The Nelson Mandela Foundation has noted the most recent criticisms of Nelson Mandela offered by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. It is with weariness that we respond to his rehashing of an old narrative that either ignores, or plays fast and loose with, historical evidence.
While it is true that Madiba initiated “talks about talks” while he was in prison, from its earliest phase the process of negotiation between the African National Congress and the apartheid regime was driven by a collective leadership within the movement. While it is true that concessions were made during the negotiation period, President Mugabe’s critique of South Africa’s negotiated settlement rings hollow indeed. President Mugabe was part of the negotiations that led to a settlement for Zimbabwe, characterised by the same kind of compromises he accuses Madiba of being responsible for in South Africa.
Those who find fault with Madiba’s strategy for making democracy a reality in the 1990s need to reckon with the extent to which the array of special instruments for restitution and reparation he put in place have been ineffective due to failures of implementation in the longer term. In the Zimbabwean case, of course, responsibility for similar failures of implementation rests squarely on the shoulders of the man who has been in power for nearly four decades. In 2008 Madiba spoke of “the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe”. It is not surprising that today South Africa has to find ways to accommodate millions of Zimbabwean migrants fleeing an economy ruined under Mugabe’s endless watch.
The Foundation encourages President Mugabe and anyone who wants to interrogate Madiba’s legacy and question his contribution to the birth of the new South Africa to do so, but to accurately examine relevant evidence and facts. The Foundation remains an institution anyone can visit to interact with and engage on the life and times of Nelson Mandela.