Chapter Eight – The dawn of a democracy
Madiba, you and only you, can take South Africa forward. Those who know you well will understand. Those who query your principles, will think the ANC is on the wrong path. However, follow your conscience.
Nelson Mandela was beginning to like this little voice inside of his mind. He was not sure where the voice was coming from or who it belonged too, but it seemed spot on as far as his own views and decision-making was concerned.
The President looked at his wristwatch and stood up from his desk. Bang on time, there was a knock on his office door. Upon entering, a staff member told him that the security cluster were seated in a meeting room, waiting on his presence for the meeting to start.
“Honourable gentlemen today is a pivotal moment in the history of South Africa,” said Madiba, as he began the meeting, with twenty people in the room.
“I am fully aware that our new democracy will be under major threat, potentially from those on the left who feel that we, the ANC, were being too lenient in our negotiations with the National Party, then those the right-wing Afrikaner who could try and depose our new government and any time.”
“My view is to continue business as normal,” he went on.
“We cannot worry about what might be or might not be. In time we will upgrade our country’s military resources to safeguard our people against any form of resistance or attack.”
Former Umkhonto we Size hardliner, Joe Modise, now Defence Minister of South Africa, listened with intent. He knew about the potential upgrade of military arsenal, although with Mandela being the flavour of the month on the continent, he could not imagine a foreign invasion.
“I tell you today, that this democracy that we fought so hard for, shall prevail,” continued Mandela.
“Never, never and never again, shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”
Mandela’s words received a rousing response in the room.
Upon finishing his speech, Mandela sat down and opened the floor for opinions.
Joe Modise coughed and rose from his chair.
“Honourable President, we have been reliably informed of a right-wing plot that is aimed at destabilising the country,” said Modise, dressed in a black suit.
“This is not a coup d etat attempt but rather a plan to create chaos at several points in communities where our black majority are situated.”
Modise went on to refer to the potential bombing of power stations, taxi ranks and even public gatherings such as church events, in the townships.
“The Afrikaner feels that his land and rights are being taken away and they only know one way which to counter the situation,” explained Modise.
“I suggest that once and for all, we stem the tide by deploying our military to the streets to show just who is running this country.”
This wave shall come to nothing, Madiba.
Mandela backed the voice and was having none of Modise’s point that the military should take to the streets to ensure law and order.
“Honourable Defence Minister, Modise, I do not believe that we have reached the point of anarchy as yet,” said the ever-diplomatic Madiba.
“I believe that our police is strong enough to ensure that the law will be run accordingly. To jump to the conclusion that the military need to be actioned to safeguard our townships, is like saying that we are returning to the Apartheid era State of Emergency that we have just come out of.”
Modise didn’t look impressed. He felt that Mandela was not seeing the seriousness of the situation. Perhaps the President would understand after several black lives were lost due to government’s sluggishness to act.
Several members in the room felt that Mandela was showing his true colours. Clearly, he had been tamed in prison by the Afrikaner. He wasn’t the liberation leader that they once knew, they thought.
The threat shall come to nothing and no lives shall be lost. Keep with your vision.
Mandela was liking the inner voice more and more. It hadn’t let him down yet, but these were early days.
The President was no fool. He was slowly putting the pieces together and was realising the identity of the voice. That girl that had saved his life from an assassin’s bullet while he was in prison on Robben Island!
Madiba began to stretch his brain in a bid to get to Lindiwe’s name. Lerato, Lesego…no that was not it.
Come on, Madiba, think, he told himself.
He had no idea where the girl was these days except for being inside his head, but he remembered having a lot of time for her.
The girl had been extremely mature for her age. She was all that Madiba wanted to see in a child of the New South Africa. He remembered her being in the company of a cop.
Yes, he had no doubt that the voice inside his head belonged to that girl. Clearly, even though he had been a prisoner when he met her, he had left a lasting impression.
Mandela had fought the good fight for people like the girl. He wanted her to have all the opportunities that had previously only been available to a white person due to South Africa’s racist past.
It was that type of girl who needed to be saved from the country being destabilised by the left or right wing.
A security cluster member raised his hand and was given permission to speak.
“Honourable President, do you not in anyway feel that your life could be threatened if drastic action is not taken at this point?”
Mandela was starting to lose his cool. It had been a long, joyful day at the inauguration, and he did not enjoy the line of questioning being put to him by his own people.
“Sir, I survived 27 years in an Apartheid prison without human rights,” began Madiba.
“Now that I am a free man, I believe in working with all people to take our country forward. As I mentioned, I believe that our intelligence agency and police will be able to handle any mischievous person or persons who plan on bringing this beautiful country to its knees. I am prepared to die for the democracy of this country.”
Mandela spoke with such vigour that nobody else around the boardroom table, dared put their hand up in support of the dangers that may lurk.
The meeting ended and Mandela went back to his office, followed by Joe Modise.
Once the door was closed, Mandela was his Defence Minister if he had any information of an ANC plot to remove him.
“Madiba, that will never happen,” said Modise, who was still in shock at the question.
“Joe, right now, I feel more respected by the former enemy than I do by some of our own people,” uttered Mandela.
“We are going to Parliament to serve our people, not serve our own agendas.”
Modise nodded and bid the President farewell.
Mandela’s fears were not far off the mark. In April 1998, South African National Defence Force General George Meiring handed a dossier of information to the President.
In the document were the names of alleged coup plotters in Robert McBride, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Bantu Holomisa, and Meiring’s potential successor in Lieutenant Siphiwe Nyanda.
