The Battle for Brand Mandela

Tim Butcher, Telegraph (London), July 16, 2011

In a remote corner of the website run by those who look after Nelson Mandela’s affairs is a page that conveys perfectly the acute concern over the legacy of the ageing South African icon. The page is entitled “Fraudulent Activity”.

Beloved by so many, beatified by some, the reality is that there are those who seek to profit fraudulently from association with the man who transcended politics to become a global symbol of decency. And as his passing draws nearer–he turns 93 on Monday, obliged by frailty to withdraw largely from public life–the fear is that exploiters are circling like hyenas around an elderly lion.

Mandela’s advisors have long sought to protect his name. Ten years ago his then lawyer, Ismail Ayob, forced the closure of a Cape Town fast food shop newly opened under the tacky name of “Nelson’s Chicken and Gravy Land”, with a menu offering the Nelson Liberation family meal.

That same lawyer, ironically enough, later resigned as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Trust after being accused of personally profiting from the sale of memorabilia including artworks bearing Mr Mandela’s signature. Mr Ayob denied the allegations but the dispute with a once trusted member of Mr Mandela’s inner circle was bloody and bitter.

Even those involved in uplifting parts of the Mandela narrative have not been spared. Mr Mandela famously invited former guards from his time as a political prisoner of the apartheid regime to attend his inauguration as president in 1994 when minority rule had finally been defeated. More than an act of forgiveness, it was a commitment to the new South Africa, one that is inclusive, seeing beyond ranking by colour.

But when one of those guards, James Gregory, wrote a book about his experience, Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend, later turned into a feature film starring Joseph Fiennes, he was accused of fabricating a close relationship with Mr Mandela for personal gain.

Mr Gregory died of cancer in 2003 but recently the Nelson Mandela Foundation commissioned a South African author, Mike Nicol, to put “the record straight”. The resulting document, “Nelson Mandela’s Warders”, now sits on the foundation’s website, more prominently displayed than the “Fraudulent Activity” page but speaking, none the less, to the same desire to protect what might be called the Mandela brand.

Mr Mandela’s unique status as a brand–a leader who morphed into a symbol warmly regarded around the world–is the fundamental reason for this acute sensitivity over his legacy.

He is bigger than simply a politician representing his beloved African National Congress; than a patrician at the head of a large family (he has three surviving children, 17 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren); than the son of minor Xhosa chief with traditional linkages associated with one of the country’s pre-eminent tribal groups; than a former president of Africa’s most powerful country.

Each of these can lay some sort of proprietary claim to Mr Mandela but the problem is that no single claim is pre-eminent, a recipe for disagreement and, potentially, disaster.

This lack of clarity was behind the terrible muddle concerning Mr Mandela’s health scare earlier this year. For a figure as important as Mr Mandela–when he gets ill the South African stock market dips, the Rand wobbles–it is not enough to say nothing when he is taken to hospital.

But that is what happened as the ANC, the family and the foundation were paralysed. Mr Mandela recovered from what was later diagnosed as a respiratory problem, but the row over who was responsible for the public relations disaster festers on, the foundation privately blaming the party and vice versa.

The lack of clarity over who speaks for Mr Mandela sometimes errs from understandable privacy into aloofness if not secrecy. Years ago I spotted a tiny error in the Long Walk to Freedom, Mr Mandela’s ghost-written autobiography, when he claimed incorrectly to have been interviewed and photographed while a prisoner on Robben Island by journalists from The Daily Telegraph.

No such encounter with representatives of this paper ever took place, but when I politely sought to point out the error to his spokesman I was ignored. The mistake continues in modern editions of the book.

Efforts have been made to sort out potential communication problems. Mr Mandela’s family has sought to work out a common front after years of occasional tension, often between what is known as his “First Family”, the descendants of Evelyn, the woman he divorced in 1958 to marry Winnie, mother of the “Second Family”.

Talks were brokered by 46-year-old Ndileka, Mr Mandela’s oldest grandchild, who proudly describes herself as the “first of the first of the first”–the first child of the first child of the first wife of Mr Mandela–and she pronounced herself happy with the progress.

“My argument was that for all large, high-profile families, and I was meaning people like the Kennedys, the important thing is a united front,” she said. “There were disagreements in the past but after a concerted effort by everyone, now I can say we are something like 80 per cent in agreement, which I think is pretty good. And which family anywhere in the world can say that it has no disagreements?”

