Nelson Mandela: A Biography

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# Nelson Mandela frequently reiterates "The struggle is my life,"1. What struggle is he speaking of? Is he being flippant? The struggle to end racism in South Africa, where it plagues denizens of all races has certainly affected Mandela, as it has all Africans, how can he say he devoted his life to the cause of anti-racism? Racism became official policy with the passing of an apartheid law in 1948. The term 'Apartheid' means "apart": not necessarily racial victimization and converse favoritism. However, Apartheid has come to denote the culmination of unspoken laws excluding blacks made literal. Apartheid implied that whites --namely the English and Dutch, Japanese, and Italian, were to be segregated and favored as citizens of South Africa while the black majority, labeled Bantus regardless of their tribe or homeland, were to live in Bantustans. Similar to America's Native American Reservations, but much more extreme, Bantustans were territories with arid, infertile soil and little perceived value. In cramped homesteads, natives struggled to provide food and decent living conditions for themselves and their family. Africans were not allowed to own their own land or officially marry. If they went to a white settlement, as most did to find work, they were required to carry a pass stating their name, Bantustan address, Identification number, picture, state of employment, and age. Curfews restricted Africans to daylight hours, and men could be arrested for a traffic violation. But public racism was rampant, even more so, before the issue of apartheid. There is a long and bloody history of European infringement and victimization upon the African peoples, starting with the Cape Colony in the 1600's. Africans were kept apart so that language and cultural barriers could not be breached to form a united revolt. Essential slavery was practiced though it had been outlawed long ago. The above average African couldn't even write. These are the conditions with which Nelson Mandela rose to become the president of the ANC, form the ANC Youth League, convert a prison to a place of # learning, become the president of South Africa, and to win a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts. It was not easy. Nelson Mandela grew up in Qunu in the territory of Transkei, where he was born on July 18, 1918. He was taught the relationship between the farmer and the earth, and the value of family. Mandela learned that of all things held dearest to the people was brotherhood, and unity in the face of injustice. As the son of a chief, he learned leadership and how to fine tune himself to the need of his people. Inspired by other great African leaders, such as Makana, David Stuurman and Siyolo, Mandela vowed to make the most effective contribution singularly possible to the plight of his people: to lead them out of degradation and injustice by himself. To accomplish this goal, he decided he must firstly become educated so as to be recognized by the supremist white government as one who, albeit black, was well versed and disciplined in both white and black culture and therefore capable of representing the African people. He studied African politics and global war history, especially the battles of Africans and Europeans. Genuinely interested in gaining knowledge of all cultures, he also studied poetry and ancient Greek history as well. As a typical African territory, Qunu had a local missionary school where Christianity and rudimentary arithmetic and reading were taught. The pedagogy was one of blatant eurocentrism, "And in 1652 the Boers landed on this continent, bringing civilization to the pagans inhabiting the region. They brought medicine, clothing, soap, organized government...only did they lack the knowledge and resources brought by our venerable queen..." 2 Mandela attended this school diligently, but longed to comprehend more than was taught by the desperately impaired school. He went to Healdtown to attend the Wesleyan secondary school, a fairly rare ambition for an African, as most were trained for menial work and didn't go to school after the Fifth grade. He excelled at academics, and accepted a scholarship to the University College of Fort Hare. While studying for his Bachelor of Arts degree, he was an active member of the Student's Representative # Council, and became notorious among his peers for his excellent debating capabilities and his dedication to the cause of his people. Always involved in movements speaking against the government, he was suspended for participation in a student boycott. Mandela did not let this detail set him back or slow his progress, he moved to Johannesburg and completed his BA by correspondence while upholding a nightly job. While in Johannesburg he also received his articles of clerkship and studied for his LLB. During this period Mandela married a young nurse, Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Although their marriage did not last due to Mandela's dedication to his cause, they had three children. One died in a car crash in 1970, and the other two now live in South Africa. As racial injustices became more prevalent and intrusive in the dawn of the Twentieth century, a small but influential party formed, called the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC was a government sanctioned collection of representatives from all major African tribes founded in 1912. Mandela joined the ANC in 1942, and he helped transform the exclusive inert group into a mass movement. He moved to do away with government assigned protocol and concentrate on essential