Nelson Mandela, the man of Rivonia, sadly passed away last night.
A beauitiful kind spirited man who has become an icon for freedom, justice and overcoming adversity.
But who really knows his story apart from the obvious after-the-fact media push?
If you are like me, you don’t, you were too young at the time to know anything about Apartheid and the activities of the then outlawed AFrican National Congress (ANC)
I first became aware of Nelson around 1984 when the ska band The Specials topped the UK charts with their song Free Nelson Mandela.
I was working in the shipyards at the time, not long out of my apprenticeship and politically niave, apart from having a deep disdain for Margaret Thatcher and what she did with the miners around that time.
But my friends and I asked ourselves, who is this Nelson Mandela and why are we singing about his freedom?
Politically niave we were, but wise enough to know that subjugating a people is wrong.
You simply cannot treat a group of people as sub-human purely based on the colour of their skin or religion, that is wrong and against any sense of humanity.
The world could see this, but not the South African Govenment of the period.
But the world was changing, more and more people were voicing their concerns, notably during the Live Aid concert for Ethopia the following year where Peter Gabriel and The Simple Minds were making the public aware of the plight of the other African campaigner Stephen Biko.
Interestingly, the Scottish folk group The Corries were well ahead of the curve singing about Mandela Freedom in the middle 60s not long after he was jailed for admitting 4 charges of Sabotage.
Sabotage, does that count as terrorism?
Yes it does, if you read the intentions of the political wing of the ANC at the time to disrupt and terrorise by bombing state buildings etc and intentionally or unintenionally kill innocent civilians it does.
So I ask you, when a people are being subjugated, is terrorism justified?
Is it justified elsewhere in current struggles? Does their end justify their means?
As a humanist, I can only say not at any time, I prefer evolution to revolution, the problem is that evolution takes time.
its the classic case of one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist, it just depends on your viewpoint at the time.
Back in the early 90s, my home town Glasgow were the first to offer Mandela freedom of the city, renaming the former St Georges Place as Nelson Mandela place in his honour.
What never really seems to be published is that at the time this happened to be the location of the South African Consulate.
I had the opportunity to speak with these guys at the time and boy were they racist, bigots and full of hate.
Can you imagine the irony of these guys getting up in the morning or having to pass out their office address as Nelson Mandela place even although Apartheid was still in place at the time. 🙂
In Nelson Mandela’s speech at the City Chambers in Glasgow on 9 October 1993, he said: “While we were physically denied our freedom in the country of our birth, a city 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free.”
Glasgow 1 – Apartheid 0
RIP Nelson Mandela, the world is a colder place without you.