A portrait of Nelson Mandela as a young man
At the beginning let us dispel some myths. Mandela was not a saint. In 1940s and 1950s he was angry young man who have seen a lot of injustice around himself and that made him even angrier. Until March 1960 African National Congress used the method of passive resistance initiated in India by Mahatma Gandhi. It led them to strike in Sharpeville, where black miners wanted to destroy their passes that they needed to enter white neighborhoods. They were sure it would be a peaceful demonstration, because mine owners needed their workers. To tame defenseless miners, the white government called on armed troops, which opened fire with machine guns. Sixty-nine men died shot, most of them from behind when they have already been running away. It was the turning point for the ANC which allowed Mandela to create a guerilla army.
However, Nelson Mandela was not Che Guevara and his comrades were not real sodiers. They had no idea how to fight nor how to carry out military action. Most of their handmade bombs did not explode or fell apart. When we look at Mandela as a guerilla soldier, his portrait would be rather pitiful. From 1961 to 1962, when he was the commander, his soldiers carried out one military action when they blew up power plants and high-voltage lines. There was only one victim - a soldier was killed, because a bomb exploed in his hands. This image of Mandela as a bloodthirsty terrorist was rather the white government propaganda that justified the policy of apartheid.
Hero or Villian?
The judgement is not so easy when it comes to South Africa. Tsotsis, young gang members, were considered free, because they opposed the law of the white government. This is a common motive in the Western culture - outcasts and outlaws, Robin Hood, Zorro, the three Musketeers, Bonnie and Clyde, cowboys and pirates. Romantic figures which we are able to forgive a lot, because they remind us that a single individual has a chance in the fight against oppressive authorties. In the Western Culture they are legends. It was the same with the French Resistance and the Warsaw Uprising during the World War II. But we do not call them terrorists. Why Mandela is diffrent?
1984 in 2013
There is a term 'doublethink' in Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It is a process, often unconscious, of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously. Like e.g. when we speak of the 'free world', we have in mind not only the United States and European Union, but we include also undemocratic regimes. What counts that they are agains Russia and China. So it was South Africa during apartheid. Nelson Mandela was on the U.S. terrorism watch list, because in the early 60s the United States did not differ much from South Africa, when it comes to racial segregation. In fact, The New York Times reported in 1990 that the C.I.A. played an important role in Mandela's arrest in 1962. He remained on the watch list until 2008, when he was already regarded as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. At the same time George W. Bush administration justified tortures on prisoners of war in Guantanamo.
What is wrong with the Western world that we judge so rashly? Mandela was called a terrorist when, in fact, it was the white government which first opened fire on unarmed civilians, like then during the Soweto Uprising in 1976 shooting at defenseless children. Yes, Mandela did not condemn the use of violence by AMC, but the white government did not beat its breast neither. When I think about Mandela as a terrorist, there is only one definition which fits here - that a terrorist is a black/coloured/Arab man who fights armed against whites. And this is truly Orwellian definition.