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The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela

Written by Danny SchechterAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Danny Schechter

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On Sale: November 26, 2013
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-1-60980-558-6
Published by : Seven Stories Press Seven Stories Press
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Synopsis

From the makers of the major motion picture Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a completely unique biography and thematic telling of the story of Nelson Mandela.  This book, which provided key source material for the film, is an unexpurgated collection of the views and opinions of South Africa's first Black president, and it draws on Danny Schechter’s forty-year relationship with "Madiba," as Nelson Mandela is known in his native South Africa.  

Each chapter of this unique portrait corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and the letters cover major and minor, unexpected and fascinating themes in Mandela’s life and his impact on others: Athlete, Bully, Comrade, Forgiveness, Indigenous, Jailed, Militant, and President, to name a few. The book quotes liberally from Mandela himself, his ex-wives and other family members, global leaders, Mandela's cellmates and guards on Robben Island, the team behind Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, former president F. W. de Klerk, members of the South African Police, and his comrades including his successor Thabo Mbeki. 
 
Madiba A to Z reveals sides of Nelson Mandela that are not often discussed and angles of the anti-apartheid movement that most choose to brush under the table in order to focus on the happy-ending version of the story. As Schechter reports in the book, according to Mandela's successor as president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, “the fundamental problems of South Africa, poverty, inequality, have remained unchanged since 1994.” This is partly because, as Schechter writes, “six months before the 1994 elections, when South Africa was being governed jointly by the ANC and the National Party under a Transitional Executive Council (TEC), there were secret negotiations about the economic future.”
 
There are many rarely spoken of revelations in Madiba A to Z, a book about Mandela’s brilliance, his courage, his tremendous impact in saving his country and its people of all races, but one that also shows how far South Africa still has to go.

Excerpt

Terrorist


Nelson Mandela was not always loved; for years, many right-wingers and defenders of apartheid defamed and detested him as a terrorist, and several politicians went on record expressing
such views:

“This hero worship is very much misplaced.”—British Member of Parliament (MP) John Carlisle, on the BBC screening of the Free Nelson Mandela concert in 1990.

“The ANC is a typical terrorist organization. . . . Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.”—Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1987

“How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?”—British MP Terry Dicks, mid-1980s

“Nelson Mandela should be shot.”—British MP Teddy Taylor, mid-1980s

Under the terms of South Africa’s Suppression of Communism Act, and as a result of the conviction at the Rivonia Trial, Mandela was found guilty of sabotage, and the ANC was branded a terrorist organization. Here are the charges Mandela faced:

• One count under the South African Suppression of Communism Act No. 44 (1950), charging that the accused committed acts calculated to further the achievement of the objective of Communism;
• One count of contravening the South African Criminal Law Act (1953), which prohibits any person from soliciting or receiving any money or articles for the purpose of achieving organized defiance of laws and country; and
• Two counts of sabotage, committing or aiding or procuring the commission of the following acts:
1. The further recruitment of persons for instruction and training, both within and outside the Republic of South Africa, in:
a) the preparation, manufacture and use of explosives—for the purpose of committing acts of violence and destruction in the aforesaid Republic, (the preparation and manufacture of explosives, according to evidence submitted, included 210,000 hand grenades,
terrorist 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminum powder and a ton of black powder);
b) the art of warfare, including guerrilla warfare, and military training generally for the purpose in the aforesaid Republic;
2. Further acts of violence and destruction (these include 193 counts of terrorism committed between 1961 and 1963);
3. Acts of guerrilla warfare in the aforesaid Republic;
4. Acts of assistance to military units of foreign countries when involving the aforesaid Republic;
5. Acts of participation in a violent revolution in the aforesaid Republic, whereby the accused, injured, damaged, destroyed, rendered useless or unserviceable, put out of action, obstructed with or endangered:
a) the health or safety of the public;
b) the maintenance of law and order;
c) the supply and distribution of light, power or fuel;
d) postal, telephone or telegraph installations;
e) the free movement of traffic on land; and
f) the property, movable or immovable, of other persons or of the state.*

Significantly, the people who worked with him then didn’t see themselves as terrorists, but as part of a liberation struggle.

Once the ANC was banned, there were internal struggles as the activists reimagined themselves as an underground organization. Nelson Mandela called for a new underground structure in what was known as the “M Plan.” In a 1986 book called Apartheid’s Rebels, Stephen M. Davis, who had been with the US State Department explained: “The M Plan’s intention was to wean the ANC away from dependence on characteristics of organization most vulnerable to governmental pressure. Mandela envisioned the construction of a discreet but firm cellular network at the grass roots level.”

“It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always successful,” recalled ANC veteran Mac Maharaj, the former Robben Island prisoner turned government minister and spokesperson. “We were all amateurs. We were learning as infants do how to live as outlaws, and so we made a lot of mistakes. We were terribly trusting with our own colleagues. We assumed that if you were arrested and you were interrogated and you were tortured, you could withstand it. Kathy is perhaps one of those who helped to write the rules in the Communist Party that if you were an arrested comrade and a tortured comrade, don’t talk. This is not a sustainable thing under modern forms of torture. But when it comes to strategy, I think there is a lot of room, and I have not known a single struggle that has started off with a readymade strategy that went through [to the end]. Strategy has to change all the time. . . .

