in the hands of whites while blacks remain the maids and gardeners in households. It would seem when the ANC negotiated the current settlement with the De Klerk regime, economics just did not make the agenda. The promises of the Freedom Charter had to be foregone for some reason and now more than ever, that strategy has become a bone of contention.

Johannesburg – Struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela bitterly lashed out at Nelson Mandela in an interview published in the London Evening Standard. She said South Africa’s first democratically elected president, who is also her ex-husband, had become a “corporate foundation” who was being “wheeled out to collect the money”. 

“Mandela let us down,” said Madikizela-Mandela.

She went on, “He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much “white”. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”

Look what they make him do. The great Mandela. He has no control or say any more. They put that huge statue of him right in the middle of the most affluent ‘white’ area of Johannesburg. Not here where we spilled our blood and where it all started.

She said Mandela had no control over the ANC anymore and was just being used by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to get funds.

You can see from both Malema and the late ‘mother of the nation’ that they share the same sentiments although Winnie was a bit more frustrated at what Mandela had become or rather what ’they’ turned him into.

The great Mandela was a Human Rights Activist and that is what he fought for more than anything, expecting economic freedom to have been a priority for him while his people were being killed would be a falsely placed expectation. Malema says: “Madiba knew that the revolution is not complete without Economic freedom, so I wouldn’t sit here and say Nelson Mandela sold us out, I will say Nelson took us to a particular state and then left it there for us to take it over and we are here now”

“Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”

Nelson Mandela

From the above quote, you will see that economic freedom was not a priority to Mandela’s negotiations of abolishing apartheid, but the freedom for black South Africans to make money is one he fought for. 

What was important to fight for was the ability for South Africa as a whole to vote for who they want in power, and Mandela did that. Was the dignity, land and economic freedom for black South Africans compromised? Maybe. Full Democracy comes in staged and black South Africans do have the freedom Mandela fought for, now it is time the baton was passed on to those who will fight for the freedom that is most important to Black South Africans today. While we cannot achieve all the Charter’s goals overnight, we continue to struggle, engage and work to ensure that this society is realised.

So, Who sold out Black South Africans? or rather did Nelson Mandela sell out Black South Africans?
We’ll leave you to make that conclusion for yourself.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4,

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