To look through history, it is difficult to find a man with the endurance and drive as of a legend such as Julius Caesar. Even more difficult to find is a man whose integrity and deeds are comparable to the deeds of Nelson Rohihiala Mandela. Born 18 July 1918, to Nosekeni Fanny and Hendry Mphakanyiswa Gadla, chieftain of the Thembu branch of the Xhosa tribe, Mandela was exposed to the groundwork, which led to his fair and successful ruling, from birth (Hughes, 18.) Working with herding his family's cattle and goats from the age of five, Mandela's mother and father instilled good work ethics and substantial educational values. Though she could neither read nor write, Nosekei Fanny believed that the best life for her children could be arrived at through education (19.) For the reason, Nelson Mandela and his three sisters were sent to the mission school in Qunu. Because of this reason, Nelson Mandela was given the opportunity to become a learned man with the eloquence of speech to effectively lead a country out of racial turmoil.
After he completed his education at the mission school, Mandela continued his lessons both in and out of the classroom. In 1939, Mandela furthered his education by entering Fort Hare College in order to attain his Bachelor of Arts degree, a stepping-stone to his destined vocation (Benson, 20.) The following year he was expelled for leading a strike. Nelson Rohihiala Mandela, Rohihiala being his given birth name meaning "stirring up trouble," pushed forward for a law degree, a degree suitable for his obvious nature (21.) After his expulsion, he moved to Johannesburg; with this move, he started his studies at Witwatersrand University (Thompson, 261.) In 1941, Mandela obtained his law degree through correspondence at the University of South Africa (LaBlanc, 142.) Though he was working towards reform through law, the 1948 formation of the African National Congress Youth League, founded by Anton Lambede, gave Mandela another outlet to help maintain his non-segregationist viewpoints (Davis, 10.) The year following its engendering, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC).
At the ANC's 35th annual congress it was decided that a plan if passive resistance, in order to convince the government to repeal its "six unjust laws," was required. Late in 1951, the ANC started
organize and recruit volunteers who would participate in a campaign against the pass laws, to begin the following year. By 1952 he had been elected president of the Youth League, as well as of the Transvaal branch of the ANC. Shortly thereafter he was appointed volunteer in chief in the resistance movement, known as the Defiance Campaign. Due to the movement's fair success, the authorities arrested many of its leaders, and Mandela found himself with six months' banning and later was given nine months in prison for his leadership. Despite this setback, Mandela went on in 1952 to set up the first law firm with a black partnership in Johannesburg (Mandela2, 148.) The police were discouraged by his public success and following. Their retaliation was to arrest Chief Albert Lutuli, then the leader of the ANC, with Mandela and 155 others in 1956 (212.) The cause for arrest was said to be that they were all in violation of the "Suppression of Communism Act." The "Treason Trial" dragged on for four years while the accused members stood strong. They were finally released in 1960 because the prosecution's case had no solidity, and consequently collapsed.
Only months after their release, the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leaders helped to organize a day of mass peaceful protest. On 21 March 1960 5,000 Africans marched into the streets of Sharpeville in a non-violent effort to do away with the pass laws enforced by the white minority government. 75 officers of South Africa's police department arrived and opened fire on the retreating unarmed men, women and children killing 69 and wounding 180 more (Davis, 12.) This violation against humanity was the breaking point for the advocates of peaceful protest. At that point it was unmistakable that the white government would not negotiate with the black public and that non-violent resistance was no longer an option. As a result of the Sharpeville Massacre, on 8 April 1960, both the ANC and the PAC were banned in South Africa (Sampson, 132.) The government claimed that it was their planning that caused the deaths (202.) To the charge Mandela responded, " It would be unrealistic and wrong for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force (Moritz, 254.)" The government's banning backfired, earning for themselves more secrecy from the anti-apartheid cabal.
Soon after the dissipation of the ANC and PAC, the die-hard members brought into existence the All-African National Action Council, a semi-underground movement. Mandela was appointed honorary secretary. In 1961 Mandela and the more communist member of the former ANC drew up a more militant group. Mandela of course headed off this group, called the Umkhonto we Sizwe, which means "Spear of the Nation (Davis, 14.)" Sabotage was their chosen weapon of negotiation, but they maintained only sabotage of buildings and property, never against individual people (Sampson, 166.) Early in 1962, the members smuggled Mandela out of South Africa, allowing him to travel through all of free Africa. Through meetings and speeches this leader of equality increased the world's awareness of the apartheid struggle. Seven months later, Mandela returned to South Africa disguised as a chauffeur; He was recognized and arrested. With his legal background, he turned his trial from one of his own civil disobedience into one of white domination. He spent his argument declaring that he should not have to follow rules made by a white government in which he had no voice. In spite of his efforts, he was sentenced to five years in prison: three years for incitement of a strike and two additional years for leaving the country without the proper traveling documents. The majority of his sentence was spent in solitary confinement (LaBlanc, 144.)
