Like many an American politician, Gov. Nikki Haley took to Facebook last night to pay posthumous tribute to Nelson Mandela — the figurative father of post-apartheid South Africa — to the virulent dismay of some of her social media followers.
Within 18 hours of her posting — “There are no words to describe the impact Nelson Mandela had no just on his country but on the world. May we all continue to learn from his courage, his grace, and his incomparable strength.” — Haley’s remark had elicited 1,784 “likes,” as one might expect. Surprising, however, was that of the roughly 130 comments from Haley’s followers, at least 70 took issue with her celebrating Mandela’s life.
No small number of the comments expressed bitter contempt for the man who ushered democracy and racial equality into South Africa in 1994 with relatively little violence, a remarkable feat given the many factions back then that were ready to turn their nation’s rivers red, including quite a few of Mandela’s own allies in the African National Congress.
No one looks to Facebook for intelligent commentary, especially on complicated geopolitical events like the end of apartheid, but when an elected official’s page draws so many bilious attacks and falsehoods, we think it is worth noting. Here are some choice unedited examples of the rhetoric coming from Haley’s anti-Mandela Facebook followers:
“May his worthless soul rot in Hell.” – Larry R Smith
“Mandella was a socialist goon who comitted the end of his life to eliminating white people.” – Phil Miller
“Mandela is unworthy of the admiration heaped upon him. He launched a genocide which continues to this day. He was an evil man, for that and other reasons. His first wife is not among his admirers.” – Javier Perez
“Come on, Nikki, he was a murdering, racist, Marxist, terrorist scumbag!” – Wade Smith
“He was a common thief and murderer that lived of the backs of others. Come on Nikki, tell it like it is. He was a South African hitler, don’t glorify that. !” – David Sturgis
“Attempting to overthrow the government in any country is a capital crime. The man got off easy.” – Kevin O’Brien
“NOT IN AGREEMENT…he was a terrorist 1st class,plus a communist and NECKLACED his opponents,blacks included and his wife assisted…he is in hell…” – Yale O. Leftwich
“Ever hear of necklacing? Between him and his wife they invented one of the most brutal forms of mob justice ever created. Look it up.” – Don Benghazi Hooker
These notions, likely learned at the Internet’s darkest margins, are laughable for their inaccuracy and blindness to the crimes of the apartheid regime, alarming for their venom.
Yes, Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement was closely aligned with communism because the Soviet Union financed its efforts, just as it did the North Vietnamese and other anti-colonial movements around the world during the Cold War. But the anti-apartheid movement focused on defeating the oppression of minority rule, not recreating Stalinist Russia. Mandela never made any effort to seriously impose communism in modern South Africa.
As for necklacing, for those who don’t know, it was a form of execution that came out of South Africa’s apartheid townships, often resulting from black-on-black mob justice for those suspected of collaborating with the all-white government. It involved slashing the victim’s tendons and ligaments at the elbow, placing a tire over his head and shoulders, constraining his then useless arms, applying accelerants and setting the whole package on fire. Winnie Mandela, Mandela’s second wife, who evolved into a full-blown thug during her estranged husband’s 27-year prison sentence, notoriously endorsed the practice in the 1980s and her own goon squad reportedly adopted it.
But not Nelson Mandela.
Haley’s office did not reply to a request for comment on the slew of anti-Mandela slanders popping up on her Facebook page. Given that it was her own praise of Mandela’s courage, grace and strength that generated such ugliness, her silence so far rings particularly loud.