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Peter Tatchell: ‘Nelson Mandela was a gay icon but he failed on HIV, poverty & Mugabe’

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  1. Mike Homfray 6 Dec 2013, 4:48pm

    I don’t think the HIV comments are very fair – it didn’t appear to be such a priority at the time. He certainly didn’t support his successors head-in-the-sand attitude. Its fair to argue that everyone failed but not to pick him out. Poverty – well, if you have been to South Africa you’ll know what a hguge task that will be for anyone to deal with. He only served one term! And Mugabe – again, you have to understand the politics of liberation. Mugabe was a comrade at the time of the liberation struggle – it was only later he went mad. It just isn’t done, in that context, to bawl him out publicly, we may find that hard to understand, but that doesn’t mean that there was universal support for what he did. Just that it wasn’t done to publicly criticse those who fought with you.

  2. Seems fair, with the wrong wording it could have come across in a bad way. When talking about giants like Mandela people often forget that he is, was human and by no means perfect, though infinitely closer to it than the vast majority of politicians.

  3. No he didnt 6 Dec 2013, 5:05pm

    Peter Tatchell supported LGBT rights but failed on race awareness, timing, compassion and diplomacy

    1. Just one more way for Pink News to cash in on the death of someone, compassion and morality is not what they stand for. Sadly PN is turning into yet another sick tabloid!

    2. Especially when Peter was supporting a right wing parade though East London a few years ago and ‘beefed’ up an anti Muslim group.

  4. Peter, the man’s only been dead for 24 hours. He may not have been perfect or lived up to your every expectation but as you can see by the headlines all over the world, he’s being mourned for doing his best. Please show some respect before you start assassinating his character.

  5. Peter Tatchell 6 Dec 2013, 5:49pm

    My article is full of very strong praise for Mandela. I believe in truthful, honest tributes, not one-sided gushing stuff. My criticisms of his failings on HIV were made at the time when he was president by South African HIV and LGBT activists, including the Treatment Action Group. Other South Africans are much harsher than me about his failure to seriously tackle black poverty

    1. BlokeToys 6 Dec 2013, 5:56pm

      Whether you think it’s truthful or not, there is a right time and a wrong time. This is the wrong time.

      By all means, wait a month and write an entire essay on how you would run a country and please everyone, while holding back a civil war, while appeasing despotic neighbors, while encouraging growth, economic stability, feeding the masses, providing free medical care for all… and doing all of this in one term after ending apartheid.

      Now is not the time to be slapping yourself on the back while exposing the “failings” of a man who has been deceased for less than 24 hours!

      1. For once, I don’t agree with you – it makes no difference to Mandela whether he’s been dead 24 hours or 24 months. And I don’t think PT has been grudging in his praise of Mandela’s many good qualities.

        1. BlokeToys 6 Dec 2013, 7:56pm

          It might not make much difference to Mandela himself, but it makes a great deal of difference to many people who may read this and be not only offended regarding the timing, but also embarrassed by being the only site to be publishing critiques of Mandela in such a simplistic way.

          I admire Peter immensely for the work he’s done, but no matter how much praise he heaps on Mandela, it’s still a negative piece, self congratulatory, needless, poorly timed and overly simplistic.

          It comes across as someone naive writing about a utopian fantasy while ignoring cultural hurdles and regional politics of the time, and blaming one of the most amazing figures in modern history for not providing the Moon on a stick, thereby diminishing all the greatness that was achieved.

          Above all, it’s unnecessary.

    2. Bill Cameron 6 Dec 2013, 7:45pm

      I think you have written a very fair summary. Nelson Mandela had many very good aspects to his character and a few less good, with the former far outweighing the latter. It is certainly enormously to his credit that he was able to champion a spirit if forgiveness to those who had wronged him and others during apartheid. A number of other countries have lessons to learn from his and Desmond Tutu’s example – not least the reactions recently to similar proposals for Northern Ireland, when many on both sides of that particular dispute seemed sadly unwilling to contemplate a similar ‘peace and reconciliation’ process.

