Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

"I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days." – Nelson Mandela

As the world paid their tribute to Nelson Mandela this week, I sat down in the corner of my room reflecting on the life of this man whose life has touched humanity so profoundly. Merely looking at the incredible list of guests who took their seats at his memorial service will amaze you! BBC News director, James Harding, defending the corporation's coverage of Mr Mandela regarded him as a man of "singular significance" and the "most significant statesman of the last 100 years". After carefully reading several articles written about him and watching a number of videos, including the short clips in this post (plus my little knowledge of historical events surrounding the life of Mandela), I conclude that Mr Harding is not exaggerating. As I reflect on the life of this man who brought an end to apartheid, a political system in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s that separated the different peoples living there and gave privileges to those of European origin, I felt a deep moral persuasion to write this particular article. I even feel more motivated to write knowing fully well that unborn children will come to this material later in future and will learn great wisdom from Mandela who (as US President Obama puts it) is "one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth." Although a huge task, I try to capture the core lessons about his life; putting them in key headings (which I will have to break into multiple posts subsequently).

He saw problems and decided to be the answer to the call of many generations:
In 1939, Mandela enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare (considered Africa's equivalent of the University of Oxford or Harvard University), the only residential center of higher learning for blacks in South Africa at the time. Focusing on Roman Dutch law to prepare for a career in civil service as an interpreter or clerk (regarded as the best profession that a black man could obtain at the time), he was expelled from school in 1940 because as leader of Student Representative Council (SRC), because he aligned with students boycotts emanating from their dissatisfaction with the food and lack of power held by the SRC. He also later fled home in order to escape a forced marriage.
He settled in Johannesburg, where he worked a variety of jobs, including as a guard and a clerk, while completing his bachelor's degree via correspondence courses. He then enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law. It was from there he came into reality with apartheid: racial discrimination and a segregated political system where a political system in South Africa that separated the different peoples living there and gave privileges to those of European origin; and decided to do something about it. Mandela soon became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942. Within the ANC, a small group of young Africans banded together, calling themselves the African National Congress Youth League. Their goal was to transform the ANC into a mass grassroots movement, deriving strength from millions of rural peasants and working people who had no voice under the current regime.
The National Party (NP) came to power in South Africa in 1948 on a political platform of white supremacy. The official policy of apartheid, or forced segregation of the races, began to be implemented under NP rule. Specifically, the group believed that the ANC's old tactics of polite petitioning were ineffective. In 1949, the ANC officially adopted the Youth League's methods of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-cooperation, with policy goals of full citizenship, redistribution of land, trade union rights, and free and compulsory education for all children. For 20 years, Mandela directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In 1952 the ANC staged a campaign known as the Defiance Campaign, when protesters across the country refused to obey apartheid laws. That same year Mandela became one of the ANC’s four deputy presidents. In 1952 he and his friend Oliver Tambo(a brilliant student he'd met while attending Fort Hare) were the first blacks to open a law practice in South Africa called Mandela and Tambo that provided free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks. In 1955 led the Congress of the People. In the face of government harassment and with the prospect of the ANC being officially banned, Mandela and others devised a plan. Called the “M” plan after Mandela, it organized the ANC into small units of people who could then encourage grassroots participation in antiapartheid struggles.
In 1956, Mandela and 150 others were arrested and charged with treason for their political advocacy (they were eventually acquitted). Meanwhile, the ANC was being challenged by Africanists, a new breed of black activists who believed that the pacifist method of the ANC was ineffective. Africanists soon broke away to form the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), which negatively affected the ANC; by 1959, the movement had lost much of its militant support.
In March 1960 the ANC and its rival, the PAC, called for a nationwide demonstration against South Africa’s pass laws, which controlled the movement and employment of blacks and forced them to carry identity papers. After police massacred 69 blacks demonstrating in Sharpeville (see Sharpeville Massacre), both the ANC and the PAC were banned. After Sharpeville the ANC abandoned the strategy of nonviolence, which until that time had been an important part of its philosophy. Mandela, who was formerly committed to nonviolent protest, began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change. In December 1961, he co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation or simply MK), a military offshoot of the ANC dedicated to sabotage and guerilla war tactics to end apartheid. In 1961, Mandela also orchestrated a three-day national workers' strike. He was named its commander-in-chief of MK and went to Algeria for military training. Back in South Africa, he was arrested in August 1962 for leading the strike and sentenced to five years in prison including being charged for incitement and leaving the country illegally. In 1963, Mandela was brought to trial again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage.

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However, while incarcerated, Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program. Despite the maximum security of the Robben Island prison, Mandela and other ANC leaders were able to keep in contact with the antiapartheid movement covertly. Mandela wrote much of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedomsecretly in prison.
Later, Mandela was moved to the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison near Cape Town. A 1981 memoir by South African intelligence agent Gordon Winter described a plot by the South African apartheid government to arrange for Mandela's escape so as to shoot him during the recapture; the plot was foiled by British intelligence. Mandela became an international symbol of resistance to apartheid during his long years of imprisonment, and world leaders continued to demand his release. He continued to be such a potent symbol of black resistance that a coordinated international campaign for his release was launched, and this international groundswell of support exemplified the power and esteem that Mandela had in the global political community.

In response to both international and domestic pressure, the South African government, under the leadership of President F. W. de Klerk, lifted the ban against the ANC and released Mandela in February 1990.

Mandela, who enjoyed enormous popularity, assumed the leadership of the ANC and led negotiations with the government for an end to apartheid. While white South Africans considered sharing power a big step, black South Africans wanted nothing less than a complete transfer of power. Mandela played a crucial role in resolving differences. For their efforts, he and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In 1994 South Africa held its first multiracial elections, and Mandela became president.

Mandela sought to calm the fears of white South Africans and of potential international investors by trying to balance plans for reconstruction and development with financial caution. His Reconstruction and Development Plan allotted large amounts of money to the creation of jobs and housing and to the development of basic health care. In December 1996 Mandela signed into law a new South African constitution. The constitution established a federal system with a strong central government based on majority rule, and it contained guarantees of the rights of minorities and of freedom of expression. Mandela, who had announced that he would not run for reelection in 1999, stepped down as party leader of the ANC in late 1997 and was succeeded by South African deputy president Thabo Mbeki. Mandela's presidency came to an end in June 1999, when the ANC won legislative elections and selected Mbeki as South Africa's next president. 

As I continue my writing in this series, I will like to hear from you too. I just finished listening to former and present UN Secretary General talk about his humility and call him their mentor. What about is feable, human side? What have you leant from the life of Mandela? Some Christians are even asking: will he make heaven? You can drop a line below or chat with me on twitter: 

Nelson Mandela. (2013). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 12:33, Dec 12, 2013, from
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"Nelson Mandela the orator: his most powerful speeches." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 1 Dec. 2006. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"Mandela: Icon, Hero and Flawed Human." Mandela - ABC News. ABC News Internet Ventures, 7 Dec. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
"A Who's Who of world leaders: The incredible list of guests who took their seats at Nelson Mandela's memorial service." Mail Online. N.p., 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"Read Obama's complete speech at Nelson Mandela memorial." The Globe and Mail. N.p., 12 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"Mandela’s struggle was personal inspiration: Obama." The Daily Star. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"My life with Mandela –Obasanjo." The Punch Nigerias Most Widely Read Newspaper. N.p., 7 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"Desmond Tutu's tribute to Mandela's magnanimityAdd to ...." The Globe and Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"World leaders pay tribute to Mandela." - Africa. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
"BBC receives 1,350 complaints for 'excessive' Mandela coverage, including some viewers angry at interruption of 'Mrs Brown's Boys'." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

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