Nelson Mandela: haro of the anti-apartheid struggle

Nelson Mandela : héros de la lutte anti-apartheid

Will you be willing to sacrifice your life for years for more justice and equity for your people?

When you look at the life and incredible destiny of Nelson Mandela. The answer is “YES”, a man can sacrifice his freedom, his life and his honour for the good of all. There are incredible men with noble hearts, who mark history with their generosity and the rejection of oppression and injustice towards the innocent. Men whose lords forged in the stars, solid as a rock, to endure the pain and suffering of many people. Men who are not just speakers, but men who act for the good of all at the risk of their lives and families. And, this man is Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela, the birth of a star.

Nelson Mandela, whose real name is Rolihlala Mandela, is the son of a Thembu chief, born on July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo in South Africa. His first name Rolihlahla means “to remove a branch from a tree” or “troublemaker”. He is the son of a brave Thembu chief named Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa of the Mvezo village, who strongly opposed the colonial authorities. For his rebellion, he was deposed and exiled with his family in the village of Qunu. His mother, who chose Christianity, had him baptized in the Methodist Church. We can see through his father where the nobility and courage of little Mandela come from.

At the age of 9, Nelson Mandela’s father died of tuberculosis. But appreciated and respected by the regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo of the Thembu throne for his qualities as an advisor, he decided to adopt Mandela, the son of his deceased friend and raise him as his own son. Mandela went to study at the school of a Methodist mission located next to the Regent’s Palace and became the first member of his family to attend a school. It was there that his teacher, Miss Mdingane, according to a common practice at the time, gave him the English name Nelson. At 16, he was initiated into the thembu custom and enrolled at the Clarkebury Boarding Institute. In 1937, he attended the Methodist School of Healdtown in Fort Beaufort where most of the Thembu royal family studied. After graduating, he joined the University of Fort Hare, the only university accepting Blacks to study law. There he met Oliver Tambo who became his friend and colleague. A man who will follow him in his fight for freedom. Passionate about reading, he discovered Gandhi and totally adhered to the doctrine of non-violence of which he spoke. He becomes a true inspiration in his life. Following a boycott of university regulations, he was expelled from university.

Upon his return, Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo of the Thembu throne announced that he had arranged a marriage for him and his heir son. Dissatisfied and not ready to get married, he decided to move to Johannesburg to find his place in life. He found his first job in a mine, then worked in a law firm thanks to the contact of his friend and mentor Walter Sisulu. He enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand to finalize his skills and legal studies. There, he met many future anti-apartheid activists.

Reminder of the unjust laws of apartheid.

Apartheid is distinguished in 2 aspects:

1) the small apartheid 2)  the total apartheid
Whites limit their contact with non-whites as much as possible. A spatial separation of the country, separate and racially determined areas of residence.

Blacks are grouped in national homes called “bantustans” (meaning “Land of Peoples”). 13% of the country’s surface area is occupied by these households.

1949: Prohibition of mixed marriages between whites and coloured people. Out-of-wedlock sexual relations between whites and blacks had been prohibited since the 1920s.

1950: Classification law (distinction of individuals according to their race, creation of a national register in which all “races” of persons were listed). This law defines three racial groups (whites, blacks and mestizos).

Law on the suppression of communism (prohibition of any political party considered as communist by the government)

Separate Housing Act: the Group Areas Act (forced separation of individuals in different urban housing areas according to their race as well as for colourful people living in District Six in Cape Town)

The Land Acts had assigned 87% of the land to whites as early as 1913 and 1936. The remaining 13% for Blacks was divided into reserves (later called Bantustans).

1952: Pass Laws Act: the Pass Laws Act (requirement for Blacks over 16 years of age to have a government passport/pass to travel in certain white neighbourhoods)

1953: Public Amenities Act (segregation in all public places: toilets, benches, fountains… with the aim of eliminating all contact between Blacks and Whites)

Bantu Education Act (modification of the content of the Black curriculum in schools: teaching so that they can work in their Homeland or for Whites)

Withdrawal of the right to strike for black workers, prohibition of passive resistance

1954: Indigenous Relocation Act: the Native Resettlement Act (allows blacks living in areas declared for whites to be moved)

1956: Labour and Mines Act (officialization of racial discrimination in the world of work)

1958: Law on the Promotion of Autonomous Black Governments (creation of Bantustans, reserves for Blacks, under administration of non-whites)

1959: Black people were banned from studying at white universities (mainly at the University of Cape Town and Witwatersrand). Creation of separate schools for Whites, Blacks, Coloured and Asians

1971: Homeland Blacks Citizenship Act (withdrawal of South African citizenship for Blacks from ethnic communities living in Bantustans)

1974: Decree on Afrikaans (obligation for all schools, even black schools, to teach maths, social sciences, history and geography for all secondary schools in Afrikaans)
1976: Law on the prohibition of access to vocational training for blacks.

Non-violent resistance against apartheid.

