Nelson Mandela Day: Looking Back On The Icon’s View Of “Enemies”

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On Tuesday (Jul. 18), admirers of the late Nelson Mandela have shared quotes, photos and images of the leader on what would’ve been his 99th birthday. Today also commemorates Mandela Day, a worldwide celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and his legacy.

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The late president of South Africa has been praised time and time again for his resilience and leadership, which hasn’t been adorned by all. One of Madiba’s most iconic and criticized moments came in June 1990, when he returned to the United States after his 27-year prison sentence in South Africa.

During his conversation with veteran news anchor Ted Koppel, Mandela was grilled during the council-meeting style interview in which he was accused of playing favorites to America’s rivals like the late Fidel Castro, late Palestine leader Yasser Arafat and late Libyan PM Muammar Gaddafi. With Rev. Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier in the crowd, Mandela’s answer brought light to the inception of politics and the United States’ thirst for ultimate power.

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“One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think their enemies should be our enemies,” he said which was met by applause. “Our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle. Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi [and] Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt. There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about hailing their commitment to human rights as they’re being demanded in South Africa. They do not support [the anti-apartheid struggle] only in rhetoric; they are placing resources at our disposal for us to win the struggle. That is the position.”

What many critics have pointed out years after the interview were the overwhelming amount of questions about US political operatives. There were also race baiting questions that Mandela decided to stay away from. Mandela’s quick replies mixed with grace and class, proved he wasn’t phased by any of it. To the crowd’s surprise, he even replied in Afrikaans to Koos van der Merwe, co-founder of the right-wing South African Conservative Party.

Mandela faced other troubles long after his presidency, but his decision to follow his own lead has helped create a legacy unlike no other.

Check out the clip from the interview above.

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