“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 that he who conquers that fear”
This famous quote is one of the many enlightening words of Rolihlahla Mandela.
One day before Mandela’s birth centenary this month, the former US president Barack Obama delivered a speech on Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, at Wanderers cricket stadium, where he was cheered by a crowd of 15,000 people.
Here is a section of Obama’s speech,
“…..Most people around the world think of Mandela as an old man, with hair like Mine,” he cracked a joke here. “What people of course don’t recall is that he started as a very young man- your age – trying to liberate his country…
….Through his sacrifice and unwavering
Leadership and, perhaps most of all,
Through his moral example, Mandela.
Came to embody the universal
Aspirations of dispossessed people…..”
Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela, was a local chief and principal counsellor to the monarch. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni. Mandela lost his father in 1930, when he was just 12 years old. He strongly believed that he inherited his father's ‘proud rebelliousness' & ‘stubborn sense of fairness‘.
Mandela was given the English forename of “Nelson” by his school teacher, Miss Mdingane. This was the custom in those days in giving a “Christian” name to all students. He is also remember with his another name “Madiba” because it is synonymous of justice and eradication of apartheid. He used to hear the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, this encouraged him to contribute in the struggle for freedom along with the people of his nation. He is internationally recognized as the vanguard of the anti-apartheid movement.
The apartheid is a political system that separates people according to their race. The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in South Africa and its people. In 1964, for this anti-apartheid movement, he was imprisoned for twenty-seven years (eighteen years on Robben Island and nine years in Paarl and Victor verster) along with several of his anti-apartheid movement companions. He lost his mother in 1968 when he was in prison. By the 1970’s, South Africa's majority black communities were sick & tired of apartheid's oppressive policies, which led to an increase in violence, protests & military activities. Mandela was finally released from prison on 9th February 1990. When he was released from prison, the Prime Minister of India at that time, V.P. Singh, sent his secretary to meet him and convey the greetings of Indian govt. on his release. At that time Rajiv Gandhi also met with Mandela after his release & greet Mandela with these sweet words,” Mr. Mandela, when my daughter heard that I would be meeting you, she said I should think of her when I was shaking your hand. I am thinking of her now.”
Mandela and his companion Frederik Willem de Klerk were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts in bringing peace to South Africa which experienced rampant racial discrimination for over 40 years. He never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation. That's why he was honored with more than 250 awards world wide. In 1994, he was chosen as the first black president of South Africa in a free and fair election after more than 3 centuries of white rule and subjugation.
“Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another….”
Mandela expressed his happiness by uttering these words. He concluded in his inauguration speech as,
“We have at last, achieved our political emancipation – pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination…The Sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa.”
Finally, that day of freedom came after the unimaginable sacrifices of thousands of South African people. In fact, in Madiba's autobiography also, he mentioned that historical day,
“I was simply the sum of all those African patriots who had gone before me. That long & noble line ended & now began again with me. I was pained that I was not able to thank them & that they were not able to see what their sacrifices had wrought.”
According to Nelson Mandela, freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of his people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of his people were the chain on him.
Mandela stepped down from the presidency in 1999, after one term as president as he had promised earlier. Afterwards, he continued to work with his ‘Nelson Mandela Children’s fund’ which he set up in 1995. He also established ‘Nelson Mandela Foundation ‘and ‘The Mandela Rhodes Foundation ‘.
Nelson Mandela last appeared globally in 2010 when he attended the football world cup. On 5th December 2013, he passed away, living behind a lot of things for the next generation to live up to.
Today he is known as the ‘father of the South African nation‘.
College: Delhi Technological University