Remembering Nelson Mandela

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  • Nelson Mandela and Tempo journalist Leila S. Chudori. dok.TEMPO/Ivan Hari

    Nelson Mandela and Tempo journalist Leila S. Chudori. dok.TEMPO/Ivan Hari

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - "Many Indonesian descendants fought against apartheid in South Africa," said Nelson Mandela, at the the time aged 72 years of age, in an interview with Tempo during his visit to Indonesia in 1990.

    Addressing 400 attendees of the International Forum held at the Borobudur Hotel on Saturday, October 20 that year, Mandela, who was then Deputy Chairman of the African National Congress (ANC), told how Dutch people landed on the Cape of Good Hope with hundreds of slaves, including Indonesians.

    On the previous night, Mandela received the Indonesian Star Award from the late President Suharto. In addition to the award, the Indonesian government also granted a US$10 million in financial aid to the ANC.

    During Mandela's visit to Indonesia, Tempo journalist Leila S. Chudori, managed to interview the anti-apartheid hero along with his lawyer Barbara Masekela. Excerpts:

    You are the founder of the ANCs military wing. Do you still expect the armed struggle to continue?

    The decision to establish the military wing was made with hesitation, because the ANC's principle was non-violence. When the South African regime brutally pressured black people, especially when police came to their homes and forced them to come out of their homes, we felt that we needed to defend ourselves against those brutal attacks. We were faced with an intolerable situation.

    Recently, the African government decided to accept our offer of negotiation, and we have held two meetings. When we saw that the government was willing to negotiate, we decided to postpone military action for a while. There is a clear distinction between 'postponing' and 'cancelling'. Meanwhile, we needed to upgrade our military. All this time they were fighting a guerrilla war. Now they are being transformed into a conventional army by sending them to train in several countries.

    Was your peaceful approach a consequence of the time you spent in prison?

    No. The ANC itself wants a peaceful resolution. It is just recently that the African government decided to listen and agree to our demands

    Reportedly, in 1985, you were offered freedom, but only if you stop the armed struggle.

    I was not the only political prisoner. There were many others. And my friends were also respected and educated black leaders. I refused to be released alone. I discussed it with my comrades, and we decided to refuse the offer.

    After 27 years in prison, are you afraid of being killed?

    My comrades an I was sure, that they will never dare to kill us, because we know what it would do to the South African government. There are exceptions, however.  Neville Alexander for example, a respected doctor in South Africa, my good friend, was so badly tortured that he lost his hearing. To be honest, I never thought that was possible.

    You dream of a non-racial government. But white people in South Africa are worried that black people will seize total  power.

    We announced our policy a long time ago.  The new South Africa we long for is a non-racial country. That means everyone – no matter what color – can participate in elections and in the government.  There are white people in the ANC, even those of Indian descendent. This shows that what we want for the South African people and government is a non-racial attitude.

    Admittedly, if we win in the first election, we must be very careful in selecting the candidates to represent the people. Our concept is that we need to select candidates based on ability and competency. I will continue to fight for this concept. Not only a non-racial government, but also non-racial school and university.

    The complete interview can be seen in the Tempo Weekly News Magazine, published on Monday, December 9, 2013 edition.