Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years

Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250192806
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 10/09/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 783,936
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison and then later moved to Pollsmoor Prison, during which time his reputation as a potent symbol of resistance to the anti-apartheid movement grew steadily. Released from prison in 1990, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994. He is the author of the international bestseller Long Walk to Freedom. He died on December 5, 2013, at age ninety-five.

Mandla Langa was born in 1950 in Durban, South Africa. After being arrested in 1976, he went into exile and has lived in Botswana, Mozambique, and Angola, as well as Hungary, Zambia, and the United Kingdom, where he was the ANC’s Cultural Representative. A writer and journalist, he was the first South African to be awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain bursary for creative writing and has been a columnist for the Sunday Independent and the New Nation. He is also the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, which won the 2009 Commonwealth Prize for Best Book in the African Region.

Graça Machel was born in Mozambique in 1945. A teacher, human rights activist, international advocate for women’s and children’s rights, and politician, she was married—from 1975 until his death in 1986—to Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique. In July 1988 she married Nelson Mandela. Among numerous awards she has received the United Nations’ Nansen Medal in recognition of her long-standing humanitarian work, particularly on behalf of refugee children.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Challenge of Freedom

Nelson Mandela had heard this freedom song and its many variations long before his release from Victor Verster Prison in 1990. The concerted efforts of the state security apparatus and the prison authorities to isolate him from the unfolding drama of struggle – and its evocative soundtrack – could not stop the flow of information between the prized prisoner and his many interlocutors. The influx into prisons, including Robben Island, in the late 1980s of newcomers who were mainly young people from various political formations – preceded in 1976 by the flood of student activists following the upheavals in Soweto and elsewhere – marked the escalation of the struggle and brought with it new songs, each verse a coded commentary on progress or setback, tragedy or comedy, unfolding on the streets. The recurring refrain of the songs was that the South African regime was on the wrong side of history.

Like most people who accept that history has carved for them a special place, and probably being familiar with Emerson's mordant dictum – 'to be great is to be misunderstood' – Mandela knew that his own legacy depended on the course he had championed: the talks between the government and the ANC. These had started five years prior to his release, when fresh from a check-up at Volks Hospital where he was visited by Kobie Coetsee, the minister of justice, Mandela had broached the question of talks between the ANC and the government. Coetsee's presence was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise unrelieved darkness. The year 1985 marked the bloodiest period of the struggle, a time characterised by an irreversibility of intent and a hardening of attitudes among the warring sides that stared at each other from across a great gulf.

Oliver Tambo, the ANC president and Mandela's compatriot, had just called on South Africans to render the country ungovernable. Mandela, however, realised that the toll would be heavier on the unarmed masses facing an enemy using the panoply of state power. But he was a prisoner, a political prisoner, who, like a prisoner of war, has only one obligation – and that is to escape. Only, his escape from his immediate confinement was irreversibly intertwined with the need for the broader escape, or liberation, of the people of South Africa from the shackles of an unjust order. Having long studied his enemy and having read up on its literature on history, jurisprudence, philosophy, language and culture, Mandela had come to the understanding that white people were fated to discover that they were as damaged by racism as were black people. The system based on lies that had given them a false sense of superiority would prove poisonous to them and to future generations, rendering them unsuited to the larger world.

Separated from his prison comrades on his return from hospital to Pollsmoor Prison, a period Mandela called his 'splendid isolation', it was brought home to him that something had to give. He concluded that 'it simply did not make sense for both sides to lose thousands if not millions of lives in a conflict that was unnecessary'. It was time to talk.

Conscious of the repercussions of his actions to the liberation struggle in general and the ANC in particular, he was resigned to his fate: if things went awry, he reasoned, the ANC could still save face by ascribing his actions to the erratic frolic of an isolated individual, not its representative.

'Great men make history,' C. L. R. James, the influential Afro-Trinidadian historian writes, 'but only such history as it is possible for them to make. Their freedom of achievement is limited by the necessities of their environment.'

In almost three decades of incarceration, Mandela had devoted time to analysing the country he was destined to lead. In those moments of waiting for word from his captors or for a clandestine signal from his compatriots, he mulled over the nature of society, its saints and its monsters. Although in prison – his freedom of achievement limited by the necessities of his environment – he gradually gained access to the highest councils of apartheid power, finally meeting with an ailing President P. W. Botha, and later his successor, F. W. de Klerk.

Outside, deaths multiplied and death squads thrived; more funerals gave rise to more cycles of killings and assassinations, including of academics. A new language evolved on the streets, and people became inured to self-defence units and grislier methods of execution, such as the brutal 'necklace', being used on those seen as apartheid collaborators.

In all the meetings Mandela held with government representatives what was paramount in his mind was a solution to the South African tragedy. From De Klerk down to the nineteen-year-old policeman clad in body armour, trying to push away angry crowds, these were men and women of flesh and blood, who, like a child playing with a hand grenade, seemed unaware of the fact that they were careening towards destruction – and taking countless millions down with them.

