The same scene played out repeatedly at political rallies in South Africa's dusty black townships two decades ago: Nelson Mandela's then-wife, Winnie, would electrify the crowd by lashing out at the white government. She would fire up the young men with her heated rhetoric, tapping into their grievances and leading them into frenzied chants and songs of liberation.
After her powerful warm-up act, her sober and lawyerly husband would step to the microphone and detail the state of the negotiations with the white rulers. He would patiently stress the need to exercise self-control and follow the guidelines and practices established by his movement, the African National Congress.
She was a bonfire. He was the principal on the first day of school, telling students everything they couldn't do.
Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for his iron will, symbolized by the 27 years in prison that only made him stronger. Yet throughout his life, from liberation fighter to prisoner to president to elder statesman, many of his defining moments involved acts of compromise, pragmatism and reconciliation.
Mandela's closest friends and toughest rivals all agreed he could be tough, autocratic and stubborn. By one count, the white government offered to release him from prison six times, always with conditions attached, and Mandela refused every time.
"I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom," Mandela said on one such occasion. In 1990, he was released unconditionally.
Winning Over His Oppressor
Revolutionary figures tend to be firebrands who are doctrinaire and single-minded, regarding compromise as a dirty word and a sign of weakness. Yet Mandela consistently displayed flexibility and magnanimity, using it skillfully to get his way and to keep South Africa from sliding toward the abyss of racial conflict.
In prison, Mandela and his colleagues learned Afrikaans, the language of the oppressor, and assiduously cultivated their white wardens for more than a quarter century. In the early years at the Robben Island prison, Mandela faced endless abuse and humiliations. But ultimately he won them over. In the final years, the wardens treated Mandela as if they were his loyal bodyguards.
Mandela said after his release that this taught him the power of persuasion and negotiation, an approach he would follow repeatedly to win over a skeptical white minority.
When Mandela was behind bars, many whites regarded him as a radical and a terrorist. He had received his life sentence for launching the armed struggle against apartheid, though it amounted mostly to a low-level sabotage campaign.
When released from prison, he did not renounce armed struggle, viewing it as a way to keep pressure on the government. Yet he also refused to endorse the younger, more aggressive blacks, who wanted a full-fledged battle with the white government and its powerful security forces.
"We can't win a war, but we can win an election," Mandela said.
This reflected Mandela's shrewd pragmatism about how best to advance the cause of black political rights. It often meant tempering emotions, and it was an acquired trait, as he noted in his autobiography, The Long Walk To Freedom.
"I was angry at the white man, not at racism," Mandela wrote of his feelings as a younger man. "While I was not prepared to hurl the white man into the sea, I would have been perfectly happy if he climbed aboard his steamships and left the continent of his own volition."
Blacks And Whites, Bound Together
His position later shifted. In the internal debate among blacks, Mandela opposed black nationalists who said whites didn't belong in South Africa. Instead, he stressed a multiracial society in which whites were not only welcome, but necessary to the country's success.
As he reached out to whites, Mandela had to fend off criticism from many younger activists. His former wife Winnie was, at times, one of his harshest critics, accusing him of appeasing whites at the expense of blacks.
Mandela negotiated with President F.W. de Klerk for four rocky years as they forged the grand bargain that buried apartheid and created what has become the most respected democratic system on the continent.
There was no warmth between them, yet they both understood they needed each other to bring about the historic transformation. For the most part, they kept their recriminations in check, though they would periodically snipe at each other, even as they shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Mandela's African National Congress won the first all-race elections in a landslide in 1994. But under the deal negotiated with de Klerk, the government would be made up of a coalition that gave smaller parties prominent representation.
This meant that Mandela's cabinet included not only de Klerk and his white party, but also Mandela's main black rival, Magosuthu Buthelezi, whose Zulu Inkatha party had waged bloody battles with the ANC, leaving thousands dead. This required many delicate negotiations, but it kept the country together at a fragile moment.
Mandela was always looking for ways to reach out to groups that were not his allies. One of the most memorable was in the 1995 rugby World Cup in South Africa.
The sport was dominated by whites, and Afrikaners in particular. But Mandela went to the stadium in Johannesburg and put on the green jersey of the national team, the Springboks, before the championship match with New Zealand. The crowd of 80,000 was overwhelmingly white. Yet they erupted with chants of "Nel-son, Nel-son," as he toured the grounds.