Mandela's underground movement continued in his absence until June 11, 1963, when the South African police raided the headquarters at Rivonia. All of the major players in the movement were arrested. While serving his five-year sentence, Mandela was additionally charged with sabotage, treason, and conspiracy to overthrow the African government through communist means. Less than one year later, he and eight of the other accused men were found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in prison to be served in Robben Island prison (Sampson, 202.)
Thick, impenetrable walls encased the convicts, and Mandela and the other men still were influential on the other 400 political prisoners, as they were on all of Africa (Reader, 682.) He initiated an educational program and by 1982 had a large following. In April of this same year, Mandela and five of the other men originally convicted were transferred to Pollsmoor maximum-security prison (319.) The prison guards feared that Mandela might start a riot through his inspirational theories. Two years after this move the government offered Mandela his freedom, on the terms that he would reside in his designated "homeland" of Transkei. He refused his release unless it was unconditional and, furthermore, he reaffirmed his allegiance to the ANC. Throughout the next six years Mandela divided his time, largely in confinement with the other five transfers, between studying and exercise.
At apartheid's height, during Mandela's last five years in prison and while the ANC's leaders were cooped up behind iron bars, the entire world demanded Mandela's release. Finally in 1987, President Ronald Reagan joined the world's protests and enforced economic sanctions against South Africa. By this time, South Africa's President P.W. Botha had revoked the pass laws, blacks were given the right of movement into white urban areas, and some of the shores were then allowing all peoples of all races to utilize their beaches. Tragically, in 1989 President Botha suffered a stroke and Frederick W. deKlerk was therefore elected to the presidency.
Though on the inside, Mandela still had powerful contact with the outside world. South Africa's Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee, had organized several informal get-togethers with Mandela during his time at Robben Island. After his transfer to Pollsmoor Prison, Coetsee continued with the meetings, finding it always easier to climb onto Mandel's bandwagon. One their friendship had been privately commenced, Coetsee spoke with Boetha and an offer was put onto the table: Mandela would be transferred to Victor Verster Prison, where he would be given mock freedom. After setting and clarifying the terms, he accepted (Mandela2, 548.) Mandela recalls that, " we drove [the prison's] entire length, and then along a winding dirt road, through a rather wild, wooded area at the rear of the property. At the end if the road, we came to an isolated white-washed one-story cottage set behind a concrete wall and shaded by fir trees." It was indeed a prison, but it allowed Mandela most of the freedoms he had so long been denied. Mandela would "sleep and wake as [he] pleased, swim whenever [he] wanted, eat when [he] was hungryÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ [and] to be able to go outside during the day and take a walk when [he] desired."
Now that he was back in the pseudo political arena, Mandela had Coetsee arrange a meeting between him and Boetha. In their 1989 meeting, once the courtesies had been spent, Mandela brought up the subject that neither of the men wanted to bring up: Mandela flat out requested that Boetha unconditionally release all of his political prisoners. The meeting ended there, and Mandela was hardly any further than he'd been at its start.
Through his time at Victor Verster, Mandela continued to meet with his contemporaries at the ANC, the United Democratic Front (UDF,) and the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM.) in a peace-promoting gesture, de Klerk announced the release of the eight other men convicted with Mandela, on 10 October 1989. Now that the unofficial negotiations had begun, Mandela tried again to create good terms between him and the government that caged him; on 12 December 1981, he and de Klerk agreed to a cease-fire that allowed for open and unthreatening negotiations (Mandela, 170.) Towards the end of the negotiations, de Klerk stood in front of the parliament and, instead of his traditional speech, he began one that was the first advance towards dismantling the apartheid government. During his speech, he lifted the bans on the ANC, PAC, South African Communist Party, and 31 other illegal organizations (Thompson, 244.) He declared free the political prisoners incarcerated for non-violent activities, suspended capitol punishment, and lifted other restrictions imposed by President Boethas's state of emergency (Mandela, 175.) After his speech, which rang in the ears of every pro-apartheid African, Mandela was still locked in him prison.
