Paying tributes to Nelson Mandela, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, referred to him as “the Conscience of the world.” “A great light has gone out in the world,” said the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, on the death of Nelson Mandela.
Jacob Zuna, President of South Africa, announced to the world the death of Mandela. He said Mandela breathed his last peacefully in the company of his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He paid glowing tributes to the departed leader as one who visualised a world where “none is exploited, oppressed or disposed by another.”
The legendary South African Nelson Mandela passed away in the early hours of December 6, 2013. Rolihlahla Dalibunga Mandela’s first name, Rolihlahla means pulling the branch of a tree to break it. In other words, he broke the back of the erstwhile South African Apartheid regime to free the people from the shackles of slavery in 1994.
‘Nelson’ was added to his name by the teacher so that he came to be known popularly throughout the world. Nelson Mandela, who is often referred to as “grandfather of the world”, is not free from litigations and complications in his personal life. He married Evelyn Mase in 1944 and the marriage broke up in 1957 when he was incessantly involved in the activities of the African National Congress (ANC). The couple had four children.
He married Winnie Madikizel, an INC firebrand in 1957, had two daughters by her, and they were divorced in 1996. He married his third wife, Graca Michel in 1997 in his 80th year. Nelson Mandela became an activist of the African National Congress. He was also actively associated with the Apartheid Pass Laws which barred the entry of the blacks in ‘White Reserves’ in South Africa.
He was also an important member of the Drafting Committee of ‘Freedom Chapter,’ which envisaged establishment of ‘Non-racial Social Democracy’ in their land. The government of South Africa began to curb his movements and activities through several repressive measures, including arrest and harassment. Under these circumstances, Mandel went underground to organise clandestine operations against the regime.
At this point of time, he abandoned his principle of non-violence and took recourse to sabotage against the government. The government banned African National Congress in 1960s. Consequently, the ANC activists including Mandela founded SIZWE (Spear of the Nation), military Wing of the banned ANC.
Mandela managed to steal himself into Algeria in 1962 where he had undergone military training in Guerrilla Warfare and Sabotage. But he was arrested on return. In 1963, he was arrested again and imprisoned along a few more ANC members. On June, 11, 1964, he was charged with sabotage, treason and violent conspiracy against the government, and sentenced for life along with his fellow activists, including Dennis Brutus, an academic and anti-apartheid poet.
The interrogation of the freedom fighters including Mandela has come to be known as one of the most notorious trials as ‘Rivonia Trial’ in modern history. In February, 1990, Mandela walked out of his prison after his incarceration of 27 years. He was 71 then. He retained not only his indomitable spirit, but even his sense of humour. As he got into a waiting car, he said, “My life is beginning anew.”
As part of this peroration, Mandela maintained, “I have fought against White domination, and I have fought against Black domination.” He also added further that he dreamt of a place where “all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
The above memorable sentences are reminiscent of Martin Luther’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ and also echo the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s memorable speech at Gettysburg at the end of the civil war in America. Mandela, thus, is not only a man of action, but is also well known for his extempore speeches. Mandela’s famous Autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1994, documents his struggles and travails against the South African Apartheid regime, and also serves as a source of inspiration to generations of young women and men in their moments of tension, anxiety and indecision.
A couple of quotations in the book mentioned below are memorable for their meaning and message: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”; “I learnt 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 he who conquers that fear.”; “… with freedom comes responsibilities, for my long walk is not an end.” Mandela in the midst of his ‘long walk of his freedom” from prison became the founder President of South Africa (1994-1999), and gracefully retired from the office at the end of his term in 1999 unlike most other African President who do not believe in retirement , much less in graceful retirement. He served his people to the best of his ability, and won their hearts and respect. Mandela has been a recipient of scores of Award and rewards in the course of his life.
As many as 60 universities across the globe honored him in a number of ways. 18th July, his birth day is celebrated as a Day of Freedom under the aegis of the UNO. The Award of Nobel Peace Prize to him is a fitting finale to his glorious life. Nelson Mandela had been and will be an iconic leader of humanity. He believed in dignity and equality for all. He lived a long life of 95 years symbolizing these values.
-Prof K. Indrasena Reddy (The writer is a former Professor of English at Kakatiya University, Warangal. )