Nelson Mandela battled through countless hardships, rising from convicted terrorist to becoming the face of social justice around the world. Mandela’s victory was in his never-changing hope, strenuous efforts, and his willingness to die for his cause.
Apartheid – Racial Segregation in South Africa
It was merely 70 years ago that South Africa suffered from its white minority’s oppressive regime that racially divided the nation. Apartheid was the rigid former policy that segregated and discriminated against the non-white population in their daily lives. An African word meaning ‘apartness,’ Apartheid was an ideology that the South Africa’s all-white government National Party introduced in 1948. Although racial discrimination was not unfamiliar in South Africa, apartheid made segregation a part of the law.
Nelson Mandela and His Raging Heart of Justice
Nelson Mandela could not watch passively as law makers passed numerous laws under Apartheid that caused non-white citizens to suffer disadvantages.
These new laws forced black people to relocate outside of the urban towns they once lived in. They could not own property since only white people could own land. As a result, people lost their homes. The government moved them off the land they owned for many years and banished them to undeveloped areas far away from their places of work.
Things started to get out of hand when people of different races could not socialize with each other. The law forbade Black Africans from using the same bathroom facilities as others or entering certain premises, and it forbade them from riding on “white buses.”
Even though the black population formed the majority, Apartheid left little land for them.
When Mandela saw how the non-white population of South African suffered economically, politically, and emotionally, simply because they did not share the skin colour of the rulers, he could not sit idle. With a heart of justice to regain the human rights of the law mistreated, he began his treacherous journey to oppose Apartheid.
Apartheid Signage, 1953
© Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online
Taking Action to Bring About Change
Despite how difficult his path was, Mandela never surrendered. As the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1940s, he initially led peaceful protests, which later escalated into armed resistance against the Apartheid when his non-violent protests went unheard. The police repeatedly arrested him for seditious activities, but the government were not able to prosecute him in the 1956 Treason Trial.
However, on March 21, 1960, South African police unexpectedly opened fire and brutally murdered 69 Africans with casualties totally 289, including 29 children. People called this incident the Sharpeville Massacre. In the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre, Mandela co-founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe. This was the Militant Wing of ANC, intended to topple the ruling National Party of South Africa using armed forces. In 1962, Mandela led a sabotage campaign against the government, but he was arrested.
A Cause To Die For
I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
— Mandela’s Rivonia Trial Speech, 1964
Unfortunately, Mandela’s actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades, marking a turning point in the anti-Apartheid movement. Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial for conspiring to overthrow the state. Whether his ends justified his means, he would be remembered as the courageous social figure who sacrificed himself selflessly, for the sake of equality and social justice.
An Undying Heart and A Renewed South Africa
Despite spending 27 relentless years in prison, where he was subject to the brutality of Afrikaner guards, hard physical labour, and nearly uninhabitable jail cells, Mandela’s heart for positive change never ceased.
Finally in 1990, with the threat of a racial civil war, amid growing domestic and international support to free Mandela, President F. W. de Klerk released him.
Once released, Mandela rekindled his efforts to destroy Apartheid and miracles began happening. With his persistence, Mandela eventually negotiated an end to apartheid and organised the first 1994 multiracial general election. Mandela led the ANC to victory and became the first Black President of South Africa.
He created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. After retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice. He gained international acclaim for his activism. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours—including the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mandela is regarded dearly within South Africa as their “Madiba,” or as the “Father of the Nation.”
After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela never gave up his dreams of a renewed South Africa. He dedicated his life to bringing peace to a racially divided country. He helped shape a new South Africa, severing racial segregation. Mandela led the fight for human rights around the world. Despite his hardships, he forgave his persecutors and the people that led to his injustice. Nelson Mandela never gave up on fulfilling his hope that his country would allow all people to live harmoniously.
He will be remembered as South Africa’s anti-apartheid revolutionary, fostering racial reconciliation and the first black president of the cardinal multiracial democratic election. He will be remembered for his vision, his forgiveness, his perseverance, and his revolution.
This is the story of his undying heart and his legacy.
Mandela passed away on Dec 5, 2013 at the advanced age of 95, deeply respected by all as the epitome of social justice and harmony.
Because of one person’s devotion in paving the way towards justice and equality, the entire South African nation gained peace and harmony. Still now, the actions of each one of us can influence all of society. At times, our actions may feel like a drop in a bucket, but let us not forget Mandela’s story of revolution through righteousness and persistence.