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Nelson Mandela is not as great as people make him up to be

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/18/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 11,540 times Debate No: 35733
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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1) Nelson Mandela didn't do much for South Africa,
2)Nelson Mandela is not much of a hero, he merely did what was the most reasonable thing to do, given the situation he found himself in
3)Politically Nelson Mandela did not do anything "great"

First round is acceptance


I accept the challenge. I am new to DDO and this will be my first debate. I am somewhat hesitant, since the terms of the debate are subjective and relative. "Not much of a hero," for example, could apply to just about any person depending on how high you set the bar for 'hero'. Nevertheless, I'll trust Emmo to stick to rational, popular definitions of heroism, greatness, and the well-being of South Africans.

It takes chutzpah to fly in the face of the popular, historic view of Mandela's contributions, especially in this time of international celebration for Mandela's legacy. I look forward to a fact-based and fair-minded debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Fair enough, if you read my past debates you'll understand that i seldom argue irrationally, but i digress that is besides the point. I must also acknowledge that i respect what Mandela has done as a person, he has certainly acheived what most men will never achieve. Furthermore note that this debate is not meant as an insult to Mandela it is merely a criticism towards how people worship Mandela and overrate his heroism. Lastly i wish him a speedy recovery in this time where he faces great tribulations with his health. Enough with the plesantaries time to debate.

Hero: person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities:

1)The basis of my argument is that Mandela was not truly a heroic firgure, he did what was necessary given the situation he found his country to be in. There is this whole notion that Mandela forgave the "white men" for imprisoning him for 27years. I beg to differ, given the economic climate South Africa faced post apartheid where the "white men" literally ran the economy, De Beers for example possibly the biggest company in South Africa during that period was run by the "white men". This was understandable because during apartheid only the "white men" were given the opportunity both politically and socially to excel economically. Even universities where preserved for the "white men" and good high school. Clearly the scales where tipped in the "white men's" favour. Expectadly this resulted in the "white men" not only running the economy, but also providing the necessary skills required for the economy to run smoothly (professionals are always required for any economy to function well).

During the period right before apartheid, naturally the "white men" (i quote these two words not in a racial manner, but to potray the differences in the treatment of race that existed during apartheid. Furthermore i use the word men not in a sexist manner, but to potray the most economicaly and socially dominant gender during apartheid) became a little anxious and nervous about what would happen when a black leader took over. I mean who wouldn't be. Fear based theories arose "when the blacks take over, they'll kill us all" kind of sentiments. "They will exact revenge for what we have done". Revenge is a natural human reaction to being mistreated, but often times it tends to be irrational. Mandela being a law graduate (and we can assume a rationalist on this very basis) simply realised that exacting revenge on the "white people" was not rational, as it would result in the exodus of a large number of the white population and with them a lot of professionals and people who actually helped build and sustain the economy. This had nothing to do with forgiveness or acting in a heroic manner. He did not exhibit noble characteristics he merely realised that plunging the country into economic chaos would not be good for his leadership, his name and the country.

Mandela realized that exacting revenge on the "white men" would probably result in South Africa being isolated by other countries, sanctions would be issued out. This "opinion" is backed by the situation in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe a man once seen as "another Mandela" in the making, exacted his revenge on the "white men" in Zimbabwe, albeit for political reasons in so doing isolated his country, condoned his country's economy to obscurity and destroyed his legacy.

Nelson Mandela was no hero, he was smart, he had the foresight to see flaws in revenge. He had the foresight to preserve his legacy.

2) Another common misconception is that Mandela ended Apartheid therefore he is a hero to every African (although whites and indians alike can also be African for the purpose of this debate i use African to refer to the Black African), this is far from true, he was merely a part of the mechanism in place to end apartheid, single handedly he did nothing extraordinarily, he did not "highlight" the plight of the Black South African. Many other leaders where imprisoned with him. But that's besides the point (although it is also relevant). Mandela was arrested for sabotage and for confessing to a plot to sabottage the state of South Africa

This is as heroic as the hypothetical man who tried to bomb the white house and claims to be doing it in an attempt to sabotage the U.S.A and liberate it from the corporate enslaving machine that is running the country. Both these men would have a point a very valid one at that. But they cannot be regarded as heroes for one fundamental reason; they did what is against the law, Treason is defined as The betrayal of one's own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies

Is this what is meant by heroism, a treasonous act that allegedly helped highlight the plight of the black South African, if it truly helped highlight the plight of the black South African why did it then take 27years for him to be released. And what of the other 7 people who were charged with him, did they receive as much recognition as Mandela? (His co-accused included: Walter Sisulu, Dennis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Mosoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni - all ANC officials and Ahmed Kathrada, the former leader of the South African Indian Congress. )

And what about FW De Klerk, Mandela played no role in influencing this man to literally sign away his rulership, he simply realised that the world was changing and the world was against them. We no longer lived in a world of racial intolerance and as with all things it is either you adapt or you die off. Once again this had nothing to do with Mandela's "charisma" or heorism, but a lot to do with rationality

In closing i leave you with a quote form Mandela's ex wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela
"Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much 'white'. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded..I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel [Peace Prize in 1993] with his jailer [FW] de Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think de Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed, and our struggle was not a flash in the pan, it was bloody to say the least and we had given rivers of blood. I had kept it alive with every means at my disposal"

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The betrayal of one's own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies.



Thanks, Emmo, for your thoughtful argument.

Winnie Mandela denies ever making the statements Pro quoted:

Further, Ms. Mandela states:

"I will in the coming days deal with what I see as an inexplicable attempt to undermine
the unity of my family, the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the high regard with which
the name Mandela is held here and across the globe."