  6. BlokeToys 6 Dec 2013, 5:49pm

    If it were not for the self-congratulatory tone of two thirds of this piece, I would have given it more credence, but the way Peter seems to glory in slapping himself on the back for most of it is pretty shameful. “I did this, I did that, aren’t I an amazing man!!!”

    Like it or not, HIV/Aids was sidelined in preference of holding his country together. Through the first year or two SA was always on the verge of tearing itself apart. Before he was released there were genuine fears of a civil war. And what did OUR country do that was so remarkable in the HIV/Aids fight?

    It’s interesting to see mention of his failings regarding poverty and Mugabe. Peter seems to have ignored the fact that Zimbabwe collapsed because of Mugabe’s redistribution plan, giving all the land back from white farmers, to people who then knew nothing about farming!

    Everything Peter has criticized Mandela for he fought, maybe not in office, but after.

    I think this piece is more about self-aggrandizing.

  7. Kevin Lindsay 6 Dec 2013, 6:11pm

    I have great respect for Peter but I was saddened to read this piece at a time when South Africa and the world mourns the passing of a man of integrity. Now is not the time to discuss his failings, in fact to some of us it is disrespectful to the process. History will portray Nelson Mandela as an iconic 20th Century freedom fighter who took his country through an incredible transition with a total lack of malice. His message of reconciliation inspired the Nation of South Africa and the wider world. Please Peter with the utmost respect and for just this once either show some humility at this sad time or shut up!

    1. Helge Vladimir Tiller 6 Dec 2013, 10:45pm

      Kevin, I was about to write something similar ! So thank you so very,very much. All of us should show some ethics, and bow our heads in respect. Mandela was a great person. He urged us to be brothers and friends. These days are not for discussions and arguments. But for thankful memories. —and WE are friends, aren’t we. ( Love you all—-Norway ! )

  8. Probably not the best day to comment on his failures. Oh Tatchell, you can be such a pleb.

  9. Peter Tatchell 6 Dec 2013, 6:50pm

    The point of this comment piece was to give a personal perspective on Mandela, including my connections to the anti-apartheid movement (which explain why I wrote the article). I also sought to shed light on aspects of Mandela’s life and policies that others have not mentioned, especially the LGBT dimensions. I heaped great praise on Mandela but also felt that a rounded, balanced view was vital – as opposed to a gushing one-sided tribute. Well, that’s what I was trying to do. I apologise if anyone found it offensive.

    1. Kevin Lindsay 6 Dec 2013, 7:05pm

      Sadly, at this moment in time it is not about you.

      We neither asked to be or needed to be informed about what you did and he failed to do. There will be an appropriate time for this but that time is not now.

      Let us give thanks for what he did do.

      1. Let us give thanks for what he did do.

        Is anyone stopping you from doing that? If the tenor of this article seemed likely to be unwelcome to you (the hint would be in the headline), why did you read it?

        One of the most unattractive aspects of human nature is the herd instinct, when it rounds on anyone who doesn’t seem to follow the party line 150% – even though PT in this instance was at pains to acknowledge Mandela’s greatness in many respects.

        1. Kevin Lindsay 6 Dec 2013, 10:52pm

          I read it because Peter sent it to me. I am a subscriber to the PT Foundation!

          1. Oh, OK – fair enough.

      2. Though I will say the issue hasn’t in any way been helped by PN’s dreadful headline for this article, irresponsibly putting quotation marks around a statement PT has not made in so many words. Very shoddy, PN. Could do a lot better.

        1. Kevin Lindsay 6 Dec 2013, 10:36pm

          As a subscriber to the PT Foundation the Press Release was sent directly to my inbox this morning which is why I read it. I stand by what I have said. Normally, I support Peter but in this instance I believe he is wrong. Nothing at all to do with a “herd instinct” more to do with a personal sense of respect, dignity and timing.

          1. Well, for myself I didn’t find a balanced (as opposed to purely eulogistic) view inappropriate in any way.

    2. Bill Cameron 6 Dec 2013, 7:50pm

      I don’t think you have any need to apologise. I think you wrote a very fair and balanced article.

      I don’t particularly like the generally left-wing slant of most of your activism, for balance, but mostly you get it pretty right. No-one is perfect, not Mandela and certainly not you – nor me of course.

