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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Nelson Mandela probes 'mindset' of the West

By Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune Foreign News Desk
Washington, D.C. 10 December, ( . "

"Why is it that the Western press would focus so much on that one case when so many thousands of blacks have been the victims of so much political violence for so many years?"

That was Nelson Mandela in 1992 answering a question raised by Paul Taylor, the then Bureau Chief of Washington Post in South Africa, just two years after his release from his 27-year incarceration and a candidate for the presidency of democratic South Africa.

Mandela gave a very probing reply to a question the Western media and Western policymakers and lawmakers are accustomed to ask even today.

In any domestic civil strife, one that has gone for decades, the West tend to conveniently forget the misery people of the country faced just focusing on one segment of that long civil strife.

Nelson Mandela was replying in a probing manner to that type of isolated question Paul Taylor inquired.
Mr. Taylor in a recent article since the death of Mandela described: " In those days, South Africa had plenty of white militants, too. The most dangerous moment of Mandela's presidential campaign came when several thousand heavily armed whites left their farms and drove to Bophuthatswana, one of the black homelands set up under apartheid, where they planned to join the forces of the pro-apartheid black puppet government and derail the election.

"Instead, their presumed allies turned on them, and the day quickly devolved into a bloody, boozy fiasco. A photograph that captured the symbolism of the last gasp of the white militants — published on front pages around the world — depicted a wounded, khaki-clad white farmer pleading for mercy as a young black homeland soldier hovered over him with a rifle. The young man executed the farmer on the spot.

"Two months later, Mandela was elected president. It took a few days to count the ballots, and to pass time he invited small groups of foreign correspondents into a hotel suite, where he conducted interviews. During my session, I asked about that young soldier. The day of the incident, candidate Mandela had condemned the shooting and said that the rule of law must prevail. Now that he was about to become president, I asked, would he bring that soldier to justice?"

Very reasonable question Paul Taylor asked Mandela. But it is a very tricky one. The question could corner the person.

In 1992, Nelson Mandela who was running for his country's leadership at the presidential election gave this reply according to Taylor.

Mandela gave me a cold stare. "Why is it that the Western press would focus so much on that one case when so many thousands of blacks have been the victims of so much political violence for so many years?" I had a response, but my tongue went numb. None of the other reporters in the room dared to venture a follow-up.

Paul Taylor is now the executive vice president of special projects at the Pew Research Center. From 1996 through 2003, he served as president and board chairman of the Alliance for Better Campaigns. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter for 25 years, the last 14 at The Washington Post, where he covered national politics and served as a foreign correspondent. From 1992-1995, he was the Post’s bureau chief in South Africa and reported on the historic transformation from apartheid to democracy.

Paul Taylor interviewed Mandela
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