points. He updated the held principle from constitutional deviation to self determination, and he discarded esoterism, making the ANC as the tool for all Africans--farmers, laborers, servants, educators alike-- regardless of social or political standing. After only 2 years as a member of the ANC, Mandela had been recognized as a valable political asset. Recalling his beginnings in the remote bantustan, Mandela, along with a few other ANC members, formed the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Membership became a sacred claim of unity and importance to # young Africans, and gave them an effective way to concentrate their efforts on the cause of African liberation. In 1947, Mandela was elected to the secretary of the ANCYL, a promotion which enabled him to spearhead his election into the presidency of ANCYL. The motto of the ANCYL was a Bantu word, "Inyaniso", which meant "truth". "Inyaniso! Say we the people of Africa, the true children of mother Africa, that by seeking the truth we shall not tolerate any effort to obstruct our right to govern ourselves...This is the truth, and it is our claim to democracy which will carry us beyond drudgery and malnutrition, the results of the injustice that is apartheid." 3 When Mandela left the ANCYL in 1952 to rejoin the ANC's main sect, he immediately participated in the program being developed at the time. This program concentrated on the attainment of full citizenship by Africans, direct parliamentary representations for all South Africans, the redistribution of land, trade union rights, and cultural awareness. The blacks were the majority of denizens of South Africa in the 1950's, as they had been in the 1650's. It was not only ethically appropriate, but logical that the very people who were influenced most by the law should be able to become citizens. Mandela worked to cultivate an interest in citizenship, and what it would entail. Parliamentary representation was also important as it established a direct link between a demand of a particular tribe or metropolis and government action. Without this representation, bureaucracy and middlemen could deteriorate and misinterpret the true pros and cons of the statement. When the Europeans came in the seventeenth century, they began to impinge on the Africans rights to their own land. This was finalized when apartheid began and the tribes were relocated to the Bantustans. Some tribes had to completely readapt to the different climate and vegetation in order to survive. Mandela saw the act of obliterating terrestrial race borders as visible proof of his cause and the progress it had made. # One of the most influential and crippling facets of apartheid was the policy towards occupations open to blacks, "Jobs that involved more than physical or menial labor were considered out of the question. Workers were supplied with poor equipment, there was no work injury compensation...In an endless and brutal catch-22 Africans were offered the most menial of tasks as jobs because of their limited education--Africans were given no education because they were regarded as unable to do anything more than the most rudimentary jobs..." 4. Wages were constantly fluctuating, and many worked for pennies a day. Employees were subject to the whim of their employer. By establishing a trade union, Mandela made significant bounds to end these injustices. Education was viewed by Mandela as paramount to elevational progress. He proposed that full education be made compulsory, and perhaps most importantly, free, for all South African Children. Since he knew that values are dictated by the environment early in life, Mandela also worked to integrate schools. "By integrating schools, white children and black children, since they are given no reason to be segregated, no reason to hate each other purely for the color of their skin, will grow up with out the stigma of racism they would have learned had they gone to segregationist school. The Boer's hatred of Africans is not part of a deeply ingrained racial memory, but a practice passed down from parent to child..."5 One of the generalizations made by most white supremists were that African adults were ignorant and stupid. Mandela struggled to prove this grand untruth wrong; he was living proof that Africans weren't stupid or ignorant, they just did not have enough interaction with the white world to become well informed by the white man's standards. Therefore he worked to introduce the mass education of adults into his plan as well as children. # In 1952, the Mandela and the ANC launched the Campaign for Unjust Laws, a program employing a snowball effect of civil disobedience. It was choreographed to begin in the inner circles of the ANC and then spread to more and more ordinary people, culminating in a massive and solid defiance of the government. This finalized the influence of the ANC and furthered international interest in South Africa. For the Campaign, Mandela was elected National Volunteer-in-Cheif. He fulfilled this role by traveling across South Africa to reach the most detached tribe and organize resistance. He impressed nonviolence at all costs. In 1953, Mandela was elected Deputy President of the ANC for his efforts in the Campaign. As a preliminary move, he formulated the M-plan, named after him, to strengthen local and regional branches of the ANC. This was so that power could be devolved easily to ANC subsidiaries should some crisis occur and the ANC had to breakup and reform under some other name. One of the most prevalent problems facing Africans in South Africa was exploitations of labor. Most African workers got paid trifling sums for