The real Mandela


The following quotes by Nelson Mandela have been largely absent from mainstream accounts of his life.



Praise for Cuba


Speech on the anniversary of the Moncada Barracks attack (26 July 1991) [1]

It is a great pleasure and honor to be present here today, especially on such an important day in the revolutionary history of the Cuban people. Today Cuba commemorates the 38th anniversary of the storming of the Moncada. …


“From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people.  We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist-orchestrated campaign to destroy the impressive gain made in the Cuban Revolution. We too want to control our own destiny. …


We are humbled and full of emotion to be here. We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? …


“In Africa we are used to being victims of countries that want to take from us our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history there is not another instance where another people has stood up for one of ours. … Your presence there and the reinforcements sent for the battle of Cuito Cuanavale has a historical meaning. The decisive defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale was a victory for all Africa. This victory in Cuito Cuanavale is what made it possible for Angola to enjoy peace and establish its own sovereignty. The defeat of the racist army made it possible for the people of Namibia to achieve their independence. …


“Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro.”



Praise for Muammar Gaddafi

At a press conference with President Clinton (March 1998) [2]:


“I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country [South Africa]. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did they [Libya] support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct the struggle, and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me, for being loyal to our friends, literally they can go and throw themselves into a pool.”



Support for Palestine


Address on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (4 December 1997) [3]

“When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system.


“But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”


On visit to Israel (22 October 1999) [4]

Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank.”


Tribute to Yasser Arafat (11 November 2004)

“He was an icon in the proper sense of the word.  He was not only concerned with the liberation of the Arab people, but of all the oppressed people throughout the world, Arabs and non-Arabs.


“And to lose a man of that stature is a great blow to all those who are fighting against oppression.  We regret that.  And we give out condolences to his family and to the Arab people to which he belongs.” [5]


"Yasser Arafat was one of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation, one who gave his entire life to the cause of the Palestinian people.


"We honor his memory today. We express our sincerest condolences to his wife, family and the Palestinian people. It is with great sadness that one notes that his and his people's dream of a Palestinian state had not yet been realized." [6]



Support for IRA retaining its arms


“My position, my position... my position is that you don't hand over your weapons until you get what you want ...” (April 2000 [9])



Criticism of the US


Interview with Newsweek (September 2002) [7]

“We must understand the seriousness of this situation. The United States has made serious mistakes in the conduct of its foreign affairs, which have had unfortunate repercussions long after the decisions were taken.


“Unqualified support of the Shah of Iran led directly to the Islamic revolution of 1979. Then the United States chose to arm and finance the [Islamic] mujahedin in Afghanistan instead of supporting and encouraging the moderate wing of the government of Afghanistan. That is what led to the Taliban in Afghanistan. …


“If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace.”


Speech to the International Women’s Forum (30 January 2003) [8]

In the lead up to the US/UK invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Mandela urged the American people to join protests against their president and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to unite to oppose him.


"One power with a president who has no foresight and cannot think properly is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. …


"Why is the US behaving so arrogantly? … All that [Bush] wants is Iraqi oil.


"If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings.”


Of Tony Blair he said: "He is the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer prime minister of Britain."



David Morrison

14 December 2013