Green Shadow Cabinet Reflects on Nelson Mandela

Happy birthday to the revered Nelson Mandela

July 18, 2013

Dr. Walter Tsou, Surgeon General

Nelson Mandela turns 95 today.  A big, big happy birthday to the man who symbolizes the dreams of South Africa.  Even better news is that media reports suggest that his health is improving.

Mandela, past leader of the African National Congress was jailed for 27 years in a prison on Robben Island.  He triumphantly returned to become president of South Africa in 1994 and has changed the country from an apartheid culture to one where there is once again hope of democracy.  South Africa today has the feel and vibrancy of a new, emerging nation.  The vestiges of apartheid still remain, but it is palpably waning and power is shifting to the indigenous South Africans who lived for decades under an oppressive Afrikaner political structure.

Mandela served for only five years as president – remarkably short by political standards.  But he led by example welcoming all races to South Africa.  Equality and empowerment infuses the new South Africa.   It is part of everyone who lives here.  He is rightfully revered.  This is Mandela’s spirit and it will be his continuing living legacy.

Dr. Walter Tsou serves as Surgeon General in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.

Mandela gave strength to American Indian nations
July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to an inspirational man of the millennium, from one tribal member to another. As a Dine (Navajo) woman, I recognize that Mr. Mandela has always spoke out on the injustices of apartheid over the many decades. When he was born, us American Indian Nations were still fighting our battles over land and resources. In 1913, the Mescalero Apaches were released from Fort Sill Prison after 26 years of incarceration. Our histories share the horror and today we still see the subtle yet, deadly genocidal indigenous policies.Mr. Mandela, you gave us resisters, protectors of water, land, air and fire the strength to fight for justice here in the United States. We are still prisoners of war on our own lands.  When tars sands, coal, uranium, oil, gas and timber industries still plunder our earth mother and father sky. We remember our creators teachings to protect the creation.WE thank YOU and we thank  your mother and father for your life and sharing with the world.

Anna Marie Rondon serves as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Nelson Mandela is looked to with affection and respect from around the world not because he’s been the toughest or the meanest or the most intimidating leader around.  Mandela is looked to because — while making no claims to perfection — he has demonstrated the effectiveness of applying to public policy the admirable qualities we aspire to in our personal lives: empathy, restraint, affection, mutual respect, compromise, sacrifice, forgiveness, dedication.

Let me be clear: he didn’t lead in a manner packaged with sentimentality.  He led in a manner that achieved shockingly swift and far-reaching and lasting successes, because of the values that guided his approach.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that he shared with F.W. de Klerk, Mandela first congratulated de Klerk, and then credited the example of Martin Luther King. Jr.  Then Mandela credited the work of millions of people who had brought about positive change without violence.

Admirers of Mandela and of King must work to keep alive their legacy, as valuable lessons are always in danger of being lost.  The current U.S. president explicitly rejected Dr. King’s example in his own Nobel acceptance speech, and spoke not of the work of millions in a nonviolent movement, rather of the power and responsibility of himself and his military.  Professor Cornel West on Democracy Now on Monday connected current thinking about domestic and foreign policies when he characterized the president as a “global George Zimmerman.”

Racism, militarism, and extreme materialism remain our challenges, at home and abroad.  Over and over again, on Libya, on Syria, on Iran, we are asked “Would you stand by and do nothing or would you bomb?” A useful answer is “We would look to the wisdom and example of Nelson Mandela.”

David Swanson serves as Secretary of Peace in the Foreign Affairs Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.

Mandela led with humanity, not austerity

July 23, 2013

Tata, “Father of the Nation,” Nelson Mandela offers the vision of a world dedicated to the causes of justice, equality, peace and the dignity of man. During 27 years of Mandela’s imprisonment, the South African people never gave up hope. They believed that a leader such as Mandela could offer a promise of redemption and new possibilities even from a  jail cell.  Emerging from a lifetime of confinement to become the nations leader, Nelson Mandela inherited a country of debt, disparity, poverty, lacking sanitation adequate education, employment and healthcare.  He emphasized that denying people dignity and human rights is in essence denying their very humanity.  This principled humanism propelled Nelson Mandela’s administration into action successfully tackling these most essential needs. He did so not with austerity in the face of crushing debt but by investing in people, and the human economy.

