Feeling soaked after the gushers of drenching hagiography that crashed over the world on the death of the Nelson Mandela, I have been trying to reconcile what I know with what we are supposed to believe.
For example, I know Mandela was a founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the combat wing of the African National Congress, which was closely allied with the South African Communist Party. Starting in 1961, MK carried out hundreds of bombings, including of civilian targets. When Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964, I know his crime was sabotage and related charges -- not political opposition to apartheid, as we are supposed to believe, at least if those comparisons to symbols of non-violence, from Martin Luther King to, yes, Jesus Christ, are to stick.
Another founder of MK was Ronnie Kasrils, a Soviet-trained, South African Communist agent and militant, who, decades later, would serve President Mandela and then President Thabo Mbeki (also Soviet trained) in post-apartheid South African governments as a senior defense and later intelligence official. I mention Kasrils because two years after Mandela's 1990 release from prison, Mandela and Kasrils were filmed in a group singing an MK song pledging to "kill the whites" -- referring, of course, to white South Africans.
You can find this shocking singalong on Youtube, even if it didn't appear on CNN -- or, for that matter, Fox. Clearly, even such old footage complicates the hagiographic process. Meanwhile, in 2012, the current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, also an MK alumnus, took the public occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ANC, to sing "Shoot the Boer" -- a variation on this same theme. Weirdly, visible in the Zuma video (also on Youtube) is the same fake sign language "translator" whose bizarre appearance at the Mandela funeral caused a large security breach and even a small media ruckus.
What still escapes the world's lens, however, is what this means. A rainbow did indeed arc over the building where Mandela lay in state, as the media breathlessly reported, but they continue to ignore the fact that in post-apartheid South Africa, white farmers, their families and farm workers are being targeted and brutally murdered in alarming numbers. The respected human rights organization Genocide Watch last year investigated and categorized the crisis as Stage 6 out of 8 stages of genocide. Mandela will always be known for striving for racial reconciliation, but, as South African-born journalist Ilana Mercer has pointed out, he never condemned this systematic, ongoing murder campaign.
In other words, there is more to see than what appears in the Mandela mirror.