With the widely anticipated passing of South African revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela late Thursday, December 5, presidents and dictators from around the world — as well as everyday people, and especially the press — are in mourning. Lost amid the tsunami of praise and adoration, almost canonization even according to some of his supporters, however, is the truth about the man himself, who was, after all, still just a man.
The announcement of Mandela’s death was made by current South African President Jacob Zuma, the fourth leader of the so-called “rainbow nation” ushered in after the fall of Apartheid rule some two decades ago. “Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed,” said Zuma, a polygamous tribal chief who, amid never-ending corruption scandals, regularly sings “struggle” songs about murdering European-descent Afrikaners.
According to the current South African president, Mandela passed on “peacefully” in the company of his family late Thursday. “He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma continued, adding that the deceased leader would receive a state funeral and flags would be flown at half-mast until then. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
Like heads of state and the media around the world, Zuma celebrated Mandela’s alleged “tireless struggle for freedom” and how he “brought us together” in common cause. “Our thoughts are with his friends, comrades and colleagues who fought alongside Madiba over the course of a lifetime of struggle,” South Africa’s current president continued, offering the briefest of glimpses into the reality about Mandela that has been largely expunged from the history books.
President Obama, also heaping praises on Mandela, even ordered American flags flown at half-mast until Monday — especially shocking when considering that the late leader and his Soviet-backed armed movement spent decades on the official U.S. government terror list before being removed in 2008. “I am one of the countless millions who drew inspirations from Nelson Mandela’s life,” Obama said. “I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. So long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him.”
By contrast, even in the late 1980’s, shortly before the Apartheid regime surrendered to overwhelming global pressure to hand over power, Western leaders saw Mandela and his “African National Congress” in a very different light. “The ANC is a typical terrorist organization,” explained former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. U.S. President Ronald Reagan put Mandela and the ANC on the American terrorist list in the 1980s.
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Photo of Nelson Mandela with South African Communist Party head Joe Slovo: AP Images