Monday, December 23, 2013

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Nelson Mandela

1. Mandela’s tribal nickname is “Rolihlahla,” meaning “Troublemaker.”

Other accounts translate Rolihlalhla to mean “to pull a branch from a tree,” which, of course, is something only a troublemaker would do. It was his teacher, Miss Mdingane, who gave him the English name “Nelson,” much to the relief of journalists everywhere when he became famous.

2. Mandela was expelled from university after less than a year.

After finishing boarding school, Mandela headed to Fort Hare Missionary College. Less than 12 months later, he was expelled from college for helping to organize a strike against the white colonial rule of the institution. One might call this foreshadowing.

3. The United Nations decreed his birthday as Mandela Day.

In 2009, the U.N. declared Mandela’s birthday, July 18, as Mandela Day to mark his contribution to world freedom. The holiday calls on individuals to donate 67 minutes to doing something for others, reflecting the 67 years that Mandela had been a part of the anti-apartheid movement.

4.  Mandela is often referred to as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name.

Mandela was a member of the Thembu, a Xhosa clan, and was often referred to by his clan name, Madiba. It is a sign of the incredible diversity of people and languages in South Africa. The country has 11 different official languages.

5. Mandela’s father had four wives, and Nelson is one of 13 children.

Mandela’s father, a local chief and councellor to the Thembu king, died from tuberculosis when his son was 9. Before that, he fathered 13 children by four wives, four boys and nine  girls. After his father’s death, Mandela was put under the guardianship of Jongintaba, the Thembu regent.

6. Mandela has received more than 250 awards for his accomplishments.

Among these awards is the shared 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid government of South Africa (he too is widely credited as an instrumental force in ending apartheid). Additionally, Mandela had received more than 50 honorary degrees from international universities worldwide, became the first honorary Canadian citizen in 2001, and received the last Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.

7. Stevie Wonder dedicated his 1985 Oscar for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” to Mandela.

After Stevie accepted his award in honor of Nelson Mandela, the government-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation banned Stevie’s music from the airways. It wasn’t until Mandela was elected in 1994 that Stevie was finally allowed back in South Africa.

8. Mandela outlived his two oldest sons.

Mandela had six children, but tragically lost his two oldest sons. Thembi died in a car crash at age 25. Mandela was in prison at the time of the death and was unable to attend the funeral. Another son died of AIDS in 2005 at age 54. While Mandela’s administration was criticized for not doing enough to fight the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, he established the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 following his retirement to help fight the spread of AIDS.

9. Mandela ran away from home at age of 19.

When his guardian tried to arrange a marriage, Mandela ran away from home in 1941 and headed to Johannesburg. He began to work as a night watchman at Crown Mines, but was fired after it was discovered that he was the Thembu regent’s runaway.

10. Mandela spent his first night after being freed from prison in Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s home.

Tutu had his helpers prepare his own favorite meal of chicken curry, rice and green salad, followed by rum raisin ice cream and custard.

One thing we need to know about Nelson Mandela is that he had the key in his pocket to get out of jail any time during his sentence. All he needed to do was to renounce terrorism as an instrument of political action. He refused.

Mandela and the Mossad

How Israel courted Black Africa

The unknown story of how Israel secretly trained anti-apartheid activists in 'judo, sabotage and weaponry,' including Nelson Mandela himself.

