Knowing Mandela was One Thing; Not Caring for What He Stood for, Another

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They strapped his arms behind his back

And lashed his feet to a stick;

So he flicked his pick into a stick

And apartheid’s behind got kicked!

Nelson Mandela’s kick—that in his memorable struggle against Apartheid, took the form of passive resistance—spirited (carried) him all the way from Pollsmoor Prison on Robben Island, to Mahlamba Ndlopfu (official residence of the President of South Africa; in the process, he saw ‘white’ South Africa’s apartheid system breathe its final breath and fade into nothingness.

For some reason, I am convinced that Nelson Mandela did not give a fig about the racial slurs and other insults the Boers of South Africa hurled at him and his people over the years. If those had bothered him, he would not have turned out the remarkable person we came to know—all in the interest of his beloved South Africa and its people—all of them!

But he was not going to accept being deprived of access to his country’s wealth and opportunities—for himself and for the people of South Africa. He was not going to be shut out and shut down by a group that wanted everything they could grab for themselves. His folks did not name him Kolihlahli (Troublemaker) for nothing.

I have no problems with people who call themselves “white;” some of the nicest people I know, fall into that category. We cannot forget, though, that members of the same race, the Boers, (people of Dutch descent, living in South Africa) put together (a segregated political system in that country that ran from 1948 to the early 1990s. “Apartheid separated the different peoples living there and gave privileges to those of European origin-Wikipedia).  

It was that same clan that would keep Nelson Mandela in prison on Robben Island for a good part of his life. Nelson would languish in jail—standing up for his human rights and those of his people, for 27 years.

This brings us to Liberia’s Ambassador, Lafayette Diggs, who, following Mandela’s death late last year, wrote a commentary: “I Knew Mandela.” In that article, Mr. Diggs calls Mr. Mandela his friend. Mr. Diggs informed his readers that quite some time prior to Nelson’s imprisonment, he had come in contact with Madiba.

“Lafayette, South Africa is a very beautiful country except for that damned apartheid,” Mr. Diggs says Mandela told him. “I had no idea that he would be in prison in a few months,” he added.

Continuing, Ambassador Diggs bragged:

“During one of my missions to South Africa, I was given the status: “honorary white” and kept on the “white” side of the fence separating the two races. I still remember the look of consternation (dismay, disquiet) on the faces of two black female sweepers on the other side of the fence when they saw me standing there on the ‘white’ side,” Ambassador Diggs wrote.

Obviously, Mr. Diggs was enjoying his “honorary white” status (or we wouldn’t have heard about it) while people that looked like Nelson Mandela, (kaffirs, they were called then,) peered questioningly (in disbelief) through what might have been a gated-community, at their ‘honorary white” guest.

It is easy to conclude that the two sweepers might have cynically (contemptuously, mockingly) greeted him as baas? (boss in Afrikaans, the language of white South Africans.)


It was troubling—listening to Ambassador Diggs of Liberian—a major player in the struggle for independence of almost the entire continent—name-dropping probably the most outstanding human rights leader of the Century  while,  under the same breath, he was patting himself on the back for the privilege of rubbing elbows with people who call themselves ‘white.’

(To Be Continued)


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