n African Journal of Rhetoric - Playing or proving the enemy? Mandela's rhetorical test

Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


In one instance in director Clint Eastwood's , newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) expresses considerable dismay that staff members of the previous administration had assumed that because they were white their services to the new government would be no longer needed or desired. Consequently, he summons them from their packing to tell them that, in fact, he wishes that they would stay, that their country needs their service. This and other similarly magnanimous gestures in the film cast Mandela as a larger than life figure, a kind of ideal hero. Because Mandela chooses not only to exact no retribution against the perpetrators of apartheid but also to embrace a key symbol of their dominance, that is, the national rugby team the Springboks, he appears in many ways to embody the Ciceronian ideal orator/statesman: one who possesses the requisite good character for artful speaking. However, according to John Carlin, author of the book (entitled ) that was based on, Mandela was not a good orator, was not the type of speaker who captivated audiences with the quality of his voice. And yet, as depicted in the film and other publications, Mandela was the consummate ; he is keenly aware of the motivations of his audiences and understands instinctively how to appeal to their interests as well as the interests of newly democratic nation. Carlin seems to suggest that Mandela's powers of persuasion were largely the product of his shrewd calculation, that Mandela simply manipulated his enemy into submission to his will. While it is clearly true from the film and the book that Mandela had to 'play' both sides (blacks and whites) to achieve unity among traditional enemies, I argue that his doing so was less a matter of manipulation and politicking and more a matter of the he was attempting to cultivate as leader of a new South Africa. Drawing on the aforementioned texts as well as other primary and secondary sources, in this paper, I explore the rhetorical contours of this highly effective .

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error