July 18 is Mandela International day. Unfortunately this day is now more celebrated by western medias and white people than by Africans. Undoubtedly, Mandela memory will slowly be obliterated in Africa by his lost of the final battle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
In the final years of the apartheid regime in South Africa, Pieter Botha, commonly known as “The Big Crocodile” led a decisive, final and overpowering underground battle against the ANC (African national Congress), Mandela’s party, with 2 top strategic purposes: one, only leave the ANC with symbolic political power in case of transition to democracy, something he was opposed to; and second, outmaneuver the ANC in the economical discussions to keep the economy in the hand the white minority.
While Mandela was distracted by unnecessarily complicated political discussions with Frederik de Klerk, off the radar Pieter Botha supported by the white right-wing Conservative Party proceeded to destroy all the power symbols and infrastructures of South Africa ahead of the ANC political victory (read: The Dark Truth About Why South Africa Destroyed Its Nuclear Weapons in 1990).
On the economical side, Mandela and the ANC made fateful mistakes, and lost the final battle that would consequently seal how Mandela will be remembered by future African generations.
Here is a firsthand story of how the battle was lost, by Ronnie Kasrils, a member of the central committee of the South African Communist party from December 1986 to 2007, in a new introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous.
“Back then, our hopes were high for our country given its modern industrial economy, strategic mineral resources (not only gold and diamonds), and a working class and organised trade union movement with a rich tradition of struggle. But that optimism overlooked the tenacity of the international capitalist system. From 1991 to 1996 the battle for the ANC’s soul got under way, and was eventually lost to corporate power: we were entrapped by the neoliberal economy – or, as some today cry out, we “sold our people down the river.
What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option.
The ANC accepted responsibility for a vast apartheid-era debt, which should have been cancelled. A wealth tax on the super-rich to fund developmental projects was set aside, and domestic and international corporations, enriched by apartheid, were excused from any financial reparations. Extremely tight budgetary obligations were instituted that would tie the hands of any future governments; obligations to implement a free-trade policy and abolish all forms of tariff protection in keeping with neo-liberal free trade fundamentals were accepted. Big corporations were allowed to shift their main listings abroad.
It was a dire error on my part to focus on my own responsibilities and leave the economic issues to the ANC’s experts. However, at the time, most of us never quite knew what was happening with the top-level economic discussions. As s Sampie Terreblanche has revealed in his critique, Lost in Transformation, by late 1993 big business strategies – hatched in 1991 at the mining mogul Harry Oppenheimer’s Johannesburg residence – were crystallising in secret late-night discussions at the Development Bank of South Africa. Present were South Africa’s mineral and energy leaders, the bosses of US and British companies with a presence in South Africa – and young ANC economists schooled in western economics. They were reporting to Mandela, and were either outwitted or frightened into submission by hints of the dire consequences for South Africa should an ANC government prevail with what were considered ruinous economic policies.”
As result, nowadays the white minority in South Africa which makes less than 10% of the population still owns more than 80% South African lands and economy. More than 90% of the board of the South African Central Bank are white.
Pieter Botha and Frederik de Klerk brought real and tangible results to their people, while Mandela and the ANC brought ….
Regardless, of what is said above, I believe Mandela is a great fighter who indeed fought the apartheid regime with integrity and loyalty. His history needs to be taught to our people, and lessons learned from his mistakes. He has lost the war, but his personal story still is relevant to our learning.