Nelson Mandela: A Light In the Darkness

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“My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea. Close down the death factories. End this war now!” After Nelson Mandela uttered these powerful words, the people of South Africa dropped their weapons and continued to listen to this leader and man of hope. The oppressed South Africans had been waiting restlessly for his release, in order to pursue, using means of nonviolence, racial equality. Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1993, broke racial barriers, brought peace, and achieved his dream of equality for all South Africans – an incredible act of humanity.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela first came face-to-face with black and white divisions in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In the 1948 presidential election, Daniel F. Malan, head of the white, Afrikaner-dominated National Party, imposed rigorous policies of apartheid, or legalized racial segregation on “colored” South Africans. Blacks had limited rights, unable to speak for themselves. At times, the oppressed wanted to retaliate violently, leading to harsher restrictions and punishments. Having felt uneasy about beatings and cruel penalties, Mandela developed a strong passion to fight for South Africans’ racial equality. He joined the African National Congress, an anti-apartheid political party which aimed to create a democratic government and led mass strikes, peaceful protests, controlled boycotts, and demonstrations with groups of young nationalists. Nelson Mandela was soon became the face of the ANC.

At this point, the South African government averted its attention to him, certainly someone whom it could not disregard. The National Party closely watched his every move, restricting him from attending meetings and from leaving Johannesburg. Detesting policies of apartheid, Nelson Mandela, with a vision to change South Africa, followed through with his actions without hesitation.

Mandela became not only a political icon but also a moral leader who initiated nonviolent forms of resistance. However, the government outlawed the African National Congress, and, on December 5, 1956, the South African police arrested Nelson and one-hundred fifty other activists, charging them for capital crimes of sabotage, treason, and conspiracies to overthrow the current government. He stated, during the trial, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Sentenced to prison, Mandela was prepared to die for equality.

Even in prison, Nelson Mandela worked laboriously and received the least amount of food and privileges, because policies segregated prisoners by race. He stayed, locked for interminable hours, in a five by seven feet cell. Treated horrendously, as if an animal, Mandela continued to think and plan about how to change policies in South Africa. The people did not forget Mandela; instead, they continued to look to him as their symbolic leader to end apartheid.


Twenty- seven years later in 1990, F.W. de Klerk, President of South Africa, released Nelson Mandela. The nation had waited for this day. Nelson delivered speeches compelling South Africans to drop their weapons, and everyone listened to this powerful and true leader, for no other person had suffered longer than he had. People called him “Madiba,” an honorary title for elders in his original tribe. The years of hardships made him physically and mentally strong, understanding, and wise. The return of his presence after more than a quarter-century brought a feeling of hope back to the “colored” people of South Africa.

In 1994, South Africa held the first fully representative, democratic presidential election. History changed as blacks gained the right to vote, waiting in mile-long lines to cast their ballots. In this all-race election, Nelson Mandela won by a landslide. He inspired the world to promote leadership in people of all ethnicities. He had contributed to the transformation of making his country a multi-racial democracy. The new government repealed policies of apartheid, people achieved racial equality, and Nelson Mandela finally fulfilled his ultimate dream.

Nelson Mandela, a complex and courageous man filled with perseverance, fought for the South Africans’ basic rights of equality, human dignity, and happiness. As a resistance leader, he dedicated many years of his life to activism and put exceeding efforts and thoughts into his every move. He assisted in turning his country into a multi-racial democracy and reunited the people of South Africa. Nelson Mandela showed the world a freedom fighter and a single man who changed his country. He is a true hero, for her pursued even when all odds were against him. Mandela reflects, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”





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