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The Rhetoric of Nelson Mandela: A Qualified Success

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South African President Nelson Mandela had a tremendous ethos to bank on when he addressed the serious social and economic problems of Black South Africans without prompting the flight of White residents or capital or both. He undoubtedly used this resource, but, as an analysis of 15 speeches spanning his presidency suggests, he also used rhetorical resources. Rhetorically, he dealt realistically with the problems facing South Africa and offered its people boundless optimism. He made the transition from freedom fighter to statesman as he used, increasingly, the language of commonality in his addresses. Mandela's rhetoric is not, however, entirely effective. The language suggestive of certainty declined during his term as the difficulties facing South Africa became more apparent to him. He also failed to suggest a very high level of activity. He thus left his successor, Thabo Mbeki, in a weaker position than might have been the case otherwise.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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