South Africa: #HowMandelaSoldUsOut

An open letter to Nelson Mandela published on News24 has prompted mixed reactions online. The letter, written by a person using the name Youngster, argues that Mandela sold out black South Africans during a series of negotiations that ended the Apartheid system.

The letter begins:

Dear Former President Nelson Mandela,

I understand that you had meetings between 1985-1990 with P. W. Botha to have a negotiated settlement. Revered late ANC President, Oliver Reginald Tambo, referring to your meetings with the colonial-apartheid regime in the crucial 1980s, said “Prisoners can’t negotiate their freedom”.

I have read that according to aged ANC veterans, Tambo seemed disturbed about senior members of the leadership including you, who could have compromised the organisation. He seemed to question whom to trust. This, according to those veterans, eventually led to Tambo’s first stroke.

In 1990 before you were released from prison you assured your supporters that the nationalisation of mines, banks and minerals were on the cards. That belief had formed the core doctrine of the ANC and was enshrined in a document known as The Freedom Charter.

“The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil; the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industries and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people,” the charter states.

It later emerged that you and other ANC leaders were busily creatively re-interpreting the “Freedom Charter’s” commitment to nationalisation in order to comfort the monopoly white capitalists.

A potrait of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Photo relesead under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) by Flickr user Abode of Chaos.

To support his argument, the author points out three failed key areas during the negotiations: failed transfer of power during negotiations, failed economic negotiations and state ownership of the Reserve Bank and failed rainbow-nation coated myth.

The letter concludes:

The current state

The unemployment crisis is also defined along racial lines due to the fact that in the third quarter of 2010, 29.80% of blacks were officially unemployed, compared with 22.30% of coloureds, 8.60% of Asians and only 5.10% of whites. About 12 million of the population lives on less than R2.50 per day, whilst 16 million South Africans receive social grants.

In terms of racial distribution of per capita income, African and coloured income levels in 2008 were still only 13% and 22% respectively of white per capita income, compared to 10.9% and 19.3% in 1993. The income gap for Indians has narrowed, with Indian per capita income in 2008 standing at 60% of those of whites as against 42% in 1993.

In 1995, median per capita expenditure among Africans was R333 a month compared to whites at R3 443 a month. In 2008, median expenditure per capita for Africans was R454 a month compared to whites at R5 668 a month. Source: [Leibbrandt, M. et al. (2010), “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid”]

Fiery debate ensued immediately after the letter went online. The hashtag #HowMandelaSoldUsOut has been trending on Twitter.

Voices opposing the letter:

@AnneLeonardPta: @AdrianaStuijt #HowMandelaSoldUsOut Just the really dumb people don't see what he and De Klerk had done for RSA [Republic of South Africa].

@KINGLEKWENE: #HowMandelaSoldUsOut truth hurts, even Winnie Mandela once talked about this in USA.

@mattstroucken: Interesting responses to #HowMandelaSoldUsOut. If you're going to write a letter like that, at least have the balls to put your name to it.

@TheRealSyfo: SA should stop having the sense of being owed something.Tata is but one guy.WHAT have U done for U?#HowMandelaSoldUsOut 4 complacent brats

@CroWill: #HowMandelaSoldUsOut < – can sum1 plz explain this to me , last time I checked Mandela was a hero!! #ilovemandela

@pvanheus: #HowMandelaSoldUsOut ignores the role that entrepeurship and work discipline (not redistribution) played in ANC discourse since the 1940s

@TheRealSyfo: SA black youths tendency to be automatic victims.give me a job,u sold me out,u are racist.Mandela played his part.#HowMandelaSoldUsOut?

@IR_Rusten: its the state of our political “system” that sold us out #howmandelasoldusout

@zandernwn: #howmandelasoldusout See this is why I refuse to read columnists on news24… Its absolute rubish – the columns and their comments!

@st3lz: Why is #HowMandelaSoldUsOut a trend?

@icebrk: im heart broken of the fact that #HowMandelaSoldUsOut is still trending..

Voices in support of Youngster's argument and conclusion:

@MichaelMacklin1: Is #HowMandelaSoldUsOut really so worthless as to be worth dismissing? I don't think so. Deeply uncomfortable but not valueless

@Youngster_Cam: @News24 Thank you for the platform for us as South Africans to have a serious debate about the “Demi-God” Mandela. #HowMandelaSoldUsOut

@Mohmoe: Smbdy paints an elder wif his p*** (freedom of speech) sum1 else writes his opinion abt a hero (lunatic, ungrateful) #HowMandelaSoldUsOut

*Note: The tweep above is referring to a painting by South African artist Brett Murray depicting South African president's genitals.

Sydelle Willow Smith links to the story on her Facebook page and says:

yoh yoh yoh. somebody finally had the balls to say it.

Farah Hernandez Martinez simply says:


Jonathan Bane comments on Sydelle's Facebook page:

The people played the pivotal role, Mandela – and the ANC generally – rode on their backs, then signed agreements and implemented economic policies that would ultimately ensure the unaltered dominance of apartheid-era white capital..not to mention invading a neighbouring country to quash a pro-democratic uprising, taking bribes from dictators etc.

Leaving a comment on news24, proudlysa says:

Youngster – You are MY NEW HERO – You have taken up courage and stated the FACTS as they are and that has left a bitter sour taste in many people's mouths due to the fact that many whites and unfortunately a hand full of blacks are in denial about the status we are in.

The letter came out as Mandela and the whole world was celebrating his 94th birthday.

1 comment

  • Brianrolfeart

    Yes I agree that it might seem like a sell out but
    imagine the converse; civil unrest and killings of groups of inocent people an all sides. But today the present government should have the balls to change the freedom charter and push for huge changes in land transformation and employment, housing, education and human settlements. If there is an emphasis on this in stead of the ANC clinching onr deal after the other for a selected few individuals, we can change this country radically.

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