    3. Don’t apologize, Peter. You are right to be proud of the influence you had and now seems as good a time as any to remind us of the breadth of your work. Warts and al analyses of political careers are routinely published after death. Mandela was a great man and deserves serious political comment, which is what PT has provided.

  10. To be fair to Madiba, could anyone have overcome the consequences of forty six years of apartheid in just a single term of office? And he also lost one of his own sons to HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, he did speak out against his successor Thabo Mbeki’s endorsement of HIV denialism and successively condemned Mugabe for human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Added to which, at least sexual orientation was included in South Africa’s constitution.

  11. Derek Williams 6 Dec 2013, 8:45pm

    Just when I was thinking Mandela was a good guy, who shepherded in the ONLY African government with full LGBT equality, along comes this naysayer again.

  12. I agree with Peter on this one.

    The sycophantic wall to wall lies being told about this man is nothing short of criminal.

    Look it up sheeple. Bahhh Bahhh Bahhh

    1. I think it’s fair enough not to be hugely enthusiastic about debunkers, Mandela was unquestionably a great man in many many respects. It’s just a shame that there needs to be such resentment of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line in its extremes of treacly self-serving sentiment.

      The highlight for me today was the drooling post put up by someone I know on Facebook who’s a strident Tory. He seems to have not the slightest knowledge of just what Tories thought of Mandela until he became a head of state. That sort of revisionism is utterly repulsive.

  13. WHAT T F ?

    Is he serious?

    Mandela spoke out about these things consistently and ensured that South Africa had LGBT rights at its core. This slipped via the ANC and its current leaders, however as an old, frail man, he still continued to speak out where and when he could.

    There is only so much he could do, only serving one term, with many having more ‘power’ then he did.

    Along with Desmond Tutu, they both spoke out on these issues.

    Peter – you are wrong to ‘speak out’ about this.

    Robert Brown

    1. Peter Tatchell 7 Dec 2013, 8:10pm

      Hi Robert,
      Can you supply direct quotes or credible reports of Mandela speaking out on HIV while he was president (when he had power)? And of him condemning Mugabe? And of him supporting LGBT rights? South African activists say he never did. I am merely repeating their claims. But if you have evidence, I would be glad to receive it. Appreciation, Peter

      1. Why are people thumbing this comment down? It merely asks for more information.

        1. Midnighter 9 Dec 2013, 11:56am

          Some browsers render “This comment does not add to the discussion” as “SMITE the foul worm who dares disagree with me”

  14. Nick Kirby 7 Dec 2013, 8:30am

    I don’t know what disappoints/disgusts me more – the fact that Tatchell manages to turn the death of Mandela into being all about himself, or that he had clearly prepared this in advance of Mandela’s death in order to get it out so quickly and to throw himself into the spotlight.

    Yet more self-aggrandisement from the master of the art.

  15. Peter don’t be a fool or don’t be stupid

  16. Nothing is ever right for this man. He just seems to love whinging and complaining.

  17. Kevin Lindsay 7 Dec 2013, 10:48am

    Peter I am and always have been a great admirer of your work but the very idea that one man could spend 27 years incarcerated – leave detention – inherit a divided nation and at the age of 75 years lead a Party that had no previous experience of government and then for you to point out his failings from one term in office, is laughable if it wasn’t so embarrassing once shared with South African friends! He was Nelson Mandela in Africa not Glinda in Oz!

  18. Peter tatchell said if a few people die then it’s ok for the greater cause when he started the stop murder music campaign. It wasn’t his life on the line it was mine. He made my life extremely difficult and things are still quite taught.

    1. Peter Tatchell 7 Dec 2013, 8:06pm

      I never said any such thing. If you think I did, please provide the source. Everyone knows that I have dedicated my life to non-violence, inspired by Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The Stop Murder Music campaign was coordinated with the Jamaican LGBT group J-Flag. They approved it.

      1. Tatchell says the Stop Murder Music campaign has succeeded in provoking debate in Jamaica, but concedes that, in the short term at least, the debate may have made life more difficult for the country’s gay population. “There was a very similar effect produced by the black civil rights movement in the deep South. It provoked a backlash, the number of church burnings and lynchings went up. It was a tragic but necessary process to go through in order to vanquish white racism.

