MVEZO, Africa – “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
On December, the world suffered the loss of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man responsible for the enlightening quote above. Yet, Nelson Mandela was full of more than inspiring and though-provoking quotes.
Mandela accomplished many feats for the progression of South Africa’s government, for the sake of South Africa’s people and for the welfare of humanity.
Mandela’s father passed away when he was barely 12 years old, leaving him to become a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni. He constantly heard tales of his ancestors and their vigor of rebellion during the wars of resistance. This spurred an innate desire within Mandela to make a personal contribution to the “freedom struggle” of his people.
To further his education, Mandela received his Bachelor’s Degree through the University of South Africa. In 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and helped to found the ANC Youth League.
Eight years following, Mandela was “chosen at the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign.” The campaign used civil disobedience to combat six unjust laws. During this time, Mandela, along with 19 other individuals were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their participation in the campaign.
Once he acquired a two-year diploma in law, Nelson Mandela was then able to practice law, allowing him to open South Africa’s first black law firm. During a series of protests, killings and arrests in 1960, South Africa experienced its first state of emergency in which Mandela was detained.
After this time, Mandela secretly left South Africa and adopted the name David Motsamayi. Attempting to gain support for the armed struggle that he now led, Mandela traveled around England. In July of 1962, after returning to South Africa, he was arrested and charged with leaving the country illegally, and inciting workers to go on strike.
During June of 1964, Mandela, along with seven others, were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island. During his imprisonment, both his mother and eldest son passed away; he was prohibited from attending either of their funerals.
After undergoing prostate surgery, he was held alone and visited by the Justice Prime Minister, with whom he initiated discussions of a meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC. During the last 14 months of his imprisonment, Mandela was transferred to a house at Victor Verster Prison after being diagnosed with tuberculosis.
On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from nearly a three decade imprisonment. Nine days prior to his release, the ANC and the Political Action Committee had been unbanned. Following his freedom, Mandela set his sights on the freedom of his people, and immediately began official discussions to end white minority rule.
During 1991, Mandela was elected the ANC President, and during 1993 jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk. One of his many great feats came, however, on May 10, 1994, when he was officially inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratic president.
After a promise of doing so, Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999 after just one term as president. To continue his humanitarian efforts, Mandela continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he established in 1995, and also developed the Nelson Mandela Foundation as well as The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.
His lifelong dedication to democracy and the betterment of South Africa never faltered. He consistently pursued equality in the attempts to abolish racism. His efforts not only changed South Africa, but showed the world that nothing is impossible.
“Equality is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
– Samaria Garrett