Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Death of a Hero: Nelson Mandela

By Gregory Cordone

Perhaps it is fitting that you name a boy Rolihlahla.  Rolihlahla translates to “troublemaker,” and is the birth name of Nelson Mandela.  Mandela was a revolutionary whose nonviolent protests had him tried and imprisoned for twenty-seven years.  Mandela’s troublemaking would lead to the collapse of apartheid and equality for millions.  His death in December, at age 95, was mourned by people around the world.

Mandela’s father Gadla was counselor to the monarch, but was removed from position by standing against the unjust demands of the magistrate.  It is the same stubbornness instilled in his son that would end racial apartheid in South Africa.

On July 18, 1918, Gadla’s third wife gave birth to Nelson Mandela.  Mandela would be privileged enough to attend Methodist school at age seven while he lived as a cattle herder with his mother and sisters in Qunu.  It was at this westernized school that he was given the English name Nelson.

At age nine Mandela was left under the watch of regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who raised him like a son.  Mandela continued his studies as a devoted Christian and lover of African history.  His interest in African culture persisted despite the stress of western superiority taught at the prestigious Methodist College he attended.   Mandela studied English, anthropology, politics, native administration, and Roman Dutch law at the University of Fort Hare.  Though at that point he avoided involvement with the independent South Africa movement he would represent his fellow students attempting to improve the school’s food quality.  His reform efforts got him suspended and Mandela never received a degree.

Mandela fled to Johannesburg in early 1941 to escape arranged marriage.  Mandela worked as a clerk in a law firm full of ANC (African National Congress) supporters.  He would attend communist talks and parties with them and was taken back by the racial equality and diversity amongst them.  Mandela slowly joined the ANC cause and became more political; at the same time, he continued his studies for a bachelor’s degree. 

Mandela faced racism as the only native African student at the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law.  Around this time in 1943, Mandela helped push for the creation of the African Nation Congress Youth League (ANCYL) which united young Africans to oppose their subjugation.  One year later he married his first wife, Evelyn Mase.

In 1947 Mandela was appointed ANCYL secretary.  He butted heads with the ideas of the ANCYL president, Peter Mda.  Later In 1947, Mandela was elected to the executive committee of the ANC, under regional president C.S. Ramohanoe.   After Ramohanoe acted against the Committee by working with Indians and communists, Mandela helped force his resignation.

After the 1948 general election the National party was formed.  This racialist party, born from leaders approved by white voters (the only people allowed to vote), created a system of racial segregation called apartheid. 

Mandela was appointed ANC president in 1950; He was also elected ANCYL president that same year.  Throughout the decade Mandela would take part in nonviolent defense campaigns preaching against apartheid. 

After seeing no alternative but armed resistance left, Mandela was apprehended for treason in 1956.  He had been banned from public appearances and the organizations he led received bans.  Mandela was put on a six year trial which ended in a non-guilty verdict. After attempts to plan a strike while incognito Mandela was apprehended in 1962.  He was arrested and imprisoned.  Mandela remained in prison for 27 years. 

Upon release in 1990, Mandela went on the affirmative; he toured the world pleading with world leaders to support sanctions against the apartheid government.  Mandela worked tirelessly, as if he was never gone, all without ever personally raising a gun. After two sessions, the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) would lead to the dissolving of apartheid and a democratic election was held for 1994.

From 1994 to 1999 Mandela served as the president of South Africa.  He created several programs to provide adequate sanitation, water and electricity to his people.  The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act, 1913 to claim back their land. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 improved the rights for all workers. In terms of foreign affairs, Mandela recommended other nations resolve problems by the South African example and his ideas of soft diplomacy. 

Mandela retired in 1999, but continued activism and philanthropy.  He appeared for and spoke for dozens of causes at international meetings, all for the betterment of man.  On December 6th 2013, he died of lung infection.  The world lost one of the greatest human rights activists of the last century and perhaps recorded time, a peaceful fighter for the people, an educated revolutionary and nationalist…our Rolihlahla.

Gregory Cordone is a 19-year-old sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College.  He is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Arts and is Vice-President of the STAC Communication Arts Club.  Upon graduation, Greg hopes to get into television production through his father's work connections at CBS, and would like to work more in music production and audio. Greg has been a musician for many years and hopes his passions and professions may one day be the same. 

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