But the problem remains that a figure as important as Mr Mandela will be scrutinised closely in every aspect of his life, and sometimes saying nothing leaves a vacuum inviting speculation.

Recently the bodies of the three children of Mr Mandela who have predeceased him–a daughter, Makaziwe, died as an infant in 1948, a son, Thembi, who died in a car accident in 1969, and Makgatho, who died of an Aids-related illness in 2005–were all exhumed.

They were moved from their graves in Qunu, the village in the Eastern Cape where Mr Mandela spent much of his childhood, to Mvezo, another Eastern Cape village where he was born in 1918 before moving to Qunu. Mr Mandela’s oldest male grandson, Mandla, 37, is the local chief in Mvezo and he is believed to have coordinated the exhumations.

Ndileka told The Daily Telegraph that the family was informed of the exhumations and “a consensus was reached after a consultative family process”. She declined to give the reason for the exhumations, while Mandla politely declined to comment at all.

This lack of clarity as to the grounds for the exhumations has fuelled rumours that Mvezo has been chosen as the place where Mr Mandela himself will eventually be buried, not Qunu. It must be hoped nothing has been done that will eventually end up on the “Fraudulent Activity” page.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s very easy to make this cow into a saint. Do what they did with MLK. Tell whole blanket lies about his past and what he stood for. Forget that Mandela was jailed for terrorism and advocating violence, not because he was for “equality”

  • sbuffalonative

    They should do what they did in Washington County, Seattle. Put his image on trash bags.

  • Anonymous

    not too many opportunities out there to endorse terrorist paraphernalia

    “hello my friends, my name is nelson, I don’t always blow up women and children, but when I do, I use acme pipe bombs”

  • Anonymous

    I understand that when Mandela’s case was studied

    by Amnesty International, hardly a conservative group,

    they found that he was, in fact, a murderous terrorist.

  • The Bobster

    Maybe they can raise money by copyrighting his version of “Kill The Boer”.

  • Madison Grant

    The article suggests that when the Mad Bomber of Johannesburg croaks his children and grandchildren will be fighting over the rights to his “brand”.

    Just like the shameless, money-grubbing children of MLK.

  • Majuba

    Let us not forget that Amnesty International attended the famous Rivonia Treason Trial at which Mandela was sentenced. They concluded that he been afforded the full and fair due process of law and that he could not be considered a political prisoner

    UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher branded him a terrorist

    Until recent times he was on the list of persona non grata in the USA for being a terrorist

    During his 27 year incarceration he was twice offered his freedom by Prime Ministers John Vorster (9 years) and PW Botha (19 years) on one condition – that he renounce violence in pursuit of his political objectives. He declined to do so.

    President De Klerk released him unconditionally.

    To this day he has not renounced violence.

    Readers may want to research the Johannesburg Station and Pretoria Church Street bombings to see what this saint was responsible for.

  • Zach Sowers

    I can see the merchandising potential. Nelson Mandela fortified wine. Nelson Mandela malt liquor. Nelson Mandela mentholated cigarettes. Nelson Mandela blunts. Nelson Mandela Fubu-style wear.

    Nelson Mandela, the action figure with special train bomb throwing arm. Press the button and he sings Kill The Boers.

  • Anonymous

    “Mr Ayob denied the allegations but the dispute with a once trusted member of Mr Mandela’s inner circle was bloody and bitter.”

    The dispute was “bloody”, was it? Is the Torygraph using this word metaphorically or literally? Considering this is Africa we’re talking about, the latter wouldn’t surprise me. Was there any “necklacing” involved, or did that go out of style with Winnie Mandela?

    Saint Nelson of the Bush is no stranger to violence. As imperfect as Saint Martin of the Motels was, MLK was at least nominally “a man of peace.” The odious revolutionary communist Mandela is not and never was.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    No such encounter with representatives of this paper ever took place, but when I politely sought to point out the error to his spokesman I was ignored. The mistake continues in modern editions of the book.

    There are a lot of errors in the Mandela legacy as this White-hating, violent terrorist is elevated to world-wide, saintly status. Even noted humanitarian, Muammar Qadhafi, gave Mandela the ‘International Qadhafi Prize for Human Rights.’

