Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Former South African President Nelson Mandela (Madiba) passed away on Thursday December 5, 2013, at age of 95, after a long illness at his home in Johannesburg.

"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 with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

(Nelson Mandela, defence statement during the Rivonia Trial, 1964. Also repeated during the closing of his speech delivered in Cape Town on the day he was released from prison 27 years later, on 11 February 1990)

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mveso, Transkei, South Africa. Becoming actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In August of 1962 Mandela was arrested, jailed and convicted of leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. He was sentenced to five years in prison, where he remained through June 1964 when he was sentenced to life for his anti-apartheid engagement through the African National Congress (ANC) and the Umkhonto we Sizwe or "MK," the ANC's armed wing. He would spend the next 18 years at the Robben Island penitentiary until 1982, when he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the South African mainland.

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

(The last couplet from W. E. Henley’s Invictus (Latin for unconquered). The poem is said to be the inspiration for Nelson Mandela during his years of incarceration at Robben Island)

Throughout the 1980s, international pressure for South Africa to release Mandela and to abandon its system of government-sponsored white supremacy began to mount. In 1985, the country's then president, P. W. Botha, offered to free Mandela in exchange for his renunciation of violence as a means of solving the countries racial problems. Mandela refused the offer. As tension in the country grew, and as countries around the world tightened sanctions against South Africa and its apartheid regime, President F.W. de Klerk eventually relented. On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison. In 1993, Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country's apartheid system. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president.

In 2005 a Nelson Mandela bust was unveiled at the Peace Palace. The bust is a tribute to Mandela in particular, to the people of Africa and to the world. The recognition of Madiba is a symbol that acknowledges Africa’s contribution to world peace. The people of Africa have prevailed with dignity against decades of colonialism, conflict and poverty and devoted their lives to the promotion and advancement of human rights. In 2009, Mandela's birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader's legacy.

Many world leaders like Barack Obama, David Cameron, Ban Ki-moon and François Hollande paid their respect and love to this South African anti-apartheid icon. President Barack Obama, America's first black president paid tribute in a sombre statement delivered from the White House, in which Barack Obama described the personal inspiration he had drawn from Nelson Mandela. "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," Obama said in a somber appearance at the White House. “ I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," said a visibly moved Obama. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him." The Guardian reported that the state funeral of Nelson Mandela on Sunday 15th December will be the biggest event in the history of South Africa.

One Response to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

  1. Thank you for recognizing this great individual. He was uniquely honored during his lifetime with a bust in the Peace Palace. Sadly, he now has joined the ranks of the many dead figures whose statues populate its halls.

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