It’s been a few days since Nelson Mandela was laid to rest. During the ten-day period of mourning — and in the days since his burial — since his passing, I’ve listened to a lot of criticisms of Mandela. Many of the criticisms suggest that Mandela didn’t do enough to empower black South Africans economically. Many of the people who offer this criticism, in my view, have been a bit short-sighted. To be fair, South Africa has a huge poverty problem; and in many ways it almost appears that nothing has changed since apartheid was lifted. And of course, to some, this is due to Mandela selling out his people to white racists who traditionally held positions of power in South Africa.

I think it is ridiculously egregious to lay blame at the feet of Mandela for the economic conditions faced by many black South Africans today. In an interview with The Real News Network, author and filmaker, Danny Schecter explains just why such criticisms often fail to reflect the political reality as it were. For some, had Mandela simply nationalized major industries things would be much better economically for blacks

Check out this excerpt:

… what we do know, though, is that the ANC, when it came to power, was more preoccupied with political change than with economic change. And I think the problems that we’re facing in South Africa today and in many other countries are because movements for change don’t focus on economics. They mostly focus on politics.

First of all, let’s recognize that Mandela was part of a collective leadership of the ANC. Everything that was done by the party was not done by him, and everything that he did was not necessarily supported at every stage by the party.

He was a leader, a visionary figure, and a reconciler, a person who could reach beyond the confrontation that was brewing in South Africa and avert a race war and promote reconciliation at a time when no one thought that would be possible.

So let’s start with the positives. The positives is that apartheid was demolished, that a multiracial government was formed in South Africa, that the country held its first democratic elections in which everyone participated. That was largely part of his, really, forte.

He was not an economist, and a lot of people in the ANC were rather naive about economics. They were being promised all sorts of things by Western companies and Western governments that never came to fruition.

But this was also a period when their allies, the Soviet Union, basically had fallen apart, and many of the countries that they had been allied with were not able to help them.

So, in essence, they had to be pragmatic. They had to find a way to move forward with as much support as they could achieve.

Now, in the course of that, they made deals which in retrospect and in hindsight don’t look very good, deals with the IMF, deals with the World Bank, deals with various companies who were promising to make changes but didn’t really quite make them.

Mandela was, you know, a steward of all this. He was a president, a political leader, but not necessarily the person calling all the shots, in the same way that Obama is the president but Wall Street calls a lot of the economic shots. So it’s unfair to dump all of this on him.

And what we do know, though, is that the ANC, when it came to power, was more preoccupied with political change than with economic change. And I think the problems that we’re facing in South Africa today and in many other countries are because movements for change don’t focus on economics. They mostly focus on politics.

Watch the full interview below:

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Here’s something to consider: Today, South Africa is Africa’s most powerful economy and in 2010 South Africa was added to the elite BRIC grouping of fastest-growing economies. South Africa also has Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest stock market capitalization, most heavily traded currency, highest sovereign credit rating, and highest purchased government bonds. South Africa also maintains Africa’s most modern business infrastructure and attracts the greatest foreign direct investment and number of global companies. It wasn’t always this way, but yet nobody with the exception of the occasional New York Times columnist credits Mandela for any of this; and, I think it’s rather peculiar.

Take a look at the following:

mandela-income-inequalityLook, it’s unrealistic to expect Mandela who served a five-year-term to have ended the longstanding income inequality between blacks and whites in South Africa. Think about it, apartheid started in 1948 and ended as a legislated governing institution in the early 1990s. For me, it’s hard to fathom how Mandela, who as president inherited an economy that was ravaged by sanctions could have sought badly needed foreign investors by nationalizing industries. Even more realistic is this notion that blacks in South Africa were to be better off economically, immediately. Hell, slavery in America ended 150-years ago and yet the wealth gap between blacks and whites in America persists. But, I suppose in the minds of many forty acres and a mule not-having-ass so-called revolutionary thinking minds, Mandela was supposed to deliver diamonds and bricks of gold to the home of people who never even had an opportunity to vote before he stepped on the scene. Yeah, Mandela was a sellout, right?