Stuart Mole Mr. Mole is a PhD Student at the University of Exeter. He was Special Assistant to the Secretary-General (1984-1990), Director of the Secretary-General’s Office (1990-2000), and Director General of the Royal Commonwealth Society (2000-2009).
Nowadays, Sir Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal – lawyer and international diplomat – is well settled into retirement, though still a giant figure in his native Caribbean and still able to stir the memories of older generations who remember his boundless activism on the world stage.
From 1975 to 1990 he was the longest-serving Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, and for six of those years I was lucky enough to be his Special Assistant. It was an exhilarating time, now given new immediacy by the recent publication of his memoir Glimpses of a Global Life(2014).
This weighty and enthralling record demonstrates a contribution to international affairs which was multi-faceted and never less than exceptional. He served on a string of international commissions, including Brandt, on development and the North-South divide; Bruntland, pioneering the notion of sustainable development; and Palme, on peace and international security. There were other issues where his intellectual leadership and courage stood out. He was among the first to warn Africa and the world of HIV/AIDS – and among the first to speak of sea-level rise and climate change, many decades before such talk became common currency.
But perhaps he is best remembered for his titanic struggle against racism in Southern Africa – in the eventual vanquishing of white minority rule in Rhodesia and, more than a decade later, in helping bring to an end apartheid in South Africa. Continue reading “Sonny Ramphal’s Global Life”→
Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa, on election day 2014, Exeter’s Emily Bridger argues that the African National Congress’s continued political success owes much to its use of the past and the memory of Nelson Mandela.
Today, South Africans will go to the polls to vote in their country’s fifth democratic general election. South Africa’s political atmosphere has, since 1994, been characterized by the stubborn persistence of political allegiances, and a deep feeling of loyalty and indebtedness towards the African National Congress, the party that liberated its people from the oppressive conditions of apartheid. This year’s election carries particular historical significance, as it not only marks the twentieth anniversary since the end of apartheid but also the recent passing of the country’s political father figure, Nelson Mandela. While previous ANC election campaigns have focused on the hope for a better future, this year’s campaign has made a decisive rhetorical turn to the past. Likewise, to understand the ANC’s continued success, we must look to the party’s past progress rather than its present scandals. Continue reading “ANC Uses History to Sweep South Africa’s 2014 Elections”→
The crowd’s booing of Zuma at the memorial service embodied Mandela’s oppositional legacy.
Following Nelson Mandela’s passing early this month, international media and public interest in South Africa has abounded. From the fake sign language interpreter at the memorial to President Obama’s embarrassing ‘selfie’ taken during the service, journalists have had plenty of scandals to sink their teeth into. In particular, the crowd’s booing of current South African president Jacob Zuma during last Tuesday’s memorial has struck a particular chord with journalists, twitter users, and politicians alike. Continue reading “South Africa’s Long Walk: Political Dissent and the Spirit of Resistance at the Mandela Memorial”→
The sad news of the death of Nelson Mandela has led many commentators to reflect on how he will be remembered. His reputation is now, and has been for many years, almost uniquely positive. So it should be, and let’s hope it will remain that way. Let this not, however, be at the expense of historical complexity. Here are some points which historians should bear in mind when reflecting on Mandela’s career and on his evolution from freedom fighter to world statesman. Continue reading “How Should Historians Consider Nelson Mandela?”→