Ire at Thatcher over Mandela misplaced

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IT WAS inevitable that someone would condemn Margaret Thatcher for her South Africa policy (Letters, 11 December) but the real world is ­usually not so simplistic – think ­Winston Churchill supporting Josef Stalin – and politics is the art of the possible.

Mrs Thatcher had long ­argued that Mandela’s release was a necessary prerequisite for South African democracy and ending apartheid. Her part in the former’s rise and the latter’s downfall was to keep the lines open in public with the Botha and De Klerk governments while pressurising them in private, rather than taking the easy option of outright public obloquy.

She provided our embassy for this purpose as the location of secret meetings between Mandela and ministers.

Sanctions certainly played a part, but Mrs Thatcher ­recognised that they invariably hurt the already-deprived rather than the well-off.

The result was neither a hardening of the whites’ ­laager-mentality which would have delayed the ­transition even longer, nor widespread black uprisings or civil war (the ANC violence against Zulus causing several ­thousand deaths and maimings was hardly her fault).

Mikhail Gorbachev was not yet leading the Soviet Union. Many senior ANC leaders were avowed Communists and intended to establish such a regime permanently in South Africa. Winnie Mandela was advocating burning opponents alive by “necklacing”. Such actions and others by the ANC would certainly be regarded as “terrorist” if committed by any groups fighting in the Middle East today.Accusations of hypocrisy are better levelled, as US President Barack Obama did, against those who pay lip-service to Mandela’s inspiration and legacy but trample on the democratic freedoms which he ­espoused and implemented.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews, Fife

IN REPLY to Carolyn ­Taylor (Letters, 10 December) may I say that Nelson Mandela’s ­family and societal ­background was polytheistic, spiritualistic and polygamous.

His Christian education ­introduced him to simplicity and universality and to Jesus Christ.

Mandela’s participation in terrorist acts was restrained to targeting installations. In his court speech while he said that he was willing to die for the freedom of his people he did not say he was willing to kill.

Carolyn Taylor and Iain Whyte (Letters, 11 December) cannot separate Desmond Tutu from his confessional and professional vocation as Archbishop of the Anglican Church of South ­Africa or ­suggest that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not inspired by his ­personal Christianity. That he also used “ubuntu” makes sense. I did not seek to claim Mandela solely for Christianity but to redress the balance of commentary which ignored it almost completely.

The African politicians whom Stephen Moreton (Letters, 10 December) instances did not, like Mandela, apply Christianity to their politics. By “what is happening elsewhere in Africa” I meant ­murderous Islamic practice towards Christians specifically and non-Muslims generally in Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

Our Prime Minister’s ­Questions and First Minister’s Questions show us diminished politicians.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband are non-believers and David Cameron has not applied Christianity to his politics. First Minister Alex Salmond seems to be trying out his own Scottish version of “ubuntu” – whatever he is doing, it is not Christianity.

(Rev Dr) Robert

Blackburn & Seafield Church

MacDonald Gardens

Blackburn, West Lothian