Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.
It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC’s armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).
But as Ronnie Kasrils, MK’s former intelligence chief, told me on Wednesday, Mandela continued to back it after his release in 1990 when Kasrils was running arms into South Africa to defend ANC supporters against violent attacks. And there’s no doubt that under today’s US and British law, he and other ANC leaders would have been jailed as terrorists for supporting such a campaign.
And he was righteously jailed under S African law at the time on the same charges.
I also think it was right to release him and that his presidency almost certainly did the best for the place that could be done.
But it really is odd seeing Milne arguing that Mandela was a terrorist who should righteously have been jailed.