Nelson Mandela – An example by whom we ought to be inspired.

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Nelson Mandela has passed away after a long time of illness. He was an example to many with his struggle against racism, apartheid, for fairness and equal rights. When he finally reached the highest position in South Africa he tried to build bridges between the various groups in the Rainbow Nation. Nelson Mandela, (whose portrait above I made on February the 19th 2003), once said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony”…”It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. He also said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”.

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th 1918 in a family with good standing among the native black South Africans of his clan. There are several tribes in South Africa; The aboriginal tribes of South Africa are the Khoi Khoi and San tribes, or just “Khoisan”. Since Africa is the original home of our human race the Khoisan peoples had lived there for many thousands of years. Homo Sapiens appeared at least 200 000 years ago in East Africa. Ca 2000 years ago new tribes from the north came and pushed away the original Khoisan peoples further west and north and into the Kalahari desert. The new Bantu tribes settled in central, southern and eastern South Africa. Among the Bantu tribes we find such as Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndbele and in the central parts the Soto and Tswana tribes. The country now is divided into the Northern Province, Northwest Province (where we find Pretoria and Johannesburg) Mpamalanga, Swaziland, Kwa-Zulu Natal in the East with the city of Durban, on the western side of the Drakensburg Mountains Lesotho. Then Eastern Cape in the south east, The Free State with the diamond mines in the central parts of the country, Karoo Nature Reserve and Port Elizabeth in the south, Northern Cape Province in the north east and Cape Town is found in the Western Cape Province. White people had begun to arrive in the 15th century, but the real white settlement started in the 1500’s  with Dutch merchants from the Netherlands, and in 1652 the Dutch founded Kaapstad headed by Jan van Riebek. Many of the settlers were farmers, Boers, and began treating the local black natives as vermin and slaves. Also other European groups arrived, French, German and Brits. In 1814 the British occupied the Cape Colony. In 1808 Great Britain had abolished slavery, but it would take until 1833 before it was completed. In Cape Town slavery was abolished in 1828. This was not liked by the Boers who went inland 1835-1838. During the 1850’s and 1860’s gold and diamonds were found. Then the British and Boers began fighting each other about the domination of the country, as well as the native peoples. The Boer Wars were fought 1880-1882 and 1899-1902.The Boers were a minority group, but a majority in Parliament and began introducing very racist laws against the Black majority. This was the situation when Nelson Mandela was born in 1918.

In 1948 the Boer Nationalist Party won that year’s elections, and began passing more and more  racist laws called Apartheid/Separateness. All power to white people of European descent. There were living areas, schools, restaurants, banks, post offices, bus stops, busses, jobs, health care and cilvil rights reserved for “whites only”. It was very similar to the Jim Crow laws of the USA from the same era. In 1950 came the Population Registration Act in South Africa. All South African people should be classified as “white”, “mixed descent” or “black”. This was based on looks, status or descent. Everyone who was classified as “black” or of “mixed descent” had to wear passports to show in order to move around their own country. In 1951 the Bantu Authorities Act laid the foundation for “the homelands”, ethnic reserves for black South Africans in mostly sterile parts of the country. Arrests, threats, beatings, massacres, persecution and torture was part of the South African policy against blacks.

The African National Congress, The ANC, was founded in 1912, but in the 1940’s they began to become more aggressive in their approach. African National Congress Youth League, ANCYL, was founded under the leadership of Anton Lembede. He and the others tried to make the ANC into a mass movement. The idea was to make black Africans aware of their rights, and create a self-determination among them. Among the members were apart from Anton Lembede, William Nkomo, Oliver R. Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Ashby P. Mda and…Nelson Mandela. He proved to be extra efficient and he bit by bit was given more and more power. In 1952 Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo established a law firm in Johannesburg in order to aid black South Africans in trouble. The authorities tried to stop them by moving their office to a remote corner of the country, but it didn’t help. Mandela and Tambo continued relentlessly.

