To what extent do reconciliation policies in post colonial African nations differ from policies of systematic revenge

To what extent do reconciliation policies in post colonial African nations differ from policies of systematic revenge?
Written by Shontierra Anderson

In an interview, Nelson Mandela said: "With the exception of the atrocities against the Jews during the Second World War, there is no evil that has been as condemned by the entire world as Apartheid." - Source: Sunday Independent, December 6, 1998. Based on this quote by Nelson Mandela, there is nothing worse than Apartheid besides the crimes committed to the Jews during the Second World War.

By the 1990s, apartheid had began to be repealed but, not until after a long hard fought battle between the African and Indian people of South Africa and their government. Protests of the government among the people began in the masses by the 1980s. The government retaliated with brutality. The role that Nelson Mandela played heavily began in 1990 when F.W. de Klerk had him relieved of charges he was accused of in the Rivonia case. Efforts to transition from apartheid to democracy were impossible in the eyes of political analysts such as Frederick van Zyl Slabbert. In 1994, the first democracy was founded in South Africa and Nelson Mandela became the first black president. “Many lives were lost during the process, and from the start of negotiations in mid 1990 to elections in April 1994, 14,000 died and 22,000 were injured”. Although apartheid ended in 1994, a major problem still lingered. New South African government knew that those who committed crimes against the victims of apartheid were to be held accountable for their actions but, the question was: How? They felt as if punishment such as how Germany did Nazis who committed crimes against Jews was uncalled for. They decided to focus on the victims and this in turn is how they began reconciliation. This approach of the South African government is quite the opposite of that of Zimbabwe's in a crisis much like is. Governing powers in this nation, particularly Robert Mugabe were “determined to hang on to power no matter what the consequences, lest it be held to account for the genocide in Matabeleland in the early 1980s and the wholesale looting of Zimbabwe that followed the mismanaged land reform in 2000”.
Investigation: Reconciliation
In terms of South African reconciliation in post colonial times, it was bringing together the government and the people through the forgiveness of these policies. There was a great deal of distrust between the old South African government and the people of South Africa due to apartheid. Apartheid had to do with segregation and the government before 1990 was efficient in enforcing these laws. Those that disobeyed and did things such as protest were punished with brutality.  

South Africa went about reconciliation when apartheid ended and democracy was founded in 1994. The new South African government created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to establish an “emphasis on truth-telling, forgiveness, and reconciliation.” The TRC was considered to be one of the most restorative ways of dealing with the situation.

The TRC was all about telling the truth and being forgiven. It was a pretty simple, just, and understanding way of tackling the situation at hand. As long as those guilty came forth and explained the horrors they had witnessed and took part in, they were to be pardoned of the crimes they committed. The pardon would be granted through the Amnesty Committee that provided amnesty and if not pardoned through the TRC, the wrongdoers could be prosecuted for the crimes committed during apartheid.

When it came to the reasoning of Nelson Mandela, it was apparent when he arose from jail in 1940 that him hitting the political stage was highly anticipated. One could see he spent those 27 years plotting a kind of great vengeance that was positive. More importantly, he came out “espousing reconciliation, understanding and forgiveness”. Mandela emerged from prison with an open-mind that was peaceful and ambitious of his country. “Although he was an old man by the time he took power in his country, and delegated much of the work of governing to others, the trust he had gained among people in just about every camp was essential in South Africa’s transition from a racial dictatorship to a true democracy”.

Systematic Revenge
The term or phrase “systematic revenge” refers to a kind of corruption from within the government based on the motives of a leader that may essentially want to “get back” at their country holistically for wrongdoing done to them or their people by the government presiding before them. Now, ideally when one might bring up “systematic revenge”, at first sight it is unrecognizable by dictionary but, when synonyms are searched or you break down in your own head the possibilities of this phrase, the definition has several apparent meanings. A few explicit examples range from terrorism in Iraq by Saddam Hussein to leaders like Joseph Kony and Adolf Hitler using children to create vicious militia groups. Each leader had their own particular motives for these heinous acts they committed.

In the case of Hussein, he committed acts of terrorism because of a fight over the economy when it came to discussions of oil. Hussein ignited the “War on Terrorism” in 1980. “Saddam Hussein, ... was as murderous a tyrant as any yet witnessed by history; for more than two decades he ruled Iraq with a contempt for humanity that made him feared and hated in equal measure”. Hussein was a kind of leader that did what it took to get what he wanted even if that meant killing almost half a million people in the process.