        I was on the receiving end in london. Followed down he street shouted at in communities where I lived my whole life. Suddenly I became the enemy it was pretty grim and I was actually living in fear for a few years.

        1. Peter I’m waiting for a response

  19. For those who are saying, “Now’s not the time to criticise Mandela” – now is *exactly* the time for it, when the topic is at the height of public discourse. We are all human beings. We all have strengths and we all have failings. These all contribute to the legacy we leave. The actions and decisions I take I expect to be immediately and permanently judged by those privy to them whether I am alive or dead.

    And it’s especially important to address the flaws of (say) Mandela when the topic of his legacy is at the fore. Peter’s piece is not some hatchet job. It is a touching piece which celebrates one of history’s iconic freedom fighters, but does not rose-tint him. Those who ask Peter to hold back on the criticism – is that the spirit of democracy that Mandela himself tried to foster? Not to say anything “inappropriate”?

    The overwhelming message I take from Mandela’s vindication is that we always need to speak out – not only when people are ready to hear it, but especially when they are not.

    Nice piece, Peter.

  20. I welcome the comments from Peter Tatchell. I welcome his activism and his opinionated stance. I believe this man is living the true legacy of Mandela which is to stand up for your human rights from your initial standpoint and then extend your position to link with other struggles. He has important insights for us all and lives by his own standards which is difficult for us all to do. It is because of those like Tatchell and Mandela, who have principles and live by them that I have hope.

  21. Wow Peter. You criticized a just-dead man that he was human. How great of you. How noble. How worthy of being published. This is such *great* journalism. Why don’t we go out and nitpick all of your short comings? Let’s do it while you’re in the hospital dying or something, since that’s apparently an appropriate time to do it – right near death.

    He accomplished many, many things. And here you are, saying on his grave, how he didn’t do enough. As a human, there is only so much he could possibly do.

    I’ve lost all respect for you as an LGBT activist.

    1. Yes, *do* go out and nitpick Peter’s shortcomings. And when he does die (hopefully not soon…) and you think the media are overlooking those shortcomings, point them out. That’s the right and fair thing to do when it comes to analysing someone’s life.

      You say as a human there’s only so much Mandela could do, but surely Peter’s point was that after all the suffering and hard work Mandela endured to finally achieve his incredible position of influence, he made considerable mistakes. That doesn’t mean they outweighed the good, but it’s not healthy to canonise *anyone*.

      Opposite end of the political spectrum, but when Thatcher died I was not interested in the sensitivities of her supporters when it came to criticising her. If I hadn’t done so it would have let them get away with re-writing the history of her supposed achievements. The same principle has to apply to people I liked too.

    2. Wow! All those years of devoted work as an GLBT activist wiped out because of one article about Mandela. Shallow.

  22. I really can’t believe all the personal attacks here. It must be that many of these conservative sissies don’t like Peter’s confrontational style. But his obstinacy has contributed hugely to the freedoms we now have.
    Some people tell it like it is. Get over it.

    1. Partisan labels do not bolster your point in the slightest. I am an avid left-winger. The difference is that I understand that a LGBT campaigner in a relatively free country in the 90’s could have little right to criticize someone who was holding his country together after the end of apartheid.

      Find me one leader of the last 100 years who has done everything right, tackled all the right problems, ended poverty, ended disease… all within budget, and all with the social limitations SA had to deal with at that time.

      As I said before, it seems that PT wanted the moon on a stick, and because Mandela had to prioritize keeping his nation together he’s able to be criticized for the things he probably couldn’t have done.

      If your country is almost falling into chaos, would you find the time to spearhead health campaigns and wealth distribution? I very much doubt that.

      1. Peter didn’t criticise Mandela for not ending poverty or ending disease, but for not taking the chance to be bolder on them. I don’t see why he “probably couldn’t” have spoken and invested more on HIV, or criticised Mugabe (how long does speaking about either of those issues take?!), or taken a firmer line on land reform.

