South Africa in 1990’s was so consumed with tension that it felt like a mere pin drop might incite civil war. Anti-apartheid forces had fought the apartheid government into debt and the country into growing instability. The release of Nelson Mandela was meant to calm those troubled waters and it did as negotiations commenced to usher in a new democracy. Mandela had to ask a suffering Black nation, wired to the fight for their freedom, to do something they never imagined doing — forgive. The course Mandela chose was one of peace and unfortunately, it was Black South Africans who had to pay the price. No group of people was more intimately aware of that sacrifice than the Mandela clan that had to survive in the trenches while Mandela sat in jail for 27 years. His wife at the time and apartheid stalwart Winnie Mandela took the reigns of the fight while her husband was imprisoned and that responsibility scarred the Mandela family for decades.
Mandela’s legacy has been whitewashed by a white supremacist-run world that forgot that he didn’t ask to be jailed for 27 years — the man was considered a terrorist against the apartheid state. The overarching conception of Mandela is the happy, dancing bastion of forgiveness who lead South Africa into democracy. A simplified assessment that left out the fact that he and a few key players in the apartheid movement orchestrated an organized, funded and trained force of anti-apartheid operatives across the African continent. They choose to forget that Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. They forget that the ANC blew up the Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town in 1982 — some say because of the plutonium the apartheid government was set to produce for nuclear weapons and others say it was retaliation for the death of 42 ANC operatives who were gunned down by apartheid government commandos. The point is, Mandela and his compatriots were heroes because they shook the apartheid government and after he was jailed, his wife Winnie and those left behind brought it to its knees. Their children bore witness to all of this.
On June 14th, Zindzi Mandela — the youngest of Mandela’s three daughters — tweeted “Dear Apartheid Apologists, your time is over. You will not rule again. We do not fear you. Finally #TheLandIsOurs.” The tweet caught obvious outrage by white South Africans who are apartheid apologists so it’s safe to say the tweet reached the desired parties. A hit dog will truly hollar and the hounds came out the woodworks with this one. Local right-wing group Afriforum called for the firing of Mandela as the South African ambassador in Denmark and racist white South Africans (and some Sunken Place Blacks) chimed in with agreement. The cherry on top had to be the white people who developed enough liver to tell Mandela’s daughter that she was tarnishing her father’s legacy and being “divisive.” For racists, nothing is as divisive as the truth when it comes to racism and its legacy.
Winnie and her children were put through hell when Mandela was sent to jail. The apartheid state sought to break Mandela by dragging Winnie away from her children in the dead of night, with no means of organizing who would look after them in her absence. The Mandela children were made vulnerable and exposed to abuse while Winnie sat in solitary confinement for 491 days. They tried to break Winnie in order to break him, and their family paid the price. Winnie was radicalized by the treatment of her people and her family, resulting in her taking up the anti-apartheid fight that would eventually sway the apartheid government into a truce — one that she was excluded from.
These are the conditions that Zindzi and her siblings grew up under: a father in prison and a mother fighting the fight he left behind while she was thrown in and out of solitary confinement. That being said, it is downright laughable that anyone would be surprised at the ambassador’s tweets? Especially when white monopoly capital still owns the South African economy and Black people still suffer under the party that was supposed to deliver resources from the clutches of white hands. The growing land debate is a result of the realization that, as much as Black people are in power, economic power lies in the white population that owns over 70% of the land while earning 5X that of the average Black South African. Even after democracy, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world — a byproduct of the reality that money now runs countries and not governments.
On June 16th, South Africa celebrated Youth Day — a commemoration of the children who were gunned down while protesting in 1976. Children died because they wanted to learn in languages they understood instead of Afrikaans and the white racist mantra to “get over it” seeks to skip over the utter violence inflicted on the Black population during apartheid. The rainbow nation that was promised is a reality for white South Africans and white South Africans only — anyone who points that out is “divisive.” The irony though is that there can be no division where unity never existed in earnest. We want the land — our land.