With the news that Nelson Mandela is ill in hospital, it is a good idea to look back at the contribution of one of South Africa’s most iconic figures and find out how he united a nation in prayers for his well being. South Africans have a deep love and respect for Mandela, which you can see when visiting or working in South Africa.
Born in 1918 as Rolihlahla Mandela, he was the son of an Xhosa tribesman, King of the Thembu tribe. Mandela was given the ‘white name’ Nelson by a white teacher—this would mirror the White control of South Africa to which he would be so instrumental in fighting. In these early years Mandela was introduced to the Christian faith, a faith he retains to this day.
Mandela is best known for his fight against white oppression in South Africa. He first showed his dedication to the cause in the 1940’s when he became increasingly involved in the National African Congress Party (ANC) after graduating with a law degree. ANC was a party of varying races united with the aim of bringing about political change and racial equality in South Africa, operating a no-violence policy, despite being on the receiving end of threats and violence. After apartheid (forced racial separation) was implemented by the government in 1948, the ANC began to radicalise, as they gained a large following of all races. However, they still implemented a non-violence policy until 1960 when 69 anti-apartheid protesters were murdered. After this, Mandela, a senior member, left the country to receive military training and find funding for the party, such was his fierce determination to achieve equality in South Africa.
On Mandela’s return to the country in 1965 he was arrested and charged with life imprisonment, which resulted in 27 years imprisonment, 18 of these in a tiny cell on Robben Island in solitary confinement, receiving little in the way of food and entertainment. Mandela was released in 1990, sparking the end of apartheid. Mandela had finally been successful. Racial equality was finally a legal requirement in South Africa.
In 1994, four years after his release from prison and the end of his fight for equality, Mandela was fittingly elected Prime Minister of South Africa. It was a historical day for South Africa, with both races finally united with equality. He remained in the post for 5 years before stepping down in 1999. Since then Mandela has remained relatively out of the spotlight, but is still a crucial figurehead for equality all over the world.
Mandela has recently been hospitalized with a recurring lung infection but is said to be making progress. It is one in a line of many health problems Mandela has had in recent years, most likely due to the conditions he was exposed to whilst imprisoned on Robben Island—which has now been transformed from a prison to a centre where people can learn about Apartheid.
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Written by Sam Hudson