Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has passed away this Thursday after battling health issues the past few years. Often hailed as one of the greatest human rights advocates in the world, Mandela fought to end the system of segregation known as apartheid. He was imprisoned for inciting worker’s strikes in the early sixties and spent 18 years of his 27 year sentence in one of South Africa’s most horrid prisons, Robben Island. Despite the oppression he underwent for nearly three decades, Mandela remained strong and optimistic. On February 2nd, 1990 Mandela was released from prison.
He then proceeded to work with his former enemy, President F.W. de Klerk, to dismantle apartheid and turn South Africa into a democratic nation. Both Mandela and de Klerk would later earn the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end apartheid. The nation’s first elections were held on April 27, 1994. He won the presidency and his political party, the African National Congress obtained 62% of the vote.
Here’s Mandela casting his vote in the election.
A Little Background on Apartheid
Apartheid in South Africa was a system of racial segregation enforced by legislature put in place shortly after the conclusion of the second World War. It was put into place by the Afrikaner-majority National Party. What apartheid did was curtail the rights and freedoms of the black majority and kept the white Afrikaner minority in power. Such atrocities that Apartheid ushered in include a ban on marriages with someone of a different race, “whites only” on most public areas, inferior education to blacks, the banning of opposition parties, and the arrest of anti-apartheid leaders, such as Mandela.
A man with every reason to be vengeful, with every reason to be full of hate, Mandela focused reconciliation rather than revenge. The sheer compassion and forgiveness that Mandela had was evident when he placed de Klerk as his first deputy president. Through his policies, he helped curve the rampant racism and discrimination that were long held practices of the former governing political party. He assuaged the skepticism and fears of both blacks and whites alike and helped reunite both under a new flag, which represented the unity of the new, democratic nation.
I have nothing but pure reverence and admiration for Nelson Mandela. He had a goal in mind and refused to let it go, despite the daunting obstacles he faced, including a 27 year prison sentence. Mr. Mandela has shown us how reconciliation is much more efficient than retribution. He is an inspiration to all and a truly exemplary member of the human family.
Rest In Paradise Madiba.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.