The truth about Nelson Mandela, the Thembu King

Several years before he went to prison, Nelson Mandela helped found Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the African National Congress.
The armed group engaged mostly in sabotage of government property, though the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that it did take part in bombings and other attacks during the 1970s and 1980s which resulted in civilian deaths and injuries.
The rebel group, known as the MK, quickly became a pawn in the African Cold War battles. With backing from China, Cuba and other Communist countries, the rebels were considered terrorists by leaders in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.
As recently as a few months ago, American security officials stopped top A.N.C. officials because they were still listed as terrorists.
“Can you imagine, after all these years, they still call us terrorists?” said Tokyo Sexwale, a prominent A.N.C. leader who was detained at Kennedy International Airport in October because his name appeared on a watch list.
He was quickly allowed to continue his journey by embarrassed officials in the United States, but the episode served as a reminder that Mr. Mandela and his party were not always universally loved.

Mandela the Thembu King

Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela is born in a small village in the Transkei province in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Madiba, his tribal clan, is part of the Thembu people. His family has royal connections; his great-grandfather was a Thembu king and Mandela’s father is a respected counselor to the Thembu royal family. His father has four wives and Mandela is one of thirteen children. The family lives in a traditional thatched hut and raises livestock. On his first day of school, Rolihlahla is given the English name Nelson by an African teacher.
Mandela’s father dies, and at the age of nine Mandela becomes the ward of the acting regent of the Thembu people, chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. He is raised lovingly, but with discipline, by the chief and his wife in the Thembu royal household.

Amnesty International declared in 1985 that “Mandela had participated in planning acts of sabotage and inciting violence.
It’s safe to guess these networks wouldn’t dream of recalling Mandela’s associations with despots like Fidel Castro and Muammar Qaddafi, as Moynihan insisted they should:

Mandela was painfully slow in denouncing the squalid dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. He was rather fond of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (it won’t take you long to find photos of the two bear-hugging each other in Havana) and regularly referred to Libyan tyrant Muammar Qaddafi as “Brother Leader of the Revolution of the Libyan Jamahariya.” It was on a return visit to Robbin Island, when Mandela, as president, announced with appalling tone deafness that he would invite both Castro and Qaddafi to South Africa.

The media had this same whitewashing tendency at the height of Mandela’s legend, when he visited the United States in 1990. For our newsletter MediaWatch, we performed a study on “The Media’s Mandela Mania.”

A MediaWatch study of evening news coverage of Mandela’s release during the first three weeks of February found that reporters often compared Mandela to the Pope, Jesus Christ, and Moses, but not one story discussed Mandela’s embrace of communism and only a few CNN reports mentioned his role in acts of terrorism.

MediaWatch analysts found the same thing in network morning news (ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today) and evening newscasts (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN’s PrimeNews and NBC Nightly News) from June 17 to June 30. In 142 news stories, network anchors and reporters ignored Mandela’s embrace of communism and his terrorist past.

Instead, Mandela was hailed as “the hero of oppressed people everywhere” (David Ensor, ABC); a “larger than life figure” (John Holliman, CNN); and “a virtual symbol of freedom” (Harold Dow, CBS). On June 24, NBC’s Brad Willis described “A huge rally on Boston’s esplanade for a freedom fighter that many compare to the revolutionaries who fought against the British here more than two centuries ago.” But what didn’t the reporters cover?

Communism. In their rush to proclaim him a symbol of freedom, none of the networks covered Mandela’s ideology or the relationship between Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). In his own handwritten manuscript How To Be A Good Communist, Mandela wrote “Under a Communist government, South Africa will become a land of milk and honey.” With the exception of NBC’s Bob Kur and Mike Jensen, no reporter even mentioned Mandela’s support of economic nationalization. With Mandela’s ideas and “loyal and disciplined” membership in the ANC, would South Africa become a multi-racial democracy or a one-party Marxist state like its neighbors? No one asked.

Political Prisoner. “The former long-time political prisoner will address Congress,” Dan Rather announced when Mandela arrived. TV reporters called Mandela a political prisoner eight times, but never referred to Mandela as a saboteur or terrorist, even though Amnesty International declared in 1985 that “Mandela had participated in planning acts of sabotage and inciting violence, so that he could no longer fulfill the criteria for the classification of political prisoners.” Network reporters did report Mandela’s refusal to renounce violence in 14 stories, but most referred to it only in the context of fighting apartheid, not in the context of the ANC’s involvement in black-on-black violence or the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians.

Arafat, Castro, Qaddafi. Without Ted Koppel’s June 21 “town meeting” with Mandela, the tour might have escaped controversy completely. Questioners asked Mandela to explain his praise for Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro and Moammar Qaddafi. The questions were prompted by Mandela hailing Castro’s Cuba in May: “There’s one thing where that country stands out head and shoulders above the rest. That is in its love for human rights and liberty.” A week later in Libya, he praised Qaddaf’s “commitment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.” These statements, which appeared in The New Republic, were never quoted on the networks when he said them, or when he visited here.

