Here is what then President of South Africa P W Botha said to his cabinet during the days of apartheid as rewritten by David Mailu for the South Africa Sunday Times August 1985
“Hence, we have good reasons to let them all the
Mandela’s rot in prison, and I think we should be
commended for having kept them alive in spite of what
we have at hand with which to finish them off. I wish
to announce a number of new strategies that should be
put to use to destroy this Black bug. We should now
make use of the chemical weapon. Priority number one,
we should not by all means allow any more increases of
the Black population lest we be choked very soon. I
have exciting news that our scientists have come with
an efficient stuff.”
Mandela was released from prison in February 1990 after much pressure on Botha from the free world. Here are some excerpts of what he said to the world
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that
comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.
Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun,
one’s feet moving forward.
There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity
was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.
That way lays defeat and death.
Living isn’t just about doing for yourself, but what you do for others as well.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Pieter W Botha was known for his caustic tongue even to his own cabinet members, his ridiculing of his opponents in the vilest fashion but was considered a lightweight politician who was savagely protective of his power and ruthlessly exercised it over others. However behind his back he was also considered something of a clown for the things he said.
If our politicians could take a leaf out of the page of Mandela we would not have this “Lang sal” politics in the 21st Century. Mr. Skerrit should take note that calling the Opposition dirty names is not going to solve the economic problems of Waitikubuli or get him re-elected. His most recent remarks as reported calling the candidates of the opposition UWP “unemployed loiterers” is totally unbecoming of a Head of government. While it may give a good laugh to those who support, must support and pretend to support him he should wonder how many of them go home and behind his back have a another big laugh at his japes. The backstabber episode when Ian Douglas behind his back told a sad story of his character exposing him as a serial backstabber should give him pause.
When Botha offered to release Mandela if he would in effect betray the cause of his people he refused. Botha was banking on the slave mentality kicking in and a scrambling for the crumbs from the master’s table. Mandela’s position was very clear. As was said to Jesus by the Canaanite woman, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table,” (Mat 15:27) and so Mandela wanted whole change not just a false victory accepting and making do with scraps of satisfaction. Freedom was useless to him if his people were not free and so he stayed in Robben Island jail reserved for the worst criminals for more than 25 years. That he rose to be the President of South Africa during the lifetime of a withering P W Botha is a testimony to the words of Joseph of the Bible, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for my good.”(Gen 50:20)
As Nelson Mandela leaves us we should remember that his journey was difficult and perilous but it was his steadfast desire to rise above revenge and vengeful statements and to be dismissive of petty squabbling that made it possible for him to be respected at such a level even after his life is over. It is indeed an amazing story that a man who spent so much of his adult life locked up in prison should now be an icon for freedom around the world. Long after we are gone the world will speak of him and analyse his eventful life. There will be books and more films about him for centuries to come. While we as Christians believe that immortality comes after a resurrection from death, many ancients believed immortality meant that as long as people speak your name you never die. Just like was said of Abraham Lincoln so it is now being said of Mandela that he now belongs to the ages.