‘Rest in Peace’ Nelson Mandela!

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who passes away in South Africa at the age of 95, was one of the mightiest figures modern humanity has known, and one of the world’s most revered statesmen. Born in 1918, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and then founded its Youth League, becoming its president. He and his friend, Oliver Tambo started South Africa’s first black law practice in 1952, and continued their struggle against apartheid, which included the notorious Pass Laws; those dictated where arbitrarily defined ethnic groups could live, work, and travel. Mandela himself was declared a banned person in 1952, in one of many almost surreal attempts by the regime to crush dissent, but his determination was already apparent and he maintained the struggle while in hiding. In 1955 the ANC called for an end to all racial discrimination, and Mandela, with 155 others, was tried for high treason. Although acquitted in 1961, he was by then convinced that armed struggle was needed; the ANC was outlawed that year, in which the police also shot 69 protesters dead at Sharpeville, and Mandela founded the ANC military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), or Spear of the Nation; MK mounted several attacks against power stations and, later, a nuclear power station.

Nelson Mandela

In the early 1960s Mandela, who combined gracious conduct and charm with indomitable courage, became a worldwide icon. Sentenced to five years for inciting a general strike, he and other ANC leaders were again arrested, under a 1963 law allowing 90 days’ imprisonment without trial for alleged political crimes, and then charged with sabotage. Spared the death penalty, the defendants were imprisoned for life in 1964; Mandela was moved to Robben Island prison off Cape Town; five other ANC seniors were also held there. For the next 27 years, Mandela was an inspiration to all opponents of South African apartheid and to oppressed peoples worldwide. The regime opened secret negotiations with him in 1986, and in February 1990, in scenes that had been barely imaginable even a few years earlier, Mandela walked out of prison. As ANC President, he navigated South Africa through a peaceful transition – which could have descended into terrible bloodshed — from a racist state to a contemporary republic with an enlightened constitution and an enormous amount to offer the world. As President of the new state, he set the tone by, for example, not interfering when his ex-wife Winnie Mandela faced criminal investigation for serious crimes, and by accepting without question adverse Constitutional Court rulings. After stepping down in 1999, he became the conscience keeper of South Africa, the African continent and indeed the world, speaking out on issues like HIV/AIDS, the illegal American invasion of Iraq and the rights of the Palestinians. Our world is a sadder, gloomier place for his passing.

Nelson Mandela

He was one of the brightest lights of our world. Nelson Mandela was not just a hero of our time, but a hero of all time, , a man who suffered so much for freedom and justice. Let’s make his dream of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities come true……

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