Although liberal commentators and Hollywood movies like “The Butler” blame Ronald Reagan for apartheid, Reagan repeatedly called for Nelson Mandela’s release and apartheid’s abolition.
Despite well-founded concerns about Mandela’s pro-terrorist, pro-Communist views, Reagan also pressed South Africa to bring him into the country’s politics in a July 22, 1986 speech.
Reagan’s actual South Africa policy will come as a surprise to Americans accustomed to the systematic distortion of his actual record. That distortion continued after Mandela’s death, as MSNBC among others, selectively edited Reagan’s remarks on apartheid.
In fact, Reagan called apartheid “a malevolent and archaic system totally alien to our ideals” and made clear that his opposition to sanctions was a matter of strategy, not goals.
In his 1986 speech, Reagan called for “all political prisoners” to be released. Then the president mentioned Mandela by name, declaring, “Nelson Mandela should be released to participate in the country’s political process.”
Where Reagan earned the hatred of the left — which continues after his own and Mandela’s deaths and nearly a quarter-century after he left office — was in his rejection of a blunt battery of economic sanctions against the country, which he argued would be counterproductive given that South Africa, then as now, was the only partly functioning economy in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Far from playing cozy with the Afrikaans government, as, for example, Bill Keller of the New York Times seemed to suggest on NPR this morning, Reagan himself imposed sanctions against the South African government, issuing an executive order that curtailed military and official relations between the U.S. and Pretoria. I repeat: Reagan himself imposed sanctions against South Africa,” writes Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson on Ricochet.com.
Reagan argued that sanctions would harm poor South Africans the most. He quoted Alan Paton, the South African novelist and anti-apartheid activist, arguing against the divestment movement. Reagan dropped in on a meeting in September 16, 1985 where he made the same case, saying that economic sanction would harm black people in South Africa.
The divestment movement also harmed music fans everywhere, when Artists United Against Apartheid released the worst song of the 1980s:
While Ronald Reagan has been made into a villain, the legitimate reasons he had to worry about Nelson Mandela’s rise to power have been forgotten.
The Washington Post hit the Gipper with the fact that Mandela’s name remained on a terrorism watch list until 2008 — four years after Reagan’s death. The media have declined to mention the anti-white views Mandela held through much his life, nor have many commentators explored the corruption that characterized his post-prison life, when he amassed an estate worth millions.
They also didn’t investigate how Mandela’s children received government aid while driving in luxury cars and living in luxury homes.