”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” by Nelson Mandela
The first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. In South Africa, he is also known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela’s Xhosa clan. Over four decades, Nelson Mandela has received more than 250 awards. Among those awards, there is the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18th July, is to be known as ”Mandela’s Day” to mark his contribution to world freedom.
- Who is Nelson Mandela?
- The political leader
In 1948, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party which supported the Apartheid policy of racial segregation won the election. Thereafter, Nelson Mandela began actively participating in politics. He helped plan and prominently led the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the fundamental basis of the anti-apartheid cause.
In 1961, Nelson Mandela became leader of the ANC’s armed wing known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) which he co-founded. The coordination of military campaigns against governments targets, the fundraising for the Spear of the Nation abroad and paramilitary training of the group were among his main duties and responsibilities. Here is how fellow ANC member Wolfie Kadesh explains the bombing campaign led by Mandela: ”We knew that we were going to start on December 16th 1961, to blast the symbolic places of Apartheid like pass offices, native magistrates courts, and things like that… post offices and the government offices. But, we were to do it in such a way that nobody would be hurt, nobody would get killed”
- The arrest, the Rivonia trial and the imprisonment
After living on the run for seventeen months, on August 5th in 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested and imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. It’s important to notice that his arrest was made possible thanks to the USA Central Intelligence Agency collaboration with the South African government. Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance. On 25 October 1962, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. While Mandela was in prison, South Africa’s police arrested other prominent ANC leaders on July 11th in 1963 in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela was brought in and at the Rivonia trial, they were charged by the Chief Prosecutor Dr. Percy Yutar with the capital crimes of sabotage and the plotting of a foreign invasion of South Africa.
- The release
Throughout Mandela’s imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan ” Free Mandela !” In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when P. Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik W. de Klerk. On February 2nd 1990, the president Frederik de Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations. One week later, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11th, 1990. That historic event was transmitted all over the world by radio and television.
Months after that historic event Nelson Mandela, the hero, was ready to lead his people and the South African Republic towards the Rainbow Nation status.