Nelson Mandela dead at 95
The man who led South Africa out of its apartheid era and became the face of a nation, former President Nelson Mandela has died.PT3M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2yuyn 620 349 December 6, 2013
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"Justice, freedom, goodness and love have prevailed spectacularly in South Africa, and one man has embodied that struggle and its vindication," Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, wrote following the end of apartheid rule in South Africa.
The man to whom he was referring was Nelson Mandela, the charismatic then president of South Africa, whose magnanimity and humanity in accommodating his apartheid-era tormentors to rebuild the racially divided country as a "Rainbow Nation" made him a revered figure around the world. He has died age 95.
At rest: Former South African president Nelson Mandela. Photo: AFP
The essence of the anti-apartheid movement for five decades, Mandela was the first South African president to be elected in a poll that included all adults in the country. He served as president of the republic from 1994 to 1999, standing down after one term — in stark contrast with other leaders on the continent and beyond who seek to perpetuate their hold on power.
He had been the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the African National Congress, and was jailed by the white supremacist National Party regime for 27 years at a number of prisons, notably the notorious Robben Island.
Despite his long incarceration, Mandela not only forgave the apartheid regime but convinced his black followers to be equally forgiving. "When I walked out of prison [in 1990], that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both," Mandela wrote at the end of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (1994). "I have walked that long road to freedom."
Nelson Mandela on the steps of the Sydney Opera House raises his fist for the national anthem. October 1990 Photo: Steven Siewert
Yet some detractors resent the almost saintly acclaim accorded Mandela, who was known to his people by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba. They contend that he should not be put on the same pedestal as other civil rights leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King jnr. Their argument is that while Gandhi and King always preached non-violence, Mandela adopted violence as a means to an end and led the armed struggle against white African rule.
However, according to Mandela's biographer, Anthony Sampson (also author of the seminal defence industry expose Arms Bazaar), the path to armed struggle was paved by the brutality of the white regime and its long unwillingness to compromise on any of the ANC's demands based on universal franchise and other basic components of a democratic society.
For his part, Mandela gave clear notice that he would never yield on his principles when he said at his trial that his was, "a cause I have lived for, and for which I am prepared to die".
Mandela, who trained as a lawyer and completed his articles in 1951, played a leading role in galvanising the ANC, which was struggling to make headway in the late 1940s. As a senior organiser of the movement's youth wing – he was co-opted on to the national executive committee of the ANC in early 1950, having been on the state-level executive committee in Transvaal since 1947 – Mandela organised mass civil disobedience. He also made lightning appearances at, and departures from, rallies to evade the South African security apparatus, earning the nickname the Black Pimpernel.
In the early 1950s he co-ordinated the "defiance campaign" of passive resistance to apartheid laws, and in 1956 he and 155 others were charged before a magistrate with high treason – almost the entire leadership of the African, Indian and Coloured peoples. This led to the long-running "treason trial" of more than 90 defendants in the Transvaal Supreme Court, which ended in 1961 with all the accused acquitted.
After 17 months underground following the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960, in which time Umkhonto was formed and he travelled to Europe and North Africa to gather support for the ANC, Mandela was sentenced to five years' jail for illegally leaving the country.
In 1963, while in jail, he was charged with treason after other ANC leaders were arrested at a farm in Rivonia, outside Johannesburg. In what became known as the "Rivonia trial", he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, the 13th child of Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, the chief of the Eastern Cape village of Mvezo, who had four wives. He got his surname from his paternal grandfather, who was one of the sons of the king of the Thembo people, whose lineage goes back 20 generations. Rolihlahla means "to pull a branch of a tree", ironically, the colloquial translation is "troublemaker". His mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was his father's third wife.
When a British magistrate deposed the "unco-operative" Mphakanyiswa as chief, the family – deprived of their cattle and land – moved to another village, Qunu. There Mandela grew up as a typical village child. He helped to tend the family sheep and played "thinti", a game with sticks involving make-believe war. He lost "face" one day when an unruly donkey he was riding threw him into a thornbush.
His mother converted to Christianity and had him baptised in the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church.
The young Mandela was the first person in his family to attend school, where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the English name Nelson, which supplanted Rolihlahla.
Mandela's father had died when he was nine years old and he was sent to live with Jogintaba Dalindyebo, the regent of the Thembu tribe at his traditional Great Place in nearby Mqhekezweni. Jogintaba was impressed by the young Mandela's intelligence and enrolled him in a one-room school next to the palace. After the boy was circumcised at age 16, he sent him to Clarkebury boarding school.
Mandela recalled that on the first day there, he wore boots for the first time and "I walked like a newly shod horse".
In 1937, aged 19, Mandela progressed to Healdtown, a Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort, where he was expected to aspire to be a "black Englishman". From there it was on to University College at Fort Hare, where he acted in a play about Abraham Lincoln, was captivated by the Gettysburg address, taught Bible classes on Sundays in neighbouring villages, and met "a serious young science scholar" named Oliver Tambo playing soccer. Later, in 1952, he and Tambo, also to become an ANC stalwart, established the country's first African law firm, in Johannesburg.
