In this morning’s hourly news update, National Public Radio (NPR) attempted to tarnish the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher as a racist by suggesting that she supported apartheid in South Africa. Though Thatcher opposed sanctions against South Africa, and characterized the anti-apartheid African National Congress as a terrorist organization–which it was–she remained firmly opposed to the policy of apartheid.
NPR showed no interest in the facts of Thatcher’s record on apartheid, turning instead to an ANC source, Pallo Jordan, to attack Thatcher. Jordan was “the ANC’s chief propagandist in exile” when the organization was backed by the Soviet Union–a brutal regime responsible for the deaths of millions, and whose support for the ANC’s military campaign may have set back the cause of the anti-apartheid struggle for at least a decade.
Jordan was quoted by NPR as saying that Thatcher’s opposition to the ANC had proved an historic mistake, since it was the ANC that eventually took power in South Africa. He neglected to mention, of course, that the ANC only took power after abandoning the “armed struggle,” which elements of the ANC continued to wage even after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. And only the collapse of the USSR made that transition possible.
Thatcher opposed the ANC not because she supported racism, but because she opposed communism. Indeed, her defense of freedom likely assisted the struggle against apartheid by bringing about the end of the Cold War. While Jordan’s organization was planting bombs and torturing and murdering its own members in military camps, Thatcher was standing up against terrorism in the UK and tyranny among the ANC’s Eastern bloc allies.
It would be unfair to reduce the ANC’s history at the time to those excessive actions–but it is more unfair to cast Thatcher’s opposition to the ANC as support for white minority rule in South Africa. Jordan, who was himself detained by the ANC, knows very well the abuses that were committed in the name of the honorable anti-apartheid struggle. And NPR–which declined to include contrary opinions on Thatcher from South Africa–knows better as well.