Nelson Mandela, the greatest man of modern times, died yesterday 5th December 2013 at home with his family in South Africa. Living until the ripe old age of 95 and being so influential in the shaping of the thinking of millions of people across the World, it can truly be said of Nelson Mandela that “he had a good innings”.
Nelson Mandela was born 18th July 1918 in Mveso, a village in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa to his mother, Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father, Chief Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. Nelson’s name at birth was Rolihlahla which means in his native Xhosa language, ‘making trouble’. Nelson Mandela was of royal lineage. His great-grandfather on his father’s side was King Ngubengcuka who ruled over Thembuland which was once a country in it’s own right in south east Africa. Rolihlahla’s father died while he was a child and he was subsequently raised by his uncle, King Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni with the king’s son, Justice.
The young Nelson Mandela was a rebel with a cause. He grew to live true to his birth name Rolihlahla and did indeed make trouble for any unjust authority, especially for the European whites who once oppressed the black people of South Africa.
An early indication of Nelson Mandela’s revolutionary nature was in 1938 when he and Justice were expelled from University for instigating a protest against the poor quality of the food. On their return home, The Chief was furious and hoping to reign them in, had arranged weddings for Mandela and Justice to girls who the Chief had himself selected. Mandela and Justice took one look at the girls and were so terrified that they decided to make a swift getaway to the urban world of Johannesburg.
In Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela began to see the wickedness of ways that the white Europeans who had seized control of South Africa were treating any non-whites of the country. The White regime imposed measures against non-whites which included not allowing non-whites to vote, excluding blacks from education and healthcare, depriving black people of luxuries enjoyed by white people, segregating public places such as parks and beaches… the list went on.
In 1944 Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) to the support the group’s drive to unite black South Africans in a fight for freedom and equality in their own land. Mandela’s campaigns rallied support from tens of thousands of Africans. This concerned the white regime who knew there would be very little they could do to hold on to power if the entire black African population of the country were to unite and turn against them. The government on multiple occasions had Nelson Mandela and his associates arrested and imprisoned for crimes that he had not committed. When there was no crime in Mandela’s actions the state would resort to introducing new laws for which they could have him arrested in order to hamper his campaign for freedom.
Eventually on 12th June 1964, Mandela was given life imprisonment after being charged with conspiring to violently overthrow the government. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for the next 26 years of his life.
Despite Nelson Mandela being locked away in a cell, the struggle continued. The government became more and more brutal, killing innocent protesters at peaceful organisations with armoured vehicles and military units. Images of such scenes were broadcast across the globe which horrified the international community to such an extent that protest and marches took place in countries everywhere. Most world leaders supported the cause of black South Africans and imposed economic sanctions against the white, racist regime. Unfortunately UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher considered Mandela a communist terrorist and would not use her influence to help the fight against injustice and inequality in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela himself did not stop fighting. He fought with the pen and with words communicating with the outside through letters and messages he passed on to the few visitors he was allowed. He organised global marches, demonstrations and protests and using his skills of diplomacy, Mandela was able to converse with his prison guards who he essentially educated in the meaning of freedom and true democracy. The guards gradually relaxed the strict conditions imposed against him. At the start of his prison sentence Mandela was allowed only 1 visitor and 1 letter every six months. This was increased to 1 per week as time went on which made it possible for him to devise plans for the future of his country.
Mandela was offered freedom by Government officials in 1988 with the condition that the ANC would end the use of weapons to defend themselves against the state. Nelson Mandela insisted that he would rather stay imprisoned until the State put an end to the violence and bloodshed that they were themselves responsible for. This was one of three times that Mandela chose to forgo his freedom for the good of his people.
On February 2nd 1990 after a huge amount of pressure due to Nelson Mandela’s influence on the people of his country and the millions of people of the International community, The South African Government under F.W. de Clerk allowed the legalisation of the ANC party and then on 11th February 1990 sanctioned the unconditional release from imprisonment to Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela emerged from jail as a hero, an icon and a leader but his work was far from over. The racist, white Apartheid government was still in power and continued to use violence to suppress protests from black people who opposed them. There were various groups of black South Africans who were becoming more and more fragmented and in some cases hostile toward one-another. Mandela had a mission, to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in national and local elections.
Within days of his release Mandela began a worldwide tour. Starting in cities within South Africa and then on to other African nations and then to countries all across the world. He met with numerous international leaders to discuss plans of how they could assist him with the fight for freedom.
In 1991 Nelson Mandela was elected president of the ANC after which he continued with his mission for peace and freedom. In 1994 after years of struggle, state violence, negotiation, international assistance and the sheer hope and determination led by Nelson Mandela and his people, all people in South Africa, regardless of race were given the right to vote.
The South African general election 0f 27th April 1994 resulted in a landslide victory for Nelson Mandela and the ANC. With all this power, Mandela could have easily sought revenge against the white colonials who had oppressed, and degraded his people for almost 400 years. Instead Mandela proposed a policy of reconciliation, peace and progression and the ideology of “The Rainbow Nation” in which everyone would live as equals.
Years of apartheid had severely wounded the spirit of South Africa, but Nelson Mandela the Great has lifted the country up from off it’s knees and has transformed it into a symbol to the world of freedom through strength, unity determination and wisdom.