Chapter Nine – Reality kicks in
11 May 1994 – Nelson Mandela was in a very fortunate position in terms of foresight. Although he would not know for sure, he had three spirits guiding him as President.
Firstly, there was his own conscience and what a sound legal and leadership mind he had. Despite what others may have believed, the Apartheid regime had not been able to soften him during his twenty-seven years of jailtime. If anything, the prison sentence had only made him mentally stronger.
Then there was the spirit of Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr, who had lived the road from 1994 to 2010 ahead of the President. She would be able to guide him in terms of the future.
Somehow, somewhere, sometime in time travel, Lindiwe Jnr’s spirit had combined with that of her mother, Lindiwe Snr, who had died while giving birth to her. The positive side of this was that Lindiwe Snr had a good understanding of the pre-1994 era and the harsh realities of Apartheid, while Mandela was locked up on Robben Island.
Mandela sat at his desk at the Union Buildings. The country’s challenges were huge for a man of his age, but he was up to the task. He had seen the ANC through tough constitutional talks with the National Party to bring about a new constitution and was the only candidate for the No 1 job. His choice for the 1st Vice President’s post had been a thorny one, with both Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa having been in the running. Neither Mbeki nor Ramaphosa were known to be fans of each other, to say the least. So, to keep them apart, Mandela gave the Vice President’s nod to Mbeki, while Ramaphosa was sent into the business world to transformation this sector. Many would later say that Ramaphosa did not transform the market, but only transformed himself, as he went on to become a billionaire businessman in his own right.
Mandela would eventually finish his term of office, but his successor, Mbeki, was not as lucky, as the ANC executive recalled him on 24 September 2008, after he had allegedly interfered in the Nicholson investigation into then-Vice President Jacob Zuma over corruption.
Zuma went on to replace Mbeki and had a turbulent time in office marred with corruption, rape and other charges worthy of a soap opera rather than a President, before eventually being recalled by the ANC executive and replaced by Vice President, Ramaphosa.
Mandela tapped his pen on the front part of his desk as he read through a rather disturbing report about the chaos breaking out in the South Africa’s northern neighbouring country, Zimbabwe.
The land distribution issue, which would come back to haunt South Africa in the future, saw Zimbabwe’s white population of 0.6 percent, controlling 70 percent of the country’s land.
The country was on the slide after gaining independence from Britain in 1980s, with Canaan Banana installed as President and Robert Mugabe as Prime Minister, but it was the tobacco farmers which kept the economy healthy.
Now these farmers and many others were under threat of having their land taken away from them, not by pay-outs, but by force.
The new South African constitution is stronger than the Zimbabwean constitution and land grabs and land violence will not happen in South Africa if the leaders of the country stay strong.
‘If the leaders of the country stay strong’. Those were the key words running through Mandela’s head as put there by the inner voice of a woman.
Mandela paged over in the report and found a request from the Movement for Democratic Change President, Morgan Tsvangirai, who was requesting to meet with him.
Tsvangirai’s party, better known by the abbreviation of MDC, was the official opposition to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which had swallowed up their previous opponents, Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), which had been led by Joshua Nkomo.
Mandela was no fool and fully realised that the land distribution issue was a side show to the real problems going on in Zimbabwe.
People were dying in genocide-style as Mugabe’s Shona tribe followers, clashed with the Ndebele people of Senior Vice President Nkomo. Many of his supporters blamed Nkomo for allowing ZAPU to merge with ZANU in 1976, thus leaving them even more vulnerable.
The result would be Mugabe showing his muscle and Nkomo allegedly fleeing for his life over the Zimbabwean border dressed as a woman in 1999. With Nkomo out of the picture, Mugabe’s military force set to work, and the Ndebele’s took huge casualties.
As a result of the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, thousands of their citizens charged over the border into South Africa looking for a better life.
