Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has spoke out against the “sanitisation” of Mandela’s story, noting that his allies included nations from the political left, such as the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and Libya.
“The ANC (African National Congress), in order to respond to the racist repression, had to up its game, in terms of its military operations. And in that regard, it received assistance from the then Soviet Union, from someone who is almost universally reviled, Moammar Gadhafi, in Libya, and someone in the western press who is demonized: Fidel Castro,” Gonsalves told Parliament on Tuesday while paying tribute to Mandela.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his fight for freedom and equality for all South Africans, and resorted to peace and reconciliation after his release, died on Thursday.
He was 95.
An official memorial service was held for him in South African on Tuesday, and the Vincentian Parliament had a scheduled meeting that day, during which four MPs paid tribute to the fallen leader.
“We cannot sanitize the history, because if we do so, we will be doing a disservice to Mandela and his ideals,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that Mandela himself had said that his cell door was opened principally by a massive defeat suffered by the South African Army at the famous Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, at the hands of the joint forces of Cuban, Angolan, and ANC forces, who fought to defend Angolan independence.
Gonsalves said that is why when Mandela was released from prison, among the places he visited were the former Soviet Union, Libya and Cuba.
“And when asked by certain right-wing American journalists why he is going to those places, he said in our epic struggle against Apartheid, they were my friends and I am loyal and I am grateful … to those who have helped us,” Gonsalves recounted.
“So that, Mr. Speaker, the notion that is spread by some that a few members of the Apartheid regime had a Damascus like conversion and with the support of constructive engagement that that is what brought about the end of Apartheid, history will show that that is not so.
“And we must speak the truth, because our children and the young people may get a view that Nelson Mandela is just a dignified man who suffered and who is being embraced by celebrity — a sort of Oprah Winfrey. That is not Nelson Mandela,” Gonsalves said.
“The other matter which we must not forget is that Mandela was so convinced of supporting all tendencies towards liberation, it did not matter him the ideological colouration of his allies.
“Those who supported him in freedom and democracy, he went with them,” Gonsalves said, adding that this is why Mandela made important strategic alliances with the South African Communist Party.
He said commanders in the military wing of the ANC were also members of the South American Communist Party.
“We have to remember those who were with him. … but we must not also in honour of Mandela forget person who are not black Africans in South Africa who gave their lives in the struggle….
“Mr. Speaker, we should make an effort in the process from now on, to educate our people more, especially our young people about Mandela, his principles, his time, his work, to lift our understanding and consciousness for the present and for the future, because, of all time, only the future is ours to desecrate. We must try not to desecrate it,” Gonsalves told Parliament.