Was Mandela right to sell out Black South Africans?

Editor's Note: Uhuru News reprints here this article on Nelson Mandela from Bloomburg.com writer and Harvard University law professor, Noah Feldman. Feldman, a thinking representative of the white ruling class, makes the argument that Nelson Mandela sold out his people, but he did it for the greater good.

On the one hand he argues that the white settlers and imperialism still own all the resources in South Africa, and on the other hand looks at the rest of Africa where so-called Independence has been achieved and the people are just as poor as they were during direct colonialism.

Therefore he concludes that the sell-out was a good thing for imperialism and the colonized African population because if the white people flee with their capital, then the Africans will be left poor. He fails to mention that a fleeing white-settler cannot take a million acre farm nor a gold mine with them.

In essence, white power is a forever fact of life according to Feldman, and the Black Revolution's goal should be to appease the white ruling class, and thank them for our survival.

But African Internationalism teaches us that we can and we will win with the tearing down of the borders of South Africa and those that separate us throughout the Continent.

In all of the world, by any standards, by any dictionary, the actions of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress is defined as traitorous. The deal Mandela made was that too.


 

Nelson Mandela sold out black South Africans. Now there's a sentence you won't have heard in the days since his death and that you won't be hearing at his memorial tomorrow. Yet it’s incontrovertibly true that after centuries of being robbed of possibly the greatest mineral wealth the world has ever known, not to mention decades of being repressed by apartheid, black South Africans got almost no compensation for what should rightfully have been theirs when the old regime was swept away for the new South Africa.
 
Indeed, the basic deal Mandela struck from prison with F.W. de Klerk, and which was subsequently enshrined in the South African constitution, essentially guaranteed the existing property rights of white South Africans in exchange for an end to apartheid.
 
For whites, the deal made sense. Apartheid could not be maintained forever against international pressure and internal resistance. The odds of holding onto the material benefits of the oppressive traditional system were much higher with black African enfranchisement than without it. A successful revolution would lead to the dispossession of whites, just as it had in almost every other corner of formerly colonial sub-Saharan Africa. What Mandela was promising was more than half a loaf. It was a whole loaf of wealth with a proportionately small loaf of political power.
 
For black South Africans, especially supporters of the African National Congress who had idolized Mandela during his 27-year imprisonment, the choice was much harder. What they were giving up was nothing less than their material patrimony. Over many generations, blacks in South Africa might build businesses and earn money, and a slice of leadership might emerge as a political-business elite entitled to a share of the country’s national wealth. But for most black South Africans, there would be no major opportunity to change the economic conditions of their lives in the foreseeable future. Wealth would remain with their former oppressors.
 
On the positive side, if black South Africans could accept the deal Mandela had struck, the country might avoid the flight of whites — and with them white capital — that had happened in other countries on the continent. In the aftermath of morally justified redistribution of wealth, many sub-Saharan countries had found themselves poorer, not richer. It was a gamble for the poorest South Africans to bet that forgoing their just rights might actually leave them slightly better off in the long run; but it was a gamble arguably worth taking.
 
A further potential upside of the deal was harder to articulate publicly. Many post-colonial African countries had evolved from colonialism to proud independence to patrimonial, despotic dictatorship in just a generation. Perhaps the continued presence of white South Africans in positions of economic importance would create an incentive for the ANC leadership to govern democratically. No credible democratic political opposition to the party that fought for and achieved freedom was going to exist for a long while. To keep the government honest, then, a different threat was needed: The threat of flight by white capital should the ANC subvert democratic practices and values might actually help the country going forward.
 
The black South African public may not have realized, in the first flush of pride in their freed leader and his global prestige, exactly what deal they were implicitly taking. But the constitutional process, admirably accomplished over several years in full public view, made the deal more or less transparent. For the most part, black South Africans voted to take the deal. They were, in essence, validating Mandela’s promises to de Klerk and white South Africa. The rhetoric of brotherhood and nonvengeance — exemplified, for example, in Mandela's embrace of the Springboks national rugby team — was the cultural counterpart to the promise of continued coexistence under white economic dominance.
 
Was Mandela right to sacrifice justice for the chance of a richer and more democratic South Africa? The question of his heroic status depends on the answer. Looking at the career of Yasser Arafat, who consistently made a different choice, inclines one to think that the answer is yes. A politician shouldn't act on what is absolutely fair, but what is pragmatically most likely to succeed in the real world.
 
Yet, as we mourn Mandela, it is also worth remembering that, like almost all constitutions, South Africa's founding pact was born in the sin of compromise. Compromise is sin because people don't get what they deserve. But that sin is necessary, because after it's committed, people are better off than they would be without it.
 
The international community rightly reveres Nelson Mandela as a man of peace. But he was not a saint — and for that we should be grateful. He brought peace through his ability to convince millions of his countrymen that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed.
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