In the USA, “the conservative movement… took great pains to condemn and demonize Mandela and the African National Congress, doing all they could to undermine the economic boycott of South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement.” Reagan, for example, “placed the ANC on the U.S. terror list in the 1980s (a designation that wasn’t removed until 2008)”. As South Africa was seen to be such “a strong ally in the Cold War”, he pushed “for more trade and engagement” rather than sanctions.
Many groups, like The John Birch Society, called Mandela “a communist terrorist thug”. Many Republicans thought the same. For example, 30-year North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, one of the men responsible for the increased US sanctions of 1996 that intensified the Cuban Embargo as the island suffered its Special Period, “turned his back during Mandela’s visit to the U.S. Capitol”.
Meanwhile, figures like Jonas Savimbi, the murderous leader of UNITA, fighting against the left-wing MPLA in the Angolan Civil War, was backed by the USA and “greeted in conservative circles as a ‘freedom fighter’”.
“Nelson Mandela believed in reconciliation. He believed that forging a way forward was more important than dwelling on past grievances. That being said, I don’t think he’d want anyone to forget the history of apartheid, the struggle against it, and role that conservatives in the U.S. played.”