Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela

by Tamara Manuel

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who died today at the age of 95, was born on 18th July 1918. He was well known for being an anti-apartheid revolutionary and, later, a politician, elected the first black president of South Africa serving from 1994-1999.

His death is mourned by millions around the world, as his audacious and defiant actions changed the lives of many. The conditions he suffered during his 27 years in prison led him to develop tuberculosis, which ultimately contributed to his death from pneumonia. How did these incredible acts of bravery change South Africa and why should we hold vigil for Nelson Mandela?

His passion for politics and a desire to change what everyone else seemed to accept began when he was the only black member of the faculty of law at the University of Witwatersrand. Racial segregation had existed in South Africa under British and Dutch rule, but the system of apartheid was introduced after the general election of 1948 was won by the National Party. They ruled until 1994, during which time they enforced white supremacy. Non-white citizens were curtailed in every area of life. All inhabitants of South Africa over the age of eighteen were forced to carry an ID card on their person at all times specifying their racial group. It was this card that Mandela burnt in May of 1960, during a massive protest in which 69 people died. It was prohibited to marry anyone not of your own race. Beaches, buses and even benches were reserved for a particular race and amenities for the black people were greatly inferior to those for the whites. Changes to the education system were designed to help blacks into a life of labour.

Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943 and co-founded the ANC Youth League with the aim of mobilising more young people in South Africa. After years of peaceful protest, Mandela and the ANC realised that it was not enough, and started protesting in a less passive manner, always with the aim of attracting the most attention and hurting the fewest number of people. The ANC was banned by the government and Mandela was on the run for 17 months. Upon his capture, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. After his release in 1990, he became president of the ANC.

The changes that Mandela brought about were phenomenal.
  After his release, he slowly and peacefully unpicked the policies of apartheid that had oppressed so many people in South Africa. Public areas became communal, ID cards were scrapped and the ANC is still in power today. In November 2006, same-sex marriage was legalised, showing just how far South Africa has progressed.

As President Obama said, Mandela’s "moral courage is an inspiration" to the world. His legacy will allow no one to forget the horrific segregation that existed, and he shall be remembered forever as a key person in ending racism all over the globe.

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