In all the exhaustive coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death and his equivocal attitude towards the Jewish State, one episode that sheds new light on this relationship has been waiting in Israel's National Archive to be told.
We need to go back to the early 1960s. Israel was keen to court the recently decolonized African states and so went out of its way to show solidarity with the latter by consistently voting in UN resolutions condemning the apartheid state and the regime behind it.
This was not without consequence for the South African Jewish community, who found themselves the recipients of the wrath of Prime Minister Verwoerd and his Foreign Minister Eric Louw, yet it did endear Israel to the anti-apartheid movements. The ANC itself, then led by Oliver Tambo, penned a letter from London to Israel’s President Yitzhak Ben Zvi thanking him for Israel’s actions at the United Nations.
Roughly three months before Tambo dispatched this letter, on 11 October, 1962, a letter was sent from what is likely to be a Mossad operative, Y. Ben Ari at Israel’s embassy in Ethiopia to the Israeli Foreign Office Africa desk containing the following information:
As you may recall, three months ago we discussed the case of a trainee who arrived at the [Israeli] embassy in] Ethiopia by the name of David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia. The aforementioned received training from the Ethiopian [Israeli embassy staff, almost certainly Mossad agents] in judo, sabotage and weaponry.
He greeted our men with “Shalom”, was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual. The staff tried to make him into a Zionist.
It now emerges from photographs that have been published in the press about the arrest in South Africa of the “Black Pimpernel” that the trainee from Rhodesia used an alias, and the two men are one and the same.
Before coming to Ethiopia he was in Accra (where he met Nkrumah and his advisors), Lagos and Tanganyika. In Ethiopia he was trained in various kinds of light weaponry (including Israeli). In conversations with him he expressed socialist worldviews, and at times created the impression that he leaned towards communism.
He showed an interest in the methods of the Haganah and other Israeli underground movements.
In response, 13 days later, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that the 'Black Pimpernel' was in fact Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who the year before had arranged a nationwide strike and thereafter went into hiding. 'Black Pimpernel' was the code name for Nelson Mandela used by the South African authorities who were hunting him. Curiously they also mention that he was considered by ANC supporters and many others as the most important person in his movement, despite the fact that Albert Luthuli was still the elected president-general of the ANC.
So, Nelson Mandela, under an alias, learnt weapons and sabotage techniques from embassy staff who were likely Mossad agents, whilst being gently prompted to become a supporter of the Jewish state.
This episode is remarkable for a number of reasons. First of all, Mandela was in no way a lone participant in a covert Israeli training program: Israel had established ties with various movements considered subversive by the South African government. A number of Israeli embassies stationed in Africa provided training, advice and transport vehicles to members of the Pan Africanist Congress, including Potlkako Leballo, the head of its militant Poqo wing. Since the PAC was considered anti-Communist and not aligned with the Soviet Union, they were more attractive for a prospect for Israel to deal with than the ANC. Yet what makes this tentative contact with the pre-incarcerated Mandela so fascinating is his willingness to engage with these Israelis in the first place.
The golden era of cooperation between Israel and African liberation movements continued through the 1960s. Golda Meir, as Foreign Minister and ardent admirer of black Africa, called for leniency in the Rivonia trial and for the commutation of any death sentence.
The Israeli National Archives' public relations office, and the Israeli press in its wake, have been careful to point out Golda Meir's actions and the public face of Israel's support for anti-apartheid activists. While this is an admirable instance of humanitarian activism, however, it hardly tells the whole story. Israel's history with South Africa is marked not only by cultivating relationships with those opposed to apartheid, but also by exacerbating tensions with these very same groups and individuals after the Israel: liberation movements' honeymoon came to an end.
A historian should not hypothesize as to what would have happened had Mandela not been caught and tried by the South African authorities. Nor what would have been the consequences had Israel, following its abandonment by Black Africa in the 1970s, not fostered such warm ties with the Apartheid regime. Yet this episode does go some way in showing that the tensions that now exist were not inescapable.
Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 placed Israel in a quandary. After almost two decades of actively supporting the apartheid regime it had to come to terms with the fact that South Africa was reversing course and was undergoing a transitional phase which would inevitably lead to the end of white rule in the Republic.
Yet Israel's ambassador to South Africa at the time, Zvi Gov-Ari, appeared to be ill-equipped to adjust himself to the new situation. Thus instead of trying to cultivate ties with the recently unbanned ANC, Israel’s representative in Pretoria made the double faux pas of criticizing Mandela, the movement’s de facto leader, while at the same time expressing a preference for Mangosuthu Buthelezi, widely perceived as a black puppet for the Nationalist Government. It is perhaps no wonder that Israel Maisels, a major Jewish and Zionist leader and one of the lead defense attorneys in the Rivonia trial, did not think highly of the ambassador, referring to him as that “bloody stupid fellow” (quoted in Cutting through the Mountain: Interviews with South African Jewish Activists [1997], edited by Immanuel Sutner).
Back in Israel, the venerable English-language Jerusalem Post, which at that time was doing its best to show how loyal it was to the Likud government, was probably reflecting the government's opinion when it predicted on June 25, 1991 that “if ANC leader Nelson Mandela assumes power in South Africa it will certainly not be a democracy…If he or his like rule South Africa, the country will be an unmitigated totalitarian disaster and an economic basket case." Further underlining its dire predictions, the newspaper declared:
“If full, non-segregated political equality is achieved in South Africa, it will not be the violent ANC, whose membership is 300,000, that will rule. The Zulus and their followers, numbering six million; the three million coloreds (people of mixed blood) who have been alienated by the ANC's Communist ideas; the million Indians, and the five million whites will probably form the ruling coalition one day. Only then is there a chance that South Africa will be both free and prosperous”.
No one knows whether Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his cabinet honestly thought that Mandela had no political future in South Africa, but its persistent backing of the old regime only came to an end with the ascension to power of Yitzhak Rabin and his Labor Party. With the appointment of Dr. Alon Liel, a seasoned diplomat and close ally of Yossi Beilin, one of Israel’s most vociferous critics of the white regime, Israel managed to salvage some of the damage by cultivating ties with the ANC.
Indeed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of 1993 provided Israel with an even greater opportunity to reconcile itself with an ANC now in government which was both supportive and thankful for the prospects of a peaceful resolution between the Jewish State and its Palestinian counterpart. Sadly, as the Oslo process fell apart, relations between Israel and the Republic continued to be strained, as they do to this day.
With Mandela’s death, Israel once again had the opportunity of mending at least some of the damage it had caused in the past, by sending a top-level delegation which would include at least the head of government or the head of state. It failed, opting instead to send the Knesset's speaker. Unfortunately Israel has shown, more from folly than malice, that it serially misunderstands the new South Africa, and the repercussions will be felt not only in the international diplomatic arena but also by the Jewish community of South Africa itself.


