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Nelson Mandela was a terrorist

Debate Information

Terrorist- a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. [1]

I believe Nelson Mandela was a terrorist - change my mind.


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  • TopaetTopaet 48 Pts   -   edited July 2018

    Nelson Mandela was the co-founder and leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (Umkhonto we Sizwe), an organization that was classified as a terrorist organization by both South Africa and the United States and described as a typical terrorist organization by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 ([1], [2]). Mandela, in fact, was considered a terrorist by the United States until 2008 and the African National Congress was listed among 52 of the “world’s most notorious terrorist groups” [3].

    Additionally, Mandela had pled guilty to 156 acts of public violence, including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns that planted bombs in public places, such as the Johannesburg railway station ([4], [5]).

    And, among other things, was found guilty of:

    • Two counts of sabotage, committing or aiding or procuring the commission of the following acts:

    1) The further recruitment of persons for instruction and training, both within and outside the Republic of South Africa, in:

    (a) the preparation, manufacture and use of explosives—for the purpose of committing acts of violence and destruction in the aforesaid Republic, (the preparation and manufacture of explosives, according to evidence submitted, included 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminum powder and a ton of black powder) [5]

    (ii) Further acts of violence and destruction, (this includes 193 counts of terrorism committed between 1961 and 1963) [5]

    (v) Acts of participation in a violent revolution in the aforesaid Republic, whereby the accused, injured, damaged, destroyed, rendered useless or unserviceable, put out of action, obstructed, with or endangered:

    (a) the health or safety of the public; [5]

    Furthermore, Mandela was offered conditional release from prison in 1985 with the only condition being that he would renounce the use of violence as a political weapon. Mandela refused [6].


    In conclusion, Mandela was a terrorist as he advocated for the use of violence in pursuit of political aims (to bring about change in South Africa) and in this debate I have presented four pieces of evidence for this, 1. He was considered a terrorist by political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at that point of time, 2. He pled guilty to 156 acts of public violence, 3. He was found guilty of 193 counts of terrorism, violence and destruction, 4. He refused to renounce the use of violence as a political weapon.

    Inspiration was also taken from these sources:

    [5]: The State v. Nelson Mandela et al, Supreme Court of South Africa, Transvaal Provincial Division, 1963-1964, Indictment



  • WordsMatterWordsMatter 493 Pts   -  
    Noun. 1. insurrectionist - a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions) freedom fighter, insurgent, rebel
  • TopaetTopaet 48 Pts   -   edited July 2018
    @WordsMatter ; "Insurrectionist and terrorist are synonymous, and they have mutual synonyms." [1].
    "Terrorist and insurrectionist are semantically related. In some cases, you can replace "terrorist" with "insurrectionist" [1].

    "Insurrection can be individual or collective, peaceful (civil disobedience, civil resistance, and nonviolent resistance) or violent (terrorism, sabotage and guerrilla warfare) [2].

    Your argument is not convincing as "insurrectionist" and "terrorist" are not mutually exclusive, because they are semantically related, and because terrorism can be a manifestation of insurrectionism.
  • WordsMatterWordsMatter 493 Pts   -  
    @Topaet I don't think their is an objective answer to this. It's all a matter of perspective, just like all armed rebellions. To the British, the American colonials were terrorists, while they considered themselves freedom fighters. Claus von Stauffenberg saw himself as a rebel, Hitler would view him as a terrorist. Even in Star wars, they are called the rebellion, which you have shown is semantically related to terrorist, which is how the empire viewed them. 
  • searsear 109 Pts   -  
    Nelson Mandela may have erred ideologically.
    But as a man of impeccable principle, Mandela was quick to revise & correct.
    When Mandela underwent the official public ceremony that rendered him the leader of the nation that imprisoned him for over a generation, Mandela invited one of his prison guards, as a guest of honor, to view the ceremony.
    After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
    Nelson Mandela (b. 1918), South African first black South African president. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Little, Brown & Company (1994).

    The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

  • AmpersandAmpersand 853 Pts   -  
    Nah, that definition assumes the laws themselves are lawful and just which they weren't according to international humanitarian law - they were in fact Crimes against Humanity in aparteid South Africa's case.
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 4961 Pts   -  
    Mandela was definitely a terrorist by definition - but, again, by definition, it is very hard to fight an oppressive government without becoming a terrorist. Human rights such as Desmond Tutu managed to do it in a non-violent way, but some people employ more straightforward and direct ways to shift the balance. Such ways tend to be more effective short-term, but more damaging for the resulting state long-term. Mandela's actions created a precedent in the new state of employing violence in the name of an allegedly noble goal, and this precedent is exploited by the modern Southern African government relentlessly. Tutu's path was more difficult and painful, but it would give South Africa a better chance to turn into a democracy, rather than ending up as another African dictatorship with the racial roles simply reversed, not removed from the equation.

    Hitler was attacked by terrorists a few dozen times. If one of those terrorists ended Hitler's life, would Germany be where it is today? I do not think it likely. A more likely scenario would be Germany becoming a violent dictatorship, perhaps less totalitarian than Hitler's design, but probably more lasting and durable due to the lack of immediate expansion goals.
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