Departing Fort Hare without a cherished BA, Mandela began a defiant escapade – to escape an arranged marriage – against the wishes of his adoptive father, the regent Jogintabato, which took him to Johannesburg. There he landed a job as an clerk at a liberal Jewish legal firm and studied at night for a degree by correspondence.
He had to deal with various slights. One one occasion, he was dictating information to a white secretary when a white client entered the office. Embarrassed to be seen to be taking dictation from an African, she took money from her purse and asked Mandela to buy her shampoo from the chemist shop. He obliged.
At the end of 1942 Mandela gained a BA, began attending ANC meetings and in August 1943 marched for the first time in protest at rising bus fares from the black township of Alexandra.
Earlier that year he had enrolled at Witwatersrand University to take a degree in law and as the only black student at the time, met "both generosity and animosity". Even the law professor believed the calling was for neither women nor blacks. But Mandela did make friends with several whites such as Joe Slovo and his future wife, Ruth, and Indians such as Ismail Meer, who would play important roles in the freedom struggle.
There was no single moment when he was radicalised, just "a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities", Mandela said in Long Walk to Freedom.
Inspired by the Atlantic Charter of 1941, signed by US president Franklin Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill, which espoused a series of democratic ideals and the underlying dignity of every human, the ANC created its own charter. Called African Claims, it called for full citizenship for all Africans, the right (of blacks) to buy land, and the repeal of all discriminatory legislation.
One event that had a big impact on Mandela was a strike by 70,000 African mine workers in 1946 and the brutal treatment experienced by union leaders. A number of his relatives were mineworkers.
As his means improved as a lawyer Mandela was, according to his biographer, Sampson, seen as a dandy. "He seemed too flashy and vain, with his immaculate suits and his wide smile" — and he drove a huge Oldsmobile. Perhaps crucially, he was "underestimated" as a political firebrand. He had taken up boxing to keep fit and was not without talent, and his militancy within the ANC ensured a quick rise through the ranks. By the end of 1952 he became one of four deputy presidents of the movement.
Along the way he was courted to join the underground Communist Party but, as he put it, "I was quite religious and the party's antipathy to religion put me off." Also, while he saw the struggle in South Africa as "purely racial", the communists saw the problems, "through the lens of a class struggle ... a matter of the haves oppressing the have-nots".
However, he gradually became more accommodating of communists, many of whom were friends and fellow activist in the ANC. To deflect criticism on the subject, Mandela once said: "The cynical have always suggested that the communists were using us. But who is to say that we were not using them?" However, in light of the historic modus operandi of communist parties worldwide, it would not be unreasonable to suggest his reverse theory was, at best, wishful thinking.
(At the height of the "defiance campaign" in July 1952, Mandela and 21 others were arrested under the Suppression of Communism Act that was used by the Afrikaner-led Nationalists as a wide dragnet to scoop up all and sundry who opposed their repressive laws. In December that year Judge Rumpff found all 21 guilty of what he carefully termed "statutory communism", for which they were sentenced to nine months' hard labour. However, he suspended the sentences for two years — a rare liberal judicial nod perhaps, in those times, to the trumped-up nature of the charges and flimsy evidence, especially against those such as Mandela who were not members of the party.)
Mandela said that rather than diminishing him as a human, his long incarceration only served to strengthen his political and moral resolve; the long hours of reflection, reading — including studying Afrikaans in order to understand the Afrikaner —helped to prepare him for the day he was released in 1990 and the ANC eventually gained power. In fact, it took four years of negotiations and bloody strife between ethnic factions before he assumed leadership of his cherished Rainbow Nation.
Earlier, during the delicate transition phase, while president F.W. de Klerk was negotiating with ANC figures in Lusaka and London, he was secretly easing controls on Mandela's jail conditions, moving him to a countryside cottage with an Afrikaner chef; the two leaders even met secretly.
Once in power, one of Mandela's masterstrokes was to use the 1995 rugby World Cup in South Africa to drag the country towards reconciliation. Rugby had always been viewed in the country as a white man's sport, but Mandela's insistence on attending, wearing the Springbok cap and jersey, with the number of the Springbok captain, and going on to the ground to shake the hand of each of the South African players, was a powerful symbol for both blacks and whites. (A secret pre-game meeting between Mandela and the South African captain, Francois Pienaar, to set the stage for the momentous gesture by the then president was portrayed in the 2009 film Invictus and the 2010 TV documentary The 16th Man.)
In retirement, Mandela spent more time with his children and grandchildren, who had seen little of him, but he also set up foundations to tackle AIDS and poverty and to improve education. He was the recipient of more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel peace prize.
Mandela was married first to Evelyn Ntoko Mase (1944-57), then to Winnie Madikizela (1957-96). In 1998 he married Graca Machel, a former politician, humanitarian and widow of the Mozambican president, Samora Machel, who was killed in an aircraft crash in 1986.
Nelson Mandela is survived by Graca, as well as his two daughters by Winnie Mandela, Zenani and Zindziswa; a daughter, Makaziwe, by his first wife; 17 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
Gerry Carman with the Telegraph, London