Born at Qunu near Umtata on July 18, 1918, Nelson Mandela , the iconic figure who rose against apartheid and unjust nature of South African Society will be remembered in history. The majority of black South Africans had little opportunities either economic or political. Mandela who was disappointed over racial discrimination in his country got actively involved in politics. He, along with his good friend and comrade Oliver Tambo, were expelled from Forte Hare for organizing a student strike. However, Mandela was able to finish his degree and qualified as a lawyer. In 1952 Mandela and Tambo opened the first black law firm in South Africa.
In 1944 he helped in founding African National Congress (ANC) and Youth League in 1949. The Sharpeville massacre of 63 black South African’s changed the whole political climate. South Africa was increasingly isolated on the international scene. By 1962 Mandela had been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in the notorious Robben Island prison, after being accused in a plot to overthrow the government. His reputation grew during his years of imprisonment as he was viewed as South Africa’s most significant black leader, as well as a symbol for equal rights, justice and resistance against apartheid.
Although negotiations were painfully slow and difficult, they eventually led to Mandela’s release in 1990. It was an emotional moment watched by millions around the globe. Mandela had been incarcerated for almost 27 years. Undaunted, unswerving, he was vociferously pleaded against ethnic divide. However, he forgave his enemies.
In 1993 Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with F.W. De Klerk. On May 10, 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected President of South Africa and remained President until June 1999. As a President, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid. His advocacy of reconciliation led to international acclaim. More importantly he won the trust of the white African population.
During his presidency, Mandela also worked to protect South Africa’s economy from collapse. Through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, he had the government funding the creation of jobs, housing and basic healthcare. In 1996 he signed into law the new South African constitution, which established a strong central government based on majority rule and guaranteed rights of minorities and freedom of expression. Although he has left this mortal world his life is a beacon of light for those who intend to serve humanity without any discrimination of religion or race.
Mandela served the masses with actions and deeds, spent his life with austerity and simplicity, establishing the fact that nothing is beyond human determination. He will always be remembered as a torchbearer for downtrodden people, a diplomat of peace and a loving father to his nation, a man who upheld the dignity of mankind. I pray for a Mandela to get us out of this quagmire that our country has become.
IFTIKHAR MIRZA,
Islamabad, December 8.