Nelson Mandela – A life well and truly, courageously, humbly, bravely, unselfishly and purposely lived…

Nelson-Mandela-community-in-New-Zealand-240x300 (1)The Man, the memory, the legacy.. A life well and truly, courageously, humbly, bravely, unselfishly and purposely lived…

by Norma Vaz..

What can we say about this man that hasn’t already been said..?

He is a true legend of his time and he makes it easy for us to say that we are Proud to be South African.

A brief history of this unforgettable man..

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela was educated at the WesleyanMissionSchool and then later at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the ANC in 1944 to try to be part of the process to end the injustices of apartheid.

Rolihlahla, became the first member of his family to attend school, and his teacher, Miss Mdingane gave him his new English name of Nelson.

Of course, we as South Africans know the political history of Mandela’s mission to bring a new and fair beginning to South African politics, so we don’t need to be reminded of the years of the Rivonia Treason Trial, the enforced home-detention, the banning and of course the imprisonment in Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison. These lost years of personal life were surely South Africa’s gain and gave this man his deserved status although he never set out on this mission to become famous.

Perhaps because of his birthright and his education, the younger Nelson Mandela was a man of ideals, substance and developed a real purpose to try to correct the severe and undignified and cruel injustices of Apartheid.

Mandela made a poignant statement in the courtroom of the Rivonia Trial, which received considerable international publicity and sums up his courageous character. This statement reads;

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

Nelson Mandela only ever wanted a non-violent protest against the injustices of Apartheid and sadly the then government reacted with more violence and oppression. This was seen quite openly and highlighted with the tragic Sharpville Massacre and it was this event, along with the banning of the ANC which led to the decision to embark on violent forms of political struggle and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. He felt the Government had left him no other choice.

It is important to note that Mahatma Gandi influenced Mandela’s approach to fighting apartheid and subsequently the methods of succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists. He even took part in a conference in New Delhi in 2007, to mark Gandhi’s introduction of Satyagraha ( a philosophy and practice of nonviolent resistance) in South Africa.

During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely recognised as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became the embodiment and figurehead for resistance to the cruel anti-apartheid laws.

He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom, even tho he was made the offer of remission of sentence in exchange for accepting the Bantusan policy and agreeing to settle there. Again in the eighties, Mandela rejected an offer of release on condition that he renounces violence. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts, only free men can negotiate, he said.

On 2 February 1990, State President, F.W de Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC, 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.

Prisoner 466/64 was finally a truly free man.

After his release, he once again took up to continue his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, Mandela was elected President of the ANC and was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President of South African on 10 May 1994. He served as President for 5 years.

Mr. Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President – but did not settle into retirement. He set up three foundations bearing his name: The Nelson Mandela Foundation, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and The Mandela-Rhodes Foundation. His schedule was tireless and relentless and took him around the world as a living symbol of strength, integrity and most importantly, forgiveness.

Also during this period he has had the love and support of his large family – including his wife Graça Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday in 1998.

In a life that symbolises the triumph of the human spirit over mans inhumanity to man, Nelson Mandela accepted the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize (along with FW de Klerk) on behalf of all South Africans who suffered and sacrificed so much to bring peace to our land.

In the early sixties, before his trial, Mandela was quoted as saying…”I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man”.

Nelson Mandela has never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration, in South Africa and throughout the world, to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

Nelson Mandela’s time in prison, which amounted to almost 27 years, was marked by many small and large events which played a crucial part in shaping the personality and attitudes of the man who was to become the first President of a democratic South Africa. Many fellow prisoners and warders influenced him and he, in his turn, influenced them. While he was in jail his mother and son died, his wife, Winnie was also subject to harassment and ….

In March 1982, after 18 years, he was suddenly transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and in December 1988 he was moved to the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl, from where he was eventually released. While in prison, Mr. Mandela flatly rejected offers made by his jailers for remission of sentence in exchange for accepting the Bantustan policy by recognising the independence of the Transkei and agreeing to settle there. Again in the ‘80s Mr. Mandela and others rejected an offer of release on condition that he renounces violence. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts – only free men can negotiate, he said.

Nelson Mandela community in New Zealand

The era of apartheid formally came to an end on the April 27, 1994, when Nelson Mandela voted for the first time in his life – along with his people. Nelson-Mandela-community-in-New-Zealand-240x300 (1)However, long before that date it had become clear, even before the start of negotiations at the World Trade Centre in KemptonPark, that the ANC was increasingly charting the future of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela’s life was all about changing a political system (apartheid) which was wrong. His intelligence, character, humbleness and endurance, slowly succeeded beyond all expectations. His complete lack of bitterness was inspirational and he managed to unite both black, white and coloured people of South Africa and gave us all hope in a new democratic country. His death at age 95, will leave a hole in the hearts and minds of every South African of this era.

May his soul rest in peace and our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and everyone who loved him and what he stood for.

Madiba’s long walk has ended.. his legacy however will live on forever.

The Article was uploaded to www.southafricans.co.nz

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