Discuss about the Biography of Nelson Mandela for The Legend of South Africa?
Just like M.K. Gandhi is considered to be the Father of India, in a similar way Nelson Mandela is also known to be the founder of modern and independent nation of South Africa. It is very difficult to sum up his contributions in a single word and it requires detail study of his life and political careers. The history of South Africa remains incomplete without mentioning about this great personality.
The birth of Nelson Mandela takes place in the year of 1918 in Mvezo village of Transkei. He belongs to the family of Madiba clan where is father was a tribal leader. Owing to the influence of black community elders, Mandela since his childhood had made up his mind to contribute in the struggle for freedom of the black people. After the death of his father in the year of 1930, he shifted to Mqhekezweni Palace to work as a ward of Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Mandela attended the institute of Clarkebury Boarding and after completing the school education he joined the University College of Fort Hare (Telegraph 2013). Then after the completion of BA, he joined the University of Witwatersand to study law from where he became involved in active politics to fight for the equality and eradication of white supremacy from the country. Unfortunately being expelled from the University he was unable to finish the law degree. But later on he completed his law degree through his own dint and determination.
Before highlighting the political career of Nelson Mandela it is important to say a few words about the political and socio-economic conditions of the African nations including that of South Africa. Like other African nations, South Africa was also a colony of the white rulers who considered themselves highly civilized and educated than the black population. Owing to this superiority complex, black people were subjected to all forms of discrimination and were only treated as cheap laborers and were given quite low wages. They were entirely segregated from every sort of social life (History n.d.). They were forbidden to marry white people, they were deprived of admission in schools meant for the whites, and they had to travel on separate coaches and were even forbid to conduct or participate in the prayer of the white people. The country witnessed worst form of racial discrimination and suppression during the reign of British administrators like Alfred Milner, Louis Botha and subsequent white rulers. They had framed various anti-black legislations to establish the policy of apartheid that involves segregation at every level of life. Nelson Mandela himself had witnessed the white supremacy during his college and university days (The African File 2007).
His actual involvement in the politics began with the joining of the African National Congress in the year of 1944 where he became the leader of the youth wing of the party. Then subsequently he became the leader of the party to bring an end to the so called apartheid in the country. He adopted certain plans and programs to achieve his objective. As a mass leader he had organized various campaigns where he himself took an active part. These mainly include Defiance campaign in the year of 1952 and adoption of Programme of Action in the year of 1949. Due to his vocal criticism of the apartheid laws, the government imposed restriction on the political activities of Mandela that includes giving speeches, organizing protest rallies and so on. In the year of 1956 he was arrested along with other party activists on the charge of treason and was acquitted in the year of 1961. Though Mandela at some point of time had advocated armed resistance but mostly focused on following non-violent actions to end the policy of apartheid and to free his country from the clutches of white rule. His main objective was total abandonment of the regressive laws that stalled the progress of his fellow countrymen (SA History n.d.). Mandela through his works also advocated his policy to take on the white rulers of the country.
The acquittal of Nelson Mandela had failed to bring out any solution to the problem of apartheid in the country. It was quite evident when Mandela was again arrested in the year of 1962 on the charge of leaving the nation illegally and encouraging workers to go for a strike. After his arrest he was sentenced to long term imprisonment and was confined to the jail of Robben Island in the year of 1963. No doubt that the movements initiated by Mandela had generated tremendous impact in the ordinary life of the common black people of South Africa. But at the same time, international community does also deserve credit in creating awareness about the problem of apartheid in the nation. It is because of this international pressure that the capital punishment of Mandela had been commuted to harsh prison imprisonment. However, the arrest of Nelson Mandela gave a new vigor and strength to the movement of the black African people (Borgen Project 2013). Despite his banishment from the active political fields, Mandela continued to be the symbolic leader of the anti- apartheid movement. Oliver Tambo in the year of 1980 organized the campaign of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ which made the jailed person a well established name all over the world. Sensing the growing international pressure the government tried to enter with some sort of compromise with Mandela before setting him free. But Mandela rejected to compromise with his principles and policies.
In the year of 1982 Mandela was being shifted to the Pollsmoor Prison and in the year of 1988 he was confined on house arrest. The situation dramatically transformed with the presidency of Klerk. It was during his tenure that the ban from African National Congress was formally revoked and there emerged the possibility of the permanent end of apartheid from South Africa. It was eventually became a reality with the release of release of nelson Mandela in the year of 1990 in the month of February (National Journal 2014).
After coming out from his yearlong imprisonment, Mandela began the task of negotiations with the ruling political party and other political organizations to end the practice of apartheid with the setting up of multiracial government. The proposal was accepted wholeheartedly from every quarter of the country and for the first time the people of South Africa appeared to cast their votes in the year of 1994 in the first multi-party elections of the nation. People voted in large number in the favor of African National Congress and so it was emerged victorious in the election. On the month of May, 1994 Mandela became the first ever black president of South Africa.
