MADIBA, WORLD WILL NEVER FORGET
On the 5th of December 2013 at exactly 20:50 GMT the news filtered in, first by social blogs and in just a matter of hours , over 100 000 media sites or better put the web space had the topic of his glorious transition to the better side as their treading topic. While most people received the news with shock, sadness and a kind of nostalgia, others (my humble self included) welcomed the information with a kind smile and a funny sense of pride not because we would not miss who is considered by many as the greatest black man that ever walked the earth but because finally, he could now take a good rest from the back breaking challenges life placed on his shoulders leaving a big inheritance to those who wear the black skin, the gift of being accepted and identified as a people globally.
Born Rolihlaha Mandela, on the 18th of July 1918 into the family of local chief Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa in the small village of Mvezo, which was part of the Cape Province in South Africa. He was given the name Nelson by his teacher miss Mdingane on his first day at school (because all students then had to be given an English name) but it was his birth name Rolihlaha a Xhosa term meaning “trouble maker” which took a tool in the future of the young cattle boy Nelson. When he was about nine years old he lost his father to an ailment he believes to be a lung disease, this was when he inherited is fathers “proud rebelliousness” and stubborn sense of fairness”. Unlike other boys his age that felt their future had been battered after losing the families bread winner, his was a wakeup call signaling the beginning of adult life and it paved the way for his journey to the shores of history to etch his name in the sands of time.
Growing up was a very rapid process because life was in no sense a bed of roses. He got his first employment as a night watchman at crowns mine at a very early age, there “he saw south African capitalism in action”. It was back in the mines he started attending communist talks and parties although it must be remembered, he did not join the communist organization because he felt the south African struggle was a racial one and not that of class and most of their disciplines were against his faith as a Christian. Just like every other youth, there is always a point in time when destiny plays its role, this led him to return back to Johannesburg to follow a political path as a lawyer rather than his childhood dreams of being a privy councilor of the royal house, like he said “I simply found myself doing so and could not do otherwise”. The brighter part of a person’s life is mainly the youthful days and while most people had ups and downs to remember their youthful days his was mainly down cumulating in a taste of the lowest abyss “prison”.
Firstly getting suspended from the University of Fort Hare for protesting about the quality of food and left without receiving a degree, had to live in worst parts of Alexandria with all the crime and pollution due to financial constrains, was fired from his first job at crowns mine when the head man discovered he was a runaway, enrolled again into a university but having dedicated most of his time to politics he ultimately failed his final exams 3 times and was expelled from the university of Witwatersrand in December 1949. His challenge with school was just a particle of gravel compared to challenges he faced opposing the government. He was arrested briefly in Marshall square prison at Dublin on 22 June for initiating a protest of almost 10 000 people, on 30 July 1952 he was arrested for “ statutory communism” under the suppression of communism act and was imprisoned for 9 month, was given a six month ban from attending meetings or talking to more than one person at a time, in march 1956 he received his 3rd ban on public appearance restricting him to Johannesburg for the next 5 years which stubbornly he did not obey, in December that same year he was arrested and held at the Johannesburg prison for “ higher treason” before being granted bail, due to the martial law in place he was arrested on march 30 and kept in the unhealthy Pretoria prison, on 5th august 1962 he was arrested for indicting workers strike and sentenced to five years imprisonment . Then came the ultimate one, the rivonia trial at the Pretoria supreme court in which he was charged with sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government due to implicating documents found during a police raid, this trial is noted for his 3 hour speech inspired by Fidel Castro “history absolve me”. Initially the persecutor went for the death penalty but he was instead given a life imprisonment sentence.
Transferred from the Pretoria prison, to that in Robben Island where he spent his next 18 years as a grade D (lowest grade) prisoner. Trying to make his time worthwhile, he initiating the “University of Robeen Island” where prisons rubbed mind on social issues like homosexuality and crime rate and other political issues, he also used his time in prison to study Islam and Afrikaans in order to strengthen his outreach and build a mutual respect with the warders and convert them to his course. By 1975 he had already become a grade A prisoner due to his good behavior and his growing political statue. He also begun writing his autobiography and devoted his spare time to gardening. In April 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmoor prison in a bid by the government to squash his influence on younger activist whose figures were progressing geometrically. In December 1988 he was moved to victor verster prison due to health issues, it was the year he completed his bachelor of law (LLB) degree already 70 years old. He finally regained his freedom on the 11th of February 1990 and made a speech to over 100 000 people at the Johannesburg soccer city.
Off the shackles of bondage, he reckoned that the amount of work on ground to bring his beloved country to the light was immense and that all hands must be on deck to achieve a unified goal. He started by embarking on an African tour to solicit support and strengthen ties with world leaders, and also signing a peace accord in September 1991 with De clerk, then the countries president. He was also the brain behind the counties largest ever strike following the Boipatong massacre. The economy was not left out in the revamp as he scheduled meetings with private entrepreneurs and also strengthened the relationship with the Chinese and Vietnamese community.
Billions of viewers over the globe were glued to their TV screen on the 10th of May 1994 for the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa after years of waiting and untold civil injustice under the apartheid rule. On assuming office he placed national reconciliation and stabilizing the governmental bodies as priority, this he did by appointing de Clerk as his first vice president and Thabo Mbeki as selected second also by stabilizing the balance of power in his cabinet by appointing individuals from other political parties. Meetings were also scheduled with senior figures of the post apartheid regime stating that “courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace”. On the domestic front he strived to curb the huge disparity in wealth and services between the white and black communities, this he did by adhering to the “Washington consensus” advocated by the World Bank and international monetary fund. In handling foreign affairs, he encouraged other nations to approach crisis with diplomacy and reconciliation this is observed in his approach when trying to unseat the hot headed junta of general Sani Abacha of Nigeria and also his role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. After the expiration of his first term in office, the now worshiped legend refused to run for a second term in office although qualified, simply because “he never planned” for it.
Now away from the political scene he sought a life closer to his family trying to make up for the years he put into helping others, but being the always busy man not used to total isolation he still did much work behind the scenes. Launching the Nelson Mandela foundation in 1999 focused on combating HIV/AIDS which he described as “a war that has killed more than all previous wars”. The Nelson Mandela invitational golf tournament was also set up in 2000, inaugurating the Nelson Mandela annual lecture in 2002 and Mandela Rhodes foundation in 2003. He even became more vocal in his criticism of world power accusing them of “trying to police the whole world”
Amid failing health he retired to live a more sedentary life aged 85 making his popular remark “don’t call me, I will call you”. He made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa .in February 2011 he was hospitalized with a respiratory infection before being re-hospitalized in December 2012 with a lung infection and gallstone. On 10 July the presidential office announced that Mandela remained in critical but stable condition and was responding to treatment. The legend kicked the bucket on 5th December 2013 due to a prolonged respiratory infection.
He passed on being seen by many South Africans as a “secular saint”, “the father of the nation” and “the founding father of democracy”. The decade after his presidency being described as “the golden age of hope and harmony”. He is one of the most decorated men to ever walk the earth, receiving the noble peace prize in 1993, United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 18th of July of every year as “Mandela day” in 2009 calling on individuals to dedicate 67 minutes in doing something for others. The United states of America presidential medal of freedom, the order of Canada from the Canadian government, Lenin peace prize from the Russian presidency, Al-Gaddafi international prize for human rights, Bharat Ratna award from the government of India, Nishan-e-pakistan, Ataturk peace award from turkey, Bailiff cross of the order of St john and order of merit presented by queen Elizabeth 2.
DAVID ROBIN JOHN ESU
CRIMEA STATE MEDICAL UNIVERSITY, UKRAINE