Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (pronounced in Xhosa ), whose tribal clan name is “Madiba,” was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo (Cape Province) and died on December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg (Gauteng), was a South African statesman. He was one of the historic leaders of the struggle against the institutional political system of racial segregation (apartheid) before becoming president of the Republic of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, following the first non-segregationist national elections in the country”s history.
Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943 to fight against the political domination of the white minority and the racial segregation imposed by it. After becoming a lawyer, he participated in the non-violent struggle against the Apartheid laws implemented by the National Party government in 1948. The ANC was banned in 1960 and, as the peaceful struggle did not yield tangible results, Mandela founded and led the ANC”s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1961, which carried out a campaign of sabotage against public and military installations. On August 5, 1962, he was arrested by the South African police at the behest of the CIA and sentenced to prison and hard labor for life at the Rivonia trial. From then on, he became a symbol of the struggle for racial equality and enjoyed growing international support.
After twenty-seven years of imprisonment in often difficult conditions and after refusing to be released to remain consistent with his convictions, Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. Inspired by the ubuntu thinking in which he had been raised, he supported reconciliation and negotiation with the government of President Frederik de Klerk. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk for jointly and peacefully ending the apartheid regime and laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.
After a difficult transition during which he and de Klerk avoided a civil war between supporters of apartheid, the ANC and the predominantly Zulu Inkhata, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994. He led a policy of national reconciliation between blacks and whites; he fought against economic inequalities, but neglected the fight against AIDS, which was on the rise in South Africa. After a single term, he retired from active political life, but continued to publicly support the African National Congress while condemning its excesses.
Later involved in several associations fighting poverty and AIDS, he remains a world-renowned figure in the defense of human rights. He is hailed as the father of a multi-ethnic and fully democratic South Africa, described as a “rainbow nation”, even if the country suffers from economic inequalities, social tensions and community withdrawal.
Family and studies
Nelson Rolihlala Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River, about 50 kilometers from the town of Mthatha, the capital of the Transkei, in what is now the Eastern Cape of South Africa. His first name, Rolihlahla, means “to remove a branch from a tree” or, more colloquially, “troublemaker.
He comes from a royal Thembu family of the Xhosa ethnic group that rules over part of the Transkei. His paternal great-grandfather was Inkosi Enkhulu, the king of the Thembu people. Rolihlahla”s grandfather is one of the sons of this king. He was not eligible for the succession to the throne, but bore the name Mandela, which became the family name.
Rolihlahla”s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, is chief of the village of Mvezo. However, he alienated the colonial authorities, who stripped him of his position and exiled his family to the village of Qunu. Despite this, Mphakanyiswa remained a member of the king”s privy council and played a crucial role in the ascension of the new regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo to the Thembu throne. Dalindyebo will be remembered for his help in adopting Nelson Mandela informally upon his father”s death. Mandela”s father had four wives. Rolihlahla Mandela was born to his third wife (third according to a complex royal ranking system), Nosekeni Fanny of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan. Genetic studies have revealed that his mother is of San origin like many Xhosas, as geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza pointed out in explaining the shape and color of Mandela”s face. He spent most of his childhood on the land of this clan.
Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend school and his teacher, in a common practice at the time, gave him the name Nelson. Nelson Mandela said, “On the first day of school, my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave us each an English name. This was a custom among Africans in those days and was probably due to the English bias in our upbringing. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my name was Nelson. Why she gave me that particular name, I have no idea. The education at this Methodist school provided her with both a traditional African and European education.
His father died of tuberculosis when he was only 9 years old and his uncle, the regent Jongintaba, became his guardian. His new school was a Methodist mission next to the regent”s palace. When he reached the age of 16, he underwent initiation according to thembu custom. He then enrolled at Clarkebury Boarding Institute, where he obtained his Junior Certificate in two years instead of the usual three. Designated at age 19 to inherit his father”s position as counselor, Mandela continued his education at Healdtown Methodist School in Fort Beaufort, attended by most members of the royal family.
After graduation, he went to Fort Hare University, the only university that accepted blacks, to study law. There he met Oliver Tambo who became his friend and colleague. Some say that he was not convinced by the Marxism propagated by the South African Communist Party (SACP), but he adhered to it and even became a member of the party”s central committee. He reminded the 9th Congress of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1992 of the links between the ANC and the SACP. However, he denied his former membership in the SACP throughout his life in order to protect his international relations. He also adhered to the doctrine of non-violence advocated by Gandhi. The implementation by Gandhi, in South Africa itself, of non-violent resistance thus constitutes an inspiration of the first order for Nelson Mandela but also for several generations of anti-apartheid activists who see it as a method to fight against oppression and colonialism.
Physical activity is important to him. He practices, among other things, boxing and running, even if his level does not allow him to participate in competitions. In his autobiography, published much later, in 1994, he confides about boxing: “I was never an exceptional boxer I was in the heavyweight division, and I didn”t have enough power to compensate for my lack of speed, nor enough speed to compensate for my lack of power.” But the rigor of training, the demands of a sport, and its inputs satisfied him: “I would take my anger and frustration out on a punching bag rather than lash out at a fellow student or even a police officer.” As a child, Nelson Mandela practiced Nguni wrestling.
Interested in the political debate over South Africa”s support or neutrality in the impending conflict between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany, he supported the United Kingdom and cheered for Deputy Prime Minister Jan Smuts, the main political supporter of the British, when he came to Fort Hare for the graduation ceremony. He learned about the ANC through discussions with fellow students who were hostile to Smuts and white South Africans. During his second year, he was appointed, in spite of himself, to occupy one of the six seats of the Student Representative Council (this council was organized to obtain better food and an increase in the powers of the SRC. Mandela resigned with his five comrades but was again re-elected “in spite of himself” with the same five comrades. This time he was the only one to resign again. After a discussion with the principal of Fort Hare University, he was expelled from the university but was allowed to return if he agreed to serve on the CRE, which he did not.
Shortly after leaving Fort Hare, the regent announces to Mandela and Justice, his son and heir to the throne, that he has arranged an arranged marriage for both of them. The two young men, unhappy with this arrangement, chose to flee to Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela explains his decision by the fact that his ideas are then more advanced socially than politically and that he was ready, not to revolt against the whites, but rather against the social system of his own people and its traditional customs. Upon his arrival in the economic capital of the Transvaal, Nelson Mandela found a job as a guard in a mine, but his employer quickly cancelled the contract when he realized that Mandela was the runaway adopted son of the regent. Nelson Mandela then works as a clerk in a law firm through his relationship with his friend and mentor Walter Sisulu. While working, Nelson Mandela completes his undergraduate degree at the University of South Africa by correspondence, and then begins studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand where he meets many future anti-apartheid activists.
Fight against apartheid
It was in 1943 that Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress. The ANC, then knows a new vigor under the direction of Alfred Xuma. That same year, Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase (1922-2004). In 1945, Xuma introduced for the first time the demand for universal non-racial suffrage (one man one vote) into the movement”s demands, a major development insofar as the party”s communal claim moved from the simple fight against racial discrimination to a broader struggle for political power. It had to take into account the growing influence of the young and radical ANC Youth League led by Anton Lembede, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, to which Mandela belonged, and which encouraged mass actions to fight against the political domination of the white minority and against racial segregation, the legal provisions of which were then being standardized in all four South African provinces.
In the 1948 general election, the unexpected victory of the National Party, then an exclusively Afrikaner party, led to the implementation of a new policy of segregation known as apartheid. In this system, territorial affiliation and then nationality and social status depended on the racial status of the individual, largely disadvantaging the black population and prohibiting intermarriage. For its part, the ANC youth league proved to be determined. Internally, it succeeded in getting Alfred Xuma, judged too moderate, to step aside and impose James Moroka and prepare a major campaign of defiance.
In 1951, Olivier Tambo and Nelson Mandela were the first two black lawyers in Johannesburg. In 1952, Nelson Mandela was elected president of the Transvaal ANC and national vice-president. He leads with the ANC, the campaign of civil disobedience (Defiance Campaign) against the laws considered unjust, a campaign that culminates in a demonstration on April 6, 1952, date of the three-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Cape and the first settlement of whites in South Africa. Of the ten thousand demonstrators, eight thousand five hundred were arrested, including Nelson Mandela. The campaign continued in October with demonstrations against the segregation laws and the compulsory carrying of passes for blacks. The Malan government amended the Public Safety Act of 1953 to authorize the government to suspend individual freedoms, declare a state of emergency and rule by decree. Mandela was given a nine-month suspended sentence, banned from holding any meetings and placed under house arrest at his home in Johannesburg; he used this situation to organize the ANC into underground cells. This campaign of passive resistance, which ended in April 1953, enabled the ANC to gain credibility, increasing its membership from seven thousand to ten thousand. It was the first time that the ANC had been involved in the struggle against racism, and it was the first time that the ANC had been involved in the struggle against racism. When James Moroka tried to plead conciliation with the government, he was overthrown by the party”s youth league, which then imposed Albert Lutuli as head of the ANC.
