The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London





Idolatry Today

Most people’s perceptions of Nelson  Mandela  have been shaped by Invictus, the stirring film directed by Clint Eastwood on South  Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory. Starring  Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela, lnvictus made a major contribution towards the building  up of the mythology  of Nelson Mandela as a modern day idol.

Their Finest Hour

Invictus focused on the New South Africa’s finest hour, as the Springbok rugby team,  led by Francois Pienaar, won the World Cup. It also focused on President Nelson Mandela’s  finest  hour  as  he  donned the Springbok rugby team’s green and gold jersey and cap and publicly associated with the Springbok’s  triumph.


There is no doubt that this was probably Nelson Mandela’s most astute move to appear  in public at the World Cup Finals in the Springbok uniform jersey and cap. One billion people were watching. This was, as Morgan Freeman playing  Nelson  Mandela  in the  film declared: ‘”An opportunity!” Indeed any wise politician would seize the limelight and exploit such an opportunity to identify with his national team’s greatest moment of triumph.

Political Gesture

In the context of the  racially  polarized New South Africa,  this gesture was  meaningful and  it was appreciated. It particularly won   Nelson  Mandela much  admiration and  support from white South Africans to whom rugby was  much  more  than  their national   sport. However, it was  a  political   token amidst a much  broader context of Marxist violence.

Racial Stereotypes

The stirring lnvictus film clearly has a political agenda. It includes dangerous distortions of reality and a selective focus which portrays whites in South Africa as narrow minded, disgruntled,  racial bigots. In fact, all the white characters in Invictus are one or two dimensional, with no depth of character. Incredibly this even includes Matt Damon’s portrayal of Francois Pienaar, the South African rugby team captain.  One never got to see  quite what made  him  tick. His leadership seemed  completely inadequate to explain this spectacular triumph of the Springboks over the previously unbeatable Australian and New Zealand rugby teams.

A Political Hijack

Incredibly, Invictus boldly gave all the credit  for the Springboks’ World Cup victory  to President  Nelson Mandela. This must  be the first time  in history  that any head of state had been  given the credit for a sport team’s achievements on  the  field.  Does  Queen Elizabeth  II  get  the  credit  if  England’s rugby  team wins? Was US President  Bush credited  with American Olympic athlete’s achievements in Beijing?

An Astute Politician

It was undoubtedly a very wise and astute political move for Nelson Mandela to oppose his own party’s plans to abolish the Springbok green and gold uniform and symbols. Doubtless Nelson Mandela genuinely wanted the national  team  to win,  not only for the desirable national unity it could inspire, but for the international prestige it could give to his government.

Ignoring the Context

However, the filmmaker should not have oversimplified the fascinating story by separating it from its real context of crime and  violence,  after a brutal 30-year terrorist war waged by Nelson Mandela’s ANC.

Imaginative Idolatry

Time and  again the film focuses on Mandela’s imprisonment on Robben  Island, often with dream­ like  imaginative flashbacks of Nelson Mandela breaking rocks on Robben Island.  The film even includes a pilgrimage to Mandela’s cell in the prison on Robben  Island, but there  is never any mention of why he was imprisoned. The impression given is that he was imprisoned for opposing  apartheid, but many people, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, vigorously opposed apartheid without being imprisoned.

The Unanswered Reason Why

The fact is that even Amnesty International refused  to take on Nelson Mandela’s case because they asserted that he was not a political prisoner, but had committed numerous violent crimes and had had a fair trial and a reasonable sentence. The most radical newspapers of the  day,  such  as  the  Star  and  Rand  Daily Mail praised  the leniency of the Court in giving away  the lightest possible sentence for such violent crimes. In 1964, anyone in America,  or Britain, or France,  who committed such crimes would  have been  executed.

Just and  Fair

Even the Rand Daily Mail, the most outspoken liberal newspaper at the time in South Africa and,  in many ways,  a supporter of Mandela  and  the  ANC, wrote about the  sentences  passed by  the  judge,   The sentences pronounced by Judge De Wet at the close of the Rivonia trial are both  wise and just.  The law  is best served when there is firmness tinged with mercy, and this was the case yesterday. The sentences could not have been less severe than  those  imposed. The men  found guilty  had  planned sabotage on a wide scale and had conspired for armed revolution. As the judge pointed out yesterday,  the crime of which they were found guilty was really high treason.  The death penalty would have been justified.”


These are the facts of history. Sentencing Mandela to imprisonment instead of letting him be hanged was an act of mercy on the part of his political enemies. Mandela had,  therefore, every  reason to be grateful and not the least reason to harbour a grudge against them. He owed  his life to them.

