Joel Pollak: Mainstream Media Don't Understand Mandela Embraced Constraints on Power

Joel Pollak: Mainstream Media Don't Understand Mandela Embraced Constraints on Power

On Thursday, Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak said a big difference between the late South African leader Nelson Mandela and President Barack Obama is that Mandela embraced constraints on his power. 

Pollak said the mainstream media are unlikely to understand and mention that while discussing Mandela’s legacy and emphasized that South Africa’s more statist turn after Mandela should be a warning to the United States about how quickly freedoms and liberties can erode if a nation is not vigilant. 

Appearing on Mark Levin’s radio show hours after Mandela’s passing, Pollak, who was born in South Africa and later went back to the country to do a masters thesis and work for the opposition party, said that Mandela, after 27 years in captivity, surprised everyone by leaving the “injustices of the past” behind and adopting forgiveness. Levin said he invited Pollak on the show after reading his Breitbart News article on Mandela’s legacy.

Pollak said that because of Mandela’s embrace of reconciliation, a South Africa many thought was going to “erupt into a racial civil war” transitioned from apartheid peacefully. He also said that Mandela later rejected the violent aspects of the African National Congress and the more socialist aspects of his past and ended up obeying the constitution. Pollak said Mandela even “subjected himself to the will of the courts” while he was in power to set an example that he was not above the constitution. 

And like George Washington, Mandela, Pollak noted, accepted the constraints put on him and stepped down after he served his term even though he could have been a dictator had he wanted to be.

Pollak said Mandela, a radical who eventually became a constitutionalist, was a complicated man with a complex legacy with many things from his past that deserve criticism. For instance, he mentioned that Mandela had aligned with the Soviet Union to get weapons, which set back his struggle about 10-15 years during the Cold War because he aligned with the “worst regime” that was known then. Levin and Pollak noted that the African National Congress’s alliance with the Soviets was also a concern for President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Republicans at the time, as well. Pollak also noted that Mandela aligned himself with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Yasir Arafat. 

Yet, Pollak said that Mandela handled the country’s finances responsibility and almost balanced the budget, even though some of his more socialist economic policies predictably failed. Mandela recognized Israel’s right to exist and did not turn his back on the United States and her ideals. Pollak praised Mandela for speaking out against terrorism and those that said Americans got what was coming to them on 9/11, including many in South Africa, and mentioned Mandela was “a statesman at the end of the day.”

Pollak said that though Mandela and his party could have “unilaterally changed the constitution,” South African leaders “wouldn’t dare amend the constitution while Mandela was alive,” because his example was one of “respect for the constitution and reconciliation.” 

“What remains to be seen is whether the country will go in that direction now that he has died,” Pollak said. 

The signs have not been good. 

Pollak told Levin that since Mandela retired, “South Africa has gone in a more statist” and “tyrannical” direction. He noted that Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, believed in “top-down leadership and redistribution,” while dividing the country much like President Barack Obama. Pollak also said he has felt like he was reliving the Mbeki years during Obama’s tenure as president. 

He also said Mbeki also did not think a virus caused AIDS and denied the vaccine to South Africans because he unilaterally believed that government knows best and has intellectual and political authority. Pollak said Obama also has that tendency, thinking he can tell Americans “what reality is and what reality isn’t.” 

“That’s part of his style I find very offensive, having lived through a similar style and seeing the consequences,” Pollak said.

South Africa after Mandela is in a “a steady decline” and a “slow erosion,” as “wealth is being redistributed to ruling-party cronies,” Pollak said, before noting that the crime problem Mandela had difficulty controlling has been exacerbated. Pollak spoke about the murder of his South African friend, who had lifted up her impoverished neighborhood when she became an entrepreneur and started a bed and breakfast.

Pollak also said that when he was working in South Africa after graduating from college in the United States, he saw what “social justice” meant in practice.  He said that seeing Mbeki’s government in action was “a big part of his political development” and a “real wake-up call.”

He said South Africa is a “reminder to our country that the founding documents of our nation are only as good as we are in defending them.” Pollak said that reality also came home to him in South Africa as he saw a ruling party tempted to go against all of the checks and protections put on the government in what Pollak said was becoming a system he described as a “one-party hegemony.” 

Pollak said that “freedoms are eroding” in South Africa, “and they will erode here if we are not careful.”

He mentioned that Mandela knew that “liberty is not a moment” and “wanted the country to mature and grow.” Though the county has unfortunately veered in a more statist direction since Mandela stepped down, Pollak said Mandela ultimately stood for “for what South Africa could have been and yet still may be.”


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