Herbert Dyer, Jr.

As is being widely reported, Nelson Mandela's health has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and he is now in critical condition, the South African government said today.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma issued a statement indicating that he had visited the 94-year-old Mandela at a Pretoria hospital Sunday evening. The doctors there told him that Mandela's condition had become critical within the past 24 hours.

"The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands," the statement, as reported by YahooNews, said. Zuma was using Mandela's clan name.

Graca Machel, Mandela's wife, was also at the hospital and spoke of the great man's failing condition, according to Zuma's statement. Cyril Ramaphosa is South Africa's deputy president of the African National Congress. The ANC is South Africa's ruling party, and the party which after decades of nonviolent and then “armed struggle,” fought the white nationalist apartheid government to a negotiated turnover of power to South Africa's black majority beginning in the early '90s. While imprisoned, Mandela was the ANC's president-in-abstenia for many years.

Mandela lost 27 years in white minority dominated South Africa's deepest, darkest dungeons. But, in fact, those years were not “lost” at all. The powerful symbolism of his uncompromising, indeed righteous, and selfless sacrificial stance against white racist rule grew to iconic stature. Mandela became and remains a living legend, a martyr for the cause of freedom, equality, and justice for black folks throughout the diaspora.

Nelson Mandela's presence in prison sharpened the focus and gave definition to the nature and direction of struggle against white supremacy. He showed us how to defeat – finally – the idea that any one people or “race” is “better” than another.

After it became clear – again, finally – to the white racists leadership and the minority it represented – that South Africa would be forever “ungovernable” unless and until the black majority gained its rightful place as the majority holders of “political” and, yes, economic, power, the white supremacists had no choice but to yield or watch the nation-state descend into utter chaos.

After sustained worldwide protests, demonstrations, demands, boycotts of all description, and the unquestionable moral force -- soul force -- of this simple argument, Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

Although he had played a surreptitious role as counselor and adviser to all factions during his long incarceration, his leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era and shaping her into a true democracy, culminated in his becoming South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994.

He was hospitalized on June 8 for what has been described as a recurring lung infection, according to the Huffington Post, among others.

In today's press release, Zuma also acknowledged that the ambulance carrying Mandela to the Pretoria hospital two weeks ago had had engine trouble. At that time, the former president had to be transferred to another ambulance.

"There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care," Zuma said. "The fully equipped military ICU ambulance had a full complement of specialist medical staff including intensive care specialists and ICU nurses. The doctors also dismissed the media reports that Madiba suffered cardiac arrest. There is no truth at all in that report."

Mandela is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


If and when Mandela dies, it will be interesting and more than revealing to see if President Obama will attend the former President Mandela's funeral. Or, will he, as I suspect and expect, send as his surrogate a whole raft of acolytes, led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Yes, I know President Obama will be on the continent soon. Please notice, though, that although his own deceased father was born and raised in Kenya, and Obama's paternal relatives keep popping all the time, Kenya is not on his itinerary.

For the same reason that Obama will not directly address African American issues, he will not deign to do anything about bringing Africa itself into the 21st Century.

Nelson Mandela has been kind to Obama. He has not called him out directly on his reticence to deal with white supremacy/white racism. Perhaps, no, I know, Mandela understands better than most that Obama is not his own man. That Obama simply cannot betray those who put him in office – not “the people,” of course, but the banksters, the corporations, the oil companies, the coal companies, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

And so we wait...and watch. For the final word from South Africa. Nelson Mandela is one of those few true black leaders whose universal appeal was obvious and clear. "The system," despite its best efforts (including Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney) was unable to corrupt, to diminish, to assassinate him. He endured and survived in the face of all that was thrown at him -- and us. Something black folks have done since Christopher Columbus made his first foray into Africa in the 1480s.

Thank you, President Nelson Mandela.