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Mandela was a strategic thinker

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th February 2014 10:40 PM

Amongst others, Nelson Mandela’s greatness also lay in his gifts for strategic thinking, having a non-populist political approach being persuasive, decisive and able to implement difficult decisions.

Amongst others, Nelson Mandela’s greatness also lay in his gifts for strategic thinking, having a non-populist political approach being persuasive, decisive and able to implement difficult decisions.

By Amb. Kintu Nyago

Amongst others, Nelson Mandela’s greatness also lay in his gifts for strategic thinking, having a non-populist political approach being persuasive, decisive and able to implement difficult decisions.


For instance, in 1992, at the Davos World Economic Forum, Switzerland, the recently released Mandela had been invited to debate with President De Klerk and Inkatha’s Mangosuthu Butelezi, about South Africa’s post-Apartheid economy. The ANC, since the mid 1950’s after it endorsed its Freedom Charter, had been committed to nationalising the commanding heights of South Africa’s economy so as to redress its  gross structural socio-economic imbalances.

This informed the gist of Mandela’s presentation that was circulated ahead of the debate. Hence friendly delegations from the Communist parties of China and Vietnam paid him courtesy visits, and politely inquired why a leader of a national liberation movement, intended to nationalise his economy when their respective Marxist Leninist parties were privatising theirs to attract foreign direct investment (FDI)?

Good old Madiba’s sharp mind got the message. Hence applying his legendary decisiveness to pragmatically change a long standing party position. Refocusing his Davos presentation to the global capitalist Moguls, to emphasise the primacy of private capital in a social democratic setting, to grow the economy, attract FDI and redistribute some of the wealth created to the less privileged.

On returning to South Africa, Mandela applied his moral authority and persuasive skills to convince his political coalition on the merits of this policy change. A gargantuan task it was. For mainstream ANC thinking was leftist, moreover more so amongst its strategic allies the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the influential South African Communist Party. Actually, then, just after the ending of the Cold War, the SACP was the world’s only growing and booming Communist party!

South Africa being this continent power house, Mandela pragmatic conversion to market led economics, strategically and positively affected his country, the SADC region and broader Africa. It led to the attracting of billions of US dollars into the South African economy creating jobs, wealth, political stability and certainty. Hence also directly impacting Southern Africa and beyond.

Mandela’s non populist political approach also came at play on the question of the ANC’s position on traditional leaders. For prolonged abuse by colonialism and apartheid of traditional African institutions, had led to their being unpopular, amongst the ANC’s mainly urban based support base, who preferred their abolition.

However, being a Thembu royal who better understood rural Africa’s psyche, he opposed this stance. Hence after apartheid, the state catered for the welfare of cultural leaders but who were strictly conditioned to remain nonpolitical neither engaging in governance issues nor supporting the ruling or opposition political parties.

As a younger man, Mandela alongside other eminent, youthful ANC leaders notably Walter Sisulu, his mentor and brother in law and Oliver Tambo, reached out to progressive White, Asian and coloured South Africans to formulate its Freedom Charter in 1955.

This was revolutionary. As for the first time, black South Africans worked with other races to oppose apartheid. Hence the formulation and adoption of The Freedom Charter which formalised this reality. Calling for the creation of a truly democratic nonracial and non-sexiest South Africa for all its inhabitants.

However, many ANC supporters opposed this thinking leading to a split in this party. Consequently, the formation of Robert Sobukwe’s Pan African Congress of South Africa. Its key slogans were “Africa for the Africans” and later “One Settler one Bullet!”

The visionary Freedom Charter liberated South Africa, 40 years later, in 1994, from apartheid. However, for this to occur, In 1961, Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo, Joe Slovo and others, at great risk, initiated the armed struggle, through Umkhoto we Sizwe. Whose only Commander in Chief was Nelson Mandela (RIP)!
 

Mandela was a strategic thinker

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