In South Africa, the armed struggle was undermined by a lack of security. The “high command” met at a farm called Liliesleaf, now a tourist museum, but then operated by the Communist Party in the leafy suburb of Johannesburg called Rivonia. It was there that the plans were being made and even weapons assembled for a sabotage campaign. It was also there that the police raided on July 11, 1963, sweeping up top leaders who were prosecuted in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Nelson Mandela was not arrested with the others but he had been there and later joined the defendants.

In his book, The Mission, one of the men convicted of sabotage in the Rivonia Trial, Denis Goldberg, reveals that even the intelligence wing of the ANC government that has access to old files doesn’t know or won’t say where the leak was. “To this day, we are not sure how the police found us,” he wrote. “We know that foreign agents were active because it is known that Nelson Mandela was betrayed by the American CIA in exchange for one of their South African operatives who had been arrested.”

Overseas, Mandela’s supporters rejected the terrorist designation, but not so his detractors. London’s Independent reported, “In his autobiography, Conflict of Loyalty, former foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe says that even as late as October 1987, at a press conference following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Vancouver, Mrs. Thatcher was quick to dismiss the African National Congress as “a typical terrorist organization.” Sir Geoffrey added sadly: “Absolutism still held sway.”

Years later, however, the BBC reported that when Ahmed Kathrada took Thatcher on a tour of Robben Island, he was surprised to hear her say that she believed her intervention had helped save his comrades’ lives. Kathy said: “She assured me that she had played a positive role during our trial. We were expecting a death sentence. We were well aware that there was all sorts of pressure both from within South Africa and from abroad—pressure from people not necessarily agreeing with the ANC’s policies, he said, but who didn’t want the defendants to be turned into martyrs of the revolution. At the time, Mrs. Thatcher was a frontbench MP in Harold Macmillan’s government. I’m not interested in whether she was prime minister or whatever. I have no reason to doubt what she was saying and it was good to hear she played a role.”

South African writer Alan Paton testified in court that if the defendants were executed then the South African government would have no one to negotiate with. On the night before the judge’s verdict, George Bizos was with Paton, who was staying at the home of British Consul General Leslie Minford, who had also been in British intelligence. Minford told them, after a night of hard drinking, that there would be no death sentence, according to the judge. Later, according to former Afrikaner government economist Sampie Terreblanche, British Ambassador Robin Renwick secretly pressed the government to release Mandela and his fellow ANC prisoners.

Nevertheless, Mandela’s name remained on the US terrorism list for years, until nearly at the end of his presidential term and eighteen years after his release from prison. On July 1, 2008, NBC reported:

This morning, President Bush signed into law a bill granting Secretary Rice the authority to waive travel restrictions on President Mandela and other members of the African National Congress (ANC). The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Republican Sen. Bob Corker. The senators say Mandela and ANC members remained on the list “for activities they conducted against South Africa’s apartheid regime decades ago.” They also said in their written statement that the removal “end[s] an embarrassing impediment to improving US–South Africa relations.”

On the occasion of the ANC’s removal from the watch list rolls, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof commented: "Sometimes government officials become intoxicated by the counter-terrorism portfolio. Indeed, totally inebriated. To put it simply, they go nuts. That’s one explanation for Guantanamo, for torture memos, for the Iraq invasion. But of all the ridiculous things we did in the name of protecting American security, putting Nelson Mandela on a terrorism watch list may be the most absurd. Mandela, the symbol of peaceful conciliation, the former president of South Africa, the 90-year-old hero—what did we think he would do, strap on a suicide vest?" 

Even still, the question comes up, such as at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. Mother Jones magazine reported on one of the conference sponsors: As Right Wing Watch notes, one of the sponsors at February’s conference [was] Youth For Western Civilization, a group dedicated to, as the name suggests, preventing the “extinction” of Western Civilization at the hands of multiculturalism. . . . Among other things, the group is a passionate defender of South Africa’s white heritage. A recent blog post featured at the site accuses the African National Congress, the nation’s ruling party, of waging a “genocide” against Afrikaners, and pins much of the blame on revered former president Nelson Mandela. So the issue of who and what is a terrorist remains a hotly contested and inflammatory one in the era of the war on terror. It does not belong to the past, but is still being debated today. Nelson Mandela’s success and emergence as a global icon has not changed that.

Table of Contents

Athlete
Physical discipline. Boxer, tennis player. His admiration for athletes.
 
Bully: “Wild Branches”
Early days and “wild branches”—conflicts with ANC leaders. Lessons learned.
 
Comrade
How “comradeship” helped him and his fellow prisoners cope with their long years of incarceration.
 
Diplomat
His role in fashioning a diplomatic compromise and avoiding a race war.
 
Eloquent
Life as a lawyer. Written statements, letters, and speeches that inspired millions.
 
