As I write this with a heavy heart, Nelson Mandela lays in a hospital bed in Pretoria, South Africa. He clings to life with the support of machines to help him breathe with his family at his side. While his family brace themselves for the inevitable, the South African nation is preparing for the loss of an icon. I know this might seem like ‘jumping the gun’ a little, but Nelson Mandela is 94 years old which is pretty impressive for anyone, let alone for someone who has been through what this man has.
Nelson Mandela did what many others wanted to but were too afraid, he stood up for the rights of his fellow man and said No More! For this he was incarcerated, condemned to a life of imprisonment for daring to speak out against a Government which favoured the few.
Yes I am talking about apartheid. A regime which segregated the white from the blacks of South Africa, made the white man richer and the black man poorer.
The fight for equality.
It was early in life that Nelson Mandela joined the political activists which were the ANC. A movement which began its life with strictly peaceful protest and in 1962 Nelson Mandela was sentenced to his first spell in prison with a sentence of 5 years for unlawfully exiting the country and incitement to strike. While he is in prison, his fellow ANC leaders are arrested and after a trial in 1964, they are all sentenced to life in prison. Nelson Mandela spends the next 18 years in the Robben Island political prison.
Whilst Nelson Mandela was in prison the fight for equality raged on. Mandela, along with other ANC leaders were transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town in 1982. This was a deliberate move by the regime to remove their influence on a new young generation of young black activists imprisoned at Robben Island.
Being a child of the 70’s I don’t remember anything of it until the 80’s, by this time Nelson Mandela became synonymous with anti-apartheid. The news was filled with violent clashes between the police and the oppressed of South Africa while the white people enjoyed a more affluent lifestyle. The political pressure on the South African Government from the rest of the world was beginning to increase as the world became more aware of the stark contrast between races within the country. Celebrities were taking an interest with songs being written calling for Mandela’s release from prison, this was swiftly banned in South Africa. In 1985 Nelson Mandela rejects an offer of release from prison, the offer comes with a demand that he denounces the use of violence as political weapon. I remember the concert held in London in honour of Mandela’s 70th birthday, it was a great day with numerous artists performing in support of the former ANC leader and only a year later President PW Botha Botha dies of a heart attack.
Released at last.
It was FW de Klerk who replaced the stricken leader of South Africa and declares that Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners will be released. The resistance movements were unbanned and Mandela walked free from prison in a cloud of media frenzy in 1990, 26 years after his incarceration.
Swiftly following Nelson Mandela’s release, negotiations begin to try to resolve the apartheid issue in a peaceful manner, while things appear to be progressing an election puts a spanner in the works, this is quickly resolved until the Boipatong massacre. 48 people were killed in a night raid on a village and this sparked further violence and protest which cost more lives. Negotiations continued with the country on the brink of civil war, this was a long and drawn out process during which time more people were killed, including the leader of the Communist party and senior member of the ANC Chris Hani, who was assassinated outside his home. The leader of the Conservative party and a Polish immigrant were arrested and charged with his murder while the peace talks picked up pace.
A living legacy.
History was made in 1994 when the first democratic elections took place in South Africa, Nelson Mandela had the opportunity to vote for the first time in his life. The ANC won the
election and Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa and the first democratically elected President of the country. He served 5 years and was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki. His term in office effectively ends apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela is made an iconic figure across the world. He received medals and honours including the renaming of Sandton Square in Johannesburg as Nelson Mandela Square.
Nelson Mandela had probably the biggest Birthday party on record when he turned 90, with celebrations taking place across the world.
There is more to the life of Nelson Mandela and I could go on for a lot longer than this article but I don’t want to bore you any more than I already have. I know this sounds like a premature obituary, but it isn’t intended to, I like to think of it as a celebration of a world leader, a man who means so much to so many people. I think a little bit of everyone will die when Nelson Mandela passes and if there was ever a man who deserves to live forever it is him.
With a life so full of memories, some of which are not so good, and a legacy which will outlive several generations to come I hope Nelson Mandela can finally rest in peace when the time comes.
By Emma Pollard.