The late Nelson Mandela
The late Nelson Mandela

After my imprisonment for anti-apartheid activities, I spent some years at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva as an accredited Representative of the victims of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa. One of my many duties was to call for the release of all political prisoners in this country and expose the barbarism of apartheid colonialism. Some of these prisoners were Mangaliso Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela, Zephania Mothopeng, Walter Sisulu, Nyati Pokela, Govan Mbeki and Jafta Masemola.

When I spoke in Parliament on the 90th birthday of President Nelson Mandela, I said, “It is an extra-ordinary birthday of a man who has lived his life for others, sometimes at the expense of his own people, in the quest to harmonise humanity.” I received the news of the departure of President Nelson Mandela from this planet on 5th December 2013. On that day, I was commemorating the birthday of Prof Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, the founding President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania, for whom the apartheid colonialist regime had a special law called “Sobukwe Clause.” This law enabled this regime to imprison him on Robben Island without even a mock court trial.

Some of the things I admired about President Mandela were humour, tolerance and perseverance in struggle. I believe diligence as well. He was a hard-working person. My disappointment is that I think the peopled with whom, he negotiated freedom in South Africa did not respond as they should have done. They wanted to eat their cake and still have it. They took the magnanimity of the colonially land robbed Africans of Azania (South Africa) for political imbecility.

Through the Native Land Act 1913, the British colonial government allocated the then five million Africans only 7% of their land and gave its European colonial settlers numbering 387,349 souls 93% of the African country. This law is now disguised as “abolished” in Section 25(7) of the “New South Africa” constitution. Even though, the Native Trust Land Act 1936 added a mere 6% of land to make it 13%.

The freedom fighters of this country, especially those who belonged to the military wings of the Pan Africanist Congress (the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army) and to the African National Congress (Umkhonto Wesizwe) were imprisoned after being paraded before the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (TRC) with the perpetrators of apartheid. As we speak, many freedom fighters such as Kenny Motsamai are still in jail. This is despite the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid through which the United Nations declared apartheid a crime against humanity. This has now passed as “miracle” and “rainbow nation.”

The consequences of wrong political response to the statesmanship of President Mandela by the representatives of the apartheid colonialist regime are that in South Africa today, there are “two nations.” One is extremely rich and white settler minority. Another one is extremely poor and 79.2% African majority. Mandela’s greatest contribution is that he tried his best to secure a prosperous and happy future for everyone in South Africa, but greed on the part of the forces of apartheid backed by the West, simply did not use the golden opportunity that President Mandela gave them. They did not respond to the South African political situation on equally magnanimous terms and in the spirit of justice. The victims of apartheid gave far more to “reconciliation” than the perpetrators of colonialism and apartheid.

The passing on of Nelson Mandela is a serious challenge to this country to rise to the occasion and ensure that there is equitable redistribution of land and its resources according to population number. The Marikana Massacre of African workers has already sent a signal that something urgent must be done to intensify the economic and social emancipation of the African majority in Azania for the good of everyone. The African people cannot live like slaves in their own country perpetually. The poverty, the filthy inhuman shacks in which millions live must go. Azania (South Africa) is four times the size of Britain and Northern Ireland combined and richer in natural resources. Indeed, liberation without repossession of land and its resources by the dispossessed is a gigantic colonial fraud.

The effects of the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference must be banished from the shores of Africa. Perhaps, now that the greedy ones missed the “Mandela magic,” the hope for genuine freedom, will lie in the words of James Russell when he said, “Truth is forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future and behind the dim unknown stands God within the shadow of keeping watch above His people.”

Farewell Madiba! You have done your share. You have shown the light. Let all the people of the world who cherish human freedom regardless of race, nationality and class walk in this light from Africa. Greet Sobukwe, Sisulu, Lembede and all African heroes for Africa’s total liberation. Remember Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Marcus Garvey and Malcom X.

By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is a former Member of the South African Parliament as well as former President of the PAC. He is also a historian, political scientist, lawyer, theologian and author of several books.


  1. If Mandela was this holly black Jesus , why our African people are still struggling , landless and living in the poverty stricken ghettos , unemployed , dying from Aids etc , where’s our white persecutors are living the lavish life in our own land of birth , They are raping our land for mineral resources every day and night , our first grades of fruits , marine living resources you name them , are exported to West and we as the legitimate children of this soil we are benefiting nothing . So what kind of a FREEDOM did this man struggle for ???

  2. Dr Pheko writes that he was disappointed that the people with whom Nelson Mandela negotiated did not respond the way they should have. Unfortunately this is not a true reflection of the situation. Mr Mandela had a choice to move away from the disastrous free market capitalism. But he did not. I have sent a website to Mayihlome which has a series of articles for readers to read for themselves what legacy Mr Mandela and the ANC elite bequeathed to Africans. Let me remind readers that the late Zeph Mothopeng was critical of Mandela’s secret negotiations with leaders of the Apartheid regime because he understood that it would lead to disastrous consequences. He said, “prisoners were not free to negotiate” since Mandela started negotiating with leaders of the apartheid government in 1981 when he was still in jail. Mothopeng also refused to meet with Mandela in a meeting contrived by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in early 1990. By skirting around this critical issue as members of the PAC we are insulting the memory of Zeph Mothopeng and distorting and disfiguring our past out of shape. While we can’t rejoice when one of us has passed away, we must be truthful in our assessment of their role when they were still alive. We must pass the lessons of history to posterity to avoid making past mistakes. The corporate media wants to dissuade us from from properly assessing the disastrous legacy Mandela bequethed to us. The imperialists are mourning the death of Mandela because they benefitted from the concessions he consciously made and not because people with whom he negotioted didn’t respond the way they should have.

  3. Nkosazana Zuma must stop claiming that mandela was a Pan Africanist , she know that mandela was anti-Pan Africanism and pro charterism , mandela was anti Africa and pro America , he served the interest of the West and white minority of South Africa not of African people , so she must stop coming up with her cheap politics of charterism

  4. Motsoko Pheko has done the right thing in paying tribute to Mandela. I have also done that, and I had ideological differences with him. Let us remember that we are Africans ALL the time, and not be selective especially in the way we conduct ourselves just because we do not like what we see or the person we are dealing with or talking about in death. Mandela after all is an African, he is one of us, irrespective of how we may have differed with him when he was alive. Let us show respect and act in accordance with who we really are for others to learn from, especially those that some among us are still angry with as our former oppressors. We respect abalele ukuthula in African culture, let us be true to who we are at all times! I am not worried because I know the truth outlives lies and fraud, it is one of those quirky natural phenomena which eats and gnaws at lies from inside. But that is another discussion for another time; let us bury one of our own with dignity because indeed Mandela did suffer for his political beliefs just like many of us in varying degrees. He is the son of the soil of this grand beautiful continent of ours, and has paid his dues. Enkosi.

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