Forgiveness
Empathy for Afrikaners, and faith in peace and reconciliation.
 
Global
An international outlook. Global travel and the ability to galvanize support worldwide.

 
Humble
Origins and an austere lifestyle. Making his own bed. Interest in the lives of ordinary people.

 
Indigenous
Xhosa traditions, and the abiding interest in and connection to people of all races and ethnic identities.

 
Jailed
Prison years. How he coped, how he led.
 
Kafkaesque
The treason and Rivonia Trials. Prison regulations and his responses to them.
How the law was used to legalize inhumanity.
 
Love and Loss
His search for love, his flirtatiousness, marriages, love of Winnie, love of children, of family. The measure of the price he paid with his years in prison away from them all.

 
Militant
From his days in the ANC Youth League to launching Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC.
 
Negotiator
Dealings with internal conflicts and external threats. Outreach to whites and other minorities.

 
Onward
His philosophy and commitment to creating a new future for his country. His optimism and concern for peace in Africa and the world.

 
President
How he was elected and his term in office.
 
Questions
The questions people around the world ask most frequently about Nelson Mandela.

 
Recognition
The world recognizes and honors Madiba, but what does he think of this adulation? How does Madiba see and recognize himself?
 
Stalwart
Standing up for his beliefs. Fighting for the poor and those afflicted with AIDS.
 
Terrorist
He helped push a nonviolent movement into armed struggle. Was he a terrorist?
 
Unknown
There are many sides to Mandela that many do not know. 
 
Voices Raised up in Song
The power of music and praise poetry in the Mandela story, seen through the eyes of two of his favorite artists.

 
Waiting
Millions waited years for Mandela’s release after twenty-seven and a half years of incarceration.
The wait continued, even on the day he left prison.

 
X Factor
The role of external pressure in winning South African’s liberation and the need, even now, for rebirth away from the old ways.

 
Youth
Youth made the revolution, and Mandela began as a youth leader.
 
Zuid-Afrika to .za
As it becomes clearer that enormous challenges remain, the country evolves from the Zuid-Afrika of Dutch origin to its Internet domain .za—and beyond.
Danny Schechter

About Danny Schechter

Danny Schechter - Madiba A to Z

Formerly a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard, DANNY SCHECHTER has made waves in the mainstream and alternative media for more than 30 years. Called the "alternative Walter Cronkite," he has witnessed and participated in the history-making events of our age, from the founding of the Yippies in 1967, to Nelson Mandela's triumphant presidential election in 1994, for which Schechter was designated the exclusive filmmaker, to the Media and Democracy Congress of 1996, which he helped organize, to his most recent television production, Rights & Wrongs, which aired weekly on over 150 PBS and cable outlets nationwide. His many TV specials and films include Beyond Life: Timothy Leary Lives (1997), Countdown to Freedom: Ten Days that Changed South Africa (1994), narrated by James Earl Jones and Alfre Woodard, Sarajevo Ground Zero (1993), Mandela in America (1990), and The Making of Sun City (1990). For eight years a producer at ABC's 20/20, where he won two National News Emmys, Schechter reported from 45 countries and lectured at many schools and universities. He is co-founder and executive producer at Globalvision, a New York-based television and film company where he produced the award-winning series South Africa Now and co-produced Right & Wrongs: Human Rights Television with Charlayne Hunter-Gault. His articles on the media appear regularly in leading national publications. Schechter lives in New York City.



Praise

Praise

"Here is story-telling that is unique, refreshing, and revealing, and the Nelson Mandela who emerges—more nuanced than I ever understood and even more admirable—is someone you will want to know. You will be both surprised by Mandela’s profoundly complex personality and grateful for Danny Schechter’s creative journalism."—Bill Moyers

"Danny Schechter's life-long involvement with the freedom movement in South Africa is very well known and respected. He knows Nelson Mandela's story deeply and his new book features insights and stories we haven't heard before."—Reverend Jesse Jackson, Civil Rights Leader and President of Rainbow Push 

"In Madiba A-Z, Danny Schechter gives credit to the many living and dead who carried the torch that helped light the way on Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom. No one is better positioned than Schechter to help us understand the challenges, complexities and triumphs of those who made that journey. Madiba A-Z is a must-read companion to Anant Singh’s brilliant film adaptation of Mandela’s book, Long Walk to Freedom, for anyone who wants to appreciate what it took in the past and what it must take in the future for us all to be truly free."—Charlayne Hunter-Gault, veteran activist, MacNeil-Lehrer Report news anchor, and reporter for CNN and NPR

"Danny Schechter has long earned his spurs by embracing our struggle and communicating its strengths and weaknesses from those risky times, to deepen a lifelong contribution over five decades as a committed and insightful writer, reporter, critic and filmmaker. He's an outsider who learned to think like an insider. Madiba A to Z tells the story from personal experience and goes beyond the surface with a lively sense of humor and deep caring that even we South Africans can learn from."—Ronnie Kasrils, former commander in the armed struggle and South Africa's Minister of Intelligence in the post-apartheid government
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