The problem with Mugabe was not that he wasn’t fit to be a leader, but that perceptions of the kind of leader he was going to be were misconstrued quite well. In addition, the power he received made who he truly was as a leader apparent. The NY Times stated 4 years ago during raids Mugabe issued, "in 23 years as president, Mr. Mugabe has gone from independence hero to tyrant". His initial supporters such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu were appalled at the “new” behavior of him. “This popular conception of Mugabe -- propagated by the liberals who championed him in the 1970s and 1980s -- is absolutely wrong. From the beginning of his political career, Mugabe was not just a Marxist but one who repeatedly made clear his intention to run Zimbabwe as an authoritarian, one-party state”. Every since before his presidency Mugabe made it clear his authoritarian views and his belief that a multiparty system was essentially unnecessary and this explains why he got rid of it when he took power. Liberal illusions of African nationalism are so strong still today so that many still believe that Mugabe actually transformed from a nice leader to a tyrant.

Mugabe’s imprisonment can be deemed motive for the actions of systematic revenge Mugabe took out on the government presiding before him starting with the civil war he helped lead. He used vicious tactics of guerilla warfare and there was no mercy upon anyone. Acts such as … were prime indicators of the kind of leader Mugabe would one day become.

A Study of the Character of the Leaders
When it comes to assessing where these policies of reconciliation and systematic revenge stem from, one must first assess the people enforcing these policies. The differences between these policies as well as the leaders behind them are like night and day. Especially, the character of the leaders Mugabe and Mandela; there is a sheer difference much greater than the distance of their two nations.

Nelson Mandela was generally well-liked by all. That was, at least after he went to prison. Mandela was imprisoned for being said to be involved in sabotage and conspiracy in the Rivonia Trial. Mandela peacefully fought for what he believed in many times before then in protests he led. Many believed he was falsely accused of the charges and no one believed he would even be found guilty with the other 10 suspects he was on trial with. The sentence was life and Mandela was willing to go to jail for it if somehow it meant a democracy would come about.

Both spent their fair share of time in prison and shared a common motive for their actions. Mandela left prison with peace on his mind. Mugabe left prison with destruction. He went and helped lead a civil war when he got out of prison. The government set up in then Rhodesia, was very much like that of South Africa’s when Mandela went to jail. Mugabe sought out “justice” by any means necessary. That mentality cost many their lives and his behavior upon release from prison should’ve been more than enough insight into the kind of leader he would be one day. According to the Washington Post, Mandela “In his person and his policies, he set out to show those on the other side that they had little to fear. He sought unity rather than revenge, honesty and understanding rather than the naked exercise of power”. The character within these two leaders is what made the difference in their legacies.

Social Change
Reconciliation policies in post colonial African nations differ from policies of systematic revenge in multiple ways and change in society is one of the most prevalent. The change in society goes back to the leader and holistically the legacy the leave. It is the effects in which the leader has on their nation.

Social change for the nation of Zimbabwe has been nothing nice. Since the 27 year reign of Mugabe, there has been no progress. There has only been the deprivation of a once precious and fruitful land. In South Africa however, a positive change has occurred as a result of reconciliation policies. Since reconciliation policies have been put into effect, the nation has gone through much healing with the victims of apartheid being able to come forward, tell their stories, and receive some sort of feeling of closure and comfort.

Another difference in how the reconciliation policies and policies of systematic revenge are which go into effect based on leadership. The kinds of policies in effect depended on the leadership in power and their motives.

In the case of Robert Mugabe, he had motives that revolved around power and only that. This is why the shift of policy he sought out occurred. In the case of Nelson Mandela, he sought out democracy. This he explained when he was on trial in the Rivonia case. He exclaimed, in so many terms, that he would gladly spend a lifetime in jail if that meant a democracy would somehow come about. 

Respecting the World Stage
Every policy a leader in some sort of office or power puts in place is under some sort of scrutiny. Leaders of a state in nations such as Zimbabwe and South Africa are especially under the public eye on a worldwide stage. Every move they make is up for criticism. Nelson Mandela was a very loved and adored person within the public eye after his release from prison. This may not have been so true before he went to jail though because he was going against the will of a different kind of government that was structured against him. He went against the government often times when it came down to protesting against them and he was falsely accused in the Rivonia trial then sentenced to life. This just went to show how bad the government wanted him and his influence off the streets due to the amount of support he had behind him. On the world stage he was loved, admired, and looked up to heavily.
In the case of Robert Mugabe, he was looked up to and inspiring in the beginning of his career to many. He had such a strong background and so much influence that the bad things he did and people he killed, didn’t bother his “fan base” so to speak because they still supported him. Mugabe was initially strong willed and had the promise to be a great leader in the positive notion. Technically, Mugabe has been a “great” leader in terms of his power and influence although he may not have done any good by anyone.


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