Mandela hoped that sense would prevail before it was too late. Nearing seventy, he was aware of his own mortality. Perhaps it was in a whimsical mood that he wrote, much later, what amounted to a prophecy:

'Men and women all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind, not even their names. It would seem that they never existed at all. Others do leave something behind: the haunting memory of the evil deeds they committed against other human beings; the abuse of power by a tiny white minority against a black majority of Africans, Coloureds and Indians, the denial of basic human rights to that majority, rabid racism in all spheres of life, detention without trial, torture, brutal assaults inside and outside prison, the breaking up of families, forcing people into exile, underground and throwing them into prisons for long periods.'

Like almost all black South Africans, Mandela either had first-hand experience of each violation he cited, or knew of people close to him who had suffered hideously in the hands of the authorities. This was the period of sudden death, where the incidents were reminiscent of titles of B-grade American movies: The Gugulethu Seven. The Cradock Four. The Trojan Horse Massacre. In all of these instances, where young community leaders and activists were killed brutally at the height of state clampdowns in the mid-1980s, the state security agencies either denied complicity or claimed to have been under attack.

Remembering Sharpeville and other massacres perpetrated by the apartheid security forces where scores of people had been maimed or killed through police action, Mandela evokes disturbing images of a 'trigger-happy police force that massacred thousands of innocent and defenceless people', and which blasphemes, using 'the name of God ... to justify the commission of evil against the majority. In their daily lives these men and women, whose regime committed these unparalleled atrocities, wore expensive outfits and went regularly to church. In actual fact, they represented everything for which the devil stood. Notwithstanding all their claims to be a community of devout worshippers, their policies were denounced by almost the entire civilised world as a crime against humanity. They were suspended from the United Nations and from a host of other world and regional organisations ... [and] became the polecats of the world.'

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was an international story that almost overshadowed a major domestic development that had occurred a month earlier. On 15 October 1989, Walter Sisulu was released from prison together with Raymond Mhlaba, Wilton Mkwayi, Oscar Mpetha, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi. Five of them, alongside Mandela, had been among the ten accused in the Rivonia Trial of 1963–4, and were his closest comrades. Jafta Kgalabi Masemola, co-founder with Robert Sobukwe of the PAC, was also released. Six months later, Masemola died in a car crash, which some PAC members still regard as suspicious.

Mandela had prevailed on the authorities to release the men in Pollsmoor and on Robben Island as a demonstration of good intent. The negotiations for their release had started with Mandela and Botha, and had stalled when, according to Niël Barnard, former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), due to 'strong antagonisms in the SSC [State Security Council] these plans [to release Sisulu in March 1989] were put on the back burner'. The release left Mandela with mixed emotions: elation at the freeing of his compatriots and sadness at his own solitude. But he knew that his turn was coming in a few months.

Kathrada recalled how the last time 'prisoner Kathrada' saw 'prisoner Mandela' was at Victor Verster Prison on 10 October 1989, when he and other comrades had visited Mandela in the house where he was held for the final fourteen months of his imprisonment.

Mandela said to the group, 'Chaps, this is goodbye,' and Kathrada et al. said they'd 'believe it when it happens'. Mandela insisted that he had just been with two cabinet ministers who assured him that his comrades would be freed. That evening, they were given supper in the Victor Verster Prison dining hall instead of being returned to Pollsmoor. And then, just in time for the evening news, a television was brought in and an announcement was made that President F. W. de Klerk had decided to release the eight prisoners: Kathrada, Sisulu, Mhlaba, Mlangeni, Motsoaledi, Mkwayi, Mpetha and Masemola.

The men were returned to Pollsmoor Prison and three days later they were transferred. Kathrada, Sisulu, Mlangeni, Motsoaledi, Mkwayi and Masemola were flown to Johannesburg where they were held at Johannesburg Prison. Mhlaba went to his home town of Port Elizabeth, and Mpetha, who was from Cape Town, remained at Groote Schuur Hospital where he had been held under armed guard while being treated. Then, on the night of Saturday, 14 October, the commanding officer of Johannesburg Prison approached the prisoners and said, 'We've just received a fax from prison headquarters that you are going to be released tomorrow.'

'What's a fax?' Kathrada asked. He had then been in prison for over twenty-six years.

On 2 February 1990, F. W. de Klerk stood up in Parliament and announced the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and about thirty other outlawed political organisations. He further announced the release of political prisoners jailed for non-violent offences, the suspension of capital punishment and the abrogation of myriad proscriptions under the State of Emergency. For many South Africans who had writhed under the jackboot of apartheid rule, this was the proverbial first day of the rest of their lives.

