Nelson Mandela Essay
What Mahatma Gandhi was to India, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was to South Africa. He was born in Transkei, South Africa in July, 1918. His father was the Chief of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961.
The ANC was banned in 1960. At this, Nelson Mandela argued with the ANC leaders for setting up a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison.
Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily during his years in prison. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
Nelson Mandela was released on February 18, 1990. After his release, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held in South Africa after the organisation had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected as the President of the ANC while his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation’s National Chairperson. The ANC emerged victorious in the elections, and Mandela became the first black President of South Africa. Today, he leads a retired life.
He shared the Nobel Prize for Peace with F. W. DeClark for successful negotiations to end the evil of apartheid. He is also the recipient of the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding (1979) and Bharat Ratna (1990) besides many others.
He is recognised as the ‘Living Gandhi’ as he has followed the Gandhian legacy wholeheartedly. He has no bitter words for those very whites who perpetrated cruelties on the blacks. He called upon them to unite and come out as united South Africans. He died on 5 December, 2013.