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26/07/2019

Former president Nelson Mandela’s approach at the pre-1994 negotiations had less to do with his traditional background and more to do with his family’ s links to the quasi par li amen taryiB hung a( council), and pragmatic co-operation with the colonial power.

That was the contention of George Washington University sociology professor and Nelson Mandela University visiting professor Xolela Mangcu, speaking at NMU on Wednesday evening on the topic “Mandela – The Untold Heritage”.

Mangcu said when Mandela was released by SA’s apartheid government after 27 years in jail, he had become part of ritual celebration the world over.

This phenomenon had stretched from the poorest corners of the world, where he was held up as a beacon of hope, to blue-chip universities where he was lauded as “the conscience of the people”.

In so doing, intellectual criticism of his approach during the pre-democracy negotiations had been marginalised.

“Mandela was reluctant to talk about race and I still believe he kicked that can down the road,” Mangcu said.

“It was a mistake because he had the moral authority to tackle the issue.

“Instead, he left it to his successors.”

Mangcu, who is writing a biography of Mandela that will be the first by an African scholar, said previous biographies had dwelt on Mandela as a product of African tradition.

The “cut and paste” theme was that his leadership style and search for consensus was a reflection of how his childhood guardian, Chief Jongintaba, used to run their village.

These books also described Mandela as an “inclusive” leader, he noted.

“In fact, he grew up in a world that was not unsullied by modernity. Also, he could be autocratic and vain.

“But he had the gift of selfawareness and was not afraid to apologise and self-correct.”

Mangcu said Mandela’s origins in what became Transkei had also helped shape his trusting approach in the landmark negotiations.

While the eastern frontier of the Cape was the scene of bitter wars between the British and the Xhosa in the early 1800s, the land east of the Kei River had remained to a large extent an indigenous reserve.

“This matters because he did not grow up ... under the jackboot of apartheid.”

Transkei in the mid-19th century nevertheless saw conflict with the colonial power and between Xhosa clans, and strategic alliances being forged.

Mandela’s amaThembu family at one point fought on the side of the British, he said.

Mangcu called for African academics to tackle nuanced assessments of the continent’s leaders and not to leave this work to foreigners.

The second part of Mangcu’s talk is scheduled for July 31.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) of 26 July 2019, written by Guy Rogers rogersg@tisoblackstar.co.za

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za