Terror Bombing Campaign

Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. He had  pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public  violence including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns, which  planted  bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station. Many innocent people, including women and children, were killed  by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists. President Obama, when  condemning the Boston bombings declared: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.Obama denounced  the   Boston bombings  as   “cruel” , savage”   and   malevolent”, yet  he  still seems  to honour a man  responsible for many  such  terror attacks! Obama  praises Mandela as his role model”.

Refusal to Renounce Terrorism

South African President  P.W Botha had, on a number of occasions, offered  Nelson Mandela freedom from prison, if he would  only renounce terrorist  violence. This Mandela refused  to do.

New Maths

In lnvictus Mandela’s 26 years  in  jail, custody and prison becomes 30 years in the cell in Robben Island! Even though prisoners on Robben Island  were allowed  to walk freely around the Island during  the day and  were  only locked  up at night.  No mention was made  of the very comfortable warden ‘s house at  Victor Verster (five-star)  prison  where  Mandela spent his last years of confinement. Actually Mandela was on Robben  Island for 18 years.

Inspiring Words

Invictus  regularly portrays Nelson Mandela as a most gracious, kind  and  forgiving man. Many most commendable words  are  put in his mouth  including the past is past. We need your services. We can only succeed with  your help...  reconciliation starts here. .. . forgiveness liberates the soul....forgiveness is a powerful weapon.On occasions Nelson Mandela has articulated inspiring words  of reconciliation and  national  unity. However, he failed to speak  out clearly against the explosion of violent attacks on white farmers.  Nor did he rebuke  his followers who  frequently spoke  of an Uhuru/ Night of the Long Knives massacre of whites when Mandela dies.

Did Only One Group Have Anything to Forgive?

Under  Clint   Eastwood’s  directorship ,   lnvictus dogmatically asserts that Nelson Mandela and the black people  needed to forgive the whites.  Never does  the film portray how much the whites had to forgive people like Nelson Mandela and his ANC terrorists who were responsible for the  murder of thousands of South Africans. There is no mention  in lnvictus  of the three decades of vicious  terrorist  warfare ,  including  the burning down of thousands of schools, hacking to death of thousands of innocent  people  in homes  and in the streets,  pouring gasoline over thousands of innocent victims setting them alight, in the brutal necklace murders, the car bombs in public streets, limpet mines in shopping centres, petrol  bombs and  grenades through windows at night and assassinations.

Sanctions and Boycotts

Nor were economic sanctions referred to – which cost millions of jobs; and the sports boycott which had prevented the  Springboks from  competing internationally for decades.

A Negotiated Settlement

At one point in the film, Morgan Freeman’s Mandela character reminds his secretary: The whites still control the army,  the police  and the economy. ” That was  correct ,  which gives  the  lie  to  the  picture portrayed in Invictus of grudging,  unwilling, narrow­ minded white racist bigots. The fact is that white South Africans, who had the political, military and economic power and   who had   defeated  Mandela’s ANC terrorists consistently, willingly handed  over the reigns of power after a negotiated settlement.

The Communist Connection

Invictus never  mentions Nelson  Mandela’s open support for brutal communist regimes such  as Fidel Castro’s Cuba,  Robert  Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Red China, Gadhaffi’s Libya, Saddam  Hussein, Yasar Arafat and other dictators. During the very time covered by Invictus Mandela  received Fidel Castro,  the longest reigning  dictator in  the  world,  and  gave  him  the highest award  that South Africa could  give and then had  both  Houses  of Parliament gather to hear  an address from the Cuban  tyrant.

The Ugly Reality

During the very time covered by the movie many hundreds of white  farmers, and  their wives  and children, were being  brutally  murdered, actually tortured to death, often  by UmKhonto  we Sizwe guerrillas, many of whom were now part of the South African National Defence Force.

Double Standards

Although Invictus gives all glory for the Springbok Rugby World Cup win to Nelson Mandela,  it does  not attach any blame to him for the rising crime  and plummeting economy he presided over. During one short visual in the film Mandela looks at a newspaper headline which speaks of  the  rising  crime and plummeting currency. This reality deserved a little bit more attention. During 46 years  of National  Party apartheid rule over 18,000 people had been  killed by rioters,  terrorists, by the police  and  the army, on all sides,  including  terrorists, civilian victims, military casualties and  police.  A total of 18,000 dead  during 46 years of conflict.  However,  in peace time,  under Nelson Mandela,  an average of 25,000 people were murdered every year. In Mandela’s first four years as president, the Rand lost 80% of its value,  more  than 2.8 million  man-days were  lost  to strikes and  the national  debt doubled.

