What is it that makes a leader stand out not only among men, but also among his peers? Is it their vi­sion or courage? Or per­haps the abil­ity of the leader to lead where others fear to tread?

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Nelson Mandela - Words: BRUCE GER­MAINE

it is all of those qual­i­ties and so much more that took Nelson Rolih­lahla Man­dela on a life chang­ing jour­ney from the a small vil­lage of Mveso, a ru­ral area of the Transkei in the East­ern Cape of South Africa to be­ing South Africa’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected black pres­i­dent in 1994. A jour­ney marked by a con­tin­u­ous strug­gle against in­equal­ity, racism, poor ed­u­ca­tion and poverty de­spite be­ing im­pris­oned by the South African white mi­nor­ity pow­ers in 1963. Man­dela’s early life took a sig­nif­i­cant turn when Chief Jong­intaba Dalindyebo, the act­ing re­gent of the Thembu peo­ple, adopted him af­ter his fa­ther’s death. He was nine years old. Hav­ing to re­lo­cate from the vil­lage of Qunu to the more so­phis­ti­cated en­vi­ron­ment of Mqhekezweni, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of Them­bu­land, the chief's royal res­i­dence, Man­dela was des­tined for greater things and given the same status and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as the re­gent's two other chil­dren. Af­ter school, the Uni­ver­sity Col­lege of Fort Hare in East­ern Cape, the only res­i­den­tial cen­tre of higher learn­ing for black Africans in South Africa at the time beck­oned, draw­ing schol­ars from all parts of Sub-Sa­hara Africa. In his first year at the uni­ver­sity, Man­dela took the re­quired cour­ses, but fo­cused on Ro­man Dutch law to pre­pare for a ca­reer in civil ser­vice as an in­ter­preter or clerk—re­garded as the best pro­fes­sion that a black man could ob­tain at the time, bear­ing in mind that South Africa was a Bri­tish colony at the time ruled by white peo­ple. But it was in his sec­ond year when Man­dela was elected to the Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil that stu­dent pol­i­tics played a ma­jor role. For a while, stu­dents had been un­happy with the food and lack of power held by the Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (SRC). A boy­cott was launched and Man­dela re­signed from his SRC po­si­tion. This was, ac­cord­ing to the au­thor­i­ties, an act of in­sub­or­di­na­tion and they de­manded he serve on the SRC. The re­gent, head of his adopted fam­ily, was also fu­ri­ous and de­manded from Man­dela that he re­cants his po­si­tion and re­turn to Fort Hare. See­ing this as an act of in­sub­or­di­na­tion, the uni­ver­sity's Dr Kerr ex­pelled Man­dela for the rest of the year and gave him an ul­ti­ma­tum: He could re­turn to the school if he agreed to serve on the SRC. When Man­dela re­turned home, the re­gent was fu­ri­ous, telling him un­equiv­o­cally that he would have to re­cant his de­ci­sion and go back to school. While back at home, he re­ceived news that the re­gent had ar­ranged a mar­riage for him as was cus­tom, but shocked by this news and re­cent events, Man­dela de­parted from his fam­ily home and set­tled in Johannesburg, work­ing a va­ri­ety of jobs while com­plet­ing his bach­e­lor's de­gree via cor­re­spon­dence cour­ses and even­tu­ally en­rolling at the Uni­ver­sity of Wit­wa­ter­srand in Johannesburg to study law. RISE OF A REV­O­LU­TION­ARY Al­ready an in­de­pen­dent mind, it was just a mat­ter of time be­fore he joined the African Na­tional Congress in 1942. Dur­ing those early tur­bu­lent years in Johannesburg, Man­dela was in­tro­duced to the real­tor and ANC ac­tivist Wal­ter Sisulu, who se­cured him a job as an ar­ti­cled clerk at law firm Witkin, Sidel­sky and Eidel­man. The com­pany was run by a lib­eral Jew, Lazar Sidel­sky, who was sym­pa­thetic to the ANC's cause. Man­dela re­alised that the ANC’s old tac­tics of po­lite pe­ti­tion­ing were in­ef­fec­tive and in 1949, the ANC of­fi­cially adopted the Youth League's meth­ods of boy­cott, strike, civil dis­obe­di­ence and non-co-op­er­a­tion with pol­icy goals of full cit­i­zen­ship, re­dis­tri­bu­tion of land, trade union rights, and free and com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion for all chil-