Following the many unjust and racist laws of apartheid, Nelson Mandela felt an intense need to do something. It cannot bear to remain silent in the face of a world that is totally drifting away where some individuals are deprived of their legitimate rights to freedom. Inspired and influenced by Gandhi, he first of all advocated a non-violent struggle and resistance against the apartheid regime.

 During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this 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. »

In 1944, Nelson Mandela decided to join the African National Congress (ANC) and created the ANC Youth League with Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. Through this structure, they wish to fight and face the laws of racial segregation, which favours the country’s white minority.

In 1951, Olivier Tambo and Nelson Mandela became Johannesburg’s first two black lawyers. Nelson was then elected in 1952 as President of the Transvaal ANC and National Vice-President. He asks his supporters to disobey the unjust laws of apartheid. On April 6, 1952, he organized a demonstration to protest against the current policy in South Africa. Of the 10,000 demonstrators present, 8,500, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested. In October, they continue to demonstrate against segregation laws and the mandatory use of black passes. Poor Mandela, he is still arrested and sentenced to nine months in prison with a suspended sentence. He was also banned from all meetings and placed under house arrest in Johannesburg.

In 1955, Nelson and Oliver Tambo helped and provided free and inexpensive legal advice to many black people in trouble. Meanwhile, the People’s Congress drafted and adopted the Charter of Liberty, which provided the fundamental foundation for the anti-apartheid movement. Nelson calls for the help and unity of black and white nationalists of the South African Communist Party in the struggle against apartheid.

In December 1956, Mandela continued his peaceful demonstrations. But he was arrested by the police with 156 of his members and charged with treason. Lack of evidence, they are all released. The ANC partners with small white, Indian and colourful political parties, because as everyone knows, unity is strength. But they also have to face black Africanist activists, who make them lose their greatest financial support from Ghana when they found the Pan-African Congress (PAC) under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe.

Resistance and armed struggle against apartheid.

Despite the desire for peaceful resistance, apartheid laws are increasingly virulent against blacks. Disoriented, Nelson Mandela realizes that his peaceful resistance movement could not change anything, on the contrary everything around him is getting worse. He then decided to change his strategy and now advocates armed resistance to end unjust laws of racial segregation.

This change in attitude occurred because of the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960, during a demonstration by the Pan-African Congress against the extension of the Pass book to women. About sixty police officers shot the demonstrators. It’s a butcher shop. There were 69 deaths, including 8 women and 10 children, and 180 injuries, including 31 women and 19 children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will prove the police right despite the testimony of many demonstrators. Disgusted, many demonstrations broke out throughout the country and the government declared a state of emergency and banned the ANC and the PAC. From that tragedy, Nelson abandoned his non-violent strategy and decided to found the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a network advocating armed action in 1961.

In May 1961, he called for a general strike, the “stay at house”, which explained to strikers to stay at home to force the government to intervene with the police and the army. In addition, it coordinates sabotage campaigns by avoiding human casualties against military and government targets. But he is preparing for the guerrillas and the open revolution, if his sabotage actions are not enough. He decides to blow up symbolic government places, such as post offices or government offices, but always trying to avoid human lives. Nelson Mandela wanted to fight, but without anyone being hurt or killed. Mandela organizes military training for the group and raises funds abroad for the MK. At the same time, he is undergoing military training in newly independent Algeria. He studied and was inspired by Clausewitz, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara and specialists in the Second Boer War. He is helped by his man and friend Kadesh, who is very useful to him thanks to his knowledge and experience of war and combat.

Arrest of Nelson Mandela and his supporters – Rivonia trial.

Nelson Mandela is the man to be shot. He’s wanted all over the country. Considered now, as a terrorist and a communist, he must redouble his ingenuity to hide himself. Betrayed by a CIA member who infiltrated the ANC, Nelson was arrested on 5 August 1962 after 17 months in hiding and imprisoned at Johannesburg Fort.

On 25 October 1962, he was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Police also arrested 11 ANC members in parallel, including Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki in Rivonia, where Umkhonto’s management headquarters are located, on 11 July 1963. There were also 105 Africans, 21 Indians, 23 whites and 7 coloured leaders from different anti-apartheid organizations. They are all accused of treason and sabotage, but also of preparing an invasion against the country. Nelson firmly rejects his accusations of invasions.

.Rivonia’s trial.

On October 9, 1963, the Rivonia trial began, which ended on June 12, 1964. Before the Supreme Court in Pretoria on April 20, 1964, Nelson explained his actions and why he chose to abandon peaceful resistance in favour of armed struggle. He explains that despite the efforts of his movement against the unjust laws of apartheid, nothing has changed. Following the massacres of innocent people in Shaperville, he realized that only armed struggle was the solution to achieve greater justice and equity against a system that violates the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people. He recognizes these acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare without hiding. But he explains that he could not do otherwise.

He ends his statements by quoting:   During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this 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. »

Despite his justifications, they were all found guilty, with the exception of Lionel Bernstein, who was acquitted. Between 1963-1964, there was another trial in which ten ANC members were tried for 221 acts of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid government. Even if they escape the death penalty. On June 12, 1964, 8 were sentenced to life imprisonment, 2 were acquitted and the last two escaped from prison. Nelson Mandela is imprisoned at Robben Island Penitentiary where he will remain 18 of his 27 years in prison. Hence my question: Will you be willing to sacrifice your life for years for more justice and equity for your people? » 

Imprisonment & release of Nelson Mandela: future South African president.

