Wednesday, 15th July, 2020 marks what would have been the late Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday — the iconic South African president who previously spent decades in prison during the country’s apartheid rule.
Here are five things to know about the leader who inspired generations around the world.
#1: Who is Nelson Mandela?
Known and loved around the world for his commitment to peace, reconciliation and negotiation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was South Africa’s FIRST DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT (1944 – 1999). He was a political leader and an anti-apartheid revolutionary, as well as a Philantrophist with an abiding love for children. He was born into the Xhosa Royal Family on 18th July, 1918 and passed away on 5th December, 2013.
#2: What does the name “Madiba” mean?
The name Madiba is the name of the Thembu clan to which Mandela belongs. It gets its name from the 19th century chief. All members of this clan can be called Madiba. The late Mandela was called Madiba as a sign of both affection and respect – so beautiful.
#3: What is apartheid?
Apartheid was the official policy of the National Party, which became the the governing party of South Africa in 1948. Apartheid means “separateness”, the practice of official racial segregation in every aspect of life.
Under apartheid, everyone in South Africa has to be classified according to a particular racial group. This classification determined where someone could be born, where they could live, where they could go to school, where they could work, where they could be treated if they were sick and where they could be buried if they died.
