Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Farewell to Madiba!



The death of Nelson Mandela, the first black and democratically elected
President of the Republic of South Africa, after a lifetime of struggle and unjust imprisonment by one of the most despised and vicious regimes of any Continent, united the world in tribute and honour for his unique and unparalleled achievements in liberating not only his own people but also their oppressors, the white Afrikaans who instituted the vicious and inhuman Apartheid regime. For this, the memory and presence of Madiba will never be
forgotten and will stand as a permanent guide to the necessity of always
placing the dignity and inalienable rights of each human being, Child, Woman or Man, ahead of any personal political or economic interest now or in the future.

The gathering of world leaders at Tuesday's Memorial Service shows the prestige and regard for Madiba which he deservedly attracted across the globe but, more significant and lasting is the regard of his own people of all races in South Africa and millions around the world who watched and admired his achievements both as President and later world statesman.

Nelson Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtatu, then a part of South Africa’s Cape Province. Given the name Rolihlahla,  he later came to be known as “Madiba”, a traditional clan name. Both his parents were devout Christians and sent him to a local Methodist school, where he came to be known as “ Nelson”, a name given to him by his schoolteacher, largely due to  biased British  Colonial educational system in Africa which tried to Anglisise the black population .He was also one of the first in his family to have attended school.
His father, who was destined to be a chief, lost his title and fortune over a dispute with a local magistrate, forcing the family to move to Qunu, a small village north of Mvezo. The village had no roads, only footpaths and the family lived in huts common in the tribal villages of the area. When Mandela was 9 years old, his father died of lung disease, changing his life forever. He later said he inherited his father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness”.
                                  The village of Qunu, Madiba's childhood home.

He  was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, an acting regent of the Thembu people. He left his life in Qunu and quickly adapted to the new, more sophisticated surroundings of Mqhekezweni. Mandela took classes in a one room school, studying English, Xhosa history, and geography. It was during this time he developed his interest in South African History and the oppression by the British.  Listening to the tales told by elderly visitors he became influenced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Chief Joyi
Mandela acquired a Bachelors in arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Fort Hare, the prestigious and elite black institution in Alice, a town in South Africa. He currently holds the record of having honorary degrees from over 50 international universities. In his spare time, he also studied to be a lawyer. His Alma maters include, University of London External System, University of South Africa and University of the Witwatersrand. He also got a bachelor of Law degree through a university of London correspondence program. He was the first black person to become a lawyers clerk in the South African legal system.
In Johannesburg, he became actively involved in the Anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress in 1942 and becoming a founding member of its Youth League.. For 20 years, Mandela followed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies of Apartheid. After the South African National Party came to power in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation's Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961.
Although initially committed to non-violent protest, after the brutal Sharpville Massacre* of unarmed protesters by the South African  Police, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the Apartheid regime. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served over 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. A worldwide Anti-Apartheid Campaign lobbied for his release and the end of the apartheid system. Increasingly isolated by political, sporting and trade boycotts, the Pretoria Government was forced to release him in 1990, during a time of escalating civil strife. Mandela joined negotiations with President F. W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory and became South Africa's first black president.

*[ On the 21st of March, 1960, a group of between 5,000 and 7,000 people converged on the local police station in the township of Sharpeville, in then Transvaal, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books. The Sharpeville Police were not completely unprepared for the demonstration, as they had already been forced to drive smaller gangs of more militant activists away the previous night.

By 10:00 am, a large crowd had gathered, and the atmosphere was initially peaceful and festive. Fewer than 20 police officers were present in the station at the start of the protest. Later the crowd grew to about 19,000, and the mood began turning hostile. The increasingly agitated crowd now adopted a common attitude which was later described as "insulting, menacing, and provocative", prompting about 130 police reinforcements, supported by four Saracen armoured cars (supplied by Britain) to be rushed in. The police were armed with firearms, including Sten sub-machine guns. There was no evidence that anyone in the gathering was armed with anything other than rocks.

                               South African Police survey the dead after their massacre of unarmed
                                 protesters, Sharpville, 21 March 1960.
South African Airforce jets approached to within a hundred feet of the ground, flying low over the crowd in an attempt to scatter it. The protestors responded by hurling a few stones (striking three people) and confronting  the police barricades. Tear gas and police baton charges failed to quell the crowd and at about 1:00 pm the Police tried to arrest an alleged ringleader. There was a scuffle, and the throng surged forward. The Police began random shooting shortly thereafter killing 69 people and 180 were injured, including 31 women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee, causing worldwide condemnation from which the Apartheid regime never recovered and it became an international pariah. UNESCO marks March 21 as the yearly International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in memory of the massacre].


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