In Praise of Madiba - Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a terrorist, a convict, a communist, a saboteur and an enemy of the State!

He was also one of them greatest heroes of the last century, He achieved in South Africa what even Mahatma Gandhi was unable to do in India and he did it in a way that respected all of humanity.

This is a man who evolved above the pettiness of racial conflict, a man who saw with profound clarity that South Africa was not a Black nation, a Coloured nation or a White nation. He saw South Africa as a great nation with opportunities for all people no matter their colour, their tribe, their religion, or their culture.

I was in South Africa in 1969 as a seaman on a Norwegian merchant ship. We were unloading sulfur and potash from Canada, a country whose anti apartheid policies did not stop them from selling resources including an ingredient for making gunpowder.

I saw apartheid first hand. I remember returning to the ship at midnight just as a night shift of factory workers were heading home. About a hundred Africans were walking down the sidewalk towards me, one white man, alone.

What did they do?

They all crossed the street and avoided eye contact with me. I saw real fear there and it was not a fear of me as an individual but of a State that threatened dire consequences should a white person be assaulted or even insulted. They all knew that my word was more powerful than all of their words combined.

What I saw that day was the face of tyranny.

While in South Africa, I heard about Nelson Mandela for the first time. He was a prisoner on Robben Island and strangely enough I found this out because I was interested in Robben Island because it means “island of seals” in Afrikaans. First I discovered that this rookery for seals also held a prison for political prisoners and then I discovered that one of these prisoners was a man named Nelson Mandela.

I was intrigued. So much so that I wrote an article about him, an article that I could not get published in the North American mainstream media because, according to the editors they were not interested in articles about terrorists.

I did publish the article in the Georgia Straight, an alternative weekly newspaper in Vancouver, British Columbia where I worked in the early Seventies along with alternative voices of reason and compassion like Bob Geldof.

And over the years I heard very little about Nelson Mandela. Stephen Biko was murdered and thousands of South Africans were persecuted as most of the world continued to do trade with South Africa as a strong pro-Western anti-communist power. They even developed and tested their own nuclear weapon.

If not for the powerful Black Lobby in the U.S. Congress, the United States would most likely have given South Africa even more support, including weapons.

But finally after years of struggle and hardship, apartheid was overthrown and Nelson Mandela became the first Black President of South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. The U.S. presented him with the Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Union presented him with The Order of Lenin. Yet he still officially remained on the list of people barred from entry to the United States.

In 1969 or anytime during the Seventies, the very idea that Nelson Mandela would one day be President of South Africa was an impossible thought. No one, not even Mandela himself could imagine such a possibility. It was simply an impossibility.

And yet it happened. The impossible became possible and in achieving that position, in winning the Nobel prize, Mandela gave a gift to all of us and that was the gift of hope, the realization that no matter how daunting the situation, no matter how formidable the obstacles, that passion, courage and imagination can prevail.

Madiba died today at age 95.He is gone but what we will never lose is the legacy of this great man, the ideas that he transformed into reality, the dreams that he made real. The strength of his convictions and the passion and kindness of his heart.

We all die but few have lived as Nelson Mandela lived, few have achieved as much as he was able to achieve.

Even his prison number 46664 (meaning prisoner 466 incarcerated in 1964) is now the name of a humanitarian charitable organization. Mandela had been able to turn all the opposition against him in his life into tools to make this a better world.

The last one hundred years have given us very few exceptionally great inspirational and peaceful leaders. The three most influential have been Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luthor King and Nelson Mandela and only one of them was a President of a nation although I believe King would have become the greatest President of the United States if he had not been assassinated by a coward. Gandhi was also assassinated.

I am happy that Mandela was able to live a long and remarkable life.

He not only served his country with exceptional honour, he has served all of mankind with dignity and amazing grace.

Nelson Mandela 1918 -2013

Written by Captain Paul Watson – Sea Shepherd founder


© 2013 – UGA blog

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