Colonialism had stung many small and big countries throughout the world. The tortures experienced both by Africans and Asians is not unknown to humankind. In fact, the constant relegation of the colonized by the colonizers is discussed even today by theorists and historians. Often, when we flip the pages of our history book we come across the story of Mahatma Gandhi and the atrocities that he faced as a lawyer in South Africa. However, we witness the picture simply through the eyes of the Father of our Nation. Colonial oppression and the suppression of blacks by white-skinned foreigners adversely affected the lives of uncountable South Africans. They were treated as strangers in their own land and deprived of the natural rights that they deserved. It was at this time, that Nelson Mandela – The Father of South Africa, came into prominence and took an active step in freeing the country from the shackles of domination. Despite obstacles, he led a strong movement and succeeded in gaining freedom for his country.
‘Apartheid’- a practice of racially discriminating the blacks, coloured and the coloured Asians had seeped into the African society by 1948. Blacks were often looked down upon and prevented from sharing a common public place with the whites. They were even barred from certain jobs which were strictly reserved for the white population. Residents of South Africa were prohibited from marrying an individual from a coloured race and neighbourhoods were stringently demarcated on the basis of race and colour. This pervasive step by the minority white government caused immense humiliation to the native South African community who were genetically of a dark complexion.
Nelson Mandela, a qualified lawyer, dedicated himself to the anti-colonial struggle and as a member of the Africa National Congress (ANC), took a pledge to redeem his native land from this derogatory practice. Despite having a strong goal which aimed at the benefit of Native Africans, Mandela was charged with treason several times and was finally sentenced to life imprisonment on grounds of overthrowing the state machinery. This, however, did not deter him and only made his resolve stronger. He gained a new perspective on the Anti-apartheid movement and emerged victorious. After 27 years of imprisonment in Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison, he was finally released in the year 1990. The then President of the country, F.W de Klerk, feared a civil war and was forced to accept popular demands under intense pressure.
Finally, the sun shone over South Africa and years of efforts to remove apartheid from the society bore positive fruits in 1994. The joint efforts of Mandela and President Klerk finally ushered in the era of democracy in the country. Not only did Apartheid get abolished but South Africa also witnessed the first general election which allowed citizens from all races to take part in the voting process. With Nelson Mandela as the new President of the democracy, the country was blessed with a new constitution which promised to respect the ideals and culture of every South African race. The country was painted in a completely different colour which made it appear vibrant like never before.
As a farsighted leader, Mandela promoted the idea of peace and fraternity. He also appointed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the Human Rights violation that had been taking place in South Africa. He lifted the censorship on the press, and allowed the country to exhibit its opinion. Indeed, he tried to run the democracy in a way it ought to be run. The most important contribution of Mandela, was his believe in national reconciliation. In spite of being a victim of coercion, he never allowed hate to overpower his political belief. He wanted the democracy to be an amalgamation of the old and the new. The new South Africa not only heralded a free society for the blacks, coloured and the coloured Asians but also paved a path for the minority white community, whose interests were also given due importance.
It is by virtue of the efforts of leaders like Nelson Mandela that the world has been able to experience democracy in the most unadulterated way possible. That people should be respected irrespective of their caste, colour, creed, race or religion is the strong message that he gave away in the form of the Anti-Apartheid Struggle. Much like Mahatma Gandhi, he was a staunch believer of non-violence. Even after almost two decades of abolishment of Apartheid, racial discrimination vaguely prevails in society, and has led to unwanted violence due to the stigma that people often associate with an individual’s colour. Thus, it is imperative for citizens globally to follow the path espoused by Nelson Mandela at this time, and pay respect to every existing individual irrespective of their racial distinctiveness. We should prevent genetically determined characteristics from blinding our rationality and overshadowing the beautiful soul that lies within all of us.
Picture Credits: The National