Nicholas Sengooba

How apartheid was hidden behind the face of Mandela

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By Nicholas Sengoba

Posted  Tuesday, December 31  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

They chose the face and big persona of Nelson Mandela behind which to hide this shame.


With Nelson Mandela’s passing, we need to visit the past in a bid to correct an anomaly which we have been duped to live with mainly by Eurocentric interests.

Like most evils perpetuated by the West or by ‘white people’ taking slave trade and colonialism as examples, there has always been an effort in the long run to make the perpetrators look civil and selfless. In the same vain their evil is hidden behind people to subvert the discourse that would have exposed individuals and the entire scheme.

For example when slave trade was ended in the 1800s the debate in Western media was shifted to praising the abolitionists; like William Wilberforce for being humane. No serious attempt was made to deeply discuss the injustice that has transpired or even punish perpetrators and compensate those who had been severely affected.

The same happened with colonialism. White people came and helped Black people with education, Christianity and civilization. When they left them to their own devices at Independence, the Black people messed themselves up. Now they are worse off than they were fifty years ago, so goes the fairy tale.

That is how simplistic the discourse has been. We missed an opportunity to understand how a handful of people can raid settled communities of millions, subjugate, dislocate and disorganize them then leave them confused and totally dependent on their erstwhile oppressors.
The case of South Africa followed a similar trend. In praising Mandela and turning him into a celebrity, an icon, a saint etc. the evil of apartheid was overshadowed. The Western media with its love for celebrities and individuals who personify events, made it appear like apartheid was about the jailing of Mandela, his freedom after 27 years and the wise decision to follow the path of reconciliation.

Other activists who put the white supremacist government under pressure; Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Rev Allan Boesak are mentioned in passing. The dehumanizing silly methods of separation where ‘black and dogs’ could not eat or use the same restaurant or toilet respectively with whites where hidden with shame from the media spotlight after the liberation of South Africa. So were the uncouth utterances of people like Margaret Thatcher who called the anti apartheid activists ‘terrorists.’

The trouble here is mainly with the power of Western media which is used to drive the agenda of these countries and the weakness of African media.

Because good journalism is very expensive, most of what constitutes foreign news in African media houses is taken whole sale from Western Media outlets like Reuters, BBC, AP, CNN etc. What they have to cheaply offer is what we offer. If the reporting is slanted towards keeping up the notion that ‘White is good and makes no errors’ then it is what the African reader or viewer will get and will form much of the opinion.

After the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, in 1994 most of what we read about was reconciliation and the creation of a Rainbow nation. This agenda was pushed by Western interests to hide the shame that was apartheid. They made it appear like whoever talked about the evil of apartheid in detail was being vindictive and unforgiving. They chose the face and big persona of Nelson Mandela behind which to hide this shame. It is now upon this generation to really expose what evil apartheid was and who played which part for the sake of avoidance of the repeat of history.

Because slavery was hidden under the carpet, now it is back in full force only that it has been baptized ‘people trade!’ That is a warning, apartheid may return in a different form but with the same effect; subjugation, discrimination and humiliation of people in their own land.

Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.