In 1955, the Congress of the People adopted the “Freedom Charter” which laid the foundation for the anti-apartheid movement. During this period, Nelson Mandela and his friend Oliver Tambo ran the law firm Mandela & Tambo, which provided free or low-cost legal advice to the many blacks who could not afford legal fees.
Nelson Mandela relaxed his strong Christian anti-communism to call for a union between black nationalists and whites in the South African Communist Party in the fight against apartheid. The government”s Suppression Communist Act, which deemed anyone “who seeks to bring about political, industrial, economic or social change by unlawful means” to be a communist, while there was no way for blacks to fight apartheid other than through the legal system, forced all currents from nationalism to revolutionaryism to unite. In the legislature, only the United Party, representing the white opposition and the mestizos, and Margareth Ballinger”s Liberal Party are trying to fight apartheid. While engaged in peaceful resistance, Nelson Mandela and one hundred and fifty-six others were arrested on December 5, 1956 and charged with treason. A marathon trial that lasted from 1957 to 1961 ensued, where all the defendants, aided in particular by international funds, exploited all the inaccuracies in the legislation and were gradually released and finally acquitted by the South African justice system.
In 1957, Nelson Mandela divorced and then married Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1958.
From 1952 to 1959, a new breed of black activists, known as “Africanists,” disrupted ANC activities in the townships, demanding more drastic action against government policy. The ANC leadership, which included Albert Lutuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, believed that the Africanists were not only trying to move too fast, but were also challenging their authority. The ANC therefore strengthened its position by making alliances with small white, Coloured and Indian political parties in an attempt to appear more unifying than the Africanists. In 1959, the ANC lost its greatest militant support when most of the Africanists, who had financial support from Ghana and political support from the Basotho, seceded to form the Pan African Congress (PAC) under the leadership of Robert Sobukwe.
On March 21, 1960, the Sharpeville massacre took place in a township in Vereeniging, in the southern Transvaal. During a demonstration by the Pan-African Congress against the extension of the internal passport to women, which black men were obliged to carry with them at all times on pain of arrest or deportation, a total of three hundred men, entrenched in a police station and supported by armored vehicles, fired without warning at a crowd of about five thousand people, only three hundred of whom were still near the police, the rest of the crowd having begun to disperse. Sixty-nine people were killed, including eight women and ten children, and one hundred and eighty were injured, including thirty-one women and nineteen children. The majority of the gunshot wounds were to the back of a fleeing, unarmed crowd. Police said the shooting was due to panic and inexperience following stone-throwing, but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up by Mandela in 1995 after the end of apartheid, concluded that the shooting was deliberate. The government declared a state of emergency in the face of the ensuing protests and banned the ANC and PAC, whose leaders were imprisoned or placed under house arrest. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 134 on April 1, condemning the massacre and calling on the South African government “to abandon its policies of apartheid and racial segregation. Albert Lutuli, president of the ANC, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.
The non-violent strategy of the ANC was then abandoned by Nelson Mandela, who founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, a military branch advocating armed action. In May 1961, he successfully launched a general strike in which strikers stayed in their homes, forcing the government to bring in the police and army. He wrote and signed a plan for a gradual transition to armed struggle. He coordinated sabotage campaigns against symbolic targets, preparing plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage was not enough to end apartheid. Nelson Mandela described the move to armed struggle as a last resort; increasing repression, police and state violence convinced him that years of nonviolent struggle against apartheid had not brought any progress.
Nelson Mandela favoured sabotage, which “involves no loss of life and gives race relations the best chance,” before engaging in “guerrilla warfare, terrorism and open revolution. ANC member Wolfie Kadesh explains Mandela”s sabotage bombing campaign: “blowing up places symbolic of apartheid, like internal passport offices, the native court, and things like that… Post offices and… government offices. But we had to do it in such a way that no one was hurt or killed. Mandela would say of Kadesh, “His knowledge of the war and his first-hand experience of combat were extremely valuable to me.” Between 1961 and 1963, some 190 armed attacks were recorded, mainly in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
In 1962, he left South Africa for the first time with the support of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. He embarked on a continental tour to establish external contacts and gain the support of African governments in the armed struggle against Pretoria. In addition to Tanzania, he traveled to Ghana and Nigeria, where large sections of the ANC were already operating. He met the Zambian nationalist leader Kenneth Kaunda, and then, as an admirer of Nasser, went to Egypt to learn about the reforms underway. In Morocco and Tunisia, he met many anti-colonialist fighters from all over the continent, and went to visit a unit on the Algerian front, believing that the Algerian situation was the closest to that of his country. Finally, he made a series of trips to Guinea, Senegal, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone to procure arms for the ANC.
Mandela organized the group”s paramilitary training. He also insisted on political training for the new recruits, explaining that “revolution is not just pulling the trigger of a gun; its goal is to create an honest and just society. He underwent military training in newly independent Algeria and studied Carl von Clausewitz, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara and scholars of the Second Boer War. Because of this military involvement and the classification of the ANC as a “terrorist organization,” Nelson Mandela and several other ANC political leaders will not be able to enter the United States without special visas until July 1, 2008. ANC politicians have been on the U.S. Terrorist Screening Database since Ronald Reagan”s presidency in 1986, during the Cold War. George W. Bush officially removed ANC members from the database in July 2008.
The U.K. government follows the same line as the U.S. on the ANC and Nelson Mandela. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said of a 1987 concert, “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.” (Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land.) Statements by some members of parliament, also from the Conservative Party, also point in this direction, such as Terry Dicks: “How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?” or, in the 1980s, Teddy Taylor: “Nelson Mandela should be shot!
Arrest and Trial of Rivonia
On August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested after seventeen months in hiding and imprisoned in Johannesburg Fort. His arrest was made possible by information communicated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on Mandela”s hiding place and disguise as a car driver to its South African counterparts in exchange for the release of one of its undercover agents, then held by the South African police. Mandela is indeed considered by these organizations as a terrorist and communist in the context of the Cold War, where “the ideology of apartheid was displayed as a line of defense of the West” very dependent on minerals and metals (gold, platinum, chromium, manganese, uranium, antimony, diamonds…) of which South Africa, “guardian of the Cape Town sea route”, is one of the main world producers of the free world.
Three days after his arrest, Nelson Mandela was officially accused of having organized a strike in 1961 and of having left the country illegally. On October 25, he was sentenced to five years in prison. While serving his sentence, police arrested several ANC leaders in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg, where the headquarters of the Umkhonto we Sizwe leadership was located, on July 11, 1963. Among the eleven people arrested were Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki. Nelson Mandela was also charged and, with his companions, was accused by the prosecution of four acts of sabotage, treason, links with the South African Communist Party, and also of plotting a foreign invasion of the country, which Mandela denied.
The “Rivonia trial” began on October 9, 1963, in the Pretoria High Court presided over by Quartus de Wet, an Afrikaner judge appointed under the Smuts (United Party) government and as such considered by Mandela and his followers to be independent of the Verwoerd government. During the trial, using documents seized in Rivonia, the prosecutor detailed the arms orders, the links between the ANC and the Communist Party and the plans to overthrow the government.
In his statement in his defense on April 20, 1964, before the Supreme Court of South Africa in Pretoria, Nelson Mandela outlines his reasoning for using violence as a tactic. He reveals how the ANC used peaceful methods to resist apartheid for years, until the Sharpeville massacre, the declaration of a state of emergency and the government”s ban on the ANC, showed them that their only choice was to resist through acts of sabotage. To do otherwise would have been tantamount to unconditional surrender. Nelson Mandela explains how they wrote the Umkhonto we Sizwe manifesto with the intention of demonstrating the failure of National Party policies when the economy would be threatened by the unwillingness of foreigners to risk investment in the country. He ended his statement, reproduced in full in the Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg”s leading English-language progressive daily, with these words:
“All my life I have dedicated myself to the struggle for the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a free and democratic society in which all people live together in harmony and with equal opportunity. It is an ideal for which I hope to live and act. But, if need be, it is an ideal for which I am willing to die.”
