Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)

nelson mandela2“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.”
His birth name was Rolihiahia Mandela, later while attending school he was forced to have a Christian name and his teacher named him Nelson. Mr. Mandela is also known as Madiba, The Nelson Mandela Foundation  explains the name as follows: Madiba – This is the name of the clan of which Mr Mandela is a member. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone’s clan name.

There is nothing I can add to everything that has been written about Mr. Rolihlahia “Nelson” Mandela. He led an exemplary life and the fortitude of his spirit that most of us wished we could possess.

I’ve always admired this man, who devoted his entire life to fight for what was right for his people and his country… for humanity. It would have been so easy for him to renounce to his ideals and have a “normal” life instead of spending the prime years of his life in Robben Island Prison (from May 27, 1963 to March 31, 1982). He was at this prison for almost 19 years, his cell in that prison had no bed or plumbing, he was allowed only one visitor every six months and was harshly punished for insignificant offenses; a typical punishment for political inmates was to bury them in the ground up to their necks and while buried, the guards urinated on them.

Instead of succumbing to his captors while in prison, Mr. Mandela  earned a bachelor of law degree from the University of London and wrote his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”

Back in 1980 the “Free Nelson Mandela” campaign created by Oliver Tambo made the injustices committed against Mr. Mandela and the apartheid regime of South Africa was exposed to the world. Under international pressure, the government of South Africa tried to buy Mr. Mandela’s integrity by offering his freedom if he abandoned his fight for equality, but his ideal were not for sale.

In 1989 Mr. F.W. de Klerk was elected president of South Africa. Mr. de Klerk ended the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and campaigned to end the apartheid regime. The following year, on February 11, 1990 Mr. de Klerk ordered Mr. Mandela to be released from Victor Verster Prison.

Upon his freedom, Mr. Mandela became the head of the ANC and together with Mr. de Klerk, fought to end apartheid in South Africa. These efforts earned Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk the Nobel Peace Price in December 1993. On April 26,1994 the first multiracial parliamentary elections in South Africa were held and on May 10th, 1994 history was made when Mr. Mandela became the first black president of South Africa and Mr. de Klerk became his first deputy.

While president Mr. Mandela concentrated his efforts in human rights and investigating political violations by those opposing and supporting the apartheid ideology to help achieve these goals, he created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Mr. Mandela presided in the creation of the new South African constitution that implemented a central government prohibiting discrimination against any race, particularly whites.

Mr. Mandela was a man that had every reason to hate those that had tried to crush him, that subjected him to indescribable humiliations but nothing could be further from the truth. It is thanks to this man integrity, high standards, and human values that there was no retaliation against the whites that had mistreated the black population for so long. He always promoted peace and inclusion. He always opted for harmony and equality.

Mr. Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013 but his name will forever be remembered as one of the greatest man of South Africa and the world.


Below is an excerpt from his book, "Long Walk to Freedom."

I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free-free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother's hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God.

It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it. At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased, and go where I chose. Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honorable freedoms of achieving my potential, or earning my keep, of marrying and having a family-the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.

But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people. It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk. I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

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