“I am seeing so many similarities between the goings-on in Zimbabwe and what previously happened in South Africa, except that the Zimbabwean Ndebele people are being oppressed by those of their own skin colour,” muttered Mandela.
Yes, and the worst is still to come.
With the foresight of Lindiwe Jnr, Mandela had an inkling that if Mugabe was in power, the country could be in for a rough ride.
From his office in Harare, Mugabe had basically told the western countries to ‘go and hang’. He did not enjoy their comments in the media with regard to the state of affairs in his country. Mugabe was quick to play the race card and accurate facts presented by Britain or other European countries, were deemed to be racist.
Through his sources, Mandela was also fully aware that Mugabe did not hold him in high regard. Mugabe felt that while he fought in the Bush war for the fall of the British run Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mandela sat on his backside in a prison cell on Robben Island.
Yet, upon his release, it was Mandela who was revered globally, rather than Mugabe.
Mandela picked up the phone on his desk and dialled the office number of his second in command.
“Thabo, yes, I have an important task for you,” said Mandela, as he cleared his throat.
As usual, Mbeki was up to date on the matter even before the President updated him. That was Thabo Mbeki, a step ahead all the time.
Mugabe will agree to all that Mbeki has to say and then do his own agenda once the South African Vice President has left the meeting.
Mugabe had a mind and will of his own.
What the inner voice had told Mandela would be exactly what would happen. Mugabe was hardly going to let South Africa tell him how to run his country. Especially not by a party that had enjoyed tea with the Afrikaner in Pretoria.
In time, Zimbabwe will need South Africa, but unfortunately, the damage will be quite severe.
“Thabo, I am not sure how you will make Mugabe see the damage that his regime is causing, but we cannot take a chance in-case the chaos leads to conflict over the border and into our country,” explained Mandela to his deputy.
Seated at his office desk, Mbeki inhaled deeply from his pipe.
“Madiba, I will do my best, I will take Foreign Affairs Minister Alfred Nzo with me to the meeting,” commented Mbeki.
“Yes, Thabo, that is fine, but Mugabe needs to understand that millions of his people are suffering due to the internal politics in Zimbabwe,” said Mandela.
“This needs to stop.”
Mbeki agreed. He had been one of the ANC’s leading negotiators in terms of the first talks with a group of leading Afrikaner businessmen, previously a part of a group known as members of the Broederbond Afrikaner brain-trust movement, in London in 1990.
This was a pivotal moment on the eve of Mandela’s release from prison.
One of Mbeki’s biggest successes was the curbing of the Mike Gatting rebel cricket tour to South Africa. With the ANC on a mission to ensure that Mandela was released into a state of peace, the rebel cricket tour under the auspices of the white-run South African Cricket Union, had to be curtailed. Black protestors at the cricket grounds were met by Apartheid police and the scene was set for something like Zimbabwe of the mid to late 1990s. it was simple. Those who controlled the gun, controlled the game.
Yes, Mbeki was the man. Respected by many, even if frowned on by the Zimbabwean President.
Mbeki was a believer of ‘opening the door from the inside’ rather than trying to force it open. By engaging with the South African Apartheid government, a way forward had been mapped. He needed to get this principle into the mind of the great dictator, Mugabe.
Mbeki is the right man to send, it’s just that Mugabe is very stubborn.
The words of the inner voice confirmed Mandela’s thoughts.
Mandela was no stranger to breaking down stubborn men. Former Presidents P.W. Botha and F.W. de Klerk and his sidekicks in the old Apartheid government were not the easiest of characters to have talks with.
Like Mugabe, Mandela was of the view that each one of these men made decisions to meet their political agenda rather than the bigger picture.
Madiba, you need to understand that a lot of African leaders will be jealous of what you have achieved by forming the Rainbow Nation.
Mandela smiled. His vision was fixed on creating a South Africa for all race groups rather than a black takeover, which many of his colleagues had suggested to him to do.