The defendants were found guilty of sedition on June 11, 1964, and sentenced to life imprisonment on June 12, with the exception of Lionel Bernstein, who was acquitted. Although Mandela and the majority of his companions were found guilty on all four counts, they escaped the death penalty they were facing because the judge did not consider the foreign intervention invoked by the prosecution to be proven. According to ANC sources, historians, journalists and lawyers, international pressure also influenced the verdict, which Oliver Tambo in London also believed, but which other historians of the Rivonia trial have not noted.
For Nelson Mandela, while Minister of Justice John Vorster wanted him to be sentenced to death, the judge may have been influenced by international protests, such as those of the dockers” union, which threatened to stop loading cargo for South Africa, or by the protests of some 50 members of the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament. The fact that no guerrilla action had begun and that the ANC and MK had been considered as separate entities by the judge would also have been, according to Mandela”s analysis, a reason for the relative “leniency” of the verdict. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd told the South African Parliament that no protests from any quarter had influenced the verdict, let alone the letter and telegrams he himself had received from Leonid Brezhnev and the socialist countries, which he said had ended up in the garbage can. Just before the verdict, Alan Paton, leader of the Liberal Party, had filed a request for leniency with the judge in Wet.
The UN Security Council condemned the Rivonia trial and began to move toward recommending international sanctions against South Africa. UN Security Council Resolution 181 of August 1963 condemned apartheid and called on all states to voluntarily halt their arms sales to South Africa, but this request was never binding until Resolution 418 of November 4, 1977, which imposed an arms embargo.
An international petition gathered the signatures of 143 personalities calling on the international community to denounce not only the arrests but the apartheid laws.
In 1964, the resistance was decapitated. MK armed attacks on South African territory ceased and did not resume in earnest until 1976. While the Commonwealth countries distanced themselves, the South African government, far from being sanctioned, took advantage of the years of economic prosperity to encourage European immigration and to develop its industry and armaments with Germany and France, with the support of the United States in the name of the fight against communism. Verwoerd intensified the application of his policy of forced separation by carrying out numerous expulsions of black populations to areas allocated to them so that good land could be developed or inhabited by whites. A system of contracts forced black industrial workers to live in dormitory houses in the townships, far from their families in the rural areas. The consequences for these populations were often socially catastrophic, while the prison population reached one hundred thousand, one of the highest rates in the world. Between 1960 and 1980, more than three and a half million black peasants were dispossessed of their land without any compensation to become a reservoir of cheap labour and no longer a competitor for white farmers.
In 1964, Nelson Mandela is imprisoned in the prison island of Robben Island, under the number 46664, where he remains eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. In prison, his fame spreads internationally. On the island, he performed forced labor in a lime quarry. The prisoners were victims of keratitis, due to the dust and light; Mandela had to undergo an operation on the tear duct later on. The prisoners nevertheless exchanged knowledge in what became known as “Mandela University”, talking politics as well as William Shakespeare, with Nelson Mandela reciting and teaching William Ernest Henley”s poem Invictus (Undefeated) to encourage them. When not at the quarry, Mandela and the other inmates break rocks in one of the prison”s courtyards with strenuous pace.
The living conditions in the prison are very harsh. Prisoners were segregated according to their skin color, with black prisoners receiving the lowest rations. Political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were separated from common criminals and had even fewer rights. As Mandela was a class D prisoner (the lowest class), he was only allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. This letter was often delayed for a long time and made illegible by prison censorship. He washed with cold sea water and slept in a tiny cell. During one period of his captivity, every Thursday the white guards asked Mandela and other black prisoners to dig a trench six feet deep. When it was finished, the guards asked the prisoners to go down into the trench, then urinated on them, before asking them to fill in the trench and return to their cells.
But if Robben Island is a place to break the will of prisoners, Mandela”s will seems to grow stronger in detention. According to the testimony of Amhed Kathrada, one of his fellow prisoners, Mandela does not accept any preferential treatment, whether for work or clothing, and leads all the protest actions with the other prisoners, including hunger strikes. For example, he refused to call the guards by the name of baas (boss) as they demanded. Even subjected to forced labor, he obliges himself to maintain a sporting practice. He runs on the spot in his cell for 45 minutes, performs a hundred push-ups, sit-ups, deep knee bends and gymnastic exercises learned during his training, still a student, in the boxing gym.
While many of the most militant prisoners of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania refuse to speak or even look at the guards, Mandela tries to analyze the situation and perceives that the Afrikaners are above all driven by the fear that the black majority will refuse to share power and make them and their families the victims of a bloody revolution. Nelson Mandela took advantage of these years to learn the history of the Afrikaners and their language, Afrikaans, in order to understand their mentality and to establish a real dialogue with them. Defying the ANC”s view of Afrikaner power as a modern version of European colonialism, he himself came to believe and declare that the Afrikaner was as much an African as any of his black fellow prisoners, thinking that in their place and under different circumstances he might have had the same view of apartheid. This understanding of Afrikaners gives him the spirit of reconciliation necessary for future negotiations.
In his memoirs, published in 1981, the secret agent Gordon Winter reveals his involvement in a plot to break Mandela out of prison in 1969: the group of plotters had been infiltrated by Winter on behalf of the South African government. The group of plotters had been infiltrated by Winter on behalf of the South African government, which wanted Mandela to escape so that he could be shot during the pursuit. The plot was foiled by the British secret service. In 1971, after seven years, he left the lime quarry and was transferred to guano collection. On December 6 of the same year, the United Nations General Assembly in plenary session declared apartheid a crime against humanity.
In early 1976, he received his first visit from a member of the South African government. The Minister of Prisons, Jimmy Kruger, came to offer him a release on condition that he settle in Transkei, which was then run by Kaiser Matanzima, Mandela”s nephew who had been condemned by Mandela for his passive support of apartheid. Mandela refused, made his demands and asked for his release, invoking in passing the history of several heroes of the Afrikaner nationalist cause, who had themselves been sentenced for high treason and then quickly pardoned. He even declined any meeting with Matanzima for fear that this would legitimize the bantustans in the eyes of the international community.
On June 16, 1976, the Soweto riots broke out, a new stage in the protest and repression. In September 1977, Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, was tortured in prison by the police. In October, the United Nations Security Council with resolution 417 “strongly condemns the racist South African regime” and calls for the release of “all persons imprisoned under arbitrary state security laws and for their opposition to apartheid.” In November, with Resolution 418, it imposed an embargo on arms sales to South Africa. Nelson Mandela and other activists were placed in solitary confinement, where radio and newspapers were banned or censored. In 1979, after fifteen years, he saw his second wife, Winnie, who was also in prison or under house arrest.
During his imprisonment, Mandela studied by correspondence at the University of London through its external program, and received a Bachelor of Laws degree. He was even shortlisted for the title of Chancellor of that university, but lost out to Princess Anne of the United Kingdom.
In March 1982, Mandela was transferred, along with the main leaders of the ANC, to Pollsmoor prison, in the suburbs of Cape Town, with less harsh living conditions. If it was considered for a moment that this transfer had been carried out in order to distance these leaders from the new generation of blacks imprisoned on Robben Island, nicknamed the “Mandela University”, the Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee said on the contrary that this transfer had been carried out in order to be able to establish a discrete contact between them and the South African government.
During the 1980s, the MK revived guerrilla warfare, resulting in the death of many civilians: attempted sabotage of the Koeberg nuclear power station, the laying of anti-personnel mines in the Northern and Eastern Transvaal killing some 20 people, including children, in Chatsworth in the Messina district, a bomb attack in Pretoria killing 19 people, in a shopping center in Amanzimtoti killing five people, including three children, and in a bar in Durban. In the other camp, a death squad like the Vlakplaas, created to eliminate opponents of the apartheid government, committed more than a hundred crimes, including murder, torture and fraud. Another death squad, the Civil Cooperation Bureau, extended its operations to Europe and murdered ANC activists, including Dulcie September in France in 1988.
In February 1985, President Pieter Willem Botha offered Nelson Mandela, against the advice of his ministers, conditional freedom in exchange for renouncing the armed struggle. Mandela rejected the offer, saying in a statement forwarded by his daughter Zindzi: “What freedom is offered to me while the organization of the people remains forbidden? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot make a contract.” In the same year, Botha abolished the pass laws and mixed marriages. But this was considered too timid by Nelson Mandela, who still demanded “one man, one vote” with the underground ANC.
