Even though Blacks outnumbered the Whites, they didn’t have the education, the guns or the world support to defeat the Whites. But through the years through political pressure, protests, mostly non- violent, but later he moved to armed struggle, the Blacks of South African finally won their freedom from the Apartheid run government. Most mark the end of Apartheid with the year Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after serving 27 years.
Most people talk about the 27 years he spent in prison, but he spent the first 45 years of his life battling the ruthless Apartheid system in South African. This was a system the U.S. and the rest of the so-called free world, Whites, at one time supported, because in actuality the Whites ruled people of color in Africa, Australia, and Asia. Everyone knew Black people could not govern themselves.
This system regulated Blacks to being less than animals. They had to have passes to move around in their own country. They had to be off the streets by a certain time of night. They could only work in certain professions, and only certain schools were open to them.
Mandela made it absolutely clear when asked in his visit to the US after being released why he accepted the Soviet Union’s help. He stated that they had approached the US first and were turned down. But he made it clear that no one was going to dictate to them how they were going to run their country. In essence just because you helped me doesn’t give you the right to dictate to me how to run my country. That was made clear to the US as well as the Soviet Union.
After years of fighting at every level, political, diplomatically, economically, as well as militarily, finally through liberal voices the US started to support economic sanctions against South Africa. And eventually a successful move, after several years, was made to have Congress pass laws supporting sanctions against South Africa’s Apartheid system and to condemn this government. Congress passed these sanctions but President Ronald Reagan, vetoed it. Even though there were only two people who voted against it, with former Vice President Dick Chaney being one of them, Congress over rode the president’s veto. This marked the beginning of the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Mandela and his family suffered through some of the worst times humans could suffer well before he was imprisoned, as did most politically active Black Africans. But he stood firm to his cause of freedom for all South Africans, Black, Whites, Indians and Bi-Racial.
Even after he was imprisoned the police continued to harass his wife Winnie, in an effort to capture or kill all resistance to the Apartheid government.
When he was finally freed from prison the people overwhelmingly voted him into office as the first Black president of South Africa of which he served five years. Millions of people lined the streets for hours, even days waiting for their opportunity to vote for Mandela.
And once he became president he did something really remarkable. Instead of having the police and military hunt down and round up all the Whites and Blacks who had killed, maimed, tortured innocent people he had the government set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses of human rights under Apartheid. These hearings would serve as a forum for those accused of murder, and torture to be confronted by their victims and by admitting their guilt, be granted amnesty under Ubuntu, the native custom of forgiveness.
What a system of Christ like forgiveness by a group of people who were looked upon as heathens by the so-called Christian Whites in the US, South Africa and Europe.
Even though he spent the prime of his life in prison, I can’t think of anyone who had a greater impact on the world as a whole and mankind in particular than Nelson Mandela. But just think how much he could have done for Africa and the world if he had been able to spend his prime leading South Africa and the world instead of fighting for his basic freedoms to be treated equal as a human being from prison. Just think of how more advanced Africa would be today.
Farewell Mr. Nelson Mandela. You have helped make the world a much better place to live in and we are going to miss you.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier. For comments email firstname.lastname@example.org)