Nelson Mandela is a famous statesman and freedom fighter. His main achievement is an active position against apartheid, which allowed ruining unjust discrimination. Furthermore, Mandela’s weapon was his moral authority. Strong position made Mandela famous all over the world. The aim of this research paper is to analyze the most prominent parts of Mandela’s biography and evaluate his contribution in the development of the world civilization.
Well-known African novelist Wole Soyinka wrote in 1994 that Rwanda is an African nightmare and South African is their dream. The novelist meant two remarkable events that evoked two completely different feelings such as despair and hope in Africa. In particular, a million inhabitants died due to a terrible genocide in Rwanda. At the same time, South Africa could shift from despotic white rule to the government consisting mainly of black people. Moreover, these black officials were elected as a result of the first free election conducted in the country. All these significant changes were made due to the active participation of one man; His name was Nelson Mandela.
Mandela possessed not only significant political insight but also such personal traits as forgiveness, generosity, and conciliation. However, his moral values and principles aroused opposition from the side of whites who sent him to prison for twenty-seven years. Despite such personal tragedy, Nelson used to demonstrate a strong character and responsible behavior during all his life. As a result, he gained outstanding moral authority from both whites and blacks.
Even Mandela’s name was given him as some kind of a hint to his future contributions and background that created him as one of the most active personalities of the twentieth century. Thus, his forename was Rolihlahla that could be translated into English as “troublemaker.” His surname, Mandela, demonstrated that he was a family member of the chief of the Thembu people. Mandela’s father was the main adviser of the Thembu people in Transkei, which was the home for his native tribe Xhosa.This was also a place where he was born on 18 July 1918. The tribe made a significant impact on forming of his character. He learnt there how to keep tribal pride and demonstrate leadership. Mandela got his name, Nelson, from a teacher from a local school where he was baptized. At that time, it was popular to give a foreign name to African children.
When Mandela was twelve, his father died; so, he started living with the paramount chief. This period of life was important for Mandela because he could see how the chief demonstrated justice. As a result, Mandela began to wonder about the law. He was a talented student, and after finishing high school, Mandela entered the black college. Apart from getting knowledge, college was the place where Nelson Mandela met his closest friend and political associate, Oliver Tambo.
After joining the Students Christian Association, Mandela got involved in the political fight. In particular, the Association protested against the governmental decision to forbid black people to vote during elections. This policy was the harbinger of apartheid, which denoted the idea of different development of races.
When Mandela was twenty-two years old, he moved to Johannesburg. In the city, he started to work with local solicitor and study at the University of Witwatersrand. He also returned to participation in political life joining African National Congress. For example, together with other participants, he tried to revive the ANC movement. During this political activity, he also married an ANC activist. Eight years later, the government adopted the policy of apartheid. It meant that only whites could participate in elections. Besides, there was a significant racial segregation. To stop this humiliating policy, Mandela and his friends started various strikes and boycotts. The same course of action was also used by the South African Communist Party. However, Mandela would never join this party due to its atheistic beliefs. According to Mandela, race was the most significant problem of South Africa. It was even more prominent than the class issue. Nevertheless, later Mandela started to share certain Marxist ideas.
When Mandela was thirty-two years old, in 1950, he became the national president of the youth branch of the ANC. During this period, Mandela was an active participant of passive protests against segregation. Furthermore, his active political life did not allow him to pass his exams at the university even after the third time. He managed to do this successfully only when he was sent to prison. Mandela as well as twenty-one other individuals got punished for supporting communism. Thus, Mandala was not allowed to visit meetings or communicate with more than one individual simultaneously.
Prohibition to participate in meetings forced Nelson Mandela to change his manner of fighting for the rights of blacks. In particular, he decided to act with the help of the law. In 1953, Mandela together with his friend Tambo started a partnership close to the center of Johannesburg. This organization was the first African law company in South Africa. The partnership was very successful, which caused dissatisfaction of the local authorities; thus, Mandela moved the law firm to less noticeable place.
However, neither protests nor other passive activities help to deal with the government policy against blacks. Even the increase of protesting movement did not solve the problem because authorities arrested significant amounts of people. For example, the police arrested 156 activists and punished them strictly. Nelson Mandela was one of those people. Active participation in the political life of the country caused losing interest in his family life. However, in 1958, he found time for marriage. In 1961, Mandela’s trial ended with his victory, which was quite surprising because the courts consisted of whites.
The most important point in the battle against apartheid happened in 1960 when the white police officers shot a group of whites that were only protesting against new government’s policy. The new law said that black were supposed to live in designed homes and constantly carry ID papers with themselves. The aggressive behavior of the policy against protesters was known as the Sharpeville Massacre. It resulted into the death of 69 people and injures of more than 180. The ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress tried to continue their activity but were banned over time.
Banning of the ANC forced Tambo to move to Zambia whereas Mandela left the country and started to work at ANC underground. Besides, the organization changed its course of actions focusing on sabotage, particularly in power plants and trying to gain support of public opinion from other countries. Their aim was to persuade foreign countries not to invest in South Africa. This would force the whites to prohibit apartheid.
Growing opposition of the government made Mandela go secretly to London in order to gain support of other countries. However, after coming back to South Africa and hiding during a year, Mandela was arrested. He was accused of encouraging people to go to strikes and leave illegally South Africa. The court decided to send Mandela to prison for five years as well as force him to execute hard work. When Mandela was in prison, the police made one more raid and found sabotage plans. Mandela and other activists were accused of revolution. At that time, he declared his famous speech lasting four hours. The speech drew attention of the international community and resembled declaration of democracy. In particular, Nelson Mandela promised to fight for democracy. Moreover, he was even ready to die for it if necessary.
