By Dr. Gatluak Ter Thach*
June 27, 2017 (SSNA) — In June 1961, African National Congress (ANC), the current Republic of South Africa’s governing social democratic political party’s executive, considered Nelson Mandela’s suggestion on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so, and this led to the formation of “Umkhonto we Sizwe,” a violent force—and because of that group, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years of imprisonment with hard labor.
In 1963, many of his fellow leaders at the ANC and the Umkhonto were also arrested together with Mandela and brought to trial for conspiracy of trying to overthrow the government by violence. Sounds familiar, right? But Nelson Mandela’s statements during the trial received considerable attention in South Africa and all over the world, especially in the United States and Europe. However, on June 12, 1964, eight of the accusers, including Mandela, were sentenced to life in prison, but this was not the end of the history.
From 1964 to 1982, Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robin Island Prison near Cape Town, South Africa and then he was taken to Polls Moor Prison on the Mainland. During Nelson Mandela years in prison, his reputation grew for positive change in South Africa. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa, and he became a powerful symbol of resistance as the anti-Apartheid Movement gathered strength. He communicated with his supporters while in prison, and he encouraged their efforts to continue with the course as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had also advocated. Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990, after serving twenty-seven years.
Like South African’s Apartheid Movement had done to Nelson Mandela, the current Republic of South Africa’s governing social democratic political party (ANC) is doing the same thing now to an innocent South Sudanese political leader, Dr. Riek Machar in South Africa. There is a speculation that South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a deal with the South Sudanese regime to retain South Sudanese’s opposition leader on an assumption that keeping him away from returning to his country will empower his political opponent to bring to an end the crisis in the country. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-southsudan-exclusive-idUSKBN1421YZ.
It is a human right violation to impede individual’s political and civil right. In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December, 1966, in accordance with Article 49 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights, considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms, ” (ICCPR, 1966). It is an insult as well to deny someone his rights of travels, because of a monetary compensation. https://africanspress.org/2017/05/24/breaking-news-2-millions-dollars-receives-by-south-africans-embassy-in-washington-to-keep-dr-riek-machar-in-south-africa/
Dr. Riek Machar is an opposition leader with an overwhelming support in the country. It is a mistake for the South African governing party and the international community to think isolation as such would bring a lasting peace in the country. Like Nelson Mandela, who believed all South Africans can live together regarding of their political, economic, ethnicities, Dr. Riek Machar believes peace can be achieved in South Sudan if everyone does their parts and people can live together irrespective of tribes or creeds. Dr. Riek Machar went to Juba, South Sudan Capitol in 2016 while his supporters and sympathizers did not trust his political opponent and believed he was risking his life by going to Juba for an implemented peace.
Even though spokesperson of South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has denied the claims of South African government’s taking bribes from President Kiir’s government, some revealing evidence suggested that South Sudanese’s opposition leader is being blocked from going back to his country on a ransom deal. http://theinsider.ug/index.php/2017/04/29/south-sudan-pays-south-africa-450000-a-month-to-keep-dr-machar-silent-and-in-a-guarded-premise-in-pretoria/.
Nelson Mandela would not be pleased if he has to rise up and see what has become the new South African’s ANC. Mandela changed an organizational system of ANC when it divided people along racial lines and/or involved in different activities. Mandela joined ANC in 1944 and engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies, and his actions got him in trouble, but he finally was able to manage the change he wanted. When compare and contrast leadership competencies, Mandela was a unique human being. Like President George Washington, Mandel held office to practice good leadership, not to hold on power or involve in a bribery business. As Mandela, Washington chose to stay on the presidency for just two terms. Had he claimed to be a king, or refused democracy, US would be a different nation today.
After Mandela was released from the prison due to international pressure, including pressure from the United States, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life’s work. He strived to attain the goals he and other leaders had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, the first national conference of the ANC, since the organization was banned in 1960, was held in South Africa and in 1994, and Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa. What makes his example more important to me was his ability to encourage and motivate his followers throughout the world to work for freedom regardless of the situation he had found himself in.
For someone who almost died in jail to gain power and then freely give it back to his people is an extraordinary example for others to follow, and ANC governing party should not do away with Mandela’s core legacy by denying an important political icon in South Sudan his political freedom. Whether it is true or not, blocking Dr. Riek Machar from traveling and participating in the political process in South Sudan due to the monetary means or else will delay the peace process and continue the suffering of the people of South Sudan: http://theinsider.ug/index.php/2017/04/29/south-sudan-pays-south-africa-450000-a-month-to-keep-dr-machar-silent-and-in-a-guarded-premise-in-pretoria/
Dr. Riek is the Mandela of South Sudan. He is the remaining hope people of South Sudan still have and believe through him South Sudan will come out of this man-made crisis and become the peaceful and developing nation in the region. South Africa’s ANC governing party must free Dr. Riek Machar to join the peace process in South Sudan. I believe South Africa will not solely live into the lasting legacy of Pres. Nelson Mandela, but it will also continue to demonstrate the great leadership in the African continent for a possible replication.
The author lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. He can be reached at [email protected].