The first meeting between Nelson Mandela and the government took place in November 1985: the Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetsee, met Mandela at the Volks Hospital in Cape Town, where he was undergoing prostate surgery. Over the next four years, a series of meetings laid the groundwork for future negotiations, but no real progress was made. His last prison in 1986 was a villa with a swimming pool on the perimeter of the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, about 60 km from the city center of Cape Town, where he was granted the right to receive all the visits he wanted.
Throughout Nelson Mandela”s imprisonment, local and international pressure on the South African government grew ever stronger. In 1985, he was the first recipient of the Ludovic-Trarieux prize for his commitment to human rights. As he was in captivity, his daughter received the prize in his name.
On June 11, 1988, Nelson Mandela”s 70th birthday tribute concert at Wembley, watched by six hundred million viewers in sixty-seven countries, exposed Mandela”s captivity and apartheid oppression to the world and, according to the ANC, forced the South African regime to release Mandela earlier than planned. In 1989, when a state of emergency had been in place for four years, Nelson Mandela wrote to Pieter Botha, and while specifying that “the question of liberation is not one”, “faced with the specter of a South Africa cut into two hostile camps massacring each other”, he wanted to negotiate “the two main organizations in the country”, the government and the ANC. He identifies the main issues to be addressed: “First, the demand for majority rule in a unitary state, and second, the concerns of white South Africa about this demand.” They had a meeting on July 5, 1989, at Botha”s residence. That same year, following a stroke, Botha was replaced as head of government by Frederik de Klerk. On October 15, 1989, de Klerk released seven ANC leaders, including Walter Sisulu, who had each spent 25 years in prison. In November, Nelson Mandela called De Klerk “the most serious and honest white leader” with whom he could negotiate. De Klerk announced Nelson Mandela”s release on February 2, 1990, during a speech in Parliament.
Liberation, Nobel Prize and constitutional negotiations
On February 2, 1990, President De Klerk announced the lifting of the ban on the ANC and several other anti-apartheid organizations, as well as the imminent and unconditional release of Nelson Mandela. The latter was released on February 11, 1990 after 27 years, 6 months and 6 days of imprisonment. The event was broadcast live around the world.
On the day of his release, Nelson Mandela made a speech from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall. He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country”s white minority, but clearly announced that the ANC”s armed struggle was not over:
“Our resort to armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC was purely a defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors that made armed struggle necessary still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated solution will soon exist, which will make armed struggle unnecessary.”
Mandela also said that his main objective was to give the black majority the right to vote in both national and local elections. He also announced to the crowd: “I stand before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of the people. On February 26, 1990, he asked his supporters to “throw your guns, knives and machetes into the sea,” in order to pacify relations between the ANC and the government, but also the rivalry between the ANC and the Zulu Inkhata, which had caused many victims.
Nelson Mandela leads the party in the negotiations on the drafting of a new transitional South African constitution that take place between May 1990 (Groote Schuur agreements. On August 6, Mandela confirmed the agreements with De Klerk, and the ANC proclaimed the end of the armed struggle (Pretoria Minute.
Negotiations between the parties were sometimes tense, as when Mandela called De Klerk “the leader of an illegitimate, discredited, minority regime” in 1991. Nelson Mandela proposed raising the voting age to 14, a proposal for which he was blamed by his aides and about which he later said he had made “a serious error of judgment.”
On June 30, 1991, the South African parliament voted to abolish the last remaining apartheid pillar laws, the Racial Classification Act and the Segregated Housing Act.
In July 1991, Nelson Mandela was elected president of the ANC at the ANC”s first national conference in South Africa and Oliver Tambo, who had led the ANC in exile since 1969, became national secretary.
Nelson Mandela made a trip to Cuba, where he met Fidel Castro, who said: “Nelson Mandela is known and admired and cherished by millions of people around the world. Fidel Castro paid tribute to him during the celebrations on July 26, 1991, in his presence: “If we want to have an example of a man of absolute integrity, that man, that example is Mandela. If we want to have an example of a man who is unwavering, valiant, heroic, serene, intelligent, capable, that example and that man is Mandela. And I don”t think so – the Commander-in-Chief added – after having known him, after having been able to converse with him, after having had the great honor of receiving him in our country, I have thought so for many years, and I recognize him as one of the most extraordinary symbols of this era.”
The talks came to a halt following the Boipatong massacre in June 1992, when Mandela broke off negotiations and accused the de Klerk government of complicity in the killings. However, negotiations resumed in September 1992 after the Bisho massacre, with threats of bloody confrontation demonstrating that they were the only way out for South Africa.
The efforts of Nelson Mandela and President Frederik de Klerk were recognized worldwide when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 in recognition of “their work for the peaceful elimination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations of a new and democratic South Africa.” For the Nobel Committee, “the apartheid regime gave a face to racism. At the award ceremony, Nelson Mandela paid tribute to Frederik de Klerk “who had the courage to admit that a terrible wrong had been done to our country and our people with the imposition of the apartheid system.” He also calls on the Burmese government to release 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, comparing her struggle to his.
When Chris Hani, a leader of the MK and the South African Communist Party, was murdered on April 10, 1993, by a white extremist, Janus Walusz, with the complicity of Clive Derby-Lewis, a member of the Conservative Party, it was feared that the country would be plunged into violence again. Nelson Mandela appealed to the country to calm down in a speech that was considered presidential, even though he had not yet been elected: “I speak tonight to all South Africans, black and white, from the depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hatred, has come to our country and done something so despicable that our entire nation is on the brink. A white woman of Afrikaner descent risked her life so that we could recognize and bring this killer to justice. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shockwaves throughout the country and the world… Now is the time for all South Africans to unite against those, on any side, who hope to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for: freedom for all of us.”
Although there were riots after the assassination, the negotiators reached an agreement to hold the country”s first non-racial national elections on April 27, 1994, the normal expiry of De Klerk”s term as president, just over a year after Chris Hani”s murder. Before the elections, Nelson Mandela had to avoid a break-up of the country and a civil war by negotiating with General Constand Viljoen, leader of the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF), which brought together several conservative and right-wing political organizations, who demanded the creation of a Volkstaat, i.e., an “ethnically pure” state, and considered Frederik de Klerk a traitor, and with the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who wanted to create his own Zulu state in Natal.
The discussions with Constand Viljoen took place through his twin brother, who had an old relationship with the ANC. The first meeting took place between Mandela and Joe Modise, leader of Umkhoto we Sizwe, on the one hand, and AVF leaders Constand Viljoen and Tienie Gronewald, on the other. For three and a half months, more than twenty meetings took place between the ANC and the AVF. They resulted in a memorandum of understanding on the formation of a bipartisan working group to examine the possibility of establishing a volkstaat, in return for which the AVF pledged to discourage any action that might derail the political transition. This protocol was, however, denounced by a section of the extreme right and also by the national party. It was the failed military expedition to Bophuthatswana to help their ally, President Lucas Mangope, who refused to reintegrate the Bantustan into South Africa, that convinced Viljoen to disassociate himself from his allies in the conservative party and especially from the extremist and very unreliable Afrikaner resistance movement. After acting as an intermediary between President F.W. de Klerk and Lucas Mangope, Constand Viljoen unilaterally took the decision to register his new Freedom Front party for the April 27 elections ten minutes before the close of registration. Mandela, wanting to bring together all sides of a society divided by apartheid, offered Viljoen a seat in the government of national unity.
The campaign to persuade Inkatha to participate in the elections led to a joint action by South African President F.W. de Klerk and Mandela, who met King Zwelithini and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi on April 8. During these talks, Mandela proposed to Zwelithini to become the constitutional monarch of KwaZulu-Natal. After an hour and a half of internal discussion between Buthelezi and Zwelithini, the latter refused the proposal on the pretext that the demands related to the king could not be separated from those of Inkatha. The failure of the talks led the government to declare a state of emergency in Natal, while the ANC considered a military option to bring Inkatha to heel. After the army raided and seized large quantities of arms and ammunition from Inkatha training camps, Buthelezi called for international mediation, which Mandela and F.W. de Klerk accepted. The mediation was postponed, however, because of Buthelezi”s desire to change the election schedule. For his part, King Goodwill Zwelithini sent an emissary to Mandela to inform him that he was finally ready to accept the proposal, but also that he feared for his own life, indirectly referring to Buthelezi. Finally, after consulting an old Kenyan friend, Professor Washington Okumu, Buthelezi agreed, seven days before the election date, to participate in the elections. According to Colette Braeckman, and contrary to the version of events recounted by Allister Sparks, it was Mandela and he alone who succeeded in convincing Buthelezi to participate in the elections by persuading the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, in one hour to participate, making him understand that if he followed Buthelezi he could lose everything.
