I stumbled upon this website and I thought this website was pretty interesting. I think this question is relevant to politics, since this is all we hear about on the news. On the mainstream media, he's praised for being an anti-apartheid. Yes, this is the movement he led.

However, there are some aspects of his history that struck me. To me, he was a little bit of a terrorist and even an anti-white racist. I read that be planted many bombs and killed many innocent white people, and I'm not talking about any political leaders. I also heard that he bombed a school bus, and put a tire soaked with oil on someone and lit it up. He was involved in the following events:

  • Church Street West, Pretoria, on the 20 May 1983

  • Amanzimtoti Shopping complex KZN, 23 December 1985

  • Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, 17 March 1988

  • Durban Pick ‘n Pay shopping complex, 1 September 1986

  • Pretoria Sterland movie complex 16 April 1988 – limpet mine killed ANC terrorist M O Maponya instead

  • Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, 20 May 1987

  • Roodepoort Standard Bank 3 June, 1988

So the question is - was he a terrorist, a Gandhi, or somewhere in between? Explain please.

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    Is there specific credible evidence re: school bus bombing? – user4012 Dec 8 '13 at 13:41
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    A cross-posting: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/18605/… – DJClayworth Dec 8 '13 at 21:20
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    You are aware that Nelson Mandela was in prison for all of the events you list above? – DJClayworth Dec 8 '13 at 21:22
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    For what it's worth: "History is written by the victors" and "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". I like @DVK's answer and definitions, though. – Bobson Dec 9 '13 at 14:54
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    @Bobson - it's simple to distinguish. If you have a way of hitting the target and avoiding civilian deaths and you purposely choose not to avoid them, it's terrorism. If you simply don't have that choice (as in, the choice is, you kill human shields, OR you let people hiding a rocket behind human shields kill your own side), it's NOT terrorism, but "war is crap" reality, coupled with the other side clearly violating Geneva convention by using human shields. "I don't care" is a rare attitude - given the adverse reaction on most people's part, if you don't need human casualties, you try to avoid – user4012 Dec 9 '13 at 17:31

The definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist" was covered on this site before.

I will copy/paste the relevant parts of the answer:

Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism:

"Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."


A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states."

Note that the purposes and end goals of terrorism are 100% irrelevant - merely the tactics (targeting non-combatants on purpose).

As such, if any of the acts that Mandela did targeted non-combatants on purpose, he was a terrorist, pure and simple.

Now, as to whether he did any such thing or not, I think Skeptics.SE is probably a better place to ask. The schoolbus bombing sounds like the most obvious example, but one would need evidence that he actually did that. Obtaining that evidence seems out of scope for Politics.SE and your question didn't link to any.

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    By that definition, the US is the most terrorist nation on Earth. UK and Russia being the next in line... – Alex Dec 9 '13 at 14:26
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    @Alex - name one time US targeted a non-combatant ON PURPOSE? Don't let ideology get in the way of reading comprehension – user4012 Dec 9 '13 at 15:36
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    Here's just one random case of many. I'm not the one letting "ideologies" in the way of reason and common-sense. Sure, in your mind all the US aggression actions seem justified, but that doesn't change the fact that by your own logic you live in a terrorist country – Alex Dec 9 '13 at 16:17
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    @SamIam - I didn't say this question is off topic. I think the specific "did he do it" is. This site is not for digging into whether someone did or didn't do something rumored about them. – user4012 Dec 9 '13 at 17:56
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    @Chad - so far, of 11 only one makes the cut (firebombing) that happened within the last 100 years; and even then isn't usually labeled as terrorism by most people (I'm willing to). The rest don't conform to that definition, or you didn't provide any proof of it despite your claims to (e.g. Afghanistan or Mai Lai) – user4012 Dec 14 '13 at 2:58

Was Nelson Mandela a Terrorist?

Yes and no: but mostly "no", not in the sense that the word "terrorist" means today.

  • Yes, because he organized the planting of bombs for sabotage (e.g. of electric pylons).
  • No, because he did so in a way that was purposefully intended to avoid killing anyone.

I tried to explore or 'prove' this question in detail on the Skeptics forum: Was Nelson Mandela a killer?

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Lets be honest. If Mandela was not arrested he wouldve killed many more innocent people. He never apologised for all the innocent men, woman and children he sent to their deaths (black and white) althoug he admitted to being the master mind behind it all. The answer to your questions whether he was a terrorist or not can be answered with a question: Would you not call a man a terrorist if he ordered a bombing of a restaurant and killed your entire family and never even bothered to ask for forgiveness? 27 year sentence is a bargain for mass murder.