When Fredrik Verwoerd was Prime Minister of South Africa in 1960 a large group of black people refused to carry their passports in Sharpeville and started a general strike. The Government answered by declaring a state emergency which lasted for 156 days. On March 26th 1960 it exploded of anger outside Sharpeville police station. The Government ordered an attack on the masses. 69 people died and 187 were wounded. This became known as the Sharpeville massacre. This evoked feelings of anger and disgust around the world and South Africa was excluded from the British Commonwealth and began being treated as an international pariah. One year later Mandela challenged the Government in an electrified speech. He challenged them to convene to democratic principles, and if they didn’t comply, he would incite the blacks to general strike. Then he began disguising himself to escape the secret police and became known as The Black Pimpernell. In June 1961 Mandela was prosecuted in a mass trial in Johannesburg but found not guilty. After that he and some others decided to take up arms, and formed “Umkhonto we Sizwe”/The Spear of the Nation. Nelson Mandela became Commander-in-Chief and was sent to military training in Algeria during 1962. In Ethiopia Mandela addressed the Conference of the Pan African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa, but back in South Africa he was arrested and charged. He was sentenced to life time imprisonment and sent to the infamous  Robben Island off the Cape Town coast. He was moved twice though. First to Pallsmore Prison in 1984, and in 1988 to Victor Verster Prison, near Pearl. During his 27 years in prison Nelson Mandela spent most of his time in hard labour. Nevertheless, his just and strong charisma and qualities shone through. He became friendly with some of his guards, and went into a humble and peaceful path to continue his struggle, in order to build interhuman bridges.

All through the 1970’s and 1980’s South Africa continued its racist Apartheid rule. The Black South Africans and the ANC got help from abroad, and especially from Sweden and Norway. The largest support and ongoing help came from these two Scandinavian countries. In 1984 bishop Desmund Tutu recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against Apartheid. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11th 1990 Mandela said: “The goal is now in sight, and we have to thank the people and governments of Norway and Sweden for the tremendous role they played”. When the ANC held its first conference in 1991 since the ban in 1960 Mandela was now elected President of the ANC. They began negotiating with the South African President, Frederik Willem de Klerk and finally he agreed to abolish Apartheid.  On December 10th 1993 Mandela and de Klerk recieved that year’s Nobel Peace Prize for the abolishment of Apartheid. Half a year later, on April 27th 1994 South Africa had its first free election. In that election the ANC won a tremendous victory and Mandela became President of the country. To avoid any form of retaliation and acts of revenge which might lead to civil war Nelson Mandela asked his people to think of the future. Mandela insisted on forgiveness and reconciliation instead. The new South African flag since 1994 of the new Rainbow Nation symbolizes the rich ethnic mix.

Things haven’t become peaceful in South Africa, and many problems still exist. The paramount problems with AIDS, old ancient ideas concerning very young virgins for instance, prejudice and poverty. Arms deals is another problem in South Africa, unemployment, strikes, violence, corruption and crime. But improvements have been made, and improvements must continue.

South Africa has lost an important leader…A leader whom has left a mark in the hearts of many, both in his home country and all over the world. Nelson Mandela (July 18th 1918 – December 5th 2013) has been an inspiration to many and will continue to be so. Now we live in a time where his example and thoughts are more important to consider than ever. Again we see hatred between groups. We see Fascists and Nazis marching on the streets of Europe and taking place in Parliaments. We see ultra-nationalists feeding us messages of hate and separateness/Apartheid. We see religious fanatics of all religions working against women’s rights, but also among the secular ultranationalists as well, as well as left wing extremists who use undemocratic, prejudiced and hateful methods against opposition. The lack of understanding for our common traits despite our individual and group differences has increased in later years. Racist expressions has become more “tolerated” in discussions in real life and on the Internet. It’s hate hate hate. We live in a world where we have modern weapons of mass destruction which might destroy us all, irrespective of our ideology or background. We have a weather system which becomes more and more extreme. Conflicts are going on in many places of our world, even though we have ONE humanity and ONE globe – Tellus to inhabit. That is why Nelson Mandela’s message to us and to the coming generations are extra important today and for our future. Which road willl we take? Of course there are limitations for what we might cope or  deal with, but we still have to try. Do you want a future of hate and oppression? So…Nelson Mandela…Rest In Peace. Your legacy must continue.

Anders Moberg, December 6th 2013

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