Nelson Mandela and Britain

This video says about itself:

On February 3, 2005, Nelson Mandela addressed over 20,000 people in London’s Trafalgar Square to tell word leaders to end extreme global poverty.

Mandela says, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

By Alan Simpson in Britain:

The world loses a colossus

Saturday 7th December 2013

ALAN SIMPSON remembers Mandela‘s grace, warmth and towering humanity when he met him in Johannesburg in 1995

Nelson Mandela was late, an hour late, but no-one cared.

We were waiting in the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg in 1995. A motley bunch of MPs who were part of the first parliamentary cricket team to visit the now multi-racial South Africa.

Most of us had boycotted the apartheid regime for the entirety of our adult lives. Some of us had previously been banned from entering South Africa because of our involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle. Few could have imagined being where we were.

But now everything had changed. Graham Allen MP and I had gone from Nottingham and I had raised money for cricket kit that we had got with the help of Gunn & Moore.

It meant we could leave kit with every school, community and township that we played a game in.

But it was the presence of Labour MP Dick Caborn, who had worked directly with the ANC for decades, that helped set up this remarkable meeting.

When he arrived Mandela‘s explanation was on both a humble and grand scale.

“I’m sorry for keeping you waiting,” he said simply, “I was just saying goodbye to the Pope.”

Fair enough. It was hardly a line you could trump. But what he brought into the room was something much more than a cordial apology.

There were awkward divisions in our parliamentary “cricket” group. Some of the Tory MPs in the tour party had, in the past, called for him to to be hanged while he had been in prison.

Now they queued to shake his hand. But Mandela was above it all. He brought a grace, warmth and towering humanity into the room that went well beyond his physical presence.

One by one, he patiently circled the room, greeting MPs, lords, wives and partners in a way that left everyone feeling so much more significant than we really were. I had taken my 19-year-old daughter with me on the trip and this was a really big moment for Hannah.

Until we landed Hannah had never knowingly eaten South African produce in her life. It had become second nature for her to ask where the fruit and veg came from.

From early childhood, she had also got used to being asked to leave shops that would have no truck with such moral “pickiness.” Now she was in the same room as the great moral icon of her life, desperately thinking of something profound to say when he reached her.

Mandela left her till last. When he reached her it was with a conversation stopper.

He said: “I am so grateful that you are part of this visit. I have such faith in what your generation will bring to the planet.”

All the planned profundities dissolved into a scarf of tears and a simple “thank you.”

Time and again we came across similar responses to the man once regarded as the most dangerous threat to life and limb, now transformed into a universal saviour. Mandela had the ability to pass on an obligation as though it was a gift.

It was as though he could see right inside you, knew you could be better than you were and thanked you for everything you might be. It was astonishing to witness the transformative effect that living up to such expectations had on people.

On Robben Island, neither of us could step into Mandela‘s cell. You couldn’t turn a place of incarceration into a tourist photo-shoot without a sense of missing the point.

Instead, we walked around the island with one of the guards who had been “in charge” of Mandela. Here was a white, working-class Afrikaner describing Mandela as the man who had freed him from ignorance and hatred.

You could almost touch his sense of gratitude to a man he might at one time have been asked to kill.

It was no different when we met the security staff who now guarded the president in a completely different context. His personal bodyguard offered a perspective on security I just hadn’t expected.

Of course the far-right had to be watched, but his daily concerns were much more earthy.

Mandela was in the habit of waking early and liked to leave the presidential accommodation and wander down to the market. I could see the panic this would cause among his security staff but was unprepared for the answer I got when asking where the greatest risk came from.

“It’s the women,” his bodyguard said. “Whenever he shows up, they all want to hug him. It really worries me. You know, there’s only so many hugs a guy of his age can take.”

After we had laughed at this, I did get him on to more serious risk issues.

The guy had been De Klerk’s bodyguard before staying on with Mandela. Pressed about the differences, he was no less disarming.

Previously he had had a job. Now it felt like he’d been given a knighthood.

I asked what practical difference this made and his answer has remained indelibly printed on me.

“Well, for De Klerk, I’d have taken a bullet for the money,” he said. “For Mandela, I would take it for free.” It doesn’t come much clearer than that.

What Mandela was asking for, however, was not that anyone should be willing to die for him but that we risk living for each other.

Much will now be said about the forgiveness he brought with him on his release from prison, about his respect for the qualities of loyalty and kindness that could be rescued from the disabling legacy of apartheid and about the enduring warmth and dignity that surrounded his being. But what stands out for me is something else.

There’s a part of his autobiography in which Mandela talks about the sense of powerlessness that people often bemoan.

His view was that this was a mask – that what we are really afraid of is just how powerful we might actually be, if only we were prepared to believe in ourselves and each other.

