Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to see a new musical, ‘Madiba’, based on the life of Nelson Mandela. It was staged at the Comedy Theatre, not the obvious venue given the subject.
I well remember the release of Nelson Mandela, February 11th 1990. I’d gone to Chicago (my first trip to USA) and wasn’t following world news. But on that Sunday morning when I woke up intent on a full day’s sightseeing, the schedule had been replaced by live screening of Mandela’s release. I was just transfixed to see world history unrolling before my eyes so sightseeing was put on hold.
The musical follows Mandela’s life from his early career as a lawyer, his arrest in 1964 and conviction followed by life sentence, his release, his election as President in 1994, and the truth and reconciliation movement. It was a truly excellent and moving performance. Should you get the chance to see it, do so.
That said, what we saw in the musical followed western liberal thinking, but having made a few short trips to southern Africa I was reminded of the hypocrisy of some of this thinking.
We were reminded of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre – 69 protestors killed. But what about Mugabe’s Matabeleland massacres – 10,000+ killed – discussed in a piece on The Conversation website: “… The analysis also clearly proves that, even when in receipt of solid intelligence, the UK government’s response was to wilfully turn a “blind eye” to the victims of these gross abuses …“.
We were also reminded that Mrs Thatcher refused to implement sanctions against South Africa and was regularly lectured by other world leaders for her refusal to do so. One such leader was Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia. But what did I see on my short visits to Zambia in 1987-89? I was taken to a government-owned ‘hard currency shop’ (thus effectively open only to the elite and black marketeers). On sale, all sorts of luxury goods that you’d never have found in regular shops, sourced from South Africa. I was so exercised by this that on my return to UK I wrote to the Foreign Office asking for such two-facedness to be publicly exposed. Back came a letter who contents can be summarised as ‘We know. Please don’t tell anyone’. The Conversation’s piece explains all.
And having got international airlines to remove their South African services, Zambian Airways introduced a New York – Monrovia – Lusaka flight which just happened to provide a convenient connection with their Johannesburg flight – funny that!
All this serves as a reminder that real life is not as simple as we are sometimes told it is, and that we need to beware of news and political views shaped by an agenda.