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Long Walk To Freedom By Nelson Mandela

June 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 228

One of the few political personalities in recent history, who have generated and maintained a lot of charisma and respect, is Nelson Mandela. His autobiography is still an inspiration for those who aspire to achieve a better future for their societies.

Born as Rolihlahla, in rural South Africa, Mandela started with a humble origin. He was lucky to have a family connection with the Thembu royal house, which enabled him to get his education. He was groomed to be a counsel to the rulers of his tribe, the Xhosas. As he was about to do his B.A. at Fort Hare, the colonial elite school, he was nominated to run for elections for the Student Representative Council. As majority of students boycotted the elections due to the poor mess conditions, he tendered his resignation as a member after election. The decision did not go well with the college authorities, who threatened to expel him. He stood by his decision and returned to the village without completing his graduation. The tribal regent, who had supported him all along was furious and asked him to return to college immediately. He, however, left for Johannesburg.

He started as a watchman at a gold mine, continued with his studies and got a job later as a clerk in a law firm. After graduation he started to practice as a lawyer and was quite successful one at that. By his own account, he became politicized gradually by a number of daily experiences, which he felt were degrading and discriminatory. Under the influence of Walter Sisulu, he started taking part in politics from the forum of African National Congress (ANU). It was during this phase that he married Evelyn Mase.

He attributes the increased political activity of the blacks to the electoral victory of the National Party, led by Dr. Daniel Malan and supported by the Dutch Reform Church, who favourd 'Apartheid', i.e., 'apartness' in the elections of 1948 against the United Party led by General Smuts. The agenda of the party was to codify a system of laws that had kept the blacks separate from Afrikaners. The political activity led to mass protests, the repression by the government and adoption of the Freedom Charter. This was followed by the government schemes to institutionalize the apartheid by introducing the scheme of Bantustans. Internal debate of the ANC is also part of the narrative here in which Mandela appears to be advocating the extreme views including the use of force, if necessary.

Madiba, as he was known, was arrested for treason. His trial lasted for a couple of years, during which his wife left him and took their children along with her. He, however, soon fell in love with another woman, Nomzamo Winnifred Madikizela, who he married after some time. Also during this time, another organization, the Pan Africanista Congress (PAC), headed by Robert Sobukwe, was launched by the dissidents within ANC as a more militant organization. Both organizations were banned by the government under the Suppression of the Communism Act. The treason trial finally came to an end, where Madiba and the co-accused were acquitted of the charges of treason.

But this didn't prove to be the end of oppression by the government or the conviction of Mandela that militant means were necessary to deploy to end apartheid. He started touring the neighboring countries to get support for militant struggle against the government. He gained mixed results from different countries. However, on his way back into South Africa, the authorities were tipped and he was arrested. This time, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was taken to the Robben Island, where he was kept for almost 21 years. His brief narrative of these years in prison details the limited activities of the inmates, including the political ones.

In 1980, he was taken to Pollsmoor prison, which was a better detention facility. This was the result of the government's efforts to find a way out of the political agitation and international pressure on the issue of apartheid. Here, Mandela was approached at times by different dignitaries and government functionaries to discuss the political developments and to gauge his response. These tentative contacts led to the meeting of Mandela with President Botha in July 1989 and later President de Klerk. The government finally announced its willingness to negotiate in February 1990 and Mandela was released in the same month.

It took another two years for an agreement between ANC and the government for a new arrangement and four years before the first general elections were held in 1994 under the new arrangement. The intervening period was marked by Mandela's separation from his second wife and the conferment of Nobel Peace Price on him in 1993 jointly with de Clerk. The elections, under the new constitution, led to the victory of ANC in April 1994 and Mandela took over as the President of South Africa in May.

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