Death of a Liberator: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected President, passed away on Thursday Dec. 5. Mandela is remembered by much more than his Presidency, including his life- long dedication to peaceful political movements against racial oppression and the fight for freedom in his nation.

Mandela’s health has been faltering for the past couple of years, with reoccurring lung infections that hospitalized him on numerous occasions. These health issues have kept him out of the political activist spotlight over these past couple of years, however he never left the spotlight through his many messages and historical acts.

According to NelsonMandela.org, Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Madiba clan in Mvezo Transkei on July 18, 1918. His father was a principal counselor to Jongintaba, the Acting King of the Thembu people. His father, Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela passed away when he was just a boy, leaving him to become a ward of Jongintaba, which is how he first heard the stories of his people and their struggle for freedom.

In attendance to a primary school in Qunu, his teacher gave Mandela the “Christian” name of Nelson. He went on to complete his junior certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute, which led him to acceptance to Wesleyan Secondary School. From his secondary school he moved on to begin his Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University College of Fort Hare, where he was expelled for involvement in a student protest.  He continued his bachelor studies at the University of South Africa, and returned to Fort Hare for graduation in 1943, according to NelsonMendala.org.

In 1944, Mendela joined the African National Congress through his help in developing the ANC Youth League.

During this time he also married his first wife, Evelyn Mase with whom he had two sons, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) and Makgatho and two daughters. The first daughter was lost in infancy, and the second was named after her, Makaziwe. They were divorced in 1955.

In 1952 the Defiance Campaign, created by ANC and the South African Indian Congress, selected him as the National Volunteer-in-Chief for the call of civil disobedience against six laws. The activist were charged with Suppression of Communism Act and sentenced with nine months hard labor.

August of 1952 also marked the year Mandela received his two-year diploma of law, allowing him and a fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo to establish Mandela and Tambo, South Africa’s first black law firm.

Mandela was first banned in 1952, just before the passing of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown on June 26 a law that called for equality throughout the country for all no matter the color of your skin, according to the anc.org.

Mandela was arrested in December of 1955, along with 156 other activists. This arrest led to the 1956 Treason Trial, during which Mandela went to Pietermaritzburg to speak at a conference referred to as “All-in Africa Conference.”  At the conference Mendela was asked to write to the Prime Minister to request a non-racial convention, and if he did not agree there would be a state strike. The trial ended in acquisition in March of 1961.

In 1958 Mandela remarried to Winnie Madikizela, a social worker. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa before their divorce in 1996.

In 1962 he adopted the name David Motsamayi, in order to travel around Africa and into England to gain support for the strike. He was arrested upon his return to Africa, and charged with illegally leaving the country along with inciting a strike.

In October of 1963, Mandela and nine others were tried for sabotage in the Rivonia Trial. During this trial he was up against the death penalty, which was later reduced to life in prison. This 27-year confinement is the famous time he spent in jail, during which he rejected four different offers of release. He was officially released February of 1900, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC.

After his release he spoke in official talks to end white minority rule. He was placed in charge as president of the ANC, and was given the Noble Peace Prize in April 1994.

He was elected President of South Africa on May 10, 1994 where he stayed for only one term. He continued to serve South Africa through the foundation of a Children’s Fund in 1995 and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Dr. Rehka Datta, a professor of Political Science, said “This past summer, I accompanied a group of volunteers on behalf of the new group, Women and Girls’ Education (WAGE) International, that is dedicated to empowering children, men, and women to combat violence through education, to mentor middle school age children in Asbury Park. For four weeks, we looked at the lives of Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela, and sought to take inspiration from their struggles to bring peace in our own lives and communities.

Datta continued, “Many of the children had never even heard about Mandela. Yet, I was pleased to note that by the end of the program, quite a few of them took his message “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” to be the most meaningful, and also discussed how they can start by bringing positive change in their own schools.”

Dr. Julius Adekunle, a professor of History, said, “”Nelson Mandela had an undying quest for equality and freedom. He fought the Apartheid with his life. He is an unforgettable charismatic political leader, held in high esteem all over the world. He has left challenging legacies for world political leaders.”

Datta said, “This past week, some of my students and friends reflected on how South Africa’s discriminatory policies and violation of human rights had stirred both Gandhi and Mandela. The work of these, and other larger than life luminaries teach us that through our diverse backgrounds, national identities, and other apparent differences, the fundamental truths about equality, human rights, justice, and love are attributes that unite us as human beings. They give us our moral compass, and how we need to stand up for these values and principles and address them whenever and wherever they are transgressed.

Datta continued, “While all of these, and other leaders provide inspiration, I think Nelson Mandela will stand out for me personally for three things in particular. First, after serving an unfair and unjust sentence for 27 years, he came out of prison smiling, forgiving his adversaries, and enabling healing through reconciliation. Second, he voluntarily left the Presidency after serving one term, paving the path for new leadership and continuing his work of healing. Finally, I witnessed, as a college student, how universities across the United States and the world protested the apartheid regime’s actions. Despite our diverse identities, we felt and shared the pain of Mandela’s imprisonment and rejoiced at his freedom. I think that deep down, my soul, shaped by such inspiration, is sending Madiba a silent prayer for teaching me such fortitude and forgiveness. I can never be like him, but I can try.”

PHOTO TAKEN from audaureachumba.com