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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nelson Mandela, longtemps ignoré avant d’être célébré

by José Fort

Nelson Mandela: Long Ignored Before Achieving Worldwide Celebrity

Nelson Mandela was for a long time an unknown figure

Translated Saturday 7 December 2013, by Harry Cross


In the 1980s, most French and European citizens had never heard of his name. His struggle against apartheid was of no interest to the powerful of this earth. The Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, Margaret Thatcher (after whom so right-wing councillors wish to name a street in Paris) called Mr Mandela a “terrorist”. Under the presidency of François Mitterrand and the government of Michel Rocard, France refused to break off economic relations with the racist government of Pretoria. Most European governments maintained cordial relations with the South African State. In the same period, the ANC representative in Paris, Dulcie September, was killed near the city centre by assassins sent by the racist regime.

Little recognised

Nelson Mandela was a figure hardly recognised by both socialist and right-wing governments in Europe. The French Communist Party, alone among political parties, along with the Young Communists and l’Humanité campaigned for the freedom of Nelson Mandela and an end to apartheid with posters, pamphlets, the Fête de l’Huma, special editions of l’Humanité celebrating Mr Mandela, and protests in front of the South African embassy, forcibly repressed. Those who did nothing for the freedom of Mr Mandela and were coplicit in mainting relations with the racist regime in South Africa have since celebrated in the style of People magazines the man who embodied a struggle they have never shared. Nelson Mandela was under no illusions as to the hypocrisy of many famous individuals who visited him after his freedom. He accepted this ritual, commenting discreetly “this has to be accepted, for the good of our country.”


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