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Nelson Mandela Foundation responds to report in the Daily Telegraph

3 March 2001

The following letter has been sent to the editor of the Daily Telegraph in London in response to an article published in that newspaper today 3 March 2001.

Dear Sir

Your report headlined "Mandela accuses ANC of racism and corruption" (Daily Telegraph, 3 March 2001) is highly misleading both in its content and headline.

The article states that Mandela in an interview published on Friday has "accused the ANC of being as intolerant and corrupt as South Africa`s white leaders during the apartheid years".

A scrupulous reading of the interview would show that he was definitely not saying that the ANC was a corrupt organisation, but that there were "individuals" and "cliques" within the organisation and amongst "our people" who use their positions to enrich a nd advance themselves. That comment was made in the context of Mandela defending President Mbeki against criticism that his right to appoint provincial premiers amounted to undue centralisation of power.

Anyone with the most cursory knowledge of recent South African politics would know that the strictures on corruption within the ranks of the organisation and its supporters have been made repeatedly both by Mandela himself while in office, since at least t he 50th Congress of the ANC in 1997, and by President Mbeki. These remarks are not new and they are not an attack on the ANC. They represent the determination of Mandela (a senior member of the organisation), the government and the ANC to deal with corrupt ion in whatever quarter.

Your report describes Mandela as "calling for leaders to exercise more tolerance". There is nothing in the interview to justify turning his advocacy of welcoming differences of opinion into a "call for more tolerance". The interviewer cast his question as one of "getting back a culture of debate within the ANC", but Mandela`s reply yields nothing to a patently leading question in search of an attack on the ANC. On the contrary, he politely rebukes the questioner by reminding him that "when we criticise the ANC, we must not do so merely for what it says in public -we must do some investigation as to what actually happens in its internal structures."

Furthermore in defence of Mbeki, Mandela rounds off his comments about the value of difference by stating that "in every society there must be a strong and clear authority to bring the country together." Again, anyone with the slightest acquaintance with M andela`s thinking over many years would know that in the interview he was restating what he has said many times.

Nelson Mandela`s will remain a voice of moral authority, not only in South Africa but globally; but attempts to cast him in the role of unofficial opposition to the government and the ANC are not only mischievous but fail to understand how this man`s priva te being is inextricably bound up with his loyal membership of the ANC.