Foreign organizations all over the world demonstrated support to the activists on trial, and UN insisted on cancellation of the trial. Despite sending protesters to jail, the international support was efficient because it helped to avoid a death sentence. As for Nelson Mandel, he was sentenced to life imprisonment away from the civilization. Therefore, many people believed that this was the end of his fight for the rights of blacks; however, it was only its beginning.
In general, Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison, and all his three prisons became his universities. Thus, he managed to pass his law degree and improve his political judgments with the help of continuous discussions with other prisoners. He also improved his inside strength and outside authority which were checked and practiced on his new friends. Later, Mandela wrote that ANC’s goal was to educate everybody including opposition. They thought that all people were able to change, so they tried to influence those that needed it.
Nelson Mandela had a specific charm and intelligence that made him a leader not only for other jailers but also his warders. Moreover, after leaving prison and becoming a president of the country, he invited some of them to his birthday party. One of the warders admitted that he respected him as a leader of the nation. Then Mandela became his leader. Besides, staying in prison helped him to understand that his method of fighting against the apartheid was not effective because it wasted people’s lives, time, and resources. Instead, Mandela realized that it was more effective to persuade the followers of apartheid to start negotiations. Mandela’s efforts to deals with apartheid were supported by other countries. They acted through political campaigns and international sanctions. International community even reached foreign bankers that were important for Pretoria earlier. First, the government tried to demonstrate its power; it arrested about 20, 000 people and kept them without a trail. However, it was clear that apartheid was living its last days. Moreover, researches demonstrated that apartheid started losing support even among whites. When officials understood that the attitude of international community may change only after releasing of Nelson Mandela, they gave him freedom.
In 1989, the President of the South Africa offered Mandela to have tea with him. This was an opportunity to discuss the ways in which apartheid could be ended and how it could be replaced by democratic majority rule. The real changes occurred in 1989 after the Berlin Wall fell. Thus, all ANC jailers, except Mandela, were released. The ban of political parties was cancelled. Finally, Nelson Mandela was released within three months as well. This was shown on television, so everyone could estimate his excellent physical and intellectual form, which was surprising. People expected to see him a weak old man. Besides, he managed to learn new things (e.g. television) very quickly. He was seventy-one years old but his mental flexibility, good eye-sight and wisdom made him younger. After releasing from the jail, he came back to leadership in ANC.
Despite the President Klerk’s attempts to demonstrate positive attitude to Mandela, the latter did not trust him completely. Mandela was supposed to revive the power of ANC by organizing demonstrations and strikes. However, he used another approach and continued negotiations with the President Klerk and other politicians in order to get more votes from all fractions in the first elections with blacks. This allowed him and de Klerk to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. On the other hand, success in political life was followed by problems in personal life. He left his wife Winnie in 1992 because she had problems with the law. His friend Tambo died in 1993. These failures made him feel lonely. Nevertheless, Mandela could vote the first time in his life. This happened in KwaZulu-Natal in 1994. His party ANC won, so they made Nelson the president of South Africa. One of the reasons of his success is the approach to national reconciliation, which gain support within blacks. During his inauguration, he said that his beautiful country would never experience oppression again.
As Mandela had a significant support among people, he started introducing new ideas in such areas as education, housing, health care, and economy improvement in order to reduce social and economic gap between different categories of population, especially it refers to black people. This was quite a difficult task, so Mandela had to use all his wisdom and patience to consider needs of the major part of the population. One of efficient decisions was appointing Tutu as Chair of a Truth and Reconciliation commission. He researched the violation of human right during apartheid. This helped both races to forget old claims and move forward together. Despite certain positive achievements, Mandela’s presidency was also followed with several scandals. Thus, he experienced critique because of his wife Winnie and numerous cases of corruption performed by his colleagues from ANC. In addition, he did not reach the expected results with providing the poorest blacks with jobs and housing. The crime rates were still high. He could not manage the crisis caused by the Aids pandemic either. Nevertheless, the popularity of Mandela was continuously growing during his retirement. He became a farther of the nation for both white and black races in South Africa.
Moreover, he gained popularity in other counties as well, so he was also called “the president of the world”. After leaving the job, he remained active in public life. For example, he founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which particularly focused on international peace-making. In 2013, he demonstrated his negative position against war in Iraq and called the USA a danger to peace on the planet.
In 2001, doctors diagnosed prostate cancer in Mandela, and treatment brought positive outcomes. However, in 2004, his health continued to deteriorate, so he partially retired and started to pay more attention to his family. One of his last attempts to impact politics was in 2007 when he tried to make his candidate a leader of ANC. This attempt was not successful. In 2008, he celebrated his 90th birthday and invited different guests trying to encourage rich people to help poor ones. His last appearance on the public was during football World Cup in South Africa in 2010 where participated in the closing ceremony.
In conclusion, Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary man, which made him a myth not only in his own country but also all over the world. Despite all the provocations, he managed to avoid responding racist claims with racist claims. He also avoided the role of a victim during his imprisonment. Instead, he improved his leadership skills, reviewed approaches to dealing with apartheid, and set good relationships with jailers as prison workers. He also demonstrated outstanding moral values; his forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and generosity allowed transforming his society of racial discrimination into an open democracy. His life became an example to the people from other countries how to fight against oppression. Nelson Mandela lived a long life that he tried to devote to political life. Thus, he first got interested in politics in his twenties. This brought him numerous problems with the police and government, but he did not reject his ideas of creating a society with equal rights for both blacks and whites. The peak of his political career became his position of the president, but even after leaving the post, he kept the interest in the economic and social life of the country.