Like almost all political prisoners who would be required by history to service a broader humanity, among them Mahatma Gandhi, Antonio Gramsci, Václav Havel and Milovan Djilas, Mandela was able to impose his will on himself and, to a certain extent, on his captors. He had read everything available to him about the devastating patience of leaders such as Ahmed Ben Bella, Jomo Kenyatta and Sékou Touré, who had persevered through the hardships imposed by colonial administrators and emerged strong – stronger perhaps, given that they had proven that prison could not break their spirit. But Mandela was aware of the changes wrought by the reality of life outside prison. The seduction of office and the invincible allure of power. He had seen it happen in his lifetime, in certain cases with people with whom he had rubbed shoulders, of whom he writes:

'There were also those who once commanded invincible liberation armies, who suffered untold hardships, yet ultimately succeeded, not only in freeing their people, but also in improving their living conditions. They attracted respect and admiration far and wide, and inspired millions in all continents to rise against oppression and exploitation.'

For Mandela, it was saddening to see some of these leaders, former freedom fighters, going astray. In critiquing their disastrous hubris, he tried to convey the magnitude of the resultant betrayal of the cause. He could also have been expressing his own inner fear of what might happen, when he writes about situations where 'freedom and the installation of a democratic government bring erstwhile liberators from the bush to the corridors of power, where they now rub shoulders with the rich and mighty'.

He continues that it is 'in situations of this nature that some former freedom fighters run the risk of forgetting principles and those who are paralysed by poverty, ignorance and diseases; some then start aspiring to the lifestyle of the oppressors they once detested and overthrew'.

The genesis of these observations can be seen in Mandela's own life, where discipline was his watchword. He followed a strict regimen of exercise and kept himself in good physical shape. He was used to doing things for himself and continued to do so after his release, on one occasion astounding the cook assigned to him, Warrant Officer Swart, by insisting that he would do the washing up and cook his own meals.

Mandela writes: 'One day, after a delicious meal prepared by Mr Swart, I went into the kitchen to wash the dishes. "No," he said, "that is my duty. You must return to the sitting room." I insisted that I had to do something, and that if he cooked, it was only fair for me to do the dishes. Mr Swart protested, but finally gave in. He also objected to the fact that I would make my bed in the morning, saying it was his responsibility to do so. But I had been making my bed for so long that it had become a reflex.'

To a large degree, Mandela had observed a soldier's code of conduct long before his own arrest in 1962. He expected his confrères, members of a select fellowship of committed fighters, to be beyond reproach; the apartheid machinery was rigid and regimented and would need an equally disciplined force to resist and finally overthrow it.

'Unless their political organisation remains strong and principled, exercising strict discipline on leaders as well as ordinary members alike, [and] inspires its membership, apart from government programmes, to develop social initiatives to uplift the community, the temptation to abandon the poor and to start amassing enormous wealth for themselves becomes irresistible.'

From inside prison, Mandela had been monitoring world affairs, noting with dismay that not a few of the leaders on the African continent were in the grip of megalomania. From the northernmost point down to the tip of the continent, self- appointed leaders, their uniforms bristling with medals, inflicted untold misery on their subjects in countries where plunder of state resources was the order of the day. The people became prey to famine, violence, pestilence and extreme penury. About this, Mandela says: 'They come to believe that they are indispensable leaders. In cases where the constitution allows it, they become life presidents. In those cases where a country's constitution imposes limitations, they generally amend the constitution to enable themselves to cling to power for eternity.'

Questions about how he was going to lead roiled in his head when the moment of his release came. The larger world promised to introduce complications more daunting than the negotiations he had conducted with his captors, including when he prevailed over the prison authorities about the time and place in which he was to be released. De Klerk's government had wanted to release him much earlier, and certainly without fanfare, to his home in Soweto, but Mandela had baulked. He wanted to be released in Cape Town where he could thank the people of the city before going home:

'I was saying that I want to be released at the gate of Victor Verster. From there I'll look after myself. You have no right to say I should be taken to Johannesburg. I want to be released here. And so eventually they agreed to release me at the gate of Victor Verster.' In addition, Mandela asked for his release to be postponed by seven days for the people 'to prepare'.

It was in prison that Mandela perfected what would later become one of his greatest strengths, the ability to appreciate that a person in front of him, friend or foe, was a complex human being with many facets to his or her personality. One of his regrets, while cameras clicked and the crowds were in rhapsodies over his release on the afternoon of 11 February 1990, was that he had not been able to say goodbye to the prison staff. To him they were more than an assemblage of uniformed functionaries at the sharp end of an unjust regime; they were people with families, who, like everyone else, had anxieties about life.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Dare Not Linger"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Nelson R. Mandela and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. The Challenge of Freedom

2. Negotiating Democracy

3. A Free and Fair Election

4. Getting into the Union Buildings

5. National Unity

6. The Presidency and the Constitution

7. Parliament

8. Traditional Leadership and Democracy

9. Transformation of the State

10. Reconciliation

11. Social and Economic Transformation

12. Negotiating the Media

13. On the African and World Stages

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