Nelson Mandela is a South African icon. He represents the fall of apartheid and government supported racism. He was not a perfect man – for years he led the African National Congress in armed revolt against the South African government. As he aged though, he came to recognize that true peace, true healing, could come only through the peaceful dismantling of apartheid and the combined efforts of white and black South Africa.
Violence would only beget more violence.
The man who died an anti-apartheid hero, world statesman and symbol of the strength of the human spirit was born Rolihlahla Mandela in a village near Umtata in the Transkei on July 18, 1918. Rolihlahla literally means “pulling the branch of a tree” but more colloquially, “troublemaker.”
After 20 years of leading a non-violent campaign against the South African government, his philosophy switched to armed struggle. In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the government by violence.
For 18 of his 27 years in prison, he was inmate #46664 on Robben Island, a notorious maximum security facility off Cape Town, where he became a worldwide symbol of resistance to racial oppression.
In 1982, he was moved to Pollsmoor Prison, on the nearby mainland, where he spent much of his time in solitary confinement. In 1985, President P. W. Botha offered to release him if he would renounce armed struggle but he refused, saying “only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”
He was elected president of the ANC in 1991… In 1993 he and President Frederik Willem De Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994, at the age of 75, he was inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa.
Mandela served as president until 1999, when he retired and became an advocate for a number of human rights organizations and also a spokesman for the fight against AIDS… His philosophy of learning to love instead of hate made him one of the moral leaders of his era.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion” he wrote in his autobiography.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for loves comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
At age 95, Nelson Mandela has died. He will be remembered as a hero, a man who stood against great odds, and freed generations of his people from oppression. He will long be remembered.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com