dren, pro­pel­ling Man­dela to the fore­front of a po­lit­i­cal battle that would see him be­ing put on trial for trea­son and sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. Man­dela soon rose quickly through the ranks of the ANC and in 1950 was voted Pres­i­dent of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and he took a seat on the ANC Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive. Af­ter pass­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion ex­ams to be­come a full-fledged at­tor­ney, Man­dela and Oliver Tambo opened their own law firm, Man­dela and Tambo, in down­town Johannesburg. Be­ing the only African-run law firm in the coun­try, it soon be­came pop­u­lar with ag­grieved African black peo­ple, of­ten deal­ing with cases of po­lice bru­tal­ity. The firm soon got no­ticed by the South African au­thor­i­ties and was forced to re­lo­cate to a re­mote lo­ca­tion af­ter their of­fice per­mit was re­moved un­der the Group Ar­eas Act – a cor­ner­stone piece of apartheid leg­is­la­tion. Man­dela had met many peo­ple across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum who were op­posed to the South African Gov­ern­ment and was ac­tively in­volved in mo­bil­is­ing the masses and pub­li­cally protest­ing against the South African au­thor­i­ties such as the De­fi­ance Cam­paign. This led to him and other high pro­file ANC mem­bers be­ing ar­rested and put on trial. On 5 De­cem­ber 1956, Man­dela was ar­rested along­side most of the ANC Ex­ec­u­tive for "high trea­son" against the state and on 29 March 1961, af­ter a six-year trial, the judges pro­duced a ver­dict of not guilty, em­bar­rass­ing the gov­ern­ment. In­spired by Fidel Cas­tro and the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion, the armed wing of the ANC “Umkhonto we Sizwe” ("Spear of the Na­tion", ab­bre­vi­ated MK) was founded in 1961, with Man­dela co-found­ing this wing with the long-time leader of the South African Com­mu­nist Party (SACP), Joe Slovo and Wal­ter Sisulu. In­ter­est­ingly, MK agreed to acts of sab­o­tage to ex­ert pres­sure on the South African Gov­ern­ment, by bomb­ing mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, power plants, tele­phone lines and trans­port links at night, when civil­ians were not present. Man­dela stated that they chose sab­o­tage not only be­cause it was the least harm­ful ac­tion, but also "be­cause it did not in­volve loss of life [and] it of­fered the best hope for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion among the races af­ter­wards." Soon af­ter then ANC leader Al­bert Luthuli was awarded the No­bel Peace Prize, MK pub­licly an­nounced its ex­is­tence with 57 bomb­ings on 16 De­cem­ber 1961, fol­lowed by fur­ther at­tacks on New Year's Eve. The South African Gov­ern­ment, how­ever, kept a close eye on the ac­tiv­i­ties of the ANC and MK, and af­ter raid­ing a prop­erty now fa­mously known as Liliesleaf Farm in the Johannesburg sub­urb of Rivo­nia and ar­rest­ing nu­mer­ous high com­mand fig­ures of the ANC in­clud­ing Man­dela, it re­sulted in South Africa’s fore­most and fa­mous trial start­ing on 9 Oc­to­ber 1963. Man­dela gave a now fa­mous three-hour speech at the open­ing of the de­fence’s pro­ceed­ings and the trial quickly gained in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion, with global calls for the re­lease of all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers from such in­sti­tu­tions as the United Na­tions and World Peace Coun­cil. The South African Gov­ern­ment gen­er­ally deemed Man­dela and his co-de­fen­dants vi­o­lent com­mu­nist sabo­teurs, and on 12 June 1964, Jus­tice Quar­tus de Wet found Man­dela and two of his co-ac­cused guilty on all four charges, sen­tenc­ing them to life im­pris­on­ment rather than death, thus seal­ing the fate of his in­car­cer­a­tion on Robben Is­land from 1964 un­til 1982. A NEW DAWN Af­ter spend­ing 18 years in prison on Robben Is­land, off the coast of Cape Town, Man­dela was trans­ferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, a sub­urb of Cape Town in 1982 along with other se­nior ANC lead­ers. This was an at­tempt by the South African Gov­ern­ment to re­move their in­flu­ence on younger ac­tivists. How­ever, with mount­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure and sanc­tions against South Africa, in­creased MK at­tacks in South Africa to­gether with sup­port from ac­tivists from both within and out­side of South Africa, cou­pled with eco­nomic stag­na­tion and a change of lead­er­ship within the South African Gov­ern­ment, and sig­nif­i­cant change was brought about when the con­ser­va­tive Pres­i­dent P.W. Botha stepped down and was re­placed by a more youth­ful Fred­erik Willem de Klerk (F.W de Klerk). With in­creas­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional pres­sure for his re­lease, the gov­ern­ment par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral talks be­tween Man­dela and F.W. de klerk at the helm of gov­ern­ment. The re­sult was pos­i­tive in terms of Man­dela’s re­lease be­ing fi­nally an­nounced - Fe­bru­ary 11, 1990 mark­ing a spe­cial day in South African his­tory when Man­dela’s re­lease was an­nounced. With it came the un­ban­ning of the