Archive reveals Israel's Mossad trained Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Israeli Mossad agents operating in Ethiopia in 1962 unwittingly trained Nelson Mandela in hand-to-hand combat, weaponry and sabotage, according to a document released by Israel's state archives.

A letter from a Mossad official to the foreign ministry, dated October 11, 1962 titled "THE BLACK PIMPERNEL" and released to the public on Sunday, recalls a conversation in which "we discussed a trainee in Ethiopia named David Mobasari, from Rhodesia".
"The aforementioned was trained by the Ethiopians in Judo, sabotage and weapons," the letter read.
"The Black Pimpernel" was the nickname given at the time to Mandela, the revered anti-apartheid hero and former ANC leader who died this month, while he was on the run from white South Africa during the liberation struggle.
According to Haaretz newspaper, which first reported the story, the term "Ethiopians" was probably a code name for Israeli Mossad agents working in Ethiopia.
"He greeted our men with (Hebrew salutation) 'Shalom', was familiar with the problems of (Jewish diaspora) and Israel and created the impression of an educated man," the letter read.
"The Ethiopians tried to make him a Zionist."
"It now emerges from photographs in newspapers on the arrest of the Black Pimpernel in South Africa that the trainee from Rhodesia was using a pseudonym, and the two are actually the same person," the letter read.
According to the letter, Mandela took an interest in the methods of the Hagana and Jewish militias that existed before Israel's creation in 1948.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, however, said in a statement that "it has not located any evidence in Nelson Mandela's private archive (which includes his 1962 diary and notebook) that he interacted with an Israeli operative during his tour of African countries in that year".
Mandela "received military training from Algerian freedom fighters in Morocco and from the Ethiopian Riot Battalion at Kolfe outside Addis Ababa, before returning to South Africa in July 1962," the foundation said.
"In 2009 the Nelson Mandela Foundation's senior researcher travelled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela's training -- no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection," it added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was chastised at home for not going to Mandela's funeral because of "high costs", with a parliamentary delegation attending instead.
Israel was one of South Africa's closest allies when Pretoria, which had imprisoned Mandela, was facing UN-led sanctions in the late 1970s.