Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mandela and Gaddafi

[What follows is an excerpt from an interview published on the Telegraph website with Zelda la Grange, for many years personal assistant to Nelson Mandela, on the occasion of the publication of her book Good Morning, Mr Mandela:]

"Madiba always inherently looked for the good in people, I always expected the worst," she said. "Now I accept all people have got good and bad. I'm not so cynical any more, I trust people more easily." She defended her former employer's friendships with controversial characters including Colonel Gaddafi, Libya's late leader (...).

"With Gaddafi, he would never condone something like the killing of innocent civilians, we all know he had very strong morals," she said.

"But he negotiated with him to deliver the Lockerbie bombing suspects and Gaddafi delivered on that promise.

"He was considerate towards him, he was never impatient with him or disrespectful. Gaddafi did terrible things but you have to respect the man for keeping his promise."

[This blog’s perspective on the part played by Nelson Mandela in the Lockerbie saga can be found here.]


  1. "But he negotiated with him to deliver the Lockerbie bombing suspects and Gaddafi delivered on that promise”.

    This means the decision whether to surrender for arrest and trial in a foreign land wasn’t a voluntary decision by Megrahi and Fhimah, but a decision made by the Libyan government [Gaddafi].

    In military terms, ‘you must volunteer, it’s an order’ and not surprising, because no one would volunteer for incarceration and a show trial unless they had to!

  2. Yet again, Dave, you are quite simply wrong. The Libyan Government could have prevented Megrahi and Fhimah from voluntarily surrendering for trial (by refusing to allow them to leave the country). But it had no power to compel them to surrender themselves. I know this because I was involved at the time in dealings with both the Libyan Government and the Libyan defence team headed by Dr Ibrahim Legwell. If the Libyan Government had had the power to deliver Megrahi and Fhimah whether they consented or not, they would have been at Zeist some considerable time before they in fact were.

  3. My comment was premised on the accuracy of the articles describing the suspects being ‘delivered’ and ‘handed over’ for trial.

    But if Libyan law does not allow the state to compel the suspects to ‘hand themselves in’ then this means Gaddafi was not the tyrannical dictator as often portrayed.

    But then again if true there would be no point in any negotiations taking place if the suspects could just veto events.

    And sorry but if the suspects had a choice they would not volunteer for incarceration and a show trial, but I’m sure there would have been considerable moral pressure to do so in the national interest.

  4. The suspects' decision to volunteer was, I assume, in part motivated by patriotism (their country was being subjected to crippling economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council) and in part by personal interest (until they surrendered they would never be able to leave Libya and would always be at risk of being snatched by US special forces and transported to the USA where they would face the death penalty).

    The negotiations for surrender had to involve Gaddafi and not just the suspects and their lawyers because Gaddafi could have prevented their leaving Libya to stand trial, even though he had no power to compel them to do so.

  5. All States compel their citizens to do things they don’t want to do and if there are laws to say they can’t, they change the laws e.g. extradition, compulsory conscription!

    And if they did voluntarily volunteer presumably they did so because their ‘international legal team’ recommended a non-jury trial at Zeist after rejecting a jury trial in Scotland – but why would you volunteer for that?

    But if you can veto handing yourselves over, why even have a legal team.

    The idea that they would volunteer to avoid being captured by special forces and taken to US to face the death penalty ignores the fact the US never wanted a trial, but a US trial would need to precede sentence.

  6. I explained in my last comment why they volunteered: patriotism and self interest. Being confined for the remainder of your life within the borders of a Libya whose infrastructure is rapidly crumbling because of international sanctions is not a pleasant prospect for men who have been used to international travel. And Dave's comment that a US trial would have to precede sentence is one of breathtaking naivety: has he never heard of Lee Harvey Oswald or Osama bin Laden?

    This thread is now closed.

  7. Sorry, Robert, didn't see your 'thread is closed' before posting last comment. Closed is closed, and rightly so.

  8. No problem, sfm. I hadn't got around to moderating that comment yet. This thread IS closed (really it is) but why not post your comment (which is well worth reading) on the "Of Mandela, Shamuyarira and the Lockerbie affair" thread
    (which is not - yet - closed)?