For me, this is the greatest invitation and challenge Mandela still holds out. Not to be better than we are but to be as big and brave and as just as we really might be.

There are few eras in which people can say they have shared their time with a colossus. Someone who showed the world what towering humanity looks like, even from a prison cell.

Nelson Mandela’s death leaves the world feeling a little smaller, but he would be the first to tell us it needn’t be so. It wasn’t austerity and division that he ever stood for, but solidarity and equality.

And that’s the rub. Those who profess to love the memory must also live the message.

In rich nations and in poor, we all have a long walk to freedom stretching ahead of us.

Step into it and Mandela will still be there.

It is something we should count far more as a blessing than a loss.

Alan Simpson was a Labour MP from 1992-2010.

This video from the USA is called Nelson Mandela speech at Madison Park High School, 1990.

USA: ALEC Opposed Divestment From South Africa’s Apartheid Regime: here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Cameron‘s crocodile tears

Saturday 7th December 2013

History tells us the PM’s tribute to Mandela is pure lies and hypocrisy, says PETER FROST

David Cameron and his coalition partners paying tribute to Nelson Mandela would have you to believe they and their heroes had always been on the side of Mandela and his battle against the obscenity of apartheid.

It is all lies of course. Listen to Maggie Thatcher, Cameron‘s greatest inspiration on the great African leader and the organisation he led to victory. She is speaking in 1987 when Mandela was still in prison.

“The African National Congress is a typical terrorist organisation. Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Here are a couple of other quotes from some other of Cameron‘s Tory forebears. Leading Tory Teddy Taylor voiced the thoughts of many conservative MPs and ministers when he announced in the mid-1980s that “Nelson Mandela should be shot.”

“How much longer will the prime minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?” asked another keen Thatcher supporter, Terry Dicks MP.

Young Tories and the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) were among the most vocal in their support for apartheid.

Mark McGregor, who has held countless high Tory party offices, and current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow were among the FCS key players.

They proposed motions calling for Nelson Mandela to be executed as a terrorist. They wore lapel badges screaming: “Hang Nelson Mandela.”

So what was a young David Cameron, ex-Conservative student and by then a rising star of the Conservative Party research department, doing and saying at the time?

Less than two years after Maggie had condemned the ANC as terrorist and thrown her weight against economic sanctions to defeat the apartheid regime our present Prime Minister set off on an all-expenses-paid trip to apartheid South Africa.

The trip was organised and funded by Strategy Network International, a firm that had been specially set up by apartheid supporters with the sole aim of lobbying to end international trade sanctions against the apartheid regime.

Boycotts of South African goods in Britain and across the world were hitting the apartheid economy hard. Now the worldwide campaign for international sanctions was gaining ground everywhere – except that is among the British Conservative Party.

The lobbyists and their political guests like our present Prime Minister had the support of many large British companies and banks which were much more interested in their South African profits than the plight of exploited black workers. Or indeed jailed leaders like Nelson Mandela.

With the opposition to apartheid gaining ground civil servants, political advisers and researchers were being told not to go on such obvious propaganda trips.

Cameron arrogantly ignored such advice and set off on this sanction-busting junket showing his support for the obscene racist regime and his utter contempt for those who were campaigning for a free and democratic South Africa.

None of us deeply involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain at the time will ever forget the young Tories with their T-shirts, badges and stickers demanding the noose for Mandela and his South African Communist Party and ANC comrades.

There is no doubt that the support for the apartheid state from the likes of Thatcher, Cameron and many other Tories helped the cruel system of white rule in South Africa to survive as long as it did.

Their support also helped keep Mandela and other activists behind bars inside the vile prisons of the apartheid state.

Thatcher supported the apartheid government when it was at its deadliest and most evil. Her oft-expressed view was that the apartheid regime was a bulwark against communism.

Remarks from FW de Klerk at the time of Thatcher’s death spell out just how important her support was. They show how influential those South Africans believe she was on the fate of the last bastion of white-minority rule in Africa.

It was just as important of course for them to welcome the rising generation of Tory politicians to be sold the apartheid lie. Men like David Cameron.

The apartheid state was killing many of its dissident citizens in the late 1980s with state terrorism at home, as well as with illegal security force actions abroad. Both were legitimate tactics in the Tory’s view.

Thatcher and her Cabinet gave tacit support to the postal bombings and cross-border raids on neighbouring states accused of harbouring guerilla fighters, and so too did the young David Cameron enjoying his all-expenses-paid trip.

Now the Tories and their apologists in the right-wing media are trying to rewrite history. Suddenly Thatcher and Cameron are being portrayed as champions of black South Africans and opponents of apartheid.

So has the Conservative Party really changed? Of course not.

