Clive Lewis on Nelson Mandela: “The worlds powerful will want to paper over these inconvenient truths”

Labour Party PPC for Norwich South Clive Lewis. Photo: Mark Tillie Labour Party PPC for Norwich South Clive Lewis. Photo: Mark Tillie

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
11:58 AM

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.” Nelson Mandela.

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No doubt like many of you I’ve been thinking a lot about Nelson Mandela. I’ve also been thinking about how his life and death affects our political fortunes both at home and further afield.

As a young black man, on the edge of political consciousness, the anti-apartheid movement and the political left became one and the same to me.

It was overwhelmingly the left that allied itself to the ANC cause. Ultimately it was one of the defining factors that allowed me to work out where my politics lay.

Apartheid was the manifestation of a racist ideology.

One that had its roots in slavery, empire and post-colonialism. It affected the lives of millions of people including myself and my family here in the UK. For as long as apartheid was tolerated and allowed to flourish by Thatcher, Regan and their like, there could be no real and lasting race equality in either Soweto or Solihull.

So it bothers me deeply when the political right seek to bask in the light of a man, who throughout his life opposed so much of what they stand for.

“Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” intoned David Cameron, who went off on a junket to apartheid South Africa in 1989, with all expenses paid by a firm lobbying against sanctions.

“President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time,” declared George W Bush, neglecting to mention the ANC were still on a US terror-watch list until 2008 and Dick Cheney was voting against resolutions calling for his release.

“Death of a colossus,” was the headline in a recent Daily Mail article, yet it marked his 1990 release with “The violent homecoming” - “Violence and death disfigured the release of Nelson Mandela yesterday …”.

But it’s not just their hypocrisy that bothers me. More importantly it’s their land grab for his political and historical legacy.

The world’s powerful understand that Mandela’s legacy and message, as relating to the downfall of injustice, is a potential danger to their own hegemony. He was a freedom fighter. He challenged the established order and he won.

At a time when our planet is burning, where vested interests seem untouchable and corporate greed and power makes a mockery of democracy, Mandela’s appeal is a powerful one.

Mandela’s life was a journey. The powerful, who do not want to see change, wish us to see him as a sanitised, saintly, establishment figure who through his kind and gentle way achieved the end of apartheid.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hard fought economic sanctions and for a time armed struggle and later the threat of it, as well as mass protest and unrest, played its part. It was this, in conjunction with his later peaceful approach, that brought apartheid to its knees - and rightly so.

That wider struggle, like his own life, has many facets, some of them darker than others. The powerful must not be allowed to sanitise the entirety of that struggle in the public’s consciousness. Throughout his life Mandela took cause with injustice and wrong - from Iraq and Afghanistan through to Israel, Palestine and the immorality of poverty.

The world’s powerful will want to paper over these inconvenient truths. Therefore we ourselves should not get carried away with his ‘saintliness’ and in so doing let them rewrite history and re-frame his life and very human struggle, to suit their own ends.

Clive Lewis is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South.

10 comments

  • Among the Great and the Good foregathered in South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela were 'dignitaries' with whom the International Criminal Court in the Hague might like to have more than a quiet word... Mahinda Rajapaksa (Sri Lanka), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Robert Mugabe, George W Bush and Tony Blair. Did nobody think to check the guest list?

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    martin wallis

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • Its pathetic that gullible party political hacks and members, who can't possibly imagine anything else than their own stooges in power, just won't see that Clive Lewis is a placeman, an ex BBC safe hand who will do anything to upheld the status quo. Pity that.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, December 13, 2013

  • You weren't even born Mr Lewis when Mandela was found guilty of terrorist offences. Amnesty International were asked to take his case on and refused. They are outstandingly scrupulous about only representing people who have been wrongly imprisoned. Mandela may have become everybody's grandfather in later years but do not rewrite history for your own ends.

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    alecto

    Thursday, December 12, 2013

  • Do you sense political bias in this aricle ?

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • David, I think that is an assumption on your part. You choose to question Mr Lewis' motives. Unfortunately many modern day politicians lead many of us to these conclusions, but I suspect it was the EDP looking for the reaction from Mr Lewis, rather than the other way round. And even if it was the other way round and Mr Lewis generated this article, then I still feel it is unfair to draw the conclusion that you have reached.

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    DT

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • This article is nothing but a collection of soundbites, in other words a prospective politician trying to sound like all things to all men. I believe the overwhelming majority of British people could not care less about Mandela, I am sure people who are skint or struggling to find a job have more important things on their mind than a man from thousands of miles away who was nothing whatsoever to do with Britain.

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    John Bridge

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • Now I wonder, how can a candidate who is standing in the next election use the death of a prominent statesman such as Mandela for his own success? Hmm, I suppose he could talk to the EDP and use them to make out that he's of the same hue, when he is not. Clive lewis shared and or reported these despicable views of world leaders such as Bush and Blair, he shares the same party political effluence, this attempt at rubbing off some of the magic says it all.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  • what a depressingly cynical although predictable response. Ignore the key points of the article and attack the man, pathetic.

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    eggy12

    Thursday, December 12, 2013

  • Eggy12, pathetic? I will tell you what is pathetic, the whole Mandela bandwagon.

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    John Bridge

    Thursday, December 12, 2013

  • Yes, and in your own way as prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, you share exactly the same agenda as those world leaders of all political persuasions you criticise...the desire to bask in the reflected glory of Nelson Mandela. you want to claim a part of him for yourself for your own electoral gain, for your own advantage...that is what you really mean when you talk about political fortunes.....yours.

    Report this comment

    David

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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