Traffic By Kip Koehler Antiquated street light system
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A portrait of two Nelson Mandelas
By Cal Thomas
When John Lofton of The Washington Times and I were granted an interview with Nelson Mandela inside Pollsmoor Prison near Capetown, South Africa, in August 1985, it was a rare occurrence, personally approved by then-South African President P.W. Botha over the objections of his foreign minister.
Mandela gave us a tour of the prison. The guards, apparently, allowed him to roam almost at will. He showed us a small garden he tended of which he seemed proud.
The first thing we noticed about him was his gentle spirit. Whether this was the result of more than two decades in prison that had robbed him of the fire that raged in his revolutionary belly as a younger man, I could not say. When we sat down in a sparse room to interview him, guards would not allow any recording, only handwritten notes.
The Mandela celebrated by world leaders following his death was not the Mandela we interviewed. He received a life sentence in 1964 for attempting to sabotage the apartheid government, but had been offered his freedom several times. He only had to promise not to engage in any more violence. Mandela told us, however, that if he were released from prison he would be back "in a day," because he saw "no alternative" to violent revolution to end apartheid. There's no room for "peaceful struggle," said the man who would upon his release engage in peaceful struggle that would result in his becoming the first black South African president.
In an address just days before our visit, President Botha told an audience in Durban, South Africa, about a court document in Mandela's handwriting which read, "We Communist Party members are the most advanced revolutionaries in modern history ... the enemy must be completely crushed and wiped out from the face of the earth before a communist world can be realized."
When asked about this, Mandela admitted writing those words, but claimed they had been taken "out of context." He denied in court that he was a communist.
Let us charitably assume the best about a man revered by many who ended an evil and gave his country an opportunity to build something better.