In accordance with the transitional period negotiations, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, was established to collect accounts of the abuses and crimes committed under apartheid by the government, the security forces and also by liberation movements such as the ANC. For Desmond Tutu, “without forgiveness, there is no future, but without confessions, there can be no forgiveness.” The stated objective is that, in a kind of catharsis, people and communities wounded by past events in the country are offered the possibility of confronting different readings of the past to better turn a painful historical page. Those guilty of violence are encouraged to confess, and amnesty is offered in case of confession. In the absence of a confession or refusal to appear before the commission, legal proceedings can be initiated if the authorities have sufficient evidence to proceed. On the judicial front, the death penalty, which had been suspended, was abolished by parliament.
While police officers, soldiers, anti-apartheid activists and ordinary citizens confessed to crimes, few high-level officials appeared before the commission. Former Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok agreed to appear and repent, but former President Pieter Willem Botha and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki refused. To set an example, Nelson Mandela detailed the abuses of the ANC, particularly in Angola in the 1970s. He later admitted that the ANC had also violated human rights in its struggle against apartheid, and was critical of those in his own party who tried to suppress elements of the commission”s reports in this regard. The TRC process has sometimes left a bitter taste in the mouths of the 20,000 victims of apartheid who testified, with defendants such as Wouter Basson, known as “Doctor Death,” being acquitted and compensation taking years to be paid. In spite of this, the truth and reconciliation commission and the Mandela method of “dialogue without exclusion” have become a model in Africa.
Advocating national reconciliation, Mandela went to Orania to meet Hendrik Verwoerd”s widow and organized a tea party in Pretoria that brought together the wives of former prime ministers and presidents with the wives of former Robben Island prisoners. Mandela encourages black South Africans to support the Springboks rugby team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in the country. After the victory, Mandela presents the trophy to the team captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner. Mandela wears the jersey with Pienaar”s number, and the event is seen as a symbol of reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa.
His support for the Springboks was barely tolerated by some of his black supporters, as was his visit to the ultra-conservative Afrikaner village of Orania, where blacks were not allowed, to visit the widow of the creator of apartheid”s most unjust laws. For their part, the Afrikaners in that village saw reconciliation as a way to eliminate Boer culture.
For Mandela, however, no other policy was possible, not least because the generals and the extreme white right could derail the whole peace process, including the 1994 elections. His policy has never been questioned by the ANC. This reconciliation is considered by the international community to be a success that has prevented a civil war between whites and blacks.
Nelson Mandela first focused on reconciliation and the creation of a new South African national identity, leaving the economy in the hands of a white minister and central bank governor, before handing over to Thabo Mbeki. The government of national unity launched the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) in 1994 to combat the socio-economic consequences of apartheid, such as poverty and a severe lack of social services, which the government felt required a stronger macroeconomic environment. The magnitude of the program is compared to that of the U.S. government”s New Deal during the Great Depression and is supported by all political parties.
The Marxist left wing of the ANC has been questioning the economic choices made by the Mandela government since 1994 in order to reassure domestic and foreign economic interests. Any radical economic and social change had thus been ruled out in accordance with constitutional negotiations. The supporters of nationalization and wealth redistribution were disappointed. He was also criticized for not investing heavily in a public works program to transform the economy during his presidency, for fear of appearing communist, and for opting instead for a housing plan financed by South African private banks: these banks, lacking social ideals, did not provide financing to poor black borrowers.
In 1995, the 1993 transitional constitution, which had been drafted during the negotiations to end white political domination, was replaced by a new constitution, which was passed in parliament by a near unanimous vote of the ANC and National Party members. Shortly thereafter, on June 30, 1996, National Party ministers left the unity government to join the opposition. Legislation was passed establishing affirmative action to promote the economic integration of blacks.
Nelson Mandela is affectionately known as Madiba by South Africans, his Xhosa clan name. After being elected president, one of Mandela”s trademarks is the use of batik shirts, known as the “Madiba shirt,” even at official events, which influences the country”s fashion.
Nelson Mandela publishes his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom in 1994 (which will be translated into French the following year) in which he recounts his childhood, his political commitment, his long years in prison and his accession to power.
In 1994, South African diplomacy, which had been strongly influenced by the long reign of Pik Botha and was mainly oriented towards the Western world, southern Africa and Taiwan, discovered a new global scope. The new foreign policy implemented is above all that of Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Aziz Pahad, the new Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. At first, Pretoria”s African policy was hesitant and suffered from a lack of expertise due to the departure of many diplomats, contributing to the failure of several South African mediations attempted in Africa. However, thanks to the “first post-apartheid democratic elections,” South Africa went from complete diplomatic isolation to being a “moral example” for the international community.
From the beginning of his presidency, Nelson Mandela was asked to arbitrate several African conflicts, although he wanted to keep his country out of regional conflicts. However, he agreed to mediate several peace negotiations, notably in the Great Lakes region of Africa (in Zaire and Rwanda) and also in Angola, but the results of his interventions were mixed. After the victory of Laurent-Désiré Kabila”s forces in Zaire, he assured the new regime of his unwavering support, even going so far as to speak of the “so-called massacre of Rwandan refugees in the Congo”, but it was above all a question of avoiding a break-up of the country and its possible consequences on neighbouring Angola, but also of protecting the interests of De Beers. Other mediations by Nelson Mandela took place in East Timor (1997) and in Sudan without producing the expected effects.
In the first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela sent South African troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.
Nelson Mandela never fails to salute countries that supported the struggle against apartheid, such as the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya of Colonel Gaddafi, whom he calls a “moral leader” and to whom he awards the Order of Good Hope in 1997, the country”s highest honour. To those who disapprove of these visits, such as the U.S. State Department, he retorts that they “have no morals” and that “this man helped them at a time when we were alone, when those who say we shouldn”t be here, were helping the enemy. It was to the Libyan colonel that Nelson Mandela had granted his first foreign visit as a free man in May 1990 and it was to him first that he visited once elected in 1994. Colonel Gaddafi was the last head of state he received on an official visit at the end of his presidency in 1999.
With Gaddafi, President Mandela intervened in particular to settle the trial of two Libyans, accused by the United States and the United Kingdom of the Lockerbie bombing that had killed 270 people in 1988. Mandela was chosen by the American, British and Saudi governments. In 1992, Mandela informally proposed to President George H. W. Bush that the Libyans be tried in a third country. Bush accepted the proposal, as did French President François Mitterrand and King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In November 1994, six months after his election, Mandela proposed that South Africa host the trial, but British Prime Minister John Major rejected the idea, saying his government did not trust a foreign court. Mandela repeated his offer to Tony Blair in 1997. That same year, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Edinburgh, Mandela warned that “no nation should be plaintiff, prosecutor and judge. A compromise was reached for a trial in the Netherlands and President Mandela began negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi for the surrender of the two accused Megrahi and Fhimah in April 1999. On January 31, 2001, Fhimah was acquitted, but Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison. Nelson Mandela visited him in June 2002, after which he denounced his conditions of imprisonment in total isolation. Megrahi was then transferred to another prison and was no longer subject to solitary confinement.
Former collaborators of Mandela believe that beyond the unwavering loyalty Mandela shows to those who helped the ANC in its struggle against apartheid, the decoration of the Order of Good Hope was a way to show that South Africa had a diplomacy that did not exclude any state, But more importantly, it was a political tactic by Mandela to gain Gaddafi”s trust and get him to start negotiations with the international community to resolve the conflict over the bombing and lift international sanctions against Libya.
According to Robert A.F. Thurman, the Dalai Lama was in contact with Nelson Mandela, and encouraged him to lead the African National Congress in the direction of nonviolence.
On August 21, 1996, during a visit to Cape Town, the Dalai Lama met Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa. More than 5 years after the end of his mandate, he met him a second and last time, on November 5th 2004, in Johannesburg. The day after Mandela”s death, he wrote to his family having lost “a dear friend” and saluting “a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity.”
To continue to fight for the values he holds dear, he created a fund to help children in 1994 and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 to promote education, the duty of memory, and one of his priorities, the fight against AIDS. The foundation is financed in part by a series of international concerts, the 46664 concerts.