The feared genocide of the whites by the blacks was the main reason why the militant Chris Hani has been assassinated. His militant style was simply too much for some whites.
Mandela did not want to go that route, not that he feared of being on the receiving end of a bullet himself, but it was not his way of doing business.
South Africans had much to look forward too. The South African planes could now land in almost any country in the world. Goods could be exported worldwide now that international sanctions had been lifted.
South Africa would host the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 1996 African Cup of Nations (both would eventually be won by the host nation). The Madiba jive was known worldwide. Many now understood that this humble man was not the terrorist that the Apartheid regime made him out to be.
The right wing would think differently. The stubborn Afrikaners were not sold on sharing their country with a political party that worked in alliance with the South African Communist Party. The ANC were just that in the minds of the right wing – communists. Something needed to be done about it.
Be careful of stating publicly of your relationship with the South African Communist Party, Madiba. It will be used as a weapon against you.
Mandela nodded his head in agreement.
He knew about that not all of his so-called allies, were happy to see him become President. Mbeki was not that popular internally either. Some deemed him to be like Mandela and too open to compromises.
Perhaps Mandela had missed a trick by not manoeuvring Cyril Ramaphosa, who founded the black mine workers union in 1982, in as 1st Vice President. Hani would have been a strong contender too if the right wing had not eliminated him.
Rest assured, you will complete your term of office, Madiba, but then you will step aside and handle less stressful chores in the twilight of your political career.
“Some days I just wish I was still locked up in my cell on Robben Island,” muttered Mandela.
Do not think of things that way, Madiba. You have an inner voice to guide you. It is an inner voice that has seen the future and knows the challenges and successes ahead. Be guided by your logic too.
Mandela has no intention of telling anyone about his mysterious inner voice. It would be his secret. He had to wonder if past and future Presidents of South Africa would also have inner voices to guide them.
Were P.W. Botha guided by the inner voice of the late D.F. Malan and Hendrik Verwoerd, seen by many as the architects of Apartheid?
It was as if the inner voice had read his mind.
Be assured, Madiba, I only have the interest of the New South Africa at heart. It is time to move forward. Those who do not want too, will be left behind.
Mandela nodded in agreement of what he had just heard. He had no time to waste on those who were hesitant on moving forward, whether they were from within his party or outsiders.
There was some serious work to be done. Money needed to be found to cash flow the country, since his party had inherited an all-but bankrupt South Africa from the outgoing Apartheid regime. The coffers had been raided and there was simply not enough cash for South Africa to function effectively.
Many of the Afrikaners would smile to his face but secretly they were waiting for South Africa to go down the drain under a black government. Very few of the other African countries had made a success of life for their people since the end of colonialism. Mandela was on a mission to prove that South Africa would be different to the rest. If it put him in an early grave then so be it, but he had to fly the flag for his people, to show that when all work together, amazing results can be achieved.
Someone knocked on Mandela’s office door, and upon his command, an administration staff member entered.
“Sir, former President de Klerk, would like to have ten minutes of your time,” said the tall, black lady.
“You mean 2nd Vice President de Klerk,” responded Mandela.
The woman, in her late thirties, shook her head.
“Sir, I find it difficult to call him by his title after what he did to our people under the old regime,” quipped the lady.
“Forgiveness is the key to taking South Africa forward,” explained Mandela.
“If we cannot forgive and move on, then we don’t have a future.”
The woman nodded.
“Yes, sir, I understand, but it is not that easy to do,” she said.
“Nothing in life is easy to do until you try,” replied Mandela, as he stood up from his desk.
“We all have to try and live peacefully together. The future is in our hearts and minds rather than in the past. Please inform 2nd Vice President de Klerk that I will meet with him in three hours’ time, as I have a security meeting to attend.”
“Yes, of course, sir,” said the woman, as she backtracked and left the President’s office.
Mandela understood that it would take time for some old wounds to heal, but if he could make the effort to forgive, then others should too.