Tribute to Nelson Mandela known lovingly as Madiba
Reflecting on the long and eventful life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, one must inevitably do so in snapshots of key events that have shaped the destiny of South Africa.
He was the adopted son of a Tembu chief and grew up straddling two worlds - the traditional culture of his tribe and the hostile reality of a divided and white dominated nation.
His youth was spent in a less than grand style in the village of Qunu near Umtata playing with the other youths and tending sheep and cattle. His life was shaped by custom and ritual of the Xhosa people. He never lost his love for the rural life and people. He was educated in the missionary run educational institutions of Clarkebury and Healdtown and later at the University College of Fort Hare where he became, inevitably, involved in student politics and where he rubbed shoulders with traditional and political leaders of the future.
Moving to Johannesburg he suddenly became embroiled in the exciting but dangerous “township” life of Alexandra, mining life and Orlando which was later to become part of Soweto. He studied further and became a lawyer setting up a practice with his friend and colleague Oliver Tambo.
There was no single event or epiphany when he decided to devote his life to the liberation struggle but in his words “simply found himself doing so, and could not do otherwise”. He was active in African politics from 1946.
We reflect on some of the highlights of his life of tireless struggle for justice and freedom:
1918 - Mandela born in Mvezo in the Transkei,
1941 - Mandela arrives in Johannesburg,
1944 - Formation of the ANC Youth League,
1944 - Married Evelyn Mase
1946 - Moves to Orlando East then Orlando West with Evelyn,
1952 - Opens the first black law practice in Johannesburg in Fox street together with Oliver Tambo,
1955 - Freedom Charter adopted at Kliptown,
1955 - Forced removal of black people from Sophiatown,
1956 - The Treason Trial,
1958 - Marries Winnie Madikizela a social worker at Baragwanath Hospital,
1961 - Co - founded Umkonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) the armed wing of the ANC,
1962 - Arrested and convicted of Sabotage and starts 27 years in prison.
1962 - Rivonia Treason trial - sentenced to life in prison.
1962 - Arrives on Robben Island,
1982 - Mandela is relocated to Polsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town.
1986 - Commences tentative talks with the ruling Nationalist Government representatives,
1988 - Relocated to Victor Verster prison in Paarl, Cape,
1989 - Meets with President P W Botha on 5 July,
1989 - Meets with newly elected President F W De Klerk on 12th December,
1990 - On 2nd February President De Klerk announce the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and unbanning of political parties including the ANC,
1990 - Released from prison on 11th February 1990 after 10000 days in prison, raising his right arm in salute to the awaiting crowds with Winnie at his side, an event watched by millions of people in South Africa and the world, later he addresses masses at the Grand Parade in Cape Town centre. On 12th February returns to Johannesburg where he addresses a crowd of 120000 at FNB Stadium and returns to spend the night at his old house at 8155 Orlando West,
1990 - 27th February flies to Lusaka, Zambia to meet with his comrades from the leadership of the ANC and other African leaders, followed by a tour of Africa.
1990 - In April flies to London to attend a concert at Wembley, visits Europe and USA,
1990 - On 6th August the Government and the ANC suspends the armed hostilities,
1991 - In July 1991 the ANC holds its first annual conference inside South Africa in 30 Years and Nelson Mandela is elected unopposed,
1991 - On 20th December CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) starts to negotiate the future of South Africa at the World Trade Centre,
1992 - On 13th April Nelson Mandela announces his separation form Winnie after officially opening the Rolihlahla Primary School in Etwatwa,
1993 - On 10th April (Easter Saturday) Chris Hani the secretary general of the SACP and a popular leader of the ANC is assassinated outside his home in Boksburg. Nelson Mandela goes on national television to calm the nation poised on the brink of civil war,
1993 - On 3 June the date of the first universal general election is set for 27th April 1994,
1993 - Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Pres. F W De Klerk,
1994 - On the 27th April the Nation goes to the poles and elects the ANC into power with 62.6% of votes cast,
1994 - On 10th May Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela inducted as the first Black President of South Africa at the Union Buildings Pretoria, ending centuries of exclusion of Black people from mainstream politics this historic event watched by thousands on the lawns below the buildings and by millions on national and international television,
1995 - Presents Francois Pienaar with the Rugby World Cup wearing the number 6 Springbok jersey,
1999 - Is succeeded by Thabo Mbeki as president of South Africa.
HOW DO YOU REMEMBER NELSON MANDELA?
As the fearless Freedom Fighter?
His statement to the court when he is sentenced to life in prison 1962
“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.”
As the peacemaker?
His address to the nation following the assassination of Chris Hani
“Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depth of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our nation teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice this assassin…Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for the freedom of all of us.”
As the nation builder?
His induction address at Union Buildings
“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…..The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!”
As the visionary?
Remember him reaching out to the sports loving rugby nation by wearing the number 6 rugby jersey at the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup and raising his arms in a victory salute when the Springboks won the event.
As the Bridge Builder who epitomized the spirit of Ubuntu-humanity?
He reached out to those who were opposed to what he stood for, forgiving and embracing: the opposing prosecutor, the jailor, the wife of the architect of Apartheid.
As the Father of the Nation?
He loved all people especially children and those who are vulnerable establishing the Nelson Mandela Childrens’ Foundation to bring a better life to those little ones who could not look after themselves.
As the International Statesman?
From being regarded by many as a “terrorist” he impressed the world with his stature and ability to transcend prejudice and differences to inspire nations to be the best that they can be.
Acknowledgements: Long Walk to Freedom - the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.