Nelson Mandela entered into open conflict with his successor Thabo Mbeki on the subject of AIDS, reproaching him in 2002 for “continuing to debate while people are dying”, when Mbeki again questioned the link between the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS. He participated in several international AIDS conferences and spoke out several times on the subject, including on the occasion of the death of his son from AIDS on January 6, 2005. According to the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program, South Africa has dropped thirty-five places in the world ranking between 1990 and 2005, mainly because of the AIDS epidemic.
Mandela became a spokesperson for many social welfare and human rights organizations. He supports the international movement Make Poverty History of which the ONE campaign is a part. The Nelson Mandela Charity Golf Tournament, supported by Gary Player, has raised over twenty million rand for children”s aid since its inception in 2000. Mandela also supports SOS Children”s Villages, the world”s largest organization dedicated to the education of orphaned and abandoned children.
He intervened personally and successfully to have his country designated in 2004 as the host country of the 2010 World Cup. Initially scheduled to attend the opening ceremony, he did not attend, bereaved by the death of his great-granddaughter Zenani. He made a short appearance at the closing ceremony on July 11, 2010.
Nelson Mandela still supports the ANC after his presidency. In 2008, he refused to comment on the party”s divisions and announced that he would not support any candidate in the 2009 general elections, stating that he “did not wish to be involved in the shenanigans and divisions that are emerging within the ANC. At first, he did not campaign publicly for Jacob Zuma, the ANC presidential candidate, who was prosecuted for several cases and who faces a reinvigorated opposition led by Helen Zille and the Congress of the People, a breakaway faction of the ANC that includes former supporters of Thabo Mbeki. But Mandela eventually sided with Zuma at two rallies. The first took place in February 2009 in the Eastern Cape. Through his grandson”s voice, Nelson Mandela confirmed his membership and support for the ANC and concretely his commitment to Jacob Zuma, which Thabo Mbeki refused to do. The second rally in support of Zuma in which Mandela participated, alongside his ex-wife Winnie Mandela, took place on April 19, 2009, three days before the general elections. It was the ANC”s last major public rally, with some 120,000 people in a Johannesburg stadium. In the broadcast speech that he had recorded, Mandela reminded the party of its main objectives, which were the fight against poverty and “the construction of a united and non-racial society.
Nelson Mandela became a mediator in Burundi in February 2000, replacing Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who had died shortly before and had begun negotiations in 1998. The civil war and genocide in Burundi had left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees. The peace agreements were signed in August 2000, but Mandela then refused to be a mediator in Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, citing his advanced age in the face of the burden of extremely tiring negotiations.
In November 2001, Nelson Mandela offered his condolences following the September 11 attacks and supported the operations in Afghanistan. In July 2002, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, calling him “the most revered statesman of our time. But in 2002 and 2003, he criticized President Bush”s foreign policy in several speeches. In January 2003, in a speech to the International Women”s Forum, Mandela strongly opposed the attack by the United States and its allies on Iraq, launching the war of the same name without UN approval. He accuses President George W. Bush of wanting to “plunge the world into a holocaust” and of lacking vision and intelligence. He believes that this action will diminish the influence of the United Nations, pointing out that he himself would have supported action against Iraq if it had been requested by the United Nations, and encourages the American people to demonstrate against the war and countries with veto power in the Security Council to use it. Nelson Mandela accuses Bush of going into Iraq only for the oil, and insinuates that the policies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, ignore the recommendations of Secretary General Kofi Annan and are motivated by racism. He attacks the United States for its history of human rights violations and for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.
“If there is any country in the world that has committed unspeakable atrocities, it is the United States of America. They don”t care.”
In 2007, President George Bush compared the situation in Iraq to that in South Africa and blamed the chaos in Iraq on Saddam Hussein, ironically noting that Saddam Hussein had prevented the emergence of a unifying leader like Mandela. He added that “Nelson Mandela is dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,” thus marking the absence of an Iraqi Mandela; some listeners believed that Nelson Mandela himself had indeed died, which was denied by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
In 2000, Nelson Mandela criticized the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has presided over the former British colony of Southern Rhodesia for twenty years. He has been widely criticized internationally for his repressive policies, nepotism and incompetent administration, which have led to the economic collapse of the country.
Mandela criticized him for clinging to power after 20 years in office and for encouraging the use of violence against white farmers, who owned most of the country”s commercial land. In 2007, Mandela tried to persuade Mugabe to leave power “sooner rather than later”, “with a modicum of dignity”, before being “prosecuted like the former dictator Augusto Pinochet”. He engaged the Global Elders with Kofi Annan as mediator, but Mugabe made no response to these approaches. In June 2008, at the height of the Zimbabwean presidential election crisis, Nelson Mandela condemned the “tragic lack of leadership” in Zimbabwe.
In 1999, during a visit to Israel and the Gaza Strip, Nelson Mandela demanded that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories and that Arab countries recognize Israel”s right to exist within secure borders. Mandela stressed that “this visit was made to heal old wounds caused by the links between the Jewish state and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. As president in 1997, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Nelson Mandela sent an official message of support to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians for self-determination and the establishment of an independent state within the framework of the peace process.
In 1990, faced with the concerns of the American Jewish community, Nelson Mandela had already defended his links with Yasser Arafat and the PLO, which had historically always supported the ANC”s cause. He said that his organization identified with the PLO because it fought like them for self-determination but that the ANC had never questioned the right of the State of Israel to exist, but outside the occupied territories. Earlier, Nelson Mandela had compared the Palestinian struggle to that of black South Africans. The Global Elders Council, of which Mandela is a member, condemns as “completely inexcusable” the boarding of the Gaza flotilla by the Israeli army, which resulted in the death of several civilians on May 31, 2010, and calls for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, pointing out that half of its one and a half million inhabitants are under 18 years of age and that the blockade is “internationally illegal and counterproductive because it favors extremists.
On July 18, 2007, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu, at the initiative of billionaire Richard Branson and musician Peter Gabriel, convened a meeting in Johannesburg of influential world leaders who wanted to contribute their experience and wisdom to solving the world”s most important problems. Nelson Mandela announces the formation of the Council of Global Elders in a speech on his 89th birthday. Desmond Tutu is the chairman of the council and its founding members also include Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus.
Mandela explains that “this group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and informally on all kinds of actions that need to be taken. We will work together to sustain courage where there is fear, to encourage negotiation where there is conflict, and to give hope where there is despair.
Nelson Mandela”s image is also being commercialized through the sale of T-shirts bearing his image, five hundred books published about him, and items related to his poverty and AIDS foundations, which some South Africans see as excessive consumerism or Che Guevara-like iconization. Mandela asked that his face be removed from all products sold by his foundation.
In May 2005, Nelson Mandela asked Ismail Ayob, his lawyer and friend of thirty years, to stop selling Mandela”s signed lithographs and to account for the proceeds. The conflict leads to legal proceedings on the part of Mandela. Ayob maintained his innocence, but the dispute returned to the headlines in 2007, when Ayob made a promise in court to repay R700,000 to Mandela”s investment fund, which he had transferred without authorization to a fund for Mandela”s children and grandchildren, and publicly apologized to Mandela.
In a letter to Edward Zwick, the director of the film Blood Diamond, Nelson Mandela expressed concern that the public would confuse the conflict diamonds denounced in the film, which are mined in times of war and at the expense of the population, with the diamonds legally extracted from South African mines, and that this would penalize the country”s mining operations. The New Republic magazine in the United States, on the other hand, believes that the letter favors conflict diamond producers, and that Mandela”s action is motivated by national interest and his friendship with the former De Beers director.
In July 2001, Nelson Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment for prostate cancer. At the age of 85, in June 2004, Mandela announced his retirement from public life: his health was declining and he wanted to spend more time with his family. He says he does not want to hide from the public but wants to be in the position of “calling you to ask if I am welcome, rather than being called to speak or participate in events. So my request is: don”t call me, I”ll call you.” As the years passed, Nelson Mandela took less and less of a stand on international and national issues.
Nelson Mandela”s ninetieth birthday, July 18, 2008, is being celebrated nationwide with a tribute concert in Hyde Park as part of the 46664 concert series, named after Mandela”s prisoner number. In his birthday speech, Mandela calls on rich people to help the world”s poor.
In June 2013, suffering from a recurrent lung infection, probably the result of tuberculosis contracted during the 27 years he spent in prison, Nelson Mandela was placed on respiratory assistance, between life and death. His condition improved slightly, but he was nevertheless taken home in critical condition in September of that year.
