Friday, December 6, 2013

NELSON MANDELA IN PLAYING THE ENEMY (by John Carlin)


Nelson mandela left us yesterday. But his memory will be eternal thanks to its infinite generosity and its fight against discrimination.


In this blog I would like to pay my sincere and humble tribute updating this post I wrote in 2010, shortly after reading the book Playing the Enemy, written by John Carlin.

John Carlin explains in this book the social injustice founded by the white minority with the political system of Apartheid (it means separation in afrikaans, the language of the population of Dutch descent) in 1948.

This book also explains how a pacific solution was found to a critical situation which kept South Africa on the brink of a civil war in 1985. This solution was conceived and put in practice by Nelson Mandela, the ANC leader (African National Congres). It was conceived throughout his captivity (1962-1990) and carried out after his freeing.



Playing the Enemy written by John Carlin
Cover of the book Playing the Enemy (John Carlin)


The Release of Mandela and Apartheid Abolition



Mandela’s freeing was a consequence of a secret negotiation between the government and Mandela himself in 1985. As a proposal of Mandela, and with many reservations, the government agreed because of the increasing social unrest which threatened to a civil war and the increasing international pressure, for whom the Apartheid was a crime against humanity.


As a consequence, the participation of South Africa in international championchip was forbbiden, depriving the afrikaners (the population of Dutch descent) of their passion: the Springboks, the national rugby team. Afrikaners are a rugby fanatics. It's their happiness drug, their religion and this veto made them deeply disappointed.

The years in prison gave a new viewpoint to Mandela about a peaceful solution to this conflict (Mandela was the founder of the armed wing of ANC). The negotiating principle of Mandela was: government of the majority and internal peace. His idea was to persuade the afrikaners in order to they abolished themselves the apartheid. To succeed Mandela had to inspire confidence in white people and win their heart (here the Springboks were a key factor). And Mandela Knew that It would be essential to speak to them in their own language, so he learnt afrikaans in prison.

Besides, 28 years in prison teached him to be patient, which would be another key factor during a long and slow negotiation. More key factors were his great emotional intelligence, his political seduction ability, his shrewdness, his ability to listen, his respectful treatment, his generosity, his leadership, his empathy, and his eternal smile. Mandela was capable of winning the confidence from his afrikaner jailers to the heavyweights of the government of the apartheid.


The advance in negotiations and the conviction of the government of Mandela’s honesty led to his freeing in 1990. Eventually, these negotiations ended with the abolition of the apartheid and the agreement of calling elections in 1994 with universal suffrage. Mandela was elected the President of the new South Africa. The first government would be a coalition government of all parties. Here the film Invictus, based on this book, starts.


Flag of the new South Africa
Flag of the new South Africa


And with a new country, new symbols. The apartheid had basically three symbols: the flag, the national anthem and the Springboks. The flag was changed, the national anthem was modified but the green and golden shirt, symbol of the Springboks and of the crimes of the apartheid remained the same. Mandela was too clever to change it. This gesture of commitment to the afrikaners would help him to get their support.



The Rugby World Cup of 1995 gave a unique opportunity to Mandela, which he didn’t miss. Mandela became the supporter number one of the Springboks, he supported them from the beginning, he made them feel that he was with them.

This way Mandela achieved that the national team got involved in the national construction, that the national team had gestures to black population (the players learnt the national anthem Nkosi Sikelele, they visited cities of black population).

These gestures and Mandela’s leadership eventually made possible that the whole nation supported the team, that the team felt this strength, this pride of being the team of the whole South Africa, of an united South Africa. This support was what led them to the victory.


Nelson Mandela and Pienaar
Nelson Mandela giving the Rugby World Champion's Cup to François Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks, in 1995




The Springboks’ victory over the powerful and unbeatable New Zealand national team (the All Blacks of Jonah Lomu) was a miracle possible thanks to a superhuman effort of collective will, thanks to the feeling of support of blacks and whites, thanks to feel that they were the team of 43 million people of an united South Africa.

Mandela was convinced that the stability of the country beyond this victory and the nacional construction entailed to reconcile the white population fears to the black population aspirations. Mandela was capable of freeing the white people of their fears of a government of the black majority and redeemed them. He was extremely generous since he knew that his people’s hapiness meant forgiving the white people’s atrocities. Because of this generosity, he never felt resentment since his freeing in spite of the bad treatment the apartheid gave him.


Personal Opinion


First of all, I really liked how the autor concentrates on both the feelings and the personal circumstances of the black and white population to explain what was happening in South Africa. That’s why this book is so warm, humane and emotional. Besides, this book is really pleasant and easy to read because the author inserts a lot of memories, anecdotes and impressions explained by the protagonists themselves. The writer also introduces numerous personal experiences of great emotional intensity which exemplify perfectly the population 's feelings in each moment.

This book is also the beginning of the film Invictus, but this movie isn’t enough to understand the significance of the achievement of Mandela and of its difficulties. That’s why I strongly recommend to read this book to realize the unbelievable miracle Mandela did when he succeeded in reconciling two comunities at war for more than two centuries of injustices and blood. A miracle only possible for a genius, for an authentic leader and his infinite humanity.


Personal Opinion of Another Person who Read this Book



After watching the film “Invictus” I was extremely interested in knowing more about the political situation of South Africa and obviously about Mandela.

This film shows the history of South Africa from Mandela’s release in 1990 but you couldn’t have an idea about the dangerous political situation between black and white population and the great achievement of Mandela.

The book “Playing with the enemy” is written by John Carlin (a journalist who worked in South Africa for several years) and I recommend to read it if you want to get more information about this issue. It explains in detail how Mandela could manage to abolish the apartheid and his political seduction ability.

I think that this book is written in honor of Mandela because if he hadn’t tried to negotiate for South Africa’s freedom in a peaceful way, it would have been more likely to get a civil war for getting the power. He did a miracle and he deserves to be admired by everybody.

Finally, next you have links of other interesting book I have read:



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