Mandela: what you probably never knew about the man

May his soul rest in peace. Nelson Mandela was one of the true giants of 20th-century politics. Not only was he South Africa’’s and indeed the world’s most popular president, he was instrumental in ending apartheid, fighting AIDS in Africa, and promoting global peace. However, like my friend said, he was also human, and that humanity led to a number of decisions at odds with our general image of him.

Not to mention i still confuse him with Morgan Freeman…lol

1) Nelson Mandela didn’t like his public image.
When Mandela was first elected president of South Africa, a local newspaper ran a quote of his in front-page bold type: “I’M NOT MESSIAH.” While everyone else pictures him as a saint-like figure, Mandela was, in his own words, just “an ordinary man who had become leader because of extraordinary circumstances. Most politicians practice false modesty. 90 percent of election campaigns are run on it.

But Mandela hated his popular image. He was human, had made mistakes, and knew he wasn’t the angelic deity the world wanted him to be. And that’s important, because it makes his story all the more amazing: here was a regular joe who stood up for what he believed in and changed the world.

2) Mandela was a Communist.

Shocking? The South African Communist Party of the ’50s and ’60s stood in direct opposition to the establishment—the same establishment that was busy making life terrible for millions of black citizens. So it’s not hard to see why someone who was both poor and black might be attracted to it. Second, there’s quite a lot to suggest Mandela was more interested in learning resistance techniques than turning South Africa into a Marxist utopia.

But evidence still suggests he was once an active member and later hid this to gain American support.

3) The book Young Mandela by David James Smith paints a portrait of him as an energetic, charismatic, and dashing guy—equal parts Uti Nwanchukwu and Pierce Brosnan.

It’s said women “inevitably . . . fell at his feet,” and he managed to carry on dozens of affairs at any one time. Smith had the support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation throughout the writting of the book. As mentioned above, Mandela wanted the world to be aware of his failings, though in this case, that “failing” seemed to mostly consist of being awesome.

4) His Ex-Wife Was Terrifying!

Winnie Mandela, was the female equivalent of Tony Soprano. In 1991, she was convicted of abducting and murdering a 14-year-old police informant and given a six-year suspended sentence for it.

She’s also faced accusations of beating, torturing, and “disappearing” whomever she felt stood in the way of her then-husband’s cause, usually on the littlest of evidence. Throughout her time in the ANC, she advocated the use of “necklaces” (execution by putting a burning tire around the neck of suspected traitors), ordered murders, took part in violent interrogations, and set up her own secret police. If that wasn’t enough, she is now once again embroiled in a murder investigation, this time for the execution of two ANC spies in 1988.

5) He Personally Helped AIDS Patients.

According to Bill Clinton, whose foundation spends millions fighting AIDS, Mandela was so determined to make a difference that he sent personal cheques to AIDS sufferers to pay for treatment. Since South Africa has the biggest number of infected people, his efforts were largely unnoticed. Yet still he tried—even in the face of a hopeless pandemic, he tried. In other words, it wasn’t just in politics that he was awesome.

6) He Was Friends With Gaddafi.

While Mandela’s ANC was still outlawed, Gaddafi was one of the few people belligerent enough to support them, supplying arms and money at a time when they needed it most. Never one to forget a friend, Mandela repaid Gaddafi by visiting him in 1994 while it was still technically illegal, naming his grandson after him and supporting his regime right until the end. it looks like lunacy. But Mandela once claimed apartheid couldn’t have ended without Libyan support, so maybe this should be seen more as loyalty than anything else.

7) Was a wife beater.

When Mandela divorced his first wife in the late ’50s, she claimed he had assaulted and threatened her. While she eventually withdrew the claim, it was left to stand between May 1956 and November the same year. The case never came to court, meaning no judge or jury finally ruled on the truth of the allegation. Now, it’s probably impossible to say for certain whether there was any truth to Evelyn’s claim that Mandela had assaulted her. However, the court record is there, and the fact remains that she made the claim as part of a divorce suit. So, was it a case of Evelyn making up claims to justify the divorce, or did Young Mandela have the sort of temper issues that we really don’t want our heroes to have? Who can say? But it remains a smudge on the life of a great man.

8) Some of us are aware the world once saw Mandela as a terrorist. He was probably put in jail for terrorist charges.

He was responsible for the creation of the MK. Put simply, if it wasn’t for Mandela, there wouldn’t have been a military wing of the ANC.
On the other hand, those who know Mandela as a terrorist might be surprised to learn he never harmed a single person. Not only that, he steadfastly opposed the MK (military wing of the ANC) ever targeting any human beings, let alone non-military targets. By the time Mandela was thrown in prison, the MK were only blowing up electricity substations and railway tracks, leading to approximately zero deaths. It was only after Mandela was jailed that they stepped up to targeting military personnel, and only in the 1980s that they branched out into civilian murder. Yes, the ANC was then a terrorist organisation.
Though, in every bloodthirsty campaign, Mandela was either uninvolved or actively disapproving.

9) Nelson Mandela loved Spice Girls.

Maybe you were too young in the ’90’s and probably didn’t know the Spice Girls. But they were a successful girl band, successful enough to meet Nelson Mandela in 1997, where he referred to them as his “heroes” and said it was one of the most emotional moments of his life. No joke. According to the BBC, Mandela was more thrilled meeting a girl group from North London than meeting Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and the UN Secretary-General combined.

And when you think about it, what could be more fitting? Here was a man who accomplished extraordinary things, but was never really more than ordinary—one of the greatest statesmen the world has ever seen, yet still just a shy fanboy meeting his favorite band. Legend, saint, martyr . . . maybe.

But more than anything, Mandela was a great but regular man. And that should be his legacy. He was such an awesome leader that he was able to resist the urge to force the Afrikaner elite into exile. Think what you’d have done in retaliation to the white south africans if after that long in prison you become the president.


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