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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Nelson Mandela: a 99th anniversary

News Analysis |

Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary and a philanthropist often referred to as the father of his nation. He served as his country’s president. He is a global icon, a symbol of revolution and freedom and today marks the 99th year since his first encounter with this cruel world, which he helped massively to make better.

A heroes introduction

Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, Transkei, into the Madiba clan. Nelson wasn’t Mandela’s birth name – instead of being given the name Rolihlahla by his parents. It was his teacher at his primary school in Qunu who gave him the name Nelson as part of the custom of giving all school children Christian names.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”-Mandela

Nelson Mandela went to university at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete his degree until 1943 via the University of South Africa as he was thrown out for taking part in a student protest. When Nelson Mandela returned to his village he was told he would be married off so he and his cousin ran away to Johannesburg in 1941.

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“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” 

After taking a job as a security guard, Mandela started studying for an LLB at the University of Witwatersrand but again did not complete the degree until many years later. Mandela himself said the delay was because ‘he was a bad student’.

Mandela entered politics in 1942 joining the African National Congress in 1944 where he helped found the ANC Youth League. As a member of the ANC, he led a campaign of civil disobedience in protest at apartheid and other breaches of black civil liberties in South Africa.

His achievements

“Well I hated oppression and when I think about the past and the type of things they did I feel angry. You have a limited time to stay on earth, you must try to use that period for the purpose of transforming your country into what you desire it to be: a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist country and that was a great task.”-Mandela

He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Before his coming to power, the activist spent 27 years in various prisons from 1962-1990, after being found guilty of inciting workers’ strikes, leaving the country without permission, sabotage and conspiring to violently overthrow the government.

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“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”-Mandela

released in February 1990. He was 71 years old at the time but he carried onwards and finally achieved what he set out to do. He conquered Racism and abolished the most racist law that world had seen. His decision to move ahead and change, not only his country but the world, earned him global recognition and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

A legacy of a legend

He was also known for his philanthropic efforts, especially those which involved African children and people affected by HIV and Aids. Due to all of his efforts, the United Nations decided to mark his birthday, 18 July, as Nelson Mandela “International” Day.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”-Mandela

Mandela’s most impressive trait was his ability to leap over short-term hurdles on his way toward achieving the long-term goal of a free, peaceful and democratic South Africa. He did so by constantly adapting. From his stance on non-violent resistance to his willingness to negotiate with the Afrikaner regime, Mandela’s tactics were determined only by how they would ultimately serve his core values.

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“The first thing is, to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself, and one of the most important weapons in changing yourself is to recognize that people everywhere in the world want peace but humility is one of the most important, qualities which you must have. If you make people realize that you are no threat to them, people will embrace you.”-Mandela

Mandela famously said that freedom was “an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He backed up this rhetoric with genuine self-sacrifice. No legal or personal consequences were ever enough to loosen his commitment to the struggle. Nor could they rob him of his warm character, one that embodied the love and respect he hoped to instill in his country’s population. Later, upon finishing his first term as president of South Africa, Mandela could have used the lifetime of goodwill he had earned through his heroism to seize power or benefit financially. Instead, he left the presidency, recognizing that the best thing he could do to ensure a democratic future for his people was to show that it could continue without him.

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”-Mandela

Before he died in 2013, Mandela urged the younger generation to continue his work with equality to make the world a better place. Today reminds us as human beings that each and every one of us equally important, no matter what we are ethnically, we matter for we as a species, not as a specific race, make this world, our home.