Rowan Philip
4 minute read
10 Dec 2013

Tata keeps on healing the world

Rowan Philip

NELSON Mandela’s “miracle” recipe for South Africa’s transition has been exported to 21 countries — and many of the world leaders gathering for his memorial service today will be giving thanks for his influence in averting or ending civil wars in their countries...

NELSON Mandela’s “miracle” recipe for South Africa’s transition has been exported to 21 countries — and many of the world leaders gathering for his memorial service today will be giving thanks for his influence in averting or ending civil wars in their countries.

The Witness can reveal that — even after his passing — Mandela continues to heal nations, with his principles for peaceful, inclusive power-sharing currently being actively used by South African facilitators to resolve conflicts in Syria, Cyprus, Bahrain, Puerto Pico, and Sri Lanka.

And South African peace facilitator Roelf Meyer said Mandela’s “miracle export” business was booming in 2013 — “we are getting more invitations to assist other countries than at any time in the past 20 years; there is huge interest in how [Mandela] led this change.”

The Witness has also established that Mandela’s negotiating blueprint of the early 1990s has been broken up into a “toolbox” of 41 strategies — from his insistence that even “spoilers” be included in negotiations, to his insistence that women make up 50% of the stakeholders, to his strategy to use underlings as chief negotiators, to help their bosses save face when things go wrong.

Negotiators confirmed that Mandela’s strategy for disarming Mkhonto we Sizwe led directly to the IRA doing the same in Northern Ireland — with active assistance from former defence minister Ronnie Kasrils — paving the way for its power sharing deal in 2007.

Meanwhile, the newly formed republic of South Sudan has been traced not only to active ANC assistance, but even to Mandela handing over his former exile office in Harare for the use of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in 1994.

Mandela was directly involved in forging peace in Burundi, where he shamed warring parties as making him “ashamed to be African”.

In the past month alone, South Africa’s miracle ambassadors have been sharing the lessons of 1994 with Colombia’s Farc rebels in a secret meeting in Cuba; with Turkish authorities in the contested island of Cyprus; with Puerto Ricans considering breaking from the United States; in Bahrain; and between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil minority.

One facilitator said South Africa’s new role in assisting the Free Syrian Army in its talks with the Assad regime was “too sensitive” to describe.

Ivor Jenkins — head external facilitator of Sri Lanka’s peace negotiations — said the process typically involved conflicting parties “deciding they need to know how South Africa did it”, and approaching Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim for help.

He said Ebrahim — “who is doing great things in this area” — then either assisted directly — as in the case of South Sudan and Bahrain — or outsourced the mediation to NGOs like Meyer’s ITI, or Accord, when government capacity was limited.

“Everywhere we go around the world, the single most effective lesson we can offer is how Madiba used symbolism to keep the process on track — I tell the story of how, on his first day in Parliament, Mandela read an Afrikaans poem out loud,” said Jenkins. “And of the Rugby World Cup, and how he had tea with Betsy Verwoerd in Orania.

“Before Codesa, the ANC thought they were being inclusive by bringing the SACP along; and the Nationalists brought their friends — but Mandela walked in and said, ‘this is not inclusivity — where is [Mangosuthu] Buthelezi; where is [Amichand] Rajbansi; where are the homeland leaders? We need even the spoilers included if this is to work’.”

Meanwhile, separatist groups described in the west as “terrorist” often approached South Africa’s leading “freelance” peace facilitator —former Lawyers for Human Rights director Brian Currin — to assist with talks.

Meyer said the end of the armed struggle waged by ETA, the Basque separatist movement in Spain, had been credited directly to Currin, and, indirectly, to Mandela.

Yesterday, Currin told The Witness: “The role of South Africans in peace facilitation tends to be kept quiet for a variety of reasons. But the lessons have proved highly effective — not just the successes we had with reconciliation and inclusivity, but also the failures we experienced, such as the issue of reparations, and the political interference in dealing with political prisoners. Even as facilitators, we have all been led by Mandela’s example — his humanity is still making peace, literally.”

Currin said South Africa now ranked only behind Norway as a global bridge-builder and peace facilitator between governments, rebels and minorities.

But Meyer said lessons from South Africa’s transition had failed to have any impact with Israeli leaders, and had also had limited success in Kosovo and the Ivory Coast.

However, he said it had been ‘highly effective” in places like the DRC, Burundi, Northern Ireland and Sudan.

“South Africans can feel proud of the facilitation work being done overseas,” said Meyer. “Ironically, Madiba’s overarching principle was that nations should find their own solutions, and not be prescribed to by outsiders — so we do not mediate; we are sharing our lessons, and people are listening.”