Anadi Naik

On the 5th of December Nelson Mandela, passed away in Johannes burg, South Africa. He was 95 and had been hospitalized often and on for nearly two years. At the end, he may have earned the rights to pass into the ages. But the world was not ready to let him go. He was a true icon, a revered figure worldwide. No wonder, heads of States around the world are coming to attend his funeral. Not only in South Africa but everywhere people mourn his passing. Nelson Mandela was the symbol of resistance against South Africa’s oppressive apartheid regime. He was one of the few black, college graduates in the entire country. Later, he established the first black law farm in South Africa. However, the nonwhites in South Africa were being discriminated in every possible way including housing, jobs and education. For blacks the suffering was even severe. This prevailing injustice slowly captivated Nelson Mandela’s mind and radicalized him. Slowly, he came to the conclusion that for the black people to get fairness and justice in South Africa, a violent uprising is necessary. This was a time when colonialism was still strong and violent rebellions against it were taking place in many different parts of the world. In Africa it was taking place in countries such as Algeria, Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). European colonizers were being supported by American capitalism. South Africa’s white regime was being supported by its allies in Europe and America. Therefore, capitalism in the United States where blacks were being systematically oppressed and the colonial behavior of European countries looked similar. On the American continent Fidel Castro had led the way against capitalism. Nelson Mandela and his friends, by then prominent members of the African National Congress, injected the ideology of violence and communism into their organization that had been modeled after the Indian National Congress during India’s struggle against the British Raj. In 1960 the death of 69 people in Sharpeville, South Africa made it necessary. While trying to raise funds for the armed rebellion, Mr.Mandela, was captured and put in jail. He was later joined by many of his ANC comrades. Later, he was found guilty of treason and under the prevailing law could have been hanged. Instead the judge gave him life imprisonment with hard labor. It was 1963 and he was 45 year old. After his last court appearance the world outside never saw his picture again. However, during those years it was the 45 year old face of Nelson Mandela that kept the world engaged in anti- apartheid activities. In protest rallies, sit ins and workshops the picture of that face appeared on T shirts, posters and leaflets. Nelson Mandela became a cause himself and demands continued for his release while he remained confined on Robben Island along with many of the future leaders of South Africa. While together in jail, his friend Oliver Tambo died in jail. Many of the ANC leaders went underground or left the country to carry on the struggle from outside. The death of Steven Biko, a black writer journalist, at the hands of the South African police in 1977 caused worldwide outrage. As blacks gained many of their rights in the United States, the ending of apartheid became one of their causes. Africa as a whole gained space in the thinking of the black population of the US. They and their liberal friends were able to convince universities, pension funds, financial institutions, cities and States to unload their holdings in South Africa. On moral ground, as many of them already had done during the rise of the Nazis in Germany, they divested in spite of huge losses. In the 1980s one of the black students named Barack Obama, organized protests for the divestiture by his college. Now he is president of the United States. South African banks, ammunition factories and gold and diamond mines could not operate anymore as financing dried up and investors pulled out their money. The politicians in the United States asked for a change in the apartheid policy. Nelson Mandela had to be released. After 27 years of imprisonment, in 1990 the world and he saw each other again for the first time. Mr. Mandela’s very first speech after his release was against colonialism and capitalism and his struggle’s indebtedness to Fidel Castro. It was understandable as he had been without a radio or television or newspaper for so long. A year later he was elected President of South Africa. As president, Mr. Mandela reached out to blacks and whites and worked tirelessly for reconciliation in South Africa. Desmond Tutu, a religious leader, chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Under his leadership the country also voluntarily renounced any development of nuclear weapons. As president of the country Mr. Mandela was unable to fulfill all the dreams he generated – equal opportunity for blacks and whites, socio-economic integration of both groups, jobs for blacks and many others. In favor of the younger generation to tackle the country’s multitude of problems Mr. Mandela left office after one term. Yet, he enjoyed respect around the world as an elder statesman. He was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. At a very personal level, besides his long years of imprisonment he saw the death of his eldest son Makatho Mandela of AIDS and wife Winnie leaving him. However, later on, he married Graca Simbine Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, the deceased President of Mozambique. Mr. Mandela was a man of peace and reconciliation. Without hatred for any one he represented the very best that mankind could offer. We mourn his passing and wish him eternal peace.

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