10/17 - Nelson Mandela

10/17 - Nelson Mandela

The Unbroken

After the release of all political prisoners on February 2, 1990, the South African President, Frederik de Klerk, is unaware of the political situation in South Africa. In fact, de Klerk wants to abolish the systematic separation of races, abolish party offerings and thus force the end of the apartheid system. Already for some time, he has conducted unofficial talks with one of the most important political activists, Nelson Mandela. The former leader of the ANC and advocates of the armed resistance was condemned already in 1964 to a life imprisonment. President de Klerk promises him an immediate release, but in return calls for Mandela's public departure from the resistance. Mandela refused.

But the political upheaval in the country can not be stopped and Nelson Mandela is released on 11 February 1990 within the framework of the announced Generalamnestie. Behind him are 27 years of captivity. And yet he does not become avenger of his stolen life, he becomes the first black president of South Africa and the great reconciler of a whole nation. Let's take a closer look at the life of this extraordinary man before he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The "restless"

Nelson is not the real name of Mandela. After his birth on July 18, 1918 near Umtata, the capital of the Transkei, more precisely in the tiny village of Mvezo on the banks of the Mbashe River, his parents gave him the name Rolihlahla. This means "pulling the branch of a tree," and in the language of his people the Xhosa is a restless horse. How significant this name will be in the later life of Mandela is not yet known at this time. Rolihlahla is growing faithfully in the tradition of Xhosa, is shaped by "custom, ritual and taboo". Already at the age of five he helps with the keeping of the animals, collects food, learns the fishing and fighting with a stick.

On his first day of school, the teacher distributes British names to the children according to the random principle. From the little Rolihlahla is thus in memory of the famous British admiral the little Nelson. Nelson is given another name, when he is admitted to the Xhosa's adulthood at the age of 16 with an initiation ritual: Dalibunga. In German, this means "founder of the Council". In Nelson, alias Rolihlahla, alias Dalibunga, the old Latin proverb "Nomen est Omen" is once again a hit.

The scholar

Already early in his life Nelson, also completely in the tradition of the Xhosa, learns to conquer an opponent in battle without dishonoring him. With great interest, he regularly participates in the tribunals, led by his stepfather. At these meetings, the consensus-based method is used to find consensus on disputes. Everyone, regardless of his status, can freely raise his concerns. Direct criticism of the chairman of the tribunal is also possible and will be discussed. Here, Nelson gets his first political stamp and develops a sentiment based on the idea of ​​free democracy. A world view that decisively influences his later struggle against the South Africa apartheid regime.

At 19, Nelson attended the Methodist Missionary School Healdtown Methodist College. The British-style college is located 250 kilometers from its home village. Here, Nelson first establishes contacts with people who are not members of the Xhosa people. He begins to consciously understand himself as an African, independent of all tribal boundaries.

Two years later, Nelson graduated as a student at the University College of Fort Hare in Alice. The educational institution under the direction of the Anglicans is, despite its only 150 students, the hub of numerous scholars from South, Central and East Africa. Here Nelson meets his long-time political companion Oliver Tambo, a later president of the African National Congress (ANC). In addition to the subjects of English, anthropology, politics and Roman-Dutch law, Nelson also studies the strange name "native administration". In the course of his studies, Nelson changes his original plan and career prospecting consultant to the Royal House of Thembu. He is now seeking an interpreter or civil servant career for the government ministry for "native affairs".

The restless

At the College in Fort Hare, Nelson begins to become politically active and becomes a member of the student council Student Representative Council (SRC). After he and his fellow students demonstrate against the poor food on the campus, he is presented with an ultimatum by the college management: either he is moving in, or he is temporarily suspended from the class. Nelson remains faithful to his mentality and leaves college. In the meantime, Nelson's stepfather secretly arranged the marriage of him and his biological son Justice. The half-brothers have been promised two Thembu girls. The bride price has already been negotiated and the agreement is thus no longer revocable.

Nelson and Justice decide to flee together to Johannesburg. After they arrive there in April 1941, Nelson first takes a job as a guard in a gold mine. The capitalist exploitation of the black workers is the reason for violent clashes with his superiors, which lead to the rapid dismissal of Mandela. An influential friend of the family provides him with a training place in the attorney's office Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman. There, Mandela agrees with the Jewish communist Nat Bregman and thus enters the first closer relationship with a white man in his life. He lives under poor conditions in the downcast district of Alexandra and works alongside his law firm as a heavyweight boxer. After completion of his education, he began a jurisprudence at the Witwatersrand University on the advice of the ANC General Secretary Walter Sisulu, but can not finish it because of his increasing political activities.

The activist

From 1944, Nelson Mandela became an active member of the ANC. At this point, we are taking the time-lapse: its political activities are too complex and extensive to be listed in detail here. He founded the youth league of the ANC, which critically confront the party program of the old members. The youth league wants to involve peasants and workers in their program and grow into a powerful mass movement. Mandela, through diligence and commitment, quickly rises in the hierarchy of the movement and is only elected secretary and then president of the youth league.

At the same time the protests of the black population in the country are increasing. At the festivities of the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first European settlers on the cape, mass protests are taking place all over the country. For his participation in the preparations for the demonstrations, Nelson Mandela is sentenced to nine months' imprisonment and forced labor. After his release, he was elected deputy president of the ANC in 1952. In his new office, he is increasingly devoting himself to the struggle against apartheid, which immediately leads to state reprisals in the form of restrictions on residence and arrests. In 1958 Nelson Mandela married the civil rights activist Winni Nomzamo Madikizela.

Two years later the so-called massacre of Sharpeville caused a lot of deaths and the ANC is officially banned. Numerous members of the ANC go into the militant underground and Nelson Mandela there organizes the formation of the ANC's armed wing, the Umkhonto we Sizwe. He retires temporarily to Algeria, where he participates in guerrilla training. After his return to the homeland, he was caught and sentenced to a prison term of five years. In 1964, the process is rolled back and Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment. He spends the next 27 years in captivity.

This is followed by the circle of the talks with President Frederik de Klerk, whose amnesty was finally passed on 11 February 1990 to the release of Nelson Mandela. At this point we leave Nelson Mandela, whose life and work after the prison already filled numerous books. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died at the age of 95 on 5 December 2013 in Houghton, Johannesburg, after the effects of a lung inflammation.

"Not the bullets and generals make history but the masses."

Nelson Mandela

Copyright image: © Werner Vermaak - Flickr.com

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Categories : Men of the month

Published : 10/1/2017 06:00:00