I think Con can safely argue that Pro's quote has been invalidated.


Pro contends that Nelson Mandela is less than courageous, less than outstanding in achievement, less
than noble in quality.

The most important legacy of Nelson Mandela is that he led 50 million people out from Apartheid and into
a state of democracy and constitutional equality. In many ways, this benchmark surpasses that of the
American Founding Fathers who achieved democracy for a much less populous and more homogeneous state.
Unlike Mandela, the Founding Fathers only achieved American Democracy after 7 years of bitter war. Unlike
Mandela, the Founding Fathers left women, and Native Americans, and particularly African Americans out of
the franchise. 60% of the American population had no rights defined by the US Constitution in 1787, resulting
in decades of struggle and war. If Mandela can not be counted a hero, than Pro must also discount the heroism
of the American Founders, a statement I cannot countenance.

Pro argues that Mandela did not achieve this miracle of equality and peace singlehandedly, but that he is nevertheless
credited with the lion's share. I think this is a fair point. There were many great men and women who sacrificed
much and often all to achieve the end of Apartheid. But among all those famous names, only Mandela spoke for every
faction and spoke to every faction. Even within the hostile white majority, Mandela was viewed as the one indispensable
man. As early as 1987, the South African govt. spoke of the end of Apartheid, but until Mandela was free, no South
African considered Apartheid over. The instant of his freedom was the day South Africa changed. Like Gandhi in India,
peace, justice, equality were all contained within the symbol of a single man. Can Pro deny that it takes nobility to rise
to such a burden? Courage to take on the mantle of such high expectation at the age of 80, when most men are ready
to rest? What other living man has been burdened with such responsibility, that he bore with such confidence and

Pro argues that Mandela acted out of intelligence and foresight, out of pragmatic consideration rather than
some more ethical consideration. I agree, but I consider intelligence and foresight essential qualities for great men.
Many of the world's great leaders have been unethical, but I know of none that were stupid or shallow. And pragmatism?
Abraham Lincoln once wrote:

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it,
and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it;
and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

Lincoln was a pragmatist. It is not that he was unethical, or unmoved by the plight of slavery. Lincoln understood that as
President he had one job and that was to preserve the union. If that meant sacrificing his own beliefs to the greater good,
so be it. This is the mark of a true leader. A leader's first responsibility is to the people and the personal, the family, the
tribe, the love of legacy all come second to that responsibly. Lincoln would have admired Mandela, who gave up his bitterness
for 27 years of prison, who sacrificed his family, who disappointed his tribe and his even his party, the ANC, in the pursuit of
a single nation, black and white, Zulu and Xhosa. Sure, it was the smart thing to do, politically. Yes, he could foresee the damage
South Africa would sustain if he moved South Africa towards Socialism, and subjected his own Socialist beliefs for the better of
the state. Yes, he saw the white flight from Zimbabwe and chose not to hold the White minority accountable for generations
of slavery and subjugation, but that cost him dearly in the opinion of his oldest, closest revolutionary friends. A hero makes these
sacrifices when called upon, with courage and conviction.

Pro's least persuasive argument is that Mandela was convicted of treason, and that traitors may not be heroes. I know of few heroic men who were not traitors in someone's eyes. Jesus Christ was found guilty of treason, and crucifixion was the form of execution
Rome reserved for traitors. Socrates was found guilty of sedition and ordered to commit suicide. Joan of Arc was burned for heresy. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Washington all had bounties on their heads sponsored by the King of England. Gandhi was a convicted terrorist.

When Emerson visited Thoreau in jail for refusing to pay tax to a government making war in Mexico, he asked, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?"

When the law is wrong, the wrong side of the law is the right place to be.

The Declaration of Independence states, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Although Mandela was born into Xhosa royalty, a supremely armed white minority of 10% refused to Mandela and all black people the most basic rights: they could not vote, they could not own businesses, they could not own property. Even George III permitted the colonists to own
property and conduct business. What then would the Founding Fathers have instructed Mandela? The Declaration states that it was not just Mandela's right, but also his duty to throw off that government, by violent insurrection, if necessary.

Con concludes that when defining the qualities of a heroic public figure, the American Founding Fathers represent one excellent benchmark. Since it can be shown that Nelson Mandela shares many of the same achievements as those great men, and in some
respects surpasses them, then it can fairly said Nelson Mandela, more than any living public figure, may stand beside the Founders in the places where heroes are remembered.
Debate Round No. 2


Emmo forfeited this round.


Since Emmo has forfeited the opportunity to make counter-arguments, I'll assume that my first round arguments were sufficiently persuasive. I'll refrain from piling on additional accounts of Mandela's remarkable achievement.

Pro has argued that Nelson Mandela's public achievements were less than admirable and that he is not the great man that his international reputation acclaims. To support the argument, Pro has offered a criticism from Winnie Mandela. However, Ms Mandela denies ever making such statements.

Con argues that Nelson Mandela's achievements compare favorably with those of the American Founding Fathers and is well deserving of many heroic accolades.

Thanks, voters, for your consideration. Please vote for Con if you agree that Nelson Mandela's achievements are admirable.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Emmo 5 years ago
My apologies to my opponent for not posting a counter argument, kind of forgot I had this debate. If you decide to vote for my opponent for my forfeit I understand. We should have this debate at another more opportune time
Posted by Oromagi 5 years ago
Posted by Emmo 5 years ago
sorry for that stuff at the bottom, i was pasting the legal definition of treason and didn't notice that stuff at the bottom until i had submitted the argument
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