Nelson Mandela…a name that sparks joy, hope and the thought of continued freedom from apartheid. The ‘father of freedom’ was born as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918 in South Africa‘s Eastern Cape Province. Madiba as he’s referred to by South Africans was born into a royal ruling family. The name Madiba is used to address Kings in his clan – the Thembu clan.
Education was key and foundation for the long and gruesome struggle of freedom!
Taking a look at his remarkable journey in life, I am inclined to believe he knew he was destined for greatness from an early age and used every opportunity that presented itself to his full advantage. One of those opportunities came in the form of education. Education gives you a voice: education teaches you how you can say what you want, and especially what you don’t want!
He is the first in his family to receive formal education. The name Nelson was actually given to him by his teacher at the age of nine. He would later while in prison, study for a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London’s External Program. I have not heard of stories of prison inmates studying for degree programs while being incarcerated…but this just goes to show that Madiba was a very determined man. It is often said, that knowledge is the first step to fighting injustice.
What amazes me the most about this man are the thought out steps he took in his personal life. What a lot of people don’t realize is how educated this man is. Education has always been a forerunner for him. When he moved to Johannesburg, he worked as an articled clerk at Witkin, Sidelky and Edelman – a Johannesburg law firm, through connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu. It was while he was working at Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman that he completed his first Bachelor’s degree at the University of South Africa via correspondence. To my knowledge, he hold three (3) degrees, which two of them being in law.
He didn’t actively participate in politics until the age of 30.
There must be something spiritual that occurs at the age of 30 – this reference is being made to Jesus Christ. After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party, which supported the apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela began actively participating in politics. During the time of his active political activities, Mandela and fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo operated the law firm of Mandela and Tambo, providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many blacks who lacked attorney representation.
Did you know Mahatma Gandhi influenced Mandela’s approach, and subsequently the methods of succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists?
What led to the infamous arrest and years of incarceration?
In 1961 Mandela became leader of the ANC‘s armed wing, ‘Spear of the Nation‘ and was responsible for coordinating sabotage campaigns against military and government targets. In June 1961, Mandela sent a letter to South African newspapers warning the government, that if they did not meet there demands, the Umkhonto (Spear of the Nation) would embark on a campaign of sabotage. Do any of his actions remind you of a certain individual? The letter demanded the government accept a call for a national constitutional convention!
His story (history) reminds me a lot Martin Luther King, Jr. Different continents…similar situations…even similar methods…same conviction.
The infamous arrest and what would led to South Africa’s freedom…
On 5 August 1962 Mandela was arrested after living on the run for seventeen months, and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. On October 25, 1962, 3 days after the arrest his charges were read to him:
- Leading workers to strike in 1961
- Leaving the country illegally
- Four charges of Capital Crimes of sabotage
- Crimes equivalent to treason
In his defence statement, Madiba spoke the most profound words I have every heard. It is one of the most quoted speeches in our generation and speaks volume. These words are not only applicable in South Africa, but they speak to countries all over the world, where prejudice, injustice and racism still play a key role. The words although I doubt Madiba knew how powerful they were at the time, created a platform for others to join the movement. His words that day:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela was later sentenced to life in prison. Amnesty International later campaigned against the harsh conditions Mandela experienced while imprisoned.
He spent 18 years out of his sentence on Robben Island. Even in prison, segregation was in practice. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations of food.
The joyous day…
On 2 February 1990 after 28 years of incarceration, State President F. W. de Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11 February 1990. The event was broadcast live all over the world.
In 1991, the ANC held its first national conference in South Africa after its unbanning, electing Mandela as President of the organisation. His old friend and colleague Oliver Tambo, who had led the organisation in exile during Mandela’s imprisonment, became National Chairperson. These events made Nelson Mandela South Africa’s first ‘black’ president.
South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country’s first black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second in the Government of National Unity.
It would take a great author to effectively capture the life that is Nelson Mandela. His background and the journey that lead to freedom for millions across the world. Madiba’s story is a complex one but full of hope. His actions not only eradicated apartheid in South Africa, but left an imprint across the world. Other nations that were participating in ‘silent apartheid’ were awoken by his selfless passion and conviction. This great man will remain in HIStory as long as history is told.
At 84 years young, he is father to nations and a symbol of peace, truth and hope; an international advocate for human rights and the ultimate example of a humanitarian. The world cannot thank you enough for all you’ve done…
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.
In my country we go to prison first and then become President.
I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.
There is nothing like returning to a place that reminds unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.
There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.
How can I be expected to believe that this same racial discrimination which has been the cause of so much injustice and suffering right through the years, should now operate here to give me a fair and open trial?….consider myself neither morally nor legally obliged to obey laws made by a Parliament in which I am not represented. That the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government, is a principle universally acknowledged as sacred throughout the civilized world. – Most notable quotes from Madiba.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s KolorBlind Spotlight: Nelson Mandela – A Long Walk To Freedom!
- Awesome Nelson Mandela Art Installation In Howick (mookinoodles.wordpress.com)
- Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s legendary leader, is 94 today (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- The Question Is: Did Nelson Mandela Sold Out or Not? (mayihlome.wordpress.com)
- Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela! (graybeardtrail.wordpress.com)
- Hillary Clinton visits Nelson Mandela at home (hosted.ap.org)