A man’s courage in the name of freedom led him straight to prison. He lost everything he loved his wife, his children and his freedom. Locked up in the evil prison of Robben Island, his honour and dignity were taken away. He sleeps on the floor with a mat and blankets, a bucket of cold water for the toilet and a small 40-watt bulb in the light. He is the prisoner of class D (lowest), registration number 46,664, is entitled only to one visit and one letter every six months. Living conditions in the prison are very harsh. Nelson Mandela was shot down, saddened like many of his fellow fighters and all were sentenced to hard labour. Many of them die under inhuman conditions. But Nelson Mandela fights in his own way. He continues to be trained in law and is nourished by reading and God. Mandela takes advantage of these years to learn the history of the Afrikaners and their language, Afrikaans, in order to understand their mentality and establish a real dialogue with them. He travels outside the prison’s metal doors by regularly going to the library. He loves this poem by William Ernest Henley:

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

In prison, Nelson Mandela changes, matures, questions himself and becomes a wiser man.

Meanwhile, the whole world mourns Nelson Mandela and salutes his courage. Many artists and personalities organize concerts to demand his release. The South African people are screaming in the streets “Free Free Nelson Mandela! »

The apartheid organization is losing its power. They are criticized and denigrated by all. God is at work against injustice. On June 16, 1976, the riots in Soweto broke out, a new stage in the protest and repression. In September 1977, Steve Biko, founder of the Black Conscience Movement, was tortured in prison by the police. In October, the United Nations Security Council with Resolution 417 “strongly condemns the South African racist regime” and calls for the release of “all persons imprisoned under arbitrary state security laws[…] and for their opposition to apartheid. ».

In February 1985, President Pieter Willem Botha offered Nelson Mandela, against the advice of his ministers, conditional release in exchange for a renunciation of armed struggle. Mandela rejected the offer, saying in a statement: “What freedom is offered to me when the organization of the people remains forbidden? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot make a contract. »

On June 11, 1988, Nelson Mandela’s 70th anniversary tribute concert was held in Wembley, watched by 600 million television viewers in sixty-seven countries, exposing Mandela’s captivity and the oppression of apartheid to the world. This concert forces the South African regime to release Mandela earlier than expected.

On February 2, 1990, F.W. de Klerk called for the lifting of the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organizations. To calm people down, he explains that Mandela will soon be released.

On February 11, 1990, liberation arrived. Nelson Mandela tastes the joys of freedom after 27 years, 6 months and 6 days spent in this horrible prison on Robben Island. The event is historical and is broadcast on all TV channels around the world. In 1993, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because they led to negotiations that ended apartheid.

Nelson Mandela speaks out:

 I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining yearsof my life in your hands.. »

On 27 April 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected President of the “Rainbow Nation” with 62.6% of the votes won by the ANC. On May 10, 1994, he was sworn in to the Union Buildings in Pretoria before a large number of international political leaders, from Al Gore to Fidel Castro. From 1994 to 1999, he served as president and did his best to bring together South African blacks and whites. He is a new, wiser man, he advocates forgiveness and refuses revenge. He wants to unite, not disunite.

He says loud and clear:

 Jamais, plus jamais, ce beau pays ne vivra l’oppression des uns par les autres, lance-t-il. L’humanité ne connaîtra pas plus grand accomplissement. Que règne la liberté ! »

Everyone salutes his noble and exemplary attitude. He tells all the white employees of the presidential palace that the new South Africa will be with them. Then imposes white police officers on his police. And he reversed the Sports Commission’s decision to remove all the emblems from the Spring bocks, the all-white national rugby team, the symbol of Apartheid. But, sick since prison in 1999, he decided to retire after having served his country to the best of his ability.

Prison took him away from his wife Winnie and his six children. And, one of his sons died of AIDS. He thus decided after withdrawing from political life to fight against the scourge of AIDS. He organizes many charities. In 1994, he founded a children’s aid fund and in 1999, he created the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 to promote education, the duty to remember and the fight against AIDS. He raises funds for his actions through international concerts, concerts 46664, named after Mandela’s prisoner number. He is involved at the national and international levels by asking certain presidents to avoid wars of all kinds. He became the spokesman for a suffering people and defended human rights.

An icon of freedom and forgiveness, a hero of the fight against racism, an activist and activist against oppression, not only in South Africa, but all over the world, he said that he was “neither a saint, nor a prophet, nor a kind of demigod”. He insisted on his “mistakes”, his “inadequacies”, his “impatience”. And, he just wanted when he considered him as a man like any other, sinners who tried to improve himself.

 On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95 at his home in Johannesburg. On December 10, a national tribute ceremony will be held at the Soweto stadium. His remains will be on display at the Presidency’s headquarters in Pretoria from 11 to 13 December 2013.



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