Featured Image: To commemorate Nelson Mandela’s death, the South African flag flew half-mast outside Drakenstein Correctional Centre, where Mandela was imprisoned from 1988 to 1990.
Friday, 22 July 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa – 100 years and 4 days ago, Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Mvezo, a small village in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. Disillusioned by the unrelenting racism of his country’s government, he stood up not only for himself, but for the entire black majority of South Africa, fighting against the white minority government for a democratic, egalitarian future. The government attempted to suppress him, famously sentencing Mandela to a life prison sentence for treason and sabotage.
After mounting racial tensions within South Africa and heavy international pressure for his release, South African President FW de Klerk released Mandela in 1990, after serving 27 years of his life sentence. After his release from prison, Mandela went on to negotiate the end of Apartheid with the government, and following the first multiracial, democratic elections in 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa in a landslide victory. Mandela’s party, the African National Congress, won just over 60% of the seats, whilst the National Party, which had ruled the country during Apartheid, won only 20% of the seats.
During his presidency, Nelson Mandela focused on rebuilding South Africa into a democratic nation, dismantling the legacy of Apartheid, and reconciling racial tensions.
His efforts to end apartheid, as well as his reconciliation efforts during his presidency, earned him over 250 international honours. Despite this, Nelson Mandela still remains a controversial figure within South Africa. Right wing Afrikaners vilify him as a communist terrorist, whereas left-wing Africans accuse him of being too willing to reconcile with the white minority.
Mandela’s state funeral in 2013 was attended by dignitaries in nearly every country in the world, and his 100th birthday was celebrated globally (including by us). He is deeply revered within South Africa, where he is affectionately referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy will live on long after his death, and his incredible ability to tackle oppression and bring together people of all walks of life provides inspiration to people around the world. On this important day for world peace, it is important that we all follow his lead and remember his example, so that we can all help to make the world a better place.