However, following investigation, the report was found to be false and quite possible a form of propaganda from the old government. As a result, Meiring resigned as General amid rumours that Mandela was on the brink of sacking him.
Mandela peered out of the window and some thousands of ANC supporters waving their party flag. They seemed to have more pride in him that some senior party members, he thought.
Fear not, Madiba, you are on the right path.
There was another knock on his office door.
“Mr Mandela, I have former President P.W. Botha on the line to congratulate you,” said an administration staff member.
Eish. While Madiba appreciated the sentiment of the former President, he did not enjoy speaking to the man known as ‘Die Groot Krokodil’ (the Big Crocodile), due to his aggressive speech.
The story went that when Botha was in power, he used to post a South African Navy officer outside his office door. Known for his short temper, Botha often got into shouting matches with visitors in his office and it was the task of the man in the navy uniform to intervene and to escort the visitor out.
Of course, Mandela’s personality was very different from that of Botha. Madiba believed in democracy and was open to hearing the other person’s side of the story, while Botha was a domineering sort. Botha, no relation to namesake Pik Botha, was a ‘my way or no way’ type of guy.
Eventually, Mandela decided to take the call from the former President.
“I congratulate you, Mr Mandela, and just wish that you had accepted my offer regarding talks in the mid-1980s,” said Botha.
Madiba shook with rage. It was the very same Botha who had offered Mandela early retirement to the Transkei homeland on condition that he renounce violence against the state. As Madiba would say, only a coward would accept that offer.
Do not worry about the past, worry about the future.
“Mr Botha, I thank you for your call,” said Mandela.
“I just hope that you can control the black masses as from experience, I can tell you that it was not an easy task,” muttered Botha.
That was quite enough for the new President, who told Botha that he had other engagements to attend to and bid him farewell.
Do not let other derail you from your vision. Your family and friends believe in you. Your presidential term will be a tough road to travel, but you will reach your destination.
Mandela began to speak aloud.
“Young lady, I can’t remember your name, but I want you to know what a great impression you left on me,” he said.
“You are the blueprint of a South African citizen.”
As he finished talking his office door flung open. He had not heard the knock due to his speech.
“Talking to yourself, Madiba?” asked newly inaugurated 1st Vice President Thabo Mbeki.
“Thabo, I have seen the future in terms of the youth that we will be delivering, and I can tell you that the next generations of leadership will be even more vibrant than us,” said Mandela to his right-hand man.
You can trust Thabo Mbeki although his presidency would be one filled with controversy.
Mandela had no reason to doubt the voice in his head as it had not given him false information to date.
“You and I know that the President’s post is a tough one,” said Madiba, as he sat at his desk with Mbeki seated on the other side.
“We have many friends abroad who supported the ANC’s call for sanctions against Apartheid South Africa and those same ones are now lifting embargoes based on our advice.”
“However, our most feared opponents, could well be internal,” went on Mandela.
Mbeki nodded, as he chewed on his customary pipe.
“I heard that your security cluster meeting was quite lively,” said the Deputy President.
Mandela nodded slowly.
“It is our own people who can make or break this democracy,” replied the President.
“Thabo, we all know about your view on it being best to open the door from the inside, rather than continued opposition, but I fear that it is some of our inside people who can’t be trusted to the full. Either this or they simply are not as advanced in thinking as we are.”
Mandela thought about the assassination of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani back in 1993. Hani was an outstanding leader. The only problem that the ANC head with him was that neither the party President Oliver Tambo, not Mandela could get through to him. Hani was a law unto himself, so caught up in the battle against Apartheid that he often actions first, rather than re-thinking situations.
Then there was Mbeki, who thought things through hundreds of times from all angles before making a move.
Two men with the same goal but different approaches.
Your leaders will respect you and stay loyal to the cause.
How happy was Mandela to hear the inner voice telling him this? If there was one thing that the President could not stand, it was disloyalty.
The ANC had been built on the principle of loyalty. As an example, Mandela could have sold out to the Apartheid government many years ago, but he stayed loyal to the cause. If he sold out, the New South Africa would never have happened, or at best, would have taken many more years to happen.
You will be criticised for being so close to the Afrikaner, but let common sense prevail.
Mandela was about to come in for major flack in allowing the Afrikaner to retain the Springbok emblem for the national rugby team. Many black people would see it as giving in to white South Africa, in which rugby (the white version of it) was seen to be a sign of white superiority, muscle and power over anyone else.
Back the Bokke.
Mandela did not care. He would stand back to nobody. He was on a mission to build peace and harmony, not racial divides in a new dispensation.
After Mbeki left his office, Mandela began to talk aloud to himself again.
“Young lady, I need your guidance,” he said.
“We need to get the new South Africa off on the right footing. Tell me more about the future. Tell me of the dragons waiting to devour me. Tell me all that I need to know.”
I will guide your heart and mind, Madiba. I am doing this in the interest of many generations to come.
Mandela gulped. He had found his spiritual soulmate. He had a bouncing board for his ideas. His guardian angel had arrived to keep him and South Africa on the path to success!
“Tell me how 1994 to 2010 will work out for our beloved country,” requested Mandela.
Ah, Madiba, get yourself a cup of coffee. The story is a drama unlike anything seen on television.
Mandela smiled. For the first time since the inauguration, his face broke out into happiness. He had only been in the President’s office for an afternoon, and the challenges were already queuing up.
However, to Nelson Mandela, no challenge was unsurmountable. South Africa was a beautiful country with beautiful people. History would show that. Mandela never thought of himself as an icon in global terms, even though the world did.