A symbol of humanity
Neslson Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918 in Transkei, South Africa. His original name is Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela which means “troublemaker”. However, young Mandela didn’t fulfil this fate, as he had a quite unspectacular and protected childhood in his home village.
It was already in his young years that he was confronted with the Apartheid, the racial segregation. His father was deprived of his province by a minority government, so that he not only lost his job virtually overnight but all his fortune at the same time. Mandela’s father died when Nelson was only nine years old. Young Nelson Mandela then became leader of his whole family and dean of the household, according to African law, which obliged him to take a lot of responsibility.
When he was a young student of law, Nelson Mandela refused to accept the white minority government and the fact that non-white citizens weren’t given the same rights in social, economic and educational issues. Due to his overall non-violent protest, he was accused of high treason, armed resistance against the state and incitement against the regime of Apartheid. In 1962, he was then sentenced to life imprisonment, but the judgement was invalidated owing to long-lasting international protest and pressure of the public in 1990. The president of the state, F.W. de Klerk had issued the order to free Mandela. He and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the year 1993 for their achievements in their home country and for the abolishment of
Apartheid. One year later, Mandela was constituted the first president of South Africa with black colour of the skin. After his resignation in 1999 he kept following his line and worked as lawyer for various social projects and human rights organisations.
Today, some people might have a hard time imagining that the Apartheid was considered “normal” in South Africa up to the late eighties. Unfortunately though, this sad chapter of South African history actually didn’t end until the early nineties. The trigger for this dates back to the time of colonialisation, when European “tribes” discovered Africa and started settling there. Soon, racial conflicts between the indigenous people of Africa and the colonial empires of Great Britain and the Netherlands arouse.
The nation of South Africa never could get over this inner lack of peace, which was the birth for racial segregation that reached to all areas of daily life and considered white people as “superior and more valuable race” than any other ethnicity. The legitimisation for this was drawn from different ideological teachings modified to fit the idea of Apartheid. The Dutch people, for example, reasoned with the Calvinist theory of predestination which says that all peoples’ fate is predestined by certain factors already set at birth and thus not to be changed.
In daily life, Apartheid not only required immense administrative and costly effort, but also meant a two class society for the country which is going to be host for the Football World Championship in near future. There were separate public facilities, such as toilets, school and other facilities of education and generally, open transport was divided into compartments for white and black people. This racial segregation, which is also called “Petty Apartheid”, was thus present for every citizen and guest of the country. Many possibilities of self-fulfilment and emancipation were kept shuttered from the majority of the population. But sadly, that wasn’t all: The so-called “Grand Apartheid” included that white people and those of different colours of the skin had to live in separate neighbourhoods. While the suburbs of the White could easily be noticed by a better quality of life and a better overall infrastructure, all the others had to live in settlements near to rubbish tips and often without any possibility to participate in usual daily life. Whenever there was no more room for the white population, the others were simply resettled and banned to the outer areas of the cities. Every citizen of non-white colour of the skin was stigmatised as an unwanted but more or less tolerated person with a “C” for “coloured” in their passport. It’s no wonder whatsoever that those banished didn’t take their fate calmly but started many riots which led to many dead members of the resistance in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela is often mentioned in the same breath as the end of Apartheid. With him, the country changed from a race-oriented dictatorship to an equality-oriented, democratic South Africa. By now, Mandela has become the symbol and incarnation of the victory of mankind over the racism in Africa. It was a way full of suffering for him, which had brought him 27 years in prison until he was finally set free thanks to a growing resistance in the rest of the world.
The words “Together we are strong” are not only mere empty phrases, we can see this in Mandela’s example. The peaceful solidarity of mankind is today more important than ever. Only if many raise their voices can we show up social injustices and get rid of them. Owing to his non-violent resistance and his vision of a better and social world, Mandela is to be mentioned in the same breath as other civil and human rights campaigners like Martin Luther King, who mainly stood up for the African immigrants of the United States of America and the abolition of racial segregation.
Today, Nelson Mandela is coming through for children suffering from AIDS with his project “46664” – his former number as a prisoner which he was given in the prison of Robben Island. In 2007, a film directed by Joseph Fiennes was released, based upon James Gregory’s memoirs who was Nelson Mandela’s prison guard. This film is called “Goodbye Bafana” and brings Nelson Mandela’s life much closer to the viewer than, e.g. books or coverages about Nelson Mandela.
And even when he’ll eventually die, Nelson Mandela will always be kept in our memories as a legend of humanity and fighter for the good.
This post is also available in: German