        You ask if it’s reasonable to spearhead health campaigns and wealth distribution when your country is almost falling into chaos. The point is surely that health campaigns and wealth and land redistribution were the way *out* of chaos, and their sluggishness is a huge factor in why South Africa is still experiencing as much chaos as it is.

        I absolutely understand and entirely agree with those including Peter who say that Mandela’s resilience, bravery and humanity mark him out as one of history’s most unifying and inspirational figures. What I can’t understand is that because of that we shouldn’t criticise any of his very real failings we should be learning from.

      2. You are right, BlokeToys. And if Tatchell had written a hatchet piece I may have joined his critics. However, the article was full of rightful praise about what Mandela had achieved but it also contained some regrets which PT, through his past involvement with the SA constitution, was entitled to mention.
        I believe much of the criticism has come from people with a personal dislike of Tatchell blowing his own trumpet. I have read several articles in the last few days by people who knew, met, interviewed or had some connection with Mandela, including Sir Trevor MacDonald. All of them self-aggrandising boasts, I assume.

  23. Peter, who has succeeded on HIV, poverty and Mugabe? I seem to remember you failing with Magabe.

  24. Mr Tatchell your piec but self agrandisement. As a South African I have a keener understanding of the politics in my country. I understand the context in which the leaders in this country, including the late Mr Mandela, work in. Perhaps you need to listen more carefully to what Mr Obama had to say at Mr. Mandela’s memorial and for your purpose is quoted below:
    ‘And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside me”
    You Mr. Tatchell fall miles short of Madiba’s example.
    Mr. Mandela was always gracious in accepting criticism. He went so far as inviting journalists to his home to discuss their criticsm and always said that the media was like a mirror, reflecting who he was.
    Your comments certainly reflect your lack of knowledge regarding the context in which Mr. Mandela was President of our country. The racial and segregationist culture of apartheid was heavily present. There was inequitable distribution of health resources, with resources available in apartheid South Africa. The former bantustans were neglected dust bowls, a source of migrant labour for white South Africa.
    Mr. Mandela foucesd his attention on his people, all the people of this land, Black White Indian and Coloured, his rainbow children, to make us understand that the context in which we operate has to change to bring about a bigger change.
    Reflect, Mr. Tatchell, on this.

  25. I am so disappointed with this article Mr Tatchell. I am an admirer of what you have done over the years and have enjoyed several speeches and lectures, however this was a terrible and mistimed attack on Nelson Mandela. To make matters worse you then spend half the article talking about yourself! very sad and disappointing.

  26. Paul Cooke 13 Dec 2013, 2:23am

    Dear Mr Tatchell.
    How dissapoitnting and incredibly offensive you choice to highlight Rolihlahla’s down falls 24 hours after his passing. Dissapoitnting because you are a eloquent, thoughtful and challenging man. But My cynical head tells me you had this typed and ready months, if not years. Exactly what are you trying to highlight, the South Africa is a mess? Really, what that land needs right now is hope to maintain peace.

    Yes, what you say is right, but please have the basic decency to let people grief! We can discuss his downfalls, all we like later. But also, what difference is this going to make? Maybe a comment about the current politic climate in South Africa but even that so soon, would even be insensitive. Let a nation pause and celebrate and grief for their hero.

    Maybe an artcile for now on your (and many more?) contribution towards the ending of apartheid and the developement of a consutionan would have been better and much less offensive.

  27. Paul Cooke 13 Dec 2013, 1:37pm

    Peter you are a eloquent and principled man. Unfortunately writing an article at the this time on the downside of the greatest icon of modern times the next day after his death is in extreme bad taste but also shows how insensitive it is to South Africa.

    Now is not the time for the coming together of human kind. South Africa and the world need time to heal, grieve and reflect and celebrate on Rolihlahla Mandela’s life. Peace is the key word here, something Mr Mandela and the ANC worked on because of the threat of civil war. What you say is true, there is no denying but now is not the time.

    One message I took from Mr Mandela’s strength was acceptance of self. No one is perfect, it would be appalling if we where, what would we learn?

    Maybe if you said what you did, in a few months it might have been listened to but why now. The cynical part of my head says you had this written months ago.

    I also highly commend you for your work with the ANC and the constitution, but ther

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