Taking An In-depth Look into Mandela’s Role in South Africa
By Dr. Eugene Stovall
Special to The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Oakland, CA. - Periodically Israel allows the international press corps into its Palestinian internment camps. In an interview of a Palestinian refugee, an American reporter once asked:
“Why don’t the Palestinians use the non-violent tactics of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela to get their freedom?”
The Palestinian leader took a long time to answer the reporter’s question. Then he replied, “Blacks are without honor or shame! Throughout history, blacks have always been slaves, eating the crumbs off of their master‘s table! Blacks are only free when the white man decides to free them.”
The Palestinian leader was only partly correct. It was not non-violence that freed Nelson Mandela from 27 years of imprisonment. And it was not prayer that destroyed the South African apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela and South African blacks gained their freedom through a bloody and brutal war waged --not in South Africa --but in Angola.
From the 1950s, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, struggled to rid Angola of Portugal’s colonial dominance. Though MPLA engaged in a series of violent clashes with Portuguese police, Angola did not achieve liberation until the Portuguese military took over of Portugal’s Lisbon government in 1974. After the takeover, Portugal’s government set a timetable for the MPLA to set up a government for Angola. The timetable gave the 500,000 Portuguese living in Angola time to return to Portugal. However, the Portuguese had managed Angola’s bureaucracy, agriculture and industry. Once they fled Angola, the country’s national economy sunk into a depression. MPLA struggled to keep the major economic sectors functioning but they were opposed by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA, an organization financed by the United States and South Africa. UNITA demanded that it be included in the new Angolan government and backed its claims with violence. Not only did Angola fall into economic depression, the major cities erupted into chaos and bloodshed.
Seizing upon what he believed was an opportunity for northern expansion, the South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster dispatched an armored task force of the South African Defense Force into Angola. Without any ability to defend itself against the South African invasion, the MPLA called for assistance. Fidel Castro sent 675 Cuban soldiers to oppose the South Africans army with its thousands of soldiers.
Even though his country was being invaded, on November 11, 1975, Agostinho Neto, the leader of the MPLA, declared the independence of the Portuguese Overseas Province of Angola renaming it, the People's Republic of Angola. Jonas Savimbi, leader of UNITA declared his own independent Angolan state as the Social Democratic Republic of Angola. Another splinter group, the FNLA, representing the Bekonga people declared that Angola was now the Democratic Republic of Angola. On November 23, 1975, the FNLA and UNITA forged an alliance and declared war on the MPLA beginning the violent and bloody Angolan civil war.
In 1975, President of the United States, Gerald Ford, approved covert aid to UNITA and the FNLA. Ford directed William Colby, the Director of the CIA, to provide an initial $6 million followed by grants of an additional $8 million and then another $25 million. Dick Clark, a Democrat, discovered that the CIA was operating in Angola during a fact-finding mission in Africa. Clark proposed an amendment to Ford’s appropriation, barring aid to private groups engaged in military or paramilitary operations in Angola. The Senate passed Clark’s amendment. 54–22 on December 19, 1975, and the House passed it, 323–99 on January 27, 1976. Ford signed the amendment into law on February 9, 1976. However, even after the Clark Amendment became law, George H. W. Bush, then- Director of the CIA, violated the law by continuing U.S. aid to UNITA as well as South Africa. Bush negotiated with Israel to serve as a proxy for the United States and establish a military alliance with UNITA and South Africa providing American weapons and training.
In the 1970s, most of the fighting was concentrated in southeastern Angola, but in the1980s, the fighting spread following the South African government’s massive invasion. The Soviet Union responded to the South African military by giving the MPLA 2 billion in aid in 1984 and Cuba increased its troop force in Angola from 35,000 in 1982 to 40,000 in 1985. Also, in order to enhance MPLA's combat capacity, Romania sent 150 flight instructors and other aviation personnel and contributed to the establishment of an Angolan Military Aviation School.
On June 2, 1985, American conservative activists held a conference at UNITA's headquarters in Jamba, Angola. The conference was funded by Rite Aid founder and fervent Zionist, Lewis Lehrman and organized by neo-conservative activists, Jack Abramoff and Jack Wheeler. The participants included Jonas Savimbi, UNITA leader, Adolfo Calero, leader of the Nicaraguan Contras, Pa Kao Her, Laotian Rebel Leader and Abdurrahim Wardak, Afghan Mujahideen leader. Also attending was Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North representing the Reagan administration and military observers from the Israeli and South African governments.
By 1987, the war had entered its 12th year. Exhausted militarily and economically and fearing an uprising of blacks inside its own borders, South Africa called for peace negotiations. On January 28, 1988, the Cuban government met with Angola and South Africa to negotiate a settlement. All three parties participated in additional rounds of negotiations on March 9, May 3 and in June, 1988. On August 8, 1988, all parties agreed to a ceasefire. Representatives from the governments of Angola, Cuba, and South Africa signed the New York Accords ending the direct involvement of foreign troops in Angola’s civil war on December 22, 1988. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 626 later that day, creating the United Nations Angola Verification Mission, a peacekeeping force. UNAVEM troops began arriving in Angola in January 1989.
In 1989, as a part of the negotiations, F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s newly-elected president, set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and ordered the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990.
Mandela subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. One year later, the ANC won an electoral majority in the country's first free elections, and Mandela was elected South Africa's president.
Travelers, detour to Dr. Stovall's blog. Dr. Stovall is a noted author, speaker, and professor.
About the Author: Eugene Stovall was born and raised in Oakland, California. At age eighteen, he was invested into the Knights of Peter Claver, after having attended St. Joseph’s College Seminary where he studied for the Catholic priesthood. Stovall graduated from Bishop O’Dowd High School and attended St. Mary’s College, but left college to join the U.S. Air Force. In 1966, he graduated magna cum laude from the University of California. In 1969, using research obtained at the University of Lund in Sweden, he obtained his master’s from the University of California at Davis. Becoming a National Foundation Fellow in 1973, Stovall received his Ph.D. in political theory from the Political Science Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Stovall has been an adjunct faculty member at USF, St. Mary’s College, San Francisco State University and at Merritt College. His previous novels include the 2007 IPPY Bronze Medal winner, Frank Yerby: A Victim’s Guilt. The Hayward South County NAACP honored Stovall for memorializing the great black novelist.
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