Many of Cameron‘s fellow Tories who used to wear Hang Nelson Mandela badges at university are now sitting behind him in Parliament today. Others are sitting in the Lords or pontificating in the Telegraph or the Mail.

Today Cameron is paying tribute to Mandela and so he should. But sorry Mr Prime Minister – your crocodile tears won’t fool anybody. Unfortunately for you some of us have long memories.

This video says about itself:

Nelson Mandela speech, given at the Nelson Mandela: An International tribute to free South Africa concert.

On 16.4.1990, at Wembley stadium, London.

And here is Part 2 of that speech.

By Peter Hain in Britain:

Mandela and the British struggle

Saturday 7th December 2013

PETER HAIN recalls how activists used the power of sport to apply pressure on the apartheid regime

In the BBC television archives on militant anti-apartheid protests in 1969-70 against the touring all-white Springboks, there is a familiar figure to me and a generation of labour movement activists.

Bill Laithwaite, a balding, bespectacled pensioner, is seen being wrestled off the pitch by two police officers at Twickenham, blood seeping from a small wound on his face, having hoodwinked his way into the playing area by dressing like a match official.

Laithwaite was a member of the Communist Party and active in the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign, of which I was chairman.

That match, the first during the rugby tour, saw pitch invasions and constant hostile chanting.

For the first time the Springboks, accustomed to being lionised as perhaps representing the leading rugby nation in the world, had instead been treated as pariahs.

They were no longer faced merely with what they habitually dismissed as the spluttering of “misguided liberals and leftists” holding placards outside rugby stadiums while they retreated into the warm hospitality of their hosts.

This was something of quite a different order. Anti-apartheid opponents had now shown a physical capacity to threaten the Springboks’ ability to tour in the old way.

Around 100,000 protesters laid siege to the white South Africans during their 25 matches across Britain and Ireland, providing a perfect springboard from which to plan direct action to stop the cricket tour due to begin in May 1970.

An Anti-Apartheid Movement poster caught the public’s imagination and was widely published in the press.

Under the caption: “If you could see their national sport you might be less keen to see their cricket,” it showed a policeman beating defenceless blacks in Cato Manor township outside Durban.

After months of mounting pressure to wreck the cricket tour, cricket bosses were finally forced to do the previously unthinkable. It was cancelled.

Soon white South Africa was propelled into sporting isolation, banned from competing internationally in rugby, cricket, football, the Olympics and all sports.

Long used to evading economic and arms sanctions with the assistance of Western countries like Britain, on sport, so vital to their psyche, they had been beaten.

For the first time in 10 long bitter years since the 1960 Sharpeville massacre the anti-apartheid resistance had something to cheer about.

In that period the apartheid state seemed omnipotent. Western countries were investing in and trading with South Africa and also supplying arms.

MI5 and MI6 with the CIA were allies of the notorious apartheid secret service BOSS. Nelson Mandela was then imprisoned with the rest of the resistance leadership, the ANC having been banned and forced into exile or underground.

After their release 20 long years later, both Mandela and his comrade Govan Mbeki told me that on Robben Island information on the demonstrations slipping through the news blackout had given all the political prisoners there an enormous morale boost.

Moses Garoeb, a leading freedom fighter in the South West African People’s Organisation, also told me in the early 1970s that the Stop The Tour success had been an “inspiration” to Swapo cadres in the Namibian bush as they heard the news on their radios.

Almost every time we subsequently met, Mandela never failed to mention how indebted he was to international anti-apartheid activists. And, although he is now hailed as an almost saintly, universal hero – even by the Conservatives – we should remember our history.

The British right was on the side of pro-apartheid forces. The struggle was won despite them, by resistance inside South Africa and solidarity work outside.

It was people like Laithwaite – and Ethel de Keyser and Mike Terry, the indefatigable executive secretaries of the anti-apartheid movement – who helped win it.

The Stop the Tour movement was opposed by Tories, fascists and racists.

Against them it had broad support from trade unionists, students, Christian groups, bishops, communists, Trotskyists, Labour Party members and liberals.

British trade union leaders including Lawrence Daly, Ken Gill, Ron Todd, Rodney Bickerstaffe and Jimmy Knapp gave leadership and solidarity. So did Labour MPs like Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, Richard Caborn and Bob Hughes.

By contrast, some Tory MPs became known as “members for Pretoria.”

One was even involved in a private prosecution against me for conspiracy to stop the tours, nearly having me jailed after a month-long Old Bailey trial in 1972.

Conservative Students wore Hang Nelson Mandela badges and Margaret Thatcher denounced him as “a terrorist.”

“Forgive,” urged Mandela after the battle against apartheid triumphed, “but never forget.”

Labour MP Peter Hain’s memoir Outside In is published by Biteback and his biography Mandela by Spruce. Both are also available in eBook.

Flemish suporters of Apartheid: here.

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