South African President Jacob Zuma announces his death at 10:45 p.m. on Dec. 5, 2013, during a solemn address. The head of state said Mandela died “peacefully” in his home, surrounded by his family. Jacob Zuma also announced the organization of a national funeral, requesting that South African flags be flown at half-mast from December 6 until after the funeral.
The entire international community was moved by the news, and many personalities, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, unanimously paid tribute to Mandela for the battles he waged throughout his life.
Fifty-three countries have declared at least one day of national mourning.
The official tribute ceremony for Nelson Mandela takes place on December 10, 2013 at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. About 100 heads of state and government traveled to pay their last respects, including President Obama, who was the only foreign head of state able to make an official speech. The state funeral took place on December 15, 2013. He is buried in the village of Qunu located about 30 kilometers from his birthplace and where he spent part of his childhood.
In December 2017, a report by South Africa”s anti-corruption commission revealed that R300 million – earmarked for humanitarian projects – was misappropriated by the organizers of his funeral.
Inspirations: from non-violent resistance to armed struggle
Mandela, who embraced Gandhi”s doctrine of nonviolence as a freshman in college, continued to pay homage to him years later by visiting New Delhi in 1990 and then returning there in January 2007 for the 100th anniversary of the introduction of satyagraha in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, in an essay on Gandhi, explains the influence of Gandhian thought and its influence on his politics in South Africa:
“He seeks an economic order, an alternative to capitalism and communism, and finds it in the non-violence (ahimsa) based sarvodaya. He rejects Darwin”s survival of the fittest, Adam Smith”s laissez-faire and Karl Marx”s thesis of the natural antagonism between capital and labor, and focuses on the interdependence between the two. He believes in the human capacity to change and uses satyagraha against the oppressor, not to destroy him, but to transform him, so that he ceases his oppression and joins the oppressed in the search for truth.
For the South African writer André Brink, who met Mandela several times, Mandela”s non-violence is more a principle than an ideology. Mandela states in his autobiography that nonviolence is a strategy, a pragmatic decision after reviewing the different options.
The lack of results from the non-violent struggle and the Sharpeville massacre made Mandela switch to armed struggle, after he tried to follow the Gandhian strategy as long as he could. He first carried out a campaign of sabotage and then, if this was not enough, he planned a guerrilla war as a last resort. He was inspired by the success of the Cuban revolution and by the works of Che Guevara that he had read, and he admired the character. In 1991, during a visit to Havana, Mandela said that “Che Guevara”s exploits in our continent were of such magnitude that no prison or censorship could hide them from us. Che”s life is an inspiration to all human beings who love freedom. We will always honor his memory.”
The power of dialogue and reconciliation
However, as the violence between the apartheid regime and the ANC claimed many victims, Nelson Mandela, then in prison, came to a different conclusion: “To make peace with an enemy, you have to work with that enemy, and that enemy becomes your partner.”
During a crucial meeting between the ANC and retired generals of the South African Defence Force and the intelligence services, Nelson Mandela declared that “if you want war, I must honestly admit that we will not be able to fight you on the battlefield. We don”t have the means. The struggle will be long and hard, many will die, the country may end up in ashes. But don”t forget two things. You cannot win because of our numbers: it is impossible to kill us all. And you can”t win because of the international community. They will rally around us and support us. General Constand Viljoen and Mandela looked at each other and understood the reality of their mutual dependence. For South African writer Njabulo Ndebele, the exchange sums up one of the reasons for the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He concludes that “the basis of any compromise is the willingness of the conflicting parties to give up their irreconcilable objectives, and then to move towards an agreement that can bring substantial benefits to both.”
For Mandela, the new freedom must not come at the expense of the former oppressor, otherwise that freedom would be useless: “I am not really free if I deprive someone else of their freedom. Both the oppressed and the oppressor are robbed of their humanity.”
It was the guarantee to whites that they would not become oppressed in turn once the black majority took power that made the negotiations possible. “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have only achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. For to be free is not only to throw off our chains; it is to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Dialogue does not only imply negotiating with one”s enemy but also not cutting off contact with former friends who are often condemned by the international community. In 1998, Nelson Mandela reminded President Bill Clinton, during a speech at his side at Tuynhuys in his Cape Town home, that at the time the United States supported apartheid, other countries were fighting racial segregation. Mandela explained that “one of the first heads of state I invited to this country was Fidel Castro…and I also invited brother Muammar Gaddafi. I do this because of our moral authority, which tells us that we must not abandon those who helped us in the darkest moments of our history. He says that “South Africa will not be forced to abandon its Iranian, Libyan and Cuban allies, enemies of the United States. He also recalls that “he does not need the support of the president of the United States when it comes to foreign policy. Fidel Castro, the then president of Cuba, and Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, were among the first heads of state to be invited to the new South Africa,” or that “I also invited (Muammar) Gaddafi… because moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in our darkest hours. This speech follows one of Muammar Gaddafi”s visits to Libya on October 23, 1997, during which the United States threatened him. He thanked Gaddafi for training the ANC. Western newspapers described this visit as a “saint meeting a mad dog”, but in his speech in Tripoli, Mandela recalled that he was happy to meet again with those who had helped the anti-apartheid movement, while recalling that at the same time, the “Western” nations were supporting the whites in South Africa and their apartheid. Mandela paid another visit to Gaddafi, as well as to the Libyan parliament, on March 19, 1999.
Ubuntu, “we are the others” “we are therefore I am
Nelson Mandela adheres to the African humanist ethics and philosophy of Ubuntu, with which he was raised. This word from the Bantu languages, which cannot be translated directly, expresses the awareness of the relationship between the individual and the community and is often summarized by Mandela with the Zulu proverb “that an individual is an individual because of other individuals” or as defined by the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, author of an ubuntu theology “my humanity is inextricably linked to what yours is. This notion of brotherhood implies compassion and openness and is opposed to narcissism and individualism. Mandela himself explains this ideal in a video for the free operating system of the same name:
” (Respect. Helpfulness. Sharing. Community. Generosity. Trust. Selflessness. One word can have so many meanings) This is the spirit of Ubuntu. Ubuntu doesn”t mean that people shouldn”t take care of themselves. So the question is, are you going to do this in a way that develops the community around you and makes it better? These are the important things in life. And if we can do that, you”ve done something very important that will be appreciated.”
Ubuntu made his mark on the 1993 constitution and the 1995 Basic Law on the promotion of national unity and reconciliation. When he formed the ANC youth league in 1944, the movement”s manifesto emphasized that “unlike the white man, the African sees the universe as an organic whole progressing towards harmony, where the individual parts exist only as aspects of the universal unity.
Ubuntu is considered by Nelson Mandela as the philosophy of helping others but also of seeing the best in them, a principle he applied throughout his life: “People are human beings, produced by the society in which they live. You encourage people by seeing the good in them. This is also a historical notion for him, as the invasion of the white settlers who dispossessed the Xhosa people of their land and democratic society coincided with the loss of the ancestral ubuntu.
Fight against racial segregation, oppression and poverty
Opposed to the domination of one ethnic group over another, as he had declared in Rivonia, Nelson Mandela condemned in 2001 certain black personalities who made racist remarks about the Indian minority, and worried about the “racial polarization” of politics that was causing fear of minorities. Calling on the ANC to address the situation, he blamed the organization, pointing out that “certain comments made by some ANC leaders had not improved the situation. He also condemned the anti-immigrant riots that took place across the country in 2008: “Remember the horror from which we came; never forget the greatness of a nation that has managed to overcome its divisions and get to where it is; and never allow yourselves to be dragged back into this destructive division, whatever the stakes.”
For Nelson Mandela, oppression stems from racism: “A man who deprives another man of his freedom is a prisoner of hate, prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”
He compares the injustice of poverty and inequality to apartheid: “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are scourges of our time that belong alongside slavery and apartheid.” In a speech for the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity. It is an act of justice. In 2000, on the tenth anniversary of his release from prison, he said that “no one can rest in peace while people are burdened by hunger, disease, lack of education, and while millions of others around the world live in daily insecurity and fear.
Nelson Mandela also campaigned on the place of disabled people in South African society. And for good reason: he himself, suffering from deafness, probably as a result of his treatment against tuberculosis, wore a hearing aid.
