Rios Thinks Mandela Should Have Been Imprisoned

Adding to the long list of wingnuts attacking Nelson Mandela after his death on specious grounds, the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios said that putting Mandela in prison and into solitary confinement was absolutely the right thing to do. She lies in the process:

Nelson Mandela was placed in prison because of the violence that he did in the country of South Africa. Now you can argue, I guess, you can say it was worth it because we overthrew apartheid, I don’t know, is that really the way a victory should be won? Is this really a righteous cause? Is he really a saint for doing this? They talk about him being in solitary confinement, well, criminals are placed in solitary confinement, if you murder other people you lose your rights.

But Mandela did not murder anyone and he was not even charged with murdering anyone. He was on trial for sabotage and plotting the overthrow of the apartheid government, both of which he was guilty of by his own admission. The militant wing of the African National Congress that he created, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (known as the MK), did use sabotage against military targets, power plants and government installations, but with the explicit instruction that no one be killed. During his trial in 1964, Mandela explained why he formed the MK:

“At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force.

This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the government had left us with no other choice. In the Manifesto of Umkhonto published on 16 December 1961, which is exhibit AD, we said:

‘The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.’

Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalise and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war. Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or take over the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer with violence.”

Again, I would ask Sandy Rios and every other right-wing critic of Mandela what they would have done in the same situation. For crying out loud, they’re the ones who talk endlessly about the necessity of owning guns to protect against a tyrannical government, but their logic only seems to apply to white Americans and only to the “tyranny” of giving health insurance to poor people.

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