    This is Mandela’s rightful legacy, as explained by Jared Taylor:

    Under white rule, South Africa was climbing steadily in the UN’s Human Development Index. It reversed course the first year of black rule and has dropped ever since. South Africa can no longer keep accurate crime statistics, but it is unquestionably one of the most dangerous places on earth. Anyone who can afford to lives in a private fortress, and carjacking is so common it is considered foolish to stop at a red light after dark. Amazon.com limits shipping to South Africa because postal workers steal so many packages. Interpol reports that South Africa has the highest rape rate in the world—and the highest AIDS rate. About one-fifth of South African men admit they have raped a woman, and an estimated 35 percent of the armed forces have AIDS. Race preferences for blacks are so ruthless that approximately 50 percent of white men are self-employed and nearly a million whites have emigrated, most citing crime and race preferences.

    Yeah, some legacy! And Mr. Taylor didn’t even cover the ANC-sanctioned genocide against White farmers in SA.

    Mandela’s legacy? How about this?

    Estimates of those killed in all violent crimes in the country since 1991 total 230,000.

    or this?

    Death toll: 3,798 farmers, smallholders, rural dwellers, murdered up to April 1 2011, 98% of whom are Whites killed by blacks.

    The US stance on genocide? Read on if you what to know what is being taught to American children in American schools:

    GENOCIDE EDUCATION IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

    On November 4, 1988, the United States government ratified the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

    The United States government recognizes that genocide still continues today, in the twenty-first (21st) century.

    The United States Congress passed House Con. Resolution 467, ‘Declaring genocide in Darfur, Sudan’ on July 22, 2004…President George W. Bush… addressed the United Nations General Assembly by saying: ‘At this hour, the world is witnessing terrible suffering and horrible crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan.’

    Murderous, black ANC-sanctioned genocide of Native Born White South Africans?

    Well, THAT’S DIFFERENT! Killing of Whites is promoted and encouraged in the worldwide NWO.

    Bon

    Sources: http://goo.gl/V1kZu

    http://goo.gl/R8dup

  • Bantu Education

    In jail Mandela was able to distance himself from wife Winnie’s “necklacing” campaign which he surely approved of given his own bomb-plotting background and repeated refusal to renounce violence. I believe it is on record that, as a young terrorist leader, he sanctioned cutting off the ears (and no doubt lips, etc) of “collaborators”. If free he would have been enthusiastically ordering such atrocities and the drooling white liberal useful idiots who later created the myth of “Mandela the Merciful” would have been unable to deify their black saint under those circumstances.

    Fact is the hated “apartheid government” saved Mandela’s soul because by keeping him in jail they inadvertently protected him from his own worst instincts thus bequesting him a sanctimonious respectability he never ever deserved.

    Who else amongst the odious band of ANC thugs could gullible guilt-wracked white Safricans have been persuaded to “trust” enough so as to scamper like lemmings to the clifftop by voting themselves into slavery and serfdom?

    It was quite the most insane act of self-sacrifice in all of history. I doubt it can ever be “bettered” for want of a better word. Future editions of books titled “History’s biggest blunders” will have no choice but to place it No 1 on the scale of daftness. Germany’s invasion of Russia (before neutralising Britain) would be way down the list as Hitler would have won if British ships hadnt re-supplied Stalin. In deifying a false black saint for weepy whites to idolise, marxist “anti-racists” consigned South Africa to a historical footnote and its human population to a living hell.

  • François

    Since Blacks have taken over in South Africa, that country went from being a very, very prosperous one, and a leader in certain scientific and medical fields, to being a giant slum. Now, in Johannesburg you can find many, many buildings where the elevators do not work, the toilets are insalubrious, etc, etc.

    Mandela changed South Africa to a Third World country! That’s it. And the Whites who have fond admiration for him and his wife Minnie, probably don’t know about the ANC’s method of torture called “the necklace”…

  • Sardonicus

    Anyone interested in the apotheosis of Nelson Mandela should read Ilana Mercer’s: “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa”. A former liberal herself, Ilana Mercer’s father was a well-known anti-apartheid activist, who worked tirelessly against the white in South Africa.. She chronicles her own personal disillusionment with the corruption and incompetence of the ANC along the rising tide of black on white violence (her relatives being victims) and the slow genocide of White Boer farmers –going on in South Africa as you read this.

  • South African

    Let the pictures speak more than a thousand words. Old clips about the terror bombings in the 1980’s in South Africa, most of them by the Soviet SPM limpet mine. One cannot believe the punch one of those limpet mines can deliver.

    I witnessed the aftermath of the Sterland bomb in Pretoria. Sterland was a movie theater with ice-rink visited by many teenagers.

    Onslaught against the Peoples of SA – Part one, two and three, starting here (you have to log in due to the scenes of violence):

    http://goo.gl/sK7QA