As the newly appointed president of the nation, Mandela constituted a special commission to investigate political and human rights violation that took place due to the clash between opponents and supporters of antiapartheid movement in the period between the years of 1960 to 1994. Then a number of economic and social programs were launched under his supervision for improving the conditions of the black people. In the year of 1996 he presided to bring out a new constitution for the country to bring racial equality and eradication of discriminations of all sorts. He was ultimately successful to bring improvement in the relation between white and black people of South Africa.
The struggle of Nelson Mandela had influenced the international community to agreat extent which ultimately leads to the permanent end of the policy of apartheid in South Africa. It becomes more evident in the confession of last white ruler of South Africa F.W. Klerk. In his own word he had confessed how his government came under tremendous pressure in the form of political and economic restrictions to come into terms with the African National Congress and other relevant stakeholders. The first instance of internal pressure involves boycott of the nation from every political platform of the world. All most every country of the world severed its tie with South Africa due to its continuous pursuance of the policy of apartheid. In the year of 1977 the Security Council of the UN imposed arms embargo. As a result of this South Africa failed to buy sophisticated arms and ammunitions as well as other destructive weapons. It is considered to be the most effective tool that forced the country to review its anti-black policies and laws. Without the imposition of arms embargo it would have been of little help to force the White government of South Africa to eliminate the practice of apartheid (ABC 2013).
Another factor that mounted pressure on South Africa involves fleeing of investors from the country due to instable political environment in the nation. Not only domestic even many international firms were also reluctant to set up business in this African country due to growing turmoil. Along with that it was also stopped from receiving funds from foreign countries and both these factors ultimately made the government to realize the fund crunch and made it defaulter in the international community. In the year of 1985 the European Community imposed a limited sort of trade restrictions but it was not enough to pressurize the South African Government (Nelson Mandela n.d.). So in the next year the Community passed a rigid trade restriction and US also introduced a tough sanction in the shape of an anti-apartheid act which hit the economy of the nation quite badly. Faced with both economic and political sanctions the government ultimately agreed to talk about the independence of the African nation with its leading black political leaders.
The anti-apartheid movement of Nelson Mandela had also influenced people like Martin Luther King Jr to unleash a fresh movement in a peaceful manner to obtain the legitimate rights of the black people in USA. Coupled with this the adoption of international convention to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination also put the prestige of the white government of South Africa at a great stake (Biography Online n.d.). The impact of Mandela’s movement also felt even in educational institutions of the world where statutes of Mandela were erected as a mark of protest against the injustice and suppression of the rights of black people. Every student was considered to be incomplete without highlighting the hardships and struggle of Nelson Mandela. The movement of Mandela had got more limelight in the year of 1984 and the credit mainly goes to Jerry Dammers for writing the song of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. The song occupied the spot of no 9 in the popular song chart of UK. When fresh violence again erupted in the African country then in the year of 1986 the Barclays Bank was forced to sell its subsidiaries for the South Africa. All these incidents have truly played a big role in influencing the white government to permanently end the principle of apartheid in the country (The Guardian 2013).
After making significant contribution to the economic and social progress of South Africa, Mandela retired in the year of 1999 from active politics. But he continued his philanthropic activities and has received many awards and including Nobel Prize for his untiring efforts to lift the curtain of darkness from the life of black people. He always wanted to make South Africa a multi racial nation and never to deny the white peoples from their legitimate rights. He had established a foundation in his own name in the year of 1999 and through this organization he tried to advocate the concept of peace, reconciliation and social justice. He also belongs to the group of foundling leaders for establish the organization of The Elders in the year of 2007 to promote resolution of conflict and to offer solutions to various international issues (WSJ 2013). His death in the year of 2013 has created vacuum in the social and political life of South Africa to a great extent. It is expected that the present South African regime will continue the works started by Mandela himself to fulfill his desire.
Telegraph 2013, Nelson Mandela: life and times of South Africa's anti-apartheid hero, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10140472/Nelson-Mandela-life-and-times-of-South-Africas-anti-apartheid-hero.html
History, Nelson Mandela, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.history.com/topics/nelson-mandela
The African File 2007, Impact of Economic and Political Sanctions on Apartheid, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://theafricanfile.com/politicshistory/impact-of-economic-and-political-sanctions-on-apartheid/
SA History, The Pre-Mandela Period: Colonial History of South Africa (1652-1917), viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/pre-mandela-period-colonial-history-south-africa-1652-1917
Borgen Project 2013, Nelson Mandela’s Early Life, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://borgenproject.org/nelson-mandelas-early-life/
Britannica, Nelson Mandela President of South Africa, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nelson-Mandela
Biography Online, Biography Nelson Mandela, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.biographyonline.net/politicians/nelson-mandela.html
Nelson Mandela, Biography of Nelson Mandela, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.nelsonmandela.org/content/page/biography
The Guardian 2013, Nelson Mandela Anti-Apartheid Movement, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/08/nelson-mandela-anti-apartheid-movement
National Journal 2014, The Life of Nelson Mandela, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/2014/07/18/life-nelson-mandela
WSJ 2013, Nelson Mandela, South African Leader and Apartheid Foe, Dies at 95, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303997604579240503370719642
ABC 2013, Nelson Mandela: 12 letters from the desk of a freedom fighter, viewed on 29th January 2016, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-06/nelson-mandela-letters/2900788
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