Nelson Mandela’s accomplishments within a few short years are chronicled by wikipedia : 

“Under Mandela’s presidency, welfare spending increased by 13% in 1996/97, 13% in 1997/98, and 7% in 1998/99. The government introduced parity in grants for communities, including disability grants, child maintenance grants, and old-age pensions, which had previously been set at different levels for South Africa’s different racial groups. In 1994, free healthcare was introduced for children under six and pregnant women, a provision extended to all those using primary level public sector health care services in 1996. By the 1999 election, the ANC could boast that due to their policies, 3 million people were connected to telephone lines, 1.5 million children were brought into the education system, 500 clinics were upgraded or constructed, 2 million people were connected to the electricity grid, water access was extended to 3 million people, and 750,000 houses were constructed, housing nearly 3 million people.”

Who could have imagined such accomplishments in those decades Nelson Mandela sat in a prison cell, condemned as a “terrorist” by the president of an aggressive and war driven country, our own country, the United States?  The lesson for us is to maintain the hope that resides within us and keep the home fires of justice and decency alive irrespective of the tragedies surrounding us. Everyday as we go about our lives we must continue to create hope and a vision of the vibrant world we want and need.  Tata showed us that was possible against great odds.

A healthy society is one that retains hope.  As our collapsing nations face the stresses and strains of injustice, instability, loss of jobs, homes, health, dignity we must do as the South Africans did … keep a steady drumbeat of the promise of a better world alive. To lose hope is to lose possibility.  Nelson Mandela is a living legend and proof that a principled commitment to the dignity and rights of humankind can survive the most daunting circumstances.  Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!  “Tata” to us all.

Maureen Cruise, RN, serves as Assistant Secretary of Health for Community Wellbeing in the General Welfare Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Their Mandela and ours

July 23, 2013

Ninety-five and infirm, his Rainbow Nation not yet ready to relieve him of duty, Nelson Mandela remains a towering presence on a world stage largely bereft of national leaders equal to the challenges of our time. So it is that South Africa’s hero is celebrated by many far removed from his struggle and especially by those lacking his virtues. Deliberately, too, the Mandela who compromised with global capital (as one of his lieutenants now admits) is celebrated at the expense of the transcendental Mandela who defied, organized, and revolted to achieve his minimum demands. But if we are to meaningfully address the challenges of our times—resurgent racism, global climate change, democratic rollbacks, economic dysfunction, and militarized international relations—it is the game-changing Mandela who must be emulated, if not celebrated.

So who is this Mandela?

He is the man who at the height of the Cold War helped forge a non-racial movement powered by youth, communists of all colors, and unionists, to consult broadly and revision their country with a lyrical Freedom Charter.

In the face of U.S.- and European-backed racism, that Charter boldly asserted that all South Africans shall “share in the country’s wealth,” and that further “the land shall be shared among those who work it.”

But ruling class indifference led to defiance, not despondence. And when violence and repression answered peaceful dissent, Mandela the strategist emerged to author the M-plan. It aimed to organize workplaces and neighborhoods from the bottom up… something that those inspired by Mandela would achieve 3 decades after this plan was mooted.

As militant organizing met more violence, Mandela led the turn to meet fire with fire. Always aware that the battlefield consisted of hearts and minds rather blood and terror, his was a measured turn – destroying the symbols of the system and not civilians.

By the time widespread urban uprisings, labor strikes and military victories created the conditions for his release after nearly 3 decades of imprisonment, Mandela was ready to talk with the enemy but never to compromise on the ideal that all South Africans must have an equal hand in determining their government in a single, unified state.

With the rollback of revolutions in the Global South, signaled by the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, and a seemingly ineluctable neo-liberal tide, Mandela and his partisans were ill-prepared to wield state power in a transformative way. Unfortunately, Hugo Chavez’s left reforms would come more than a decade after Mandela reached his compromise with global capital. Despite these limits, it should never forgotten that Mandela, then long retired from government, tried to rally world opinion against the impending invasion of Iraq.

Today, the transcendental Mandela must surely be satisfied that South Africans inside his party and many (more?) outside his party now take up the challenges of unprecedented inequality, corrupt government, and an unresponsive economy on the terrain of the democratic freedoms he helped midwife. So today we have a “Democracy from Below Movement,” a “Workers and Socialists Party,” “Economic Freedom Fighters,” and many others engaged in the struggle for a new new South Africa.

Confronting as we do in the U.S. the rollbacks of our rights to vote (Supreme Court), to equal protection (Trayvon), to pensions we’ve earned (Detroit), to a healthy environment (Keystone and more), the immortal Mandela that belongs to us is surely this uncelebrated, uncompromising one.

Suren Moodliar serves as Director of Global Democracy Programs in the Democracy Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States.

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