Fuelling the Crime Wave

Yet to celebrate his birthdays, Mandela would regularly open the prison doors and set many criminals, including armed  robbers,  murderers and  rapists, free, some  of whom were  murdering  and raping within 24-hours of being released. Over 100,000 people  were  murdered under Mandela’s term as president.

Economic Deterioration

In the  1970s, even  while  facing  terrorism,  riots and engaged in a border war with the Cubans in Angola, the South African Rand was  stronger  than  the US Dollar. However, after years of US sanctions, the South African Rand had fallen to R2 to the Dollar. Under Nelson Mandela even with no war, no sanctions, no riots, no conscription, and with massive international aid and investment, the Rand plummeted  to R8 to the Dollar, and even R10 to the Dollar, then R12 and even to R14 to the Dollar for a time. But according to lnvictus, no blame can be attached to Nelson Mandela for the economic deterioration and the sky-rocketing crime rate under his presidency. However, he should be given all the credit for what the Springbok rugby team achieved on the field!

Legalising Abortion and  Pornography

Viewers of lnvictus also need to be aware that the kind and thoughtful gentleman portrayed in lnvictus was the prime mover of the legalisation  of abortion, pornography, gambling and homosexuality in South Africa and of the introduction of sex education in public schools. Since Nelson Mandela forced  through  the legalisation of abortion, not even allowing ANC MPs a conscience vote, and signed it into Law, 1 February 1997, over a million South African babies have been killed through abortion, officially, legally and with tax-payers money.

Censoring Christianity

Another disturbing aspect of lnvictus is the editing out of the Christian Faith of key members of the Springbok rugby team. There  were  many consistent reports of a core  of the Springbok rugby team  being Bible-believing Christians who regularly met for prayer before the matches.

Yet that is never depicted. The film does  give a very anaemic presentation of the Springbok team kneeling in prayer after their victory, but it is such  a lame and limp “Thanks  Lord for letting us win the game” that it just doesn’t ring true.

As Francois Pienaar declared  in his BBC Sport interview in 1995: When the final whistle went “I fell right to my knees. I’m a Christian and wanted to say a quick prayer for being in such a wonderful event, not because of the winning. Then all of a sudden,  the whole team  was around  me, which was  a special  moment.” Pienaar testified: “It wasn’t about winning! We would have knelt and prayed and thanked God no matter what the result!”

Slanderous Distortion

Despite Francois Pienaar’s testimony, lnvictus incredibly portrays him  as  fornicating before the winning  match  and swearing during it. Although the Springbok rugby team gave all glory to the Lord Jesus Christ for their triumph, Clint Eastwood’s production of lnvictus transfers  that glory to Nelson Mandela and a humanist poem  by English poet William Ernest Henley, which he quotes: “I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soulI am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

lnvictus Poem

It is the title of that poem, lnvictus, after which the film is named.  lnvictus states: “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Clearly Jesus Christ is the Gate that is straight and the Bible is the scroll charged with punishments. The lnvictus poem is openly anti-Christ and hostile to the Scriptures. Invictus is blatant secular humanism. Yet many Christians idolise both the Invictus film and that which the film idolises.

Selective Focus

Francois Pienaar also pointed out in his 1995 interview with BBC Sport that the game  favourites for the 1995 World  Cup  Rugby  had  been Australia, whom the Springboks beat in the opening  game. This landmark victory is down  played  in lnvictus, to give the  false impression of a hopelessly weak team that came from below to achieve victory only because of Mandela!

Oversimplifying a Complex Country

It is unfortunate that lnvictus  reinforces stereotypes of narrow minded, white racists and whitewashes Nelson Mandela arid the Marxists in the ANC. South Africa is far more complex and interesting  than this film suggests. To understand South  African  history we need to understand the African context  and  the reality of the Cold War, which was  the backdrop to the conflict in which Nelson Mandela played such a key role.

A Paid Political Advertisement?

It would be  interesting to  know  from  where the funding  came for this film. At times it seemed like a paid political advertisement for Nelson Mandela and the ANC. If all that the film depicts of Nelson Mandela encouraging the  team is really true, then it is commendable. But surely any sport  team’s victory is to the credit of the Manager, the Coach and the team members’ dedication, training, fitness and skill?

Who is First  in Your Life?

The important  question  is: Who is first in your life? It is disturbing  how  many  people make  idols  of fallible human  beings. As our Lord Jesus declared: “No one is good except God alone.”  No one and nothing can take the place of Almighty God, our Creator, Redeemer and Eternal Judge as first in our affections, focus and loyalty.

“Choose  for yourselves this  day  whom you  will serve… But as  for me and my house, we will serve the  Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Dr. Peter Hammond, Frontline  Fellowship

P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725 Cape Town South Africa. Tel: 021-689-4480.Fax:021-685-5884.