The personality of Nelson Mandela has become an icon for many people and his name symbolizes struggle for freedom, nobleness, and pride. There are serious reasons for such attitude towards this person. Nelson Mandela has made an enormous step towards leading South African Republic to democracy and freedom. Moreover, he was one of the first fighters against apartheid and racial inequality in South Africa. Thus, this outstanding leader with unusual biography and difficult life is worth to be mentioned in world history.
South Africa has always been a wonderful region with excellent natural resources, beautiful nature, and nice climate. Unfortunately, the destiny of this magical place was not as good as the place itself. The territory appeared to be of a great interest to Europeans. Thus, since seventeenth century Southern Africa became a Mecca for Western people. Since then, South Africa became the most heterogeneous place in the world from the standpoint of racial and national diversity.
The numbers of white, Indian, and colored people in this place was enormous. However, black Africans still made the majority of population (around seventy five percents).
In the first half of twentieth century South Africa was brought to the most acute and crisis period in the country’s history – apartheid. Technically this period started in the 1948, when the National Party was elected to power. The policy implemented by government since then was very harsh and to some extent unfair. In simple words, the laws in the country conditioned drastically unequal rights and duties for people of different races. Though the majority of population was made by black people, the social and political system implemented by the National Party brought them to poverty and terrible conditions. Education, labor, social programs, financial possibilities and general level of life was much lower than an average standard of living. On the other hand, the level of life of the white minority in South Africa was very close to the western highest standard of living. Therefore, the native local black people had very few rights on contrast with white elite. The process of suppressing people of black race by implementing laws that leads to soundly unequal possibilities and rights of white and black population was called apartheid. This regime caused the major problems of the South African region in the second half of twentieth century.
Of no doubt, the policy of apartheid era in South Africa that began in 1948 when the National Party came to power, has led to appropriate reaction of the black people. Terrible poverty, social insecurity, absence of legal rights and as a result the rise of HIV/AIDS epidemic among black people in South Africa made them struggle for their rights in their native land. The most active and serious fighter against the apartheid regime was the African National Congress (ANC).
Founded and leaded by Nelson Mandela, this organization became a serious opposition to the current government. At the beginning of 1950s Nelson Mandela began a campaign against racial segregation in the country. One of the first steps he decided to take with his friend, the lawyer Oliver Tambo, was starting free counseling for black people to legally inform and represent them. Mandela considered this a first and major step towards struggling for the rights of black South-Africans. Being himself born in a small African village in a family that never attended school and was stuck to the local national traditions, Nelson Mandela realized the problems of his fellow countrymen as nobody else. The solution of the problems of apartheid that he offered was headed to gaining back the rights of native population, achieving democracy in the country, and providing equal possibilities for all people.
Mandela and the ANC organized mass protests and campaigns against a current National Party regime. As his activity attracted more and more followers the self-recognition and consciousness of black people grew. However, the apartheid era was to last longer than Mandela expected.
Probably the methods that Nelson Mandela and his followers have chosen for fighting with this regime were not perfect, but they were sincerely struggling for the sake of free future of their nation. In the middle of 1950s the government tried to arrest every opposition member who expressed protest towards racial inequality. In the 1961 Nelson Mandela founded an armed branch of ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated as Spear of the Nation) that made serious steps to end apartheid, like sabotage and armed protests. Besides, Mandela even planned to start the war for freedom. In the 1962 Nelson Mandela was arrested and then sentenced to five years in prison. However, in the 1963 the government arrested the leaders of ANC and received more evidences of ANC crimes. Thus, in the 1964 the Pretoria Supreme Court sentenced all the arrested African National Congress members to life imprisonment. Nelson Mandela spent next twenty-six years imprisoned on Robben Island. Even in prison he never stopped fighting for the freedom of black people. In that period he was righting his book, Long Walk to Freedom, about his hard path of fighter. Besides, he found the way to contact his ANC partners and published statements to black people through them. In the 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In the 1994 the first South African democratic elections took place. ANC won the majority and as its leader Mandela became the first black South African president. During his presidency he embodied his dreams of a free democratic society and equal rights for all.
Even after his retirement in 1999 Nelson Mandela continued his political and social activity. Particularly, he put much effort to fight against HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. Mandela gained a number of awards and orders, including the Nobel Peace Prize. This key figure in African history remains one of the most outstanding persons in the world. And we hope that Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom is not over yet.
Virmani, K. K. (1991). Nelson Mandela and Apartheid in South Africa. South Asia Books.
Mandela, N. (1995). Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Abacus.
Poqrund, B. (2003). Nelson Mandela: Leader Against Apartheid (World Peacemakers). Blackbirch Press.
Barbarin, O. Mandela’s Children: Growing Up in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Routledge.
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