A popularity celebrated at the international level
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela enjoys a very large and consensual popularity: in September 2004, during a South African television special on the 100 greatest South Africans, he was listed in second place.
For Desmond Tutu, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he is a “global icon of reconciliation” and a “moral colossus. Writer Nadine Gordimer compares him to Gandhi as “one of the two most indisputably magnificent figures of the last millennium.”
To illustrate his importance to South Africans, Newsweek magazine, writes, “he is the national liberator, the savior, their Washington and Lincoln in one.” Nelson Mandela is affectionately called by South Africans “Madiba,” his clan name, which is also the name he prefers to be used.
For Dominique Darbon, a political science professor specializing in Africa, Nelson Mandela “is the father of the nation who sets new standards, lays down the markers of the new nationality, and settles open conflicts polarized by identity symbols. This political and ideological weight of Mandela in the creation of the state can, however, be a problem for the young nation, as Robert Schrire, head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Cape Town, points out: “South Africa has been fortunate to have Nelson Mandela as its first democratic leader. But no society can base its future on the assumption of a leader”s wisdom and altruism. For journalist and Africa professor Stephen Smith, in his long retirement, “Mandela will remain a possible recourse, the father of the rainbow nation.”
In the international community, Nelson Mandela is described as “the embodiment of global nonviolence,” “one of the world”s most respected elder statesmen,” and is “considered the father of modern South Africa. On his 91st birthday, U.S. President Barack Obama said of Mandela that “his life teaches us that the impossible can be achieved” and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he is “an exemplary global citizen” and “the living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations. His commitment to a democratic, multiracial South Africa; his tenacious pursuit of justice; his willingness to reconcile with those who persecuted him most – these are some of the characteristics of a remarkable man. For French President Nicolas Sarkozy, “Nelson Mandela represents a hope for humanity. He is a man who is responsible for the exceptional success of South Africa, for this multi-ethnic coexistence. He is a symbol for many of us. For Abdou Diouf, president of the International Organization of the Francophonie, Nelson Mandela is “the greatest man still alive on Earth.
In 2008, after the assassination of his nephew at his home in Pretoria, the South African writer André Brink also deplored the fact that Mandela had only served one term, and, pessimistic about the country”s future, denounced the incompetence of the police force, but also the “incompetence, irresponsibility and corruption” of the country”s leaders and the “demagoguery” of the main ANC leaders. In 2009, writer, former anti-apartheid activist and Mandela companion Breyten Breytenbach spoke of his disappointment with the ANC, which has seen an increase in corruption and inequality since coming to power, and the identification of the ANC by South Africans with Nelson Mandela, even after his political retirement. In May 2010, Desmond Tutu said it was almost a relief that Mandela was not fully aware of the level of corruption and “gutter talk” in the ANC, otherwise he would be very hurt. He thinks they were naive to believe that the altruism of the struggle years would transfer to the young democracy.
The AIDS epidemic, which reduced the average life expectancy of South Africans from 64.1 to 53.2 years from 1995 to 1998 during Mandela”s presidency, was then severely neglected by President Thabo Mbeki until 2008 and, in 2010, South Africa is the most infected country in the world with 5.7 million HIV-positive people and 350,000 deaths in recent years. Blacks have also been disadvantaged by an unequal health care system inherited from apartheid.
In 2010, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, in an interview, criticized her former husband for agreeing to share the Nobel Peace Prize with Frederik de Klerk and accused him of having agreed to a bad arrangement and thus “having let down the blacks and having favored the white economy. She criticizes the policies of his presidency and accuses him of having become a “private foundation” and “a figurehead for keeping up appearances” during the post-presidency period, taking as a symbol the erection of a large statue of Nelson Mandela in the middle of the white neighbourhood of Sandton, the richest part of Johannesburg, rather than in Soweto, the symbolic place of the struggle against apartheid. She also criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he had authorized and that had considered in 1997 that it had “committed gross violations of human rights. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela later denied having given an interview.
Former House of Commons representative Peter Hain believes that apartheid has left Mandela and his successors with a very heavy legacy. The Marikana massacre shows that the inequalities of apartheid have not changed, a new black elite has been co-opted by the white establishment which still controls the economy. However, Mandela and his successors have accomplished much in the way of housing and education, and much more could have been accomplished without the quasi-institutional corruption. For Jacques Hubert-Rodier, an international politics columnist at Les Echos, even if the socio-economic record is mixed, Nelson Mandela”s legacy of establishing a multiracial democracy with Frederik de Klerk is “immense” and “retains a universal significance. For him, South Africans are now masters of their own destiny as in the poem Invictus, which is Mandela”s true lesson to his country and to the world.
The former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela hid millions of US dollars abroad. After his death, a dispute arose over the rights to these money deposits. The origin of these sums is not known. The case was revealed in the Paradise Papers, which contained documents about a legal dispute between the former lawyer of the late president Ismail Ayob and Mandela”s heirs.
The MAD Trust, from Mandela”s pseudonym, Madiba, was established in 1995 in the Isle of Man, a British dependency in the Irish Sea. The Trust existed in near total secrecy until 2015, more than a year after Mandela”s death, when lawyers representing his estate contacted Ismail Ayob in an attempt to gain control of his secret bank accounts and filed a lawsuit in South Africa against the former lawyer to force the return of the money to the heirs. According to the lawyers, Ayob created the MAD Trust without Mandela”s consent. The trust was at one point endowed with $2.1 million that belonged to Mandela.
According to Ayob, “Mr. Mandela, as a qualified lawyer, was well aware of how trusts work,” and the money came from foreign donors and was “invariably in large monetary amounts,” using checks made out to Mandela. According to Ayob, Mandela had set up the trust to “give money to people abroad who had been good or needed it. Some of the money from the MAD Trust went to Margot Honecker, the widow of Erich Honecker, the last president of East Germany.
Mandela has been married three times, has six children, twenty grandchildren and a growing number of great grandchildren.
Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944, who was from the same region as him, but whom he met in Johannesburg. The couple divorced in 1957 after thirteen years of marriage because of Mandela”s numerous absences, his devotion to the revolutionary cause and the fact that she belonged to the Jehovah”s Witnesses, a religion that advocated political neutrality. She was also tired of her husband”s infidelities; she learned that he was filing for divorce by reading the newspaper.
The couple had two sons, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) (1946-1969) and Makgatho (1950-2005), and two daughters, both named Makaziwe (Maki, born in 1947 and 1953). Their first daughter died at the age of 9 months, and they named their second daughter after her. Thembi was killed in a car accident in 1969 at the age of 23, and Mandela, then a prisoner, was not allowed to attend the funeral, and Makgatho died of AIDS in 2005.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is also from the Transkei and they also met in Johannesburg, where she was the first black social worker. They have two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born February 4, 1958, and Zindziswa (Zindzi) Mandela-Hlongwane (1960-2020). Zindzi was only 18 months old when her father was imprisoned on Robben Island. Later, Winnie is greatly affected by the family discord that reflects the political conflicts in the country, while Mandela is imprisoned, her father becomes the Minister of Agriculture of Transkei. The marriage ended with a separation in April 1992 and a divorce in March 1996, due to political differences related to Winnie”s radicalization.
Although her daughter Zenani has memories of her father, South African authorities do not allow her to visit from the age of 4 to 16. Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane became world famous when, at the age of 24, she read Nelson Mandela”s speeches denying his parole in 1985.
Mandela remarried on his 80th birthday in 1998 to Graça Machel, née Simbine, the widow of Samora Machel, a former president of Mozambique and ANC ally who had been killed in an air crash 12 years earlier. The marriage follows months of international negotiations to establish the exceptional price to be paid to the Machel clan. The negotiations were led by Mandela”s traditional ruler, King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo.
In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received jointly with Frederik de Klerk in 1993, Nelson Mandela has received more than two hundred and fifty national and international prizes and awards over more than forty years.
At one point, Nelson Mandela received so many awards and tributes that he decided to stop accepting them, considering that others should now be honored.
On November 10, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18 “Nelson Mandela International Day.
In Leeds (England), there have been Nelson Mandela gardens since 1983 and in Paris a Nelson Mandela garden since 2013.
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.
Laurence Fishburne plays Mandela in the three-part American miniseries, His Name Was Mandela, which aired in 2017. It traces the personal journey and political struggle of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, “Father of the Rainbow Nation,” from the 1960s onward.
The Cerambycidae species, Capederces madibai Maquart & Van Noort, 2017, is named after Nelson Mandela.
: document used as a source for the writing of this article.