working the longest hours on the most dangerous jobs, like diamond mining and construction, without having an organized union to stand up for their rights. Mandela tried to enforce the Proletariat law, which provided health care and wage standards, but it was discarded by the government as unrealistic. He also spoke in assemblies against pass laws, Bantustan policy and segregation in "open" universities. In the annual All-In African Conference in Pietermaritzburg Mandela gave an electrifying speech broadcast in several countries. His speech challenged the apartheid regime to form a national convention and to write a new constitution based on democratic principles: "No state must ever again be so powerful that it can crush its opponents and remove as its whim, the rights of its citizens...reject the delusion that one mans hatred shall result in the formation of an elitist society...No man can ever be # turned away solely for his race...instead let him be judged on his moral conduct..."6. After the ANC began to disregard the supplied government propaganda, it was ordered to disband. Mandela--whose tribal name, Rolihlahla means "one who brings trouble upon himself"--instead chose the path of political activism. As a result of this governmental intolerance, a military wing of the ANC was formed by Mandela, called "Umkhonto we Sizwe". Umkhonto we Sizwe meant literally "Spear of the Nation". Mandela was designated commander-in-cheif, and began immediate work for his next project of targeting those who would persecute his people. The government responded in turn with a brutal tax increase. Mandela is viewed by some as a war criminal. His record was started by a minor boycott, for which his charge was suspended. For his part in the defiance campaign he was convicted of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act and given a suspended prison sentence; he was also prohibited from attending gatherings and restricted to Johannesburg for 6 months. After he became a lawyer and began to practice with lifelong friend and colleague Oliver Tambo, he was charged with disregarding the Land Segregation Legislation. Rather than comply, he moved his practice to the underground so all his clients could contact him. In 1955, the Transvaal Law Society petitioned the supreme court to repeal Mandela's license, and Mandela defended his right to his license eloquently in court. No reason to revoke his license was found, and the request was turned down. It seemed that given any pretext, the bureaucracy would dispose of him. The Treason Trial addressed the charges against the ANC of conspiring against the government. Mandela was detained and interrogated, meanwhile the Sharpeville massacre occurred and the ANC was outlawed subsequently. However, the Treason Trial collapsed in 1961, due partially to # the public uproar. Shortly after the treason trials, Mandela left South Africa to preach in other countries who were similarly victimized by the Europeans. While in Ethiopia he addressed the Conference of the Pan African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa, and ANC membership increased 9%. As he said in his address in the ANC council, the time of the injustice of the Natives must end. Those who are voteless cannot be expected to continue paying taxes to a government which is not responsible to them. People who live in poverty and starvation cannot be expected to pay exorbitant house rents to the government and local authorities. We furnish the sinews of agriculture and industry. We produce the work of the gold mines, the diamonds and the coal, of the farms and industry, in return for miserable wages. Why should we continue enriching those who steal the products of our sweat and blood? Those who exploit us and refuse us the right to organize trade unions? Those who side with the government when we stage peaceful demonstrations to assert our claims and aspirations? How can Africans serve on School Boards and Committees which are part of Bantu Education, a sinister scheme of the Nationalist government to deprive the African people of real education in return for tribal education? Can Africans be expected to be content with serving on Advisory Boards and Bantu Authorities when the demand all over the continent of Africa is for national independence and self-government? Is it not an affront to the African people that the government should now seek to extend Bantu Authorities to the cities, when people in the rural areas have refused to accept the same system and fought against it tooth and nail? Which African does not burn with indignation when thousands of our people are sent to gaol every month under the cruel pass laws? Why should we continue carrying these badges of slavery?No, we will not give up7. # As Mandela traveled illegally organizing resistance movements under the ANC he adopted many disguises:plumber, laborer, chauffeur, et cetera, and became known as the "Black Pimpernel". Always an avid boxer, he and the Umkhonto learned Guerrilla tactics while in Tanzania. Mandela had faced the grim truth: The end of apartheid could not be reached without violence. When Mandela returned to South Africa, he was incarcerated for a passport violation and Incitement to Strike, and sentenced to five years in jail. In 1965 the Riviona trails dictated he sabotaged a government outpost in the Transvaal, at this time Mandela was in jail and was given no opportunity to defend himself. He was charged with life in prison, plus five years. As a political criminal, Mandela was sent to the "harshest, most iron fisted outpost in the South African pe

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