Nelson Mandela is one of the well-known and celebrated African leaders in the world. His role in fighting for democracy in South Africa is written in history books and will be appreciated by generations to come. His endurance and determination in ending the inequalities that the country was facing then still inspires many to not give up on the struggle.
Born on 18 July 1918 in Mveso in the rural Eastern Cape, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a normal boy. He began actively participating in the anti-apartheid movement in his early 20’s while he had enrolled to study law in the University of the Witwatersrand. Together with a few other young people in the African National Congress (ANC) formed the ANC youth league which is a youth version of the ANC. The purpose of the youth league was to bring radical methods and resistance toward the apartheid government.
For more than 20 years Mandela lead the movement against the then government and its racist policies. Together with Oliver Tambo, they opened a law firm that was aimed to providing free and low-cost legal advice and representation to black people who could not afford to have such representation. In 1956, Mandela with 150 others were arrested and charged with treason for their political resistance but were eventually released.
Nelson Mandela co-founded the Umkhonto Wesizwe, this was an armed group of individuals who were trained to fight the gorilla war tactics of the apartheid government. He also orchestrated some of the workers strikes. Mandela represented the movement without fearlessness, his knowledge and education helped grow the ANC and its radical tactics.
In 1963 Nelson Mandela was arrested, and then sentenced to life imprisonment together with 10 other ANC leaders, this marked the beginning of his 27 years in prison. He spent 18 of the 27 years in the Robben Island, this setback did not cause this brave man to stop achieving his goals. Even though he was incarcerated he remained motivated. While still in prison he gained his Bachelor of Law through the University of London correspondence program.
Mandela was saved from a plot to get shot from an orchestrated escape by the same government. The international community started putting the actions of the South African government on the spot light. Thus started giving Nelson Mandela more support and ordered for his release. In 1982 Mandela was moved to Pollsmoor prison so he could be reachable to engage in talks with the government.
Due to the international pressure starting to be intense, the then president P.W Botha offered Nelson his release in exchange for stopping the armed struggle. Mandela refused this offer, he remained steadfast and resolute in his mission for a democratic South Africa. He put his freedom on hold so that a black man can have equal opportunities. He was eventually released under the presidency of F.W de Klerk in 1990, February 11th. The ANC was unbanned and other political prisoners were released.
As the elected president of the ANC he continued talks with the government. Armed resistance continued to exert pressure. The first democratic elections were held on April 27 1994 and Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa. During as president he worked to bring power back to black people in businesses, housing, and job opportunities and in education.
After his retirement from politics in 1999, through his foundation he spent his time raising money for clinics and schools. He served as a mediator to several wars stricken African countries. In his life he received several awards including the Nobel peace prize in 1993. After suffering from prostate cancer and undergoing major surgeries over the years he eventually died on December 5, 2013. Although rested, his legacy lives on.
18 July (his birthday) serves as the day society is encouraged to give back service for 67(the years he spent making the world a better place) minutes. Recently a children’s hospital was opened named after him and that fulfilled one of his wishes. Although the current ANC is not the same, many continue to support it in remembrance of the struggles Nelson Mandela faced to set us free.
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By: ITUMELENG NKOSI