'Sanitizing' Mandela

By Jackie Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jan 6, 2014 - 9:39:03 AM

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Photos: (L) MGN Online (R) Monica Morgan

As 90 heads of state converged on South Africa to commemorate and memorialize the lifelong accomplishments of former South African President Nelson Mandela, a cadre of liberal and conservative pundits wasted no time modifying the true image of the iconic South African leader. Many of these media mavens have sought to reduce Mandela’s image to that of a race reconciler, someone who sought to bridge the racial gap between the citizenry of a “rainbow nation.” Mr. Mandela was a dignified humanist. But he was also a revolutionary and a man committed to the social, political, and economic betterment of the millions of oppressed South Africans.

Those who have sought to change the heart and soul of Mr. Mandela are also altering the history and legacy of one of the world’s greatest leaders. This same tactic has been used to modify the image and contributions of one of America’s greatest leaders, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The media, in an attempt to soften his image, never present Mandela the revolutionary, a militant leader who believed in the violent overthrow of his people’s oppressors. After the famous Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, Mandela co-founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), which functioned as the armed wing of the ANC (African National Congress). The actions associated with this group are what ultimately landed him in jail: Mr. Mandela sacrificed 27 years of his life at Robben Island prison. The original charge of treason was reduced to sabotage, a charge that netted Mandela, and the revolutionaries who fought with him, a lifetime prison sentence.

Mandela advocated for income equality, the redistribution of wealth, and the redistribution of land—and for that revolutionary advocacy he was labeled a terrorist by the government of the United States of America, a designation that was not changed until 2008, many years after he was elected the president of one of Africa’s leading nations. The year Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, the U.S. government still kept the former South African president on the terrorist watch list.

Jackie Muhammad meets with Nelson Mandela in Washington, D.C. in 1990.
Dr. Martin Luther King and former President Nelson Mandela had a great deal in common. Both called for economic parity, freedom, justice, equality, and the acquisition of land as the basis of economic parity for their people. Both men abhorred America’s military invasions in other people’s lands and both denounced racism in all its forms.

Dr. King was an outspoken critic of America’s foreign policy initiatives. He vociferously denounced America’s foray into the Vietnam War. In 1968 Dr. King said: “And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war, as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. ...”

Former President Mandela, in 2003, slammed the U.S. in a speech given at the International Women’s Forum in Johannesburg, denouncing then-President George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq for easy access to Iraqi oil. Mr. Mandela said: “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.” In 2002 Mandela told Newsweek, “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace.”

The landmark publication The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, Vol. 2, shows how members of the Jewish community labeled Dr. King and Mr. Mandela as virulent anti-Semites. Upon the occasion of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s state visit to South Africa in 1996, the powerful Jewish community became very disturbed when President Mandela rejected their bid to have him snub The Minister. The two brothers proceeded to have an amicable and successful meeting.

The Zionists were further disturbed when President Mandela voiced his support for the Palestine Liberation Organization. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Suzanne Belling, Mandela, a longtime supporter of the PLO, said in a speech to reporters in 1999: “Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank.” Reflecting Mandela’s sentiments, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (also labeled an anti-Semite by Zionist Jews) has compared the Israelis’ occupation of the West Bank to apartheid in South Africa, oppression both men knew only too well.

In an article published in the Jewish Daily Forward, called “The 2 Sides of Nelson Mandela, Iconic Figure Not Always Perfect Leader—Especially for Jews,” Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan wrote: “When Mandela gave up his position as president of the African National Congress to Thabo Mbeki — the first step to retiring from politics two years hence in 1999 — he almost immediately gave a fiery, five hour speech on December 16, 1997, in Mafikeng that was perceived by many as being uncharacteristically radical, overtly hostile in tone and menacing in imagery. Many Jews in particular, fearful because of understandable historical reasons, found his rhetoric completely inexplicable, even frightening.”

Further, those who sought to sanitize Mandela’s radical image were dismayed by the South African President’s strong support for one of America’s and the West’s most feared adversaries: Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. Mandela urged for an end to the unreasonable and despotic sanctions the UN, at the prompting of the U.S., had imposed on Libya, one of the African Continent’s strongest nations. He said: “It is our duty to give support to the brother leader … especially in regards to the sanctions which are not hitting just him; they are hitting the ordinary masses of the people … our African brothers and sisters.”

The strong and uncompromising positions taken by Mr. Mandela belie the corporate image the enemies of Mandela have sought to impose on the masses of the people in Africa and the world.

In whitewashing the image of Mr. Mandela, the corporate media’s plan is to do to Mandela what was done to Dr. Martin Luther King, namely, to make him a one-dimensional peacemaker who had no other agenda than to appease his enemies. 

On January 26, 2012, while appearing on MSNBC’s Politics Nation hosted by the Reverend Al Sharpton, author and historian Rick Perlstein, author of Nixon Land: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, recounted how a certain White senator had received numerous letters calling Dr. Martin Luther King a “dark-skinned Hitler.”

Both King and Mandela have been labeled communists by their White critics. After meeting with former President Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1991, Mr. Mandela, with the Cuban President by his side, gave a speech titled “How Far We Slaves Have Come,” in which he hailed Cuba’s “special place” in the hearts of the African people. For that speech his critics deemed Mr. Mandela a communist, a designation also affixed to Dr. King and the current Catholic pope.

In a surprising turn of events, the leader of the Catholic Church, the newly-elected Pope of Rome, has aligned himself with the exact same positions held by Dr. King and Mr. Mandela. Pope Francis I issued a 50,000-word “apostolic exhortation” excoriating capitalism and voicing his support for liberation theology. King, Mandela, and now the Pope have called for the redistribution of land and the redistribution of wealth, and all were explicit in their condemnation of unfettered predatory capitalism.

King’s persona has been reduced to that of a “dreamer” for his 1963 speech at the March on Washington, a corporatized image unrepresentative of the visionary he had become after his meeting with the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad at his home in Chicago in 1966.

Mandela was a revolutionary, a practical and pragmatic revolutionary, yes, but a revolutionary, nevertheless. For the image-makers to reduce him to a one-dimensional forgiver of his oppressors is to defy the true essence of Mandela and the value he brought to South Africa and the world.

(Jackie Muhammad is a former presidential appointee, member of the Oxford roundtable, educator, businessman and member of the Nation of Islam Research Group. Visit the Research Group online at and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @NOIResearch. Jackie Muhammad can be reached at jacrb519@