Exactly one week later, de Klerk informed Mandela that he would be released the following day in Johannesburg, and Mandela declined (Benson, 183.) He said that he would need no less than a week in order to prepare for his release, and that he wanted to be released at Victor Verster so that he could say his good-byes. They compromised: he would be released from the venue of his choice, but had to do it the next morning, as the foreign press had already been notified (Mandela, 110.)
In a more progressive mindset, President deKlerk started conferring with Mandela in an audacious endeavor to dismantle the apartheid driven government (112.) De Klerk announced on 2 February 1990 to the reconvened parliament, that the bans on the South African Communist Party, PAC and ANC were soon to be lifted. On the night of 10 February 1990, Mandela was informed, while in his cell of the Victor Verster Prison, that his pardoning was only hours away. The following morning with the entire world's audience, Nelson Mandela finally was awarded his freedom. This same morning, the ANC was officially again legalized (Benson, 204.) Later, in July of 1990, Mandela went on tour in the United States, asking that the US still employ their economic sanctions against South Africa until the official demolition of apartheid.
The most basic right that many Americans take for granted is that of choosing their government. Through deKlerk's skillful collaboration with Mandela, this common right was granted to all South
Africans. In late April of 1994, the newly created generation of South African voters registered for the first time. With Africa's black majority, the ANC won 62.65 percent of the votes with Mandela as their candidate. 10 May 1994, Mandela was sworn in as president (Ross, 202.).
Mandela's terms as the head of his country were fairly successful, presiding in the tradition of other political convicts in the presidential chair, such as Nkrumah in Ghana, Kenyatta in Kenya, and Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He was said to have given more of himself to Africa, than he had in his youth. His political goals were ambitious and involved breaking down political tensions, as well as building up the economy. The first intention on his agenda he motivated by creating a cabinet made up of representatives from various cultural and political groups; the latter was accomplished by encouraging foreign trade and investments, on top of securing investments for black entrepreneurs. He later made way for the return of land taken from blacks in 1913.
In an effort to clear up South Africa's historical record, Mandela ardently backed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another great leader in the anti-apartheid fight, the commission offered amnesty to these who had committed crimes during the apartheid era. Now, in his mid-seventies, Mandela is still a revolutionary who takes help from any party offering. This group is a veritable assortment of US pariahs, including Fidel Castro, Muammaur Kaddafi, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (Associated, 1.) In respect of the help he received, Mandela fully backed these governments, going as far as to denounce US sanctions against Cuba, on September 4, 1998, just before bestowing South Africa's highest honor of civilian order for foreigners on Castro; likewise, in 1997 Mandela gave to Kaddafi the Order of Good Hope (Agence 1, Associated 1.)
Following President Franklin D. Roosevelt's strides, Mandela tried organizing a "Public Works" type program, called the "Reconstruction and Development" program. This program would entail modernizing Africa via creating jobs, building homes, and feeding the young, allowing all people access to clean water, electricity and sanitation, and improving health education and welfare. One specific example of active attempts is the lowered rate of unemployment and homelessness, made possible by a bill to have 300,000 homes built every year. This was made easier by the redistribution of 30% of the total land originally taken from the blacks (Thompson, 261.) In a sub-article, Mandela required that all schools provide two slices of bread and peanut butter, per day (Ross, 210.) Unfortunately, the schools in South Africa are all terribly overcrowded. Despite all efforts put forth, the government's funds were little to begin with and were soon emptied. The project collapsed.
The failure of the "Reconstruction and Development" plan in no way lessened the people's faith in their president's possibilities for repairing the nation. This is made evident in the over 187 awards and horary positions that he has received as of 4 May 2000. Nelson Mandela's over 27 years spent behind walls bespeak his dedication to equality. He has inadvertently left an interminable print of his struggle on the globe. Richard Lacayo, Time Magazine contributor best described as "unique among heroes because he is the living embodiment of black liberation (LaBlanc, 141.)" He has made all peoples aware that the Jewish Holocaust, which the world so avidly protested, was not the last incident of persecution. The greatest idea that Mandela stressed to his audiences and people was that they mustn't dissolve all of the progress they have achieved through spite. In his own words, "I want at once to make it clear that I am not a racialist and do not support any racialism of any kind, because to me racialism is a barbaric thing whether it comes from a black man or a white man (Moritz, 186.)" Under Mandela's rich tutelage, Africa isn't perfect but has reached a level of higher civil rest that was never thought possible (Zambia, 2.) Moreover, Africans have been armed with the fanatical desire that will never allow for regression of parity.
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