Nelson Mandela’s Commitment to Democracy

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Umtata, Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. His father was a Xhosa chief. In 1944, Mandela joined the African National Congress after completing his law degree at university of Witwersrand. He abandoned his peaceful stance in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre and founded the African National Congress military wing. In the same year, after the Sharpeville massacre, both south Africa’s main opposition parties, the Pan Africans Congress (PAC) and African National Congress (ANC) were banned. As a result, Nelson Mandela, who was then the leader of ANC, put in jail and in 1964, he was found guilty and was imprisoned for life. The fight from the opposition continued and by 1990, many of the restraining laws had been dismantled due to the continued efforts to resist Apartheid policies in the country. That same year, the sanctions imposed against the ANC were lifted. Immediately after being legalized, the ANC once again started calling for strikes, boycotts and other related representative acts of insubordination designed to eradicate the apartheid regime. In that same year, Mandela was released, having been behind bars for 27 years. In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected president in South Africa’s first multi-racial general election in which ANC emerged victorious. He ruled for one term and in 1999 he stepped down for Thabo Mbeki. Until his death in Dec 5 2013, he remained the most universal respected figure of postcolonial Africa who left behind a legacy of exemplary leadership style of inclusiveness. Current paper examines the events or moments in Mandela’s life that strengthened his resolute to fight for a free and just society.

One event or moment that helped nurture Mandela into a crusader of a democratic society was his experiences as a son of a local chief

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For Nelson Mandela to stand out as a global leader, there were moments and events in his life that groomed him towards achieving a democratic society in South Africa. He was gifted with many personality qualities and traits that made him a natural leader. He acquired many leadership skills, as well as strategies throughout his life. Mandela was raised up as an associate of the royalty in the Thembu cluster of the Xhosa tribe. He was groomed to advice the tribal rulers just like his father before to him. He was later adopted by the Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo after his father’s death. There he had many opportunities to examine the chief’s guidance skills in leadership, as he managed the community tribal council. The experience had great impact to him, as it equipped him with necessary skills for the future leadership that was geared towards achieving a democratic state.

The second thing that impacted Mandela’s leadership in a positive way  was the leadership style or apartheid that was practiced by the then regime

Nelson Mandela grew up in an apartheid society in South Africa where he witnessed injustices as a result of racial discrimination. Successive laws during that time widened the gap between the native South Africans who were the majority and the whites who were the minority. This scenario translated the then South Africa government into one of the most cruelly oppressive regimes of that century. The injustices towards the Africans, as well as, the effects of apartheid, especially to the native Africans, propelled him to fight for a democratic society. He, together with the youth, joined hands to work for equity through protests, boycotts and other real and figurative acts of rebelliousness aimed at eradicating apartheid so as save the Africans from cruelty.

Growing up in an apartheid society also made it easier for Mandela to fight a democratic society in South Africa because he understood the laws of apartheid and the sole aim of the segregation. Therefore it was very easy for him to counter attack it by leading fellow Africans in fighting for their rights as equal citizens of South Africa. He clearly understood in depth, a history of discrimination dating back to a time when the whites settled in South Africa and the political, as well as the economic discrimination that Africans were subjected to.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years…
His imprisonment contributed a lot to his quest for democracy in South Africa. While in prison he encouraged his fellow inmates to give education a priority because he knew that it is only through education that people get to understand their history as well as their culture and be able to liberate themselves. He also never gave up; in fact, he got his first degree while in prison. He continued with his education while serving his sentence on Robben Island, many years spent in prison also motivated him to fight for a democratic country because he was hardened enough by the time he came out of prison, bearing in mind that he was jailed for treason, a crime that could have earned him life imprisonment. He must have had all the time in the world to meditate upon his country and come up with strategies that could have worked better. His imprisonment also earned him popularity and sympathy in South Africa and beyond. This made it easier for him to have support and work harmoniously with those who were against apartheid and for citizens at large to embrace equality, irrespective of the racial differences. The prize he paid for being anti –apartheid was the pillar and the driving force towards democracy in South Africa. In fact, Mandela was ready to sacrifice his life for his dealings.

Another moment or event that strengthened Mandela’s decision to fight for a free and democratic society is the Sharpeville massacre
This massacre gave Mandela a rare opportunity to enhance in his movement’s onslaught against apartheid. The massacre drew global awareness to South Africa’s apartheid strategies as well as inspiring the global to gradually isolate itself from South Africa. It also marked the closing stages of an age of non-violent fighting to the white marginal government. Immediately after Sharpeville, the ANC as well as PAC were banned and the activists linked to the groups were apprehended; even though Mandela was jailed, this did not weaken other activists because to them Mandela remained their guiding spirit and role model of the movement against apartheid. The apartheid government began a crack down on the ANC leadership. This was meant to send a message that the public protests alone could not succeed in bringing down the apartheid regime. Thus the anti apartheid campaign was never weakened at the end.

Mandela will be remembered globally for his sacrifice for his nation, his selfless service for people and his great leadership skills that saw South Africa reunite after many years of apartheid. Nelson Mandela had a solid obligation to his beliefs that publicly cherished the principle of an independent society where people live together harmoniously and have equal opportunities. It is a principle which he lived for and indeed achieved. His leadership quality –staying focused even in the face in the face of constant risk to himself and his people – was vital in achieving his dream of a free and democratic society for his people. Nevertheless, he was humble as well as immodest, always acknowledging the contributions of other people.

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