The networks barely reported Mandela’s ABC remarks until Jewish and Cuban groups and print outlets made them an issue, mentioning the controversy in 26 stories. ABC, which taped the Koppel special in the afternoon on June 21, didn’t find the remarks worth including in a story on that night’s newscast summarizing the “town meeting.”

The next morning, Good Morning America did one story on the remarks, but left it out of its three other newscasts. NBC’s Today aired three stories without mentioning the remark. Harold Dow left it out of the one story on CBS This Morning. In fact, NBC and CBS dropped the Mandela story from its morning news for the next two days. On the Evening News, CBS gave the remarks brief mentions on June 22, 25, and 28. NBC Nightly News spent 45 seconds on the remarks on June 22, and included brief mentions on June 24 and 26. But the show ignored Mandela from June 27 to 29, when Mandela was greeted by thousands of protesting Cubans in Miami.

ABC’s World News Tonight was the only newscast to question Mandela’s contentions. Reporter James Walker noted: “Many find it a paradox that Mandela asks Americans to involve themselves in South Africa’s internal affairs while he refuses to pass judgment on the internal affairs of Libya or Cuba, or to involve himself in America’s racial problems.” But Peter Jennings dampened the impact with his remark on Castro: “The Cuban President has long been a leading supporter of liberation movements in southern Africa.”

Puerto Rican Assassins. The networks never reported some other terrorists Mandela praised. He welcomed to his Harlem speech platform three of the four Puerto Rican terrorists who shot and wounded five U.S. Congressmen in 1954. “We support the cause of anyone who is fighting for self-determination, and our attitude is the same, no matter  who it is. I would be honored to sit on the platform with the four comrades you refer to.” The quote appeared in the early local edition of The New York Times June 25, but the Times dropped it from later local editions and the national edition.

Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former African National Congress Women League president and Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, was found guilty on four charges of kidnapping and four of being an accessory after the fact to assault. Co-accused John Morgan was found guilty of kidnapping and Xoliswa Falati guilty of kidnapping and of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The case arose from the fact that one of the kidnapped youths, 14-year-old Stompie Sepei, had been found dead from his injuries near the crime scene. The sentencing was scheduled for 14 May 1991.The actual crime had allegedly been committed by her thuggish’ bodyguards dubbed the Mandela United Football Club’ (MUFC) . In 1997 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reached a verdict that Madikizela-Mandela was guilty and had played a role in the killing of Stompie Sepei.

When Jerry Richardson, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s chief bodyguard in the late 1980’s and one of her closest confidants, finally began talking, his story was chilling.

”My hands are full of blood today because I would be instructed to kill and I would do like I was told,” he told South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Mr. Richardson, 48, who is serving a life sentence for the killing of 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, described beating, torturing and killing people whenever ”mommy” (his name for Mrs. Mandela) asked him to do so. He was officially the coach of a soccer team she sponsored, the Mandela United Football Club. But the team rarely played, he said.

”She would say we would have to be attending funerals or torturing and disciplining people,” he explained.

Mr. Richardson told of using garden shears to kill Stompie Seipei in 1989 after beating him for days. He said Mrs. Mandela participated in the beatings, using her hands, fists and a whip. But she never did any of the killing, he said.

Mr. Richardson had long been rumored to be a police informer. And today he admitted this was true, a factor that could go a long way toward helping Mrs. Mandela when she presents her defense beginning on Thursday. President Nelson Mandela’s former wife is expected to portray herself as a victim of police dirty tricks. She has long denied the charges against her and requested the hearings to clear her name.

Indeed, in the last few days testimony from several witnesses seemed to indicate that her household was heavily infiltrated by the police.

Mr. Richardson said he became an informer in 1987. In the fall of 1988, he said, he arranged for two anti-apartheid guerrillas to be ambushed in his own home.

But Mr. Richardson said that he only beat and killed people under specific instructions from Mrs. Mandela. He said he had participated in four killings she ordered, saying that when he returned from one such killing, she embraced him and said ”My boy, my boy.”

The Truth Commission, which is charged with investigating apartheid-era atrocities, has been holding hearings on the role of Mrs. Mandela and her football club in 18 cases of murder or assault in the 1980’s. The commission does not have the power to prosecute, but it can submit its findings to the police.

Mrs. Mandela was convicted in 1991 of kidnapping and assaulting Stompie Seipei and was fined $3,200.

Stompie was kidnapped along with three other youngsters from a church mission as part of an elaborate plot to ruin a young white minister by getting the young men to say he had sexually abused them. All the boys were beaten until they agreed to make these accusations, but Stompie was beaten most severely because he was also suspected of being a police informer.

Later, Mr. Richardson said, he and Mrs. Mandela decided the boy was so badly beaten it was best to ”dump” him — that is kill him and dump his body where he could not be found.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: