As Nelson Mandela marks a year today in-memoriam, he is, was and will always be remembered as the man who was ready to die for his people.
Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on 18 July 1918, the man who revolutionalised apartheid in South Africa died on 5 December 2013 at age 95, much to the heartbreak of the millions of lives he affected all over the world.
His purpose was to create unity between blacks and whites in South Africa and this he achieved when he became President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 under the platform of African National Congress, ANC.
After spending twenty-seven years in prison, Mandela was the first president to ever be elected in a fully representative democratic election in South Africa and his government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism.
In 1994, Mandela said, “A friend once asked me how I could reconcile my creed of African nationalism with a belief in dialectical materialism. For me, there was no contradiction.
I was first and foremost an African nationalist fighting for our emancipation from minority rule and the right to control our own destiny. But at the same time, South Africa and the African continent were part of the larger world.
Our problems, while distinctive and special, were not unique, and a philosophy that placed those problems in an international and historical context of the greater world and the course of history was valuable.
I was prepared to use whatever means necessary to speed up the erasure of human prejudice and the end of chauvinistic and violent nationalism.”
Mandela was a Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, and graduated from the University after studying law.
In 1948 he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC after the minority government of the National Party established apartheid – a system of racial segregation that privileged whites.
Mandela became famous after the ANC’s 1952 anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign.
Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for inciting activities. With the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961.
After secretly joining the South African Communist Party (SACP) which had initially opted for non-violent protests, Mandela co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 leading a campaign to sabotage the government that year.
He was arrested in 1962, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.
After serving 27 years in three prisons, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison he was released in 1990 by then-South African president F. W. de Klerk who was faced with international pressure for Mandela’s release as well as the fear of a racial civil war the country.
Upon his release, Mandela and de Klerk entered an agreement to bring apartheid to an end and this was implemented at the 1994 elections which was multiracial, the first of its kind. Mandela under the platform of ANC he became president.
As the newly-elected leader of a coalition government he changed the constitution and emphasised reconciliation between the country’s racial groups. His administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services for his people.
Although he adopted the past government’s economic liberalism, Mandela started the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.
Nelson Mandela turned-down a second-term offer, the position was then given to his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.
After his days as South Africa’s president, Mandela became an elder statesman, spending the rest of his life on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
His long walk to freedom made him the most favorable man on earth as his death was celebrated just as his life.
When you create a great legacy, people don’t cry for you when you die as they know you didn’t die. You live on in the legacy and the lives of everyone you’ve touched.
Happy Birthday In Memoriam, Nelson Mandela.