Nelson's graceful exit from the political spotlight is sometimes overlooked. After one five-year term, Mandela voluntarily stepped down from the presidency in 1999, though he could have served a second term. It was an extraordinary act on a continent where many leaders expect to rule for life, and often do.
Mandela spent his long life fighting against the white monopoly on power, and once he succeeded, he set the precedent that he was a steward of power in a multiracial South Africa, not its sole owner.
Inspectors for the United Nations nuclear watchdog visited an Iranian plant linked to the country's nuclear program on Sunday.
The visit to Iran's Arak heavy water production plant — the first by international inspectors in more than two years — is the first real-world test of an interim deal Iran struck with the West in November.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran agreed to pause some of its nuclear activity, as well as allow intrusive visits by international inspectors. The U.S. and its partners agreed to drop some of its sanctions, which amount to about $6 billion in relief.
The BBC reports that under the deal Iran also promised not to "commission or fuel the Arak reactor" during the six month period. The BBC adds:
"It has promised not to commission or fuel the Arak reactor during that time.
"The Arak heavy water production plant is designed to supply a research reactor under construction nearby.
"The Arak reactor is significant because if completed, it could open the way for the reprocessing of plutonium — a potential step towards a nuclear weapon."
The U.S. insists Iran is racing to develop a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The team from the International Atomic Energy Agency should complete their one-day inspection today, Reuters reports. They will be back on a plane to Vienna tonight.
Meanwhile, two bits of news have bubbled up about the deal:
— According to the AP, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the interim deal with world powers had "already boosted the country's economy."
— As we reported, President Obama also defended the deal with Iran on Saturday during a conversation at a yearly forum for American and Israeli leaders. Obama said the U.S. would be OK, if Iran retained some enrichment capabilities.
Another diplomatic shot was fired in the spate unfolding over uninhabited islands in East China Sea on Sunday: Countering China, South Korea announced that it was expanding its air defense zone to partially cover some of the same area China laid claim to in November.
"South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said the new zone would include two small islands and a submerged rock historically disputed with China. Air defense identification zones are not territorial claims, but they mark the airspace that countries feel are important to monitor. Officials in Washington and across Asia say the competing aerial zones raise the risk of mishaps that could trigger a broader conflict.
"South Korea plans to hold talks with 'related countries' in order to 'prevent accidental military clashes' within the expanded zone, the defense ministry said in a statement. The South said the zone, known as an ADIZ, would take effect December 15."
As we've reported, China has asked any aircraft flying over the islands to share their flight plans with them. The U.S., which is obligated by treaty to defend South Korea, responded by flying bombers across the airspace. China sent its own war planes to the zone.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden tried to calm the waters, saying the U.S. was "deeply concerned" about the situation.
"This underscores the need for crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication between China and Japan to reduce the risk of escalation," Biden said.
The AP reports that the U.S. stood by South Korea's new air defense zone, which also overlaps with some of Japan's declared air defense zone. The U.S. State Department said South Korea's approach "avoids confusion for, or threats to, civilian airlines."
"The United States has been and will remain in close consultation with our allies and partners in the region to ensure their actions contribute to greater stability, predictability, and consistency with international practices," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to the AP.
On-air challenge: Every answer is the name of a famous person whose first and last names start with the same consonant or group of consonants. You're given rhymes for the two names. You name the people. For example, if given "cycle four," the answer would be "Michael Moore."
Last week's challenge: Name a dance. Change one of the letters to a U. The resulting letters can be rearranged to name an event at which this dance is done. What is it?
Answer: hula, luau
Winner: Matthew Arient of Naperville, Ill.
Next week's challenge from listener Pete Collins of Ann Arbor, Mich.: Name a U.S. city in nine letters. Shift the third letter six places later in the alphabet. Then shift the last letter seven places later in the alphabet. The result will be a family name featured in the title of a famous work of fiction. What is the city, and what is the family name?
If you know the answer to next week's challenge, submit it here. Listeners who submit correct answers win a chance to play the on-air puzzle. Important: Include a phone number where we can reach you Thursday at 3 p.m. ET.