ANC and var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal groups – a water­shed mo­ment in the strug­gle for equality, jus­tice and democ­racy for all races in South Africa. On the dawn of a new South Africa, Nelson Man­dela was one of the piv­otal fig­ures in se­cur­ing true free­dom for peo­ple in a coun­try that was dom­i­nated by a white mi­nor­ity for decades dat­ing back 400 years when the Dutch sea­farer Jan van Riebeek landed his ships in the Cape. With the first demo­cratic elec­tion set for 27 April 1994, the ANC cam­paigned on a Re­con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (RDP), promis­ing to build a mil­lion houses in five years, in­tro­duce uni­ver­sal free ed­u­ca­tion and ex­tend ac­cess to wa­ter and elec­tric­ity. The party's slo­gan was "a bet­ter life for all", and Nelson Man­dela de­voted much time to fundrais­ing for the ANC, tour­ing North Amer­ica, Europe and Asia to meet wealthy donors, in­clud­ing for­mer sup­port­ers of the apartheid regime. The African ma­jor­ity voted over­whelm­ingly in favour of the ANC in a sweep­ing vic­tory, and the newly elected Na­tional As­sem­bly’s first act was to elect a new pres­i­dent – Nelson Man­dela him­self. The in­au­gu­ra­tion of South Africa’s first black pres­i­dent and demo­cratic South Africa in it­self was a global event with lead­ers from all over world from the op­po­site ends of po­lit­i­cal spec­trum at­tend­ing. But Man­dela had no easy task ahead of him – the new demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion inherited a coun­try with a huge dis­par­ity in wealth and ser­vices be­tween white and black com­mu­ni­ties. Such was the great­ness of the man who would leave a legacy for gen­er­a­tions to come that Man­dela had the vi­sion and fore­sight to pre­side over the tran­si­tion from apartheid mi­nor­ity rule to a mul­ti­cul­tural democ­racy. He made na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion a pri­mary task of his pres­i­dency, hav­ing seen other post-colo­nial African economies dam­aged by the de­par­ture of white elites, and he sought to calm the fears of whites within the coun­try by re­as­sur­ing South Africa's white pop­u­la­tion that they were pro­tected and rep­re­sented in "the Rain­bow Na­tion", even in­cor­po­rat­ing op­po­si­tion mem­bers into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. “Coura­geous peo­ple do not fear for­giv­ing for the sake of peace” – be­came a very rel­e­vant say­ing by Man­dela when he per­son­ally met with se­nior fig­ures of the apartheid regime, em­pha­sis­ing per­sonal for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. He en­cour­aged black South Africans to get be­hind the pre­vi­ously hated na­tional rugby team, the Spring­boks, as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Af­ter the Spring­boks won a cel­e­brated fi­nal over New Zealand, Man­dela pre­sented the tro-

Nelson Man­dela in his cell.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.