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Mandela’s Guests

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The recent brouhaha over Naomi Campbell’s blood diamonds cast a somewhat lurid light over the comings and goings at the Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Children’s Fund. For many years there has been a stream of celebrities eager to shake hands with Mandela, share a photo opportunity with him and of course contribute to the fund. But looking at the famous photo of Mandela, Campbell, Charles Taylor et al., you have to wonder what such an unsavoury character as Taylor was doing there.

And now there’s Thaksin Shinawatra, who got his photo op with Nelson Mandela last month, as well as a separate one with Winnie. Thaksin, once the owner of Manchester City FC, is a convicted felon with charges of terrorism pending against him. He was apparently travelling on a Montenegrin passport (its citizenship is freely sold to those who invest there). Thaksin is a fugitive from Thailand – he slipped out of the country to go to the Beijing Olympics just before the Thai Supreme Court sentenced him to two years in jail. He has a particular penchant for being photographed with the famous and his website is adorned with evidence of his celebrity contacts. He is barred from entry to the UK and most of the EU. He is, indeed, a pariah even if also a multimillionaire.

Remarkably, his visit to South Africa and to Mandela was arranged so secretly that news of it only leaked out when his lawyer brandished photos of Thaksin with Nelson and Winnie. Mandela remains an icon but it’s hard to see how long even he can entertain the likes of Taylor and Thaksin without some fairly embarrassing questions being raised.

Comments on “Mandela’s Guests”

  1. Geoff Roberts says:

    Surely the old man was conned into this, just as he was conned into being wheeled into the stadium. I blame Winnie and her followers. I can’t believe that Nelson Mandela has a clue who he was supposed to be welcoming.

  2. Idrees says:

    I find this gallery of rogues conveniently black or dark. Why exclude Dear Leader Anthony Blair? Mandela surely knew who he was welcoming when he agreed to pose with the unconvicted Prime Minister of Britain, a character no less unsavoury than Taylor, perhaps with more blood on his hand. That ought to have been the scandal.

  3. Geoff Roberts says:

    Is this part of an attempt to get after Mandela? One of the charismatic leaders on the twentieth century, so far his reputation is untarnished. In the bloggers’ world that makes him an attractive target.

  4. pinhut says:

    Not that hard to make the foundations in question hyperlinks, Mr Johnson, you manage it 7 times elsewhere in this post. That would also provide the context of 1) the many reputable donors to both organisations who appear not to share your concerns, and 2) the good work being done by both organisations (which you choose to omit completely).

    There is an expedient conflation of Mr Mandela’s judgment with decisions taken by these organisations, which a read through their organisational structure suggests are carried on in Mandela’s name by management teams/trustees.

    As such, a private message from Mr Johnson to the foundations to cite his evidence and express his misgivings would be more useful, though that would squander the opportunity to pop up on the LRB and embody the very definition of the phrase – “concern troll”.

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