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I'll give the most controversial answer ever and I'll receive many downvotes and might be banned from using this site. I'm from a small country in the middle east called Lebanon and I'm Christian so I'm not a terrorist according to the "American standard".

I believe that there's no such thing as terrorism, there's no such thing as right or wrong, if you look at the big picture.

We had a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. We, the Christians had to defend ourselves from the Syrians and the Palestinians, and the Lebanese Muslims and the Druze. So what we did? We did what we had to do, that is killing everyone who stands in our way, including innocent people and children, we did thing that you cannot imagine, we wanted to make a statement, we wanted the enemy to fear us, otherwise he won't stop, fear is the most powerful human instinct.

We made a deal with the devil, we made a deal with Israel to stop the Syrians, Israel later invaded Lebanon, trust we'd definitely do this deal again if we were in a survival situation, the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

We even Killed each other, Christian militias went to war against each other, they were after the power.

Were we terrorists? Maybe, maybe. It's easy for you, sitting at your home, drinking hot chocolate to judge others. But what if I invaded your home, killed your entire family, what would you do? Would you call a lawyer? Would you seek justice? No, you would seek revenge - reckoning.

I don't even blame Bin Laden. I do hate him so much, because people like him killed Christians in my country back then and are doing so now in Syria. But I don't blame him.

Even in Syria now, no one is a terrorist, or maybe everyone is. Bashar Al Assad is killing all the Sunnis, AKA the revolution including civilians and children. But the Sunnis are killing everyone who is not a Sunni, (Christians, Shia, all) including civilians and children.

Part of me says that Bashar is a murderer killing little babies, the other part of me says the Sunnies are murderer too, they killed children too, priests, entire Christian Villages, don't believe CNN, the medias are liars, the Sunnis are no better than Bashar, so I came to the point where I just don't care about what happens in Syria. The US knows that, that's why they haven't sent any troops to stop Bashar, they realize that it's a mess, a killer is trying another killer, much like assassins the movie. It's a chess game, the US is waiting to see who's going to come on top in the middle game, before they make their move in the end game.

Real life is not a poem, where the pen is more powerful than the gun, get over it. I think Mandela did what he had to do, period.

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  • "I believe there is no such thing as terrorism, there is no such thing as right or wrong." Not believing in right or wrong (absolute or reltive), does not mean that terrorism does not have an accepted definition. Terrorism has a definition, and not believing in it doesn't prevent it from existing. Your answer is akin to saying, "I don't beleve that there are radical islamist," because you don't believe that muslims exist. – user1873 Jan 13 '14 at 23:34
  • @user1873 I said in Syria now, no one is a terrorist, or maybe everyone is. you see, there's a political leader in my country who has killed many Christians. After the war, a journalist asked him what do you have to say about your dirty actions in war? He replied There's no dirty war and a clean war, war is war similarly I consider Sharon a terrorist, you might consider him a hero, if you were from Israel. And one must ask, is he a terrorist or not? Many Arabs, like bin laden consier the US soldiers to be terrorist because they invaded their countries and stole their resources etc – Lynob Jan 13 '14 at 23:50
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    If we all aren't killing civilians, we cannot all be terrorists. Words have meanings. The scope of this question isn't what you believe in, it is I Mandela a terrorist. If your definition is that everyone is a terorist, because you define it as "people who do wrong" (i.e. sinners, download music, drone combatants, provide a good for monetary gain "dirty capitalists"), you should just shorten your answer. "Mandela is a person, all people are terrorists, Mandela is a terrorist, QED" – user1873 Jan 14 '14 at 0:12
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    Welcome to Politics.SE. You might want to take the tour to understand the Q&A format that this site covers. If you have a good expert question, or know a good expert answer feel free to click the Ask a Question**/**Post an Answer buttons. Well researched and referenced answers tend to attract upvotes, and primarily opinion-based answers tend to attract downvotes. Don't let that discourage you, it takes a little work getting use to the format (questions are easier to get right, and other users can always edit them to improve their quality) – user1873 Jan 14 '14 at 22:36
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    @SamIam - It appears to be addressing the whole notion of the label of terrorist. If no one is a terrorist then Mandela can not be a part of a non existant whole. – SoylentGray Jan 22 '14 at 20:11

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