Remembering Nelson Mandela
By Richard W. Carlson
Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Nelson Mandela led a genuinely remarkable life. Not surprisingly, his many relatives are fighting over his money and the power of his name.
As Reuters has reported, newspapers across South Africa have run “Mandela vs. Mandela” banner headlines as the bitter, greedy internecine squabbling is played out in public by Mandela's family, including ex-wife Winnie Mandela.
Winnie was practically canonized over the decades by the U.S. media and American feminists like the unctuous Phil Donahue. But she was viewed by millions in South Africa as a money-hungry thug.
She cheated on Mandela with young men on her “soccer team” in Soweto, lived in a mansion, drove a BMW and allegedly stole money from the African National Congress when she led the “Women's Wing.” She would sometimes dress like her vision of Fidel Castro — in camouflage fatigues and with a .45-caliber pistol in a military holster.
Winnie was charged with murdering Stompie Seipei, 14, whom she accused of being a police informer. Her bodyguard, Jerry Richardson, who was convicted of the murder, said Winnie had ordered him to kidnap and kill the boy. He testified that Winnie participated in Stompie's beating and then “I slaughtered him like a goat” with gardening shears. Winnie beat the murder charge but was convicted of Stompie's kidnapping. She was sentenced to six years in prison; the sentence was suspended.
In April 1994, two weeks before the election that brought Nelson Mandela and the ANC to power, I flew into Johannesburg to be an observer for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.
Mandela was hugely popular among black people. The night of my arrival he spoke at an ANC rally in Johannesburg. So many people rushed to greet him that a 6-year-old boy and two women were crushed to death beneath the feet of enthusiastic supporters. A couple of dozen other people, mostly women and children, were injured, some very seriously.
There were 22.5 million voters in South Africa then, half of them illiterate. For 80 percent of them it was the first time they voted. Our small observer delegation was put up at the four-star Carlton Hotel. Nelson Mandela was also living there, in the 8th-floor presidential suite.
South Africa is a violent country. My third night there a Chinese man ran shouting into the lobby, bleeding from facial cuts. He had been jumped outside by a couple of majitas, who had punched him, slashed him with a knife and stolen his wallet.
One morning at 6 o'clock, I stepped into the empty hotel lobby. Walking toward me was Nelson Mandela. He was wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and red tie. A half-dozen black men surrounded him. They moved as a group. I was the only other person in the lobby. As they passed, I said, “Good morning.”
Mandela stopped, said “Hello,” and stepped through the circle of men. He offered his hand. He had a firm, smooth shake. I said that I was an American.
He replied, “Nice to see you,” the perfect political greeting.
I warmed and said, “I met you at the State Department in Washington a few months ago. At the Fulbright Award ceremony. I was with Mrs. Fulbright and my wife.”
This man, who has met thousands of white men who fit my description, smiled broadly and smoothly said, “Of course, good to see you again.”
Richard W. Carlson is a former U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles and the former director of the Voice of America.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Keeping faith in Letang is simple
- Fleury, Crosby lead Penguins to victory over Sharks at Consol
- Steelers rookie RB Bell gets respect from teammates, foes alike
- Steelers lineman Adams gets 2nd chance to start
- Steelers notebook: Woodley practices but unsure where he’ll play
- Speedway opening McKeesport store, plans to build 3 more
- With Pitt men ahead, gauntlet continues for Loyola Marymount
- Penguins notebook: Injury keeps Malkin out against Sharks
- County takes lead on Monsour demolition
- McKeesport Area hosts student summit
- Dark Braddock setting of ‘Out of the Furnace’ reflects a dying way of life