Mandela Day

July 18th 1918: Madiba the beginning

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

It was in the midst of South Africa’s apartheid regime that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, was born to the Chief of the Madiba Clan, Henry Mandela. After the passing of his father, Nelson Mandela, also known as Madiba, was raised by the regent of Tembu. In the following years, Mandela decided to give up his right to the chieftainship of the Madiba tribe. He wanted to be a lawyer.

1944: ANC

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

― Nelson Mandela

In 1944, Mandela joined the ANC (African National Congress Party). A Black-liberation group opposed to the policies that governed relations between South Africa’s white minority and non-white majority. The ANC sanctioned racial segregation and political and economic bias against non-whites for the larger part of the latter half of the 20th century. From being a member and then a Leader of the ANC’s Youth League, Mandela went on to hold various ANC leadership positions. He would directly challenge and opposed the National ruling party’s stance on apartheid.

1952 – 1960: Black Law Practise, Freedom Charter & Treason

“I am the captain of my soul.”

― Nelson Mandela

In 1952 Mandela and Oliver Tambo, also an ANC leader, joined forces to create South Africa’s first Black law practice in Johannesburg. Mandela also played a key role in the implementation of a non-violent campaign against South Africa’s pass laws, which required non-whites to carry ID authorising them to be in white areas.  Mandela’s opposition to the ANC led to him experiencing travel and speech restrictions enforced by the establishment. This was only a sign of things to come. In 1955, Mandela became part of the team responsible for drafting the Freedom Charter. This focused on the implantation of a non-racial social democracy. In the following year he was arrested on treason charges, only to be acquitted in 1961. The continued suppression and intimidation of non-whites by apartheid, the banning of the ANC and the 1960 Sharpeville massacre of unarmed Black South Africans by the police. Pushed Mandela to begin preaching acts of sabotage against the African regime, and subsequently, he and his followers created an underground movement. The Spear of the Nation (Umkhonto we Sizwe) is a military wing of the banned ANC.

August 5th 1962: Defiance

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ― Nelson Mandela

In 1962, not too long after returning from guerrilla warfare and sabotage training in Algeria, Mandela was captured at a roadblock in Natal. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison. In October, of the following year the already imprisoned Mandela was tried for sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy.  Mandela admitted several charges brought against at the Rivonia Trial. His speech from the docks was seen as a defence of liberty and defiance against tyranny. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. During this time Mandela maintained widespread support from South Africa’s Black population. His incarceration became a cause of célèbre among international communities which condemned apartheid.

February 11th 1990:  Freedom and hope

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that  would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”― Nelson Mandela

After 27 years in prison, Mandela was finally released. And in July 1991, after serving as the deputy leader of the ANC, he became its president. He went on to lead negotiations with the South African government to end apartheid. To usher in a peaceful transition to non-racial democracy in South Africa.

April 1994: A new beginning

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”― Nelson Mandela

.In April 1994 Mandela led the ANC to victory in South Africa’s first elections. He was sworn in as the President of the country’s first multi-ethnic government. In the following year, he went on to create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to investigate human rights violations during apartheid. As well as introduce education, economic and housing development schemes to improve the living standards of the country’s Black population. Whilst in 1996 he saw the formation of a new democratic constitution.

December 1997 – 1999: One journey ends another begins

Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
Nelson Mandela

December 1997 saw Mandela resign from his post with the ANC.  He did not seek a second term as South Africa’s leader, which ended in 1999. Instead, he retired from politics. Nevertheless, Mandela continued his advocation internationally for peace, reconciliation and social justice.

July 18th 2009: Honouring a Legacy

I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

 ― Nelson Mandela

To honour his outstanding achievements against adversity, his resilience and his legacy, July 18th 2009, the day of his birth, became Mandela Day.  The United Nations declared this day as Nelson Mandela International Day.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It always seems impossible until it’s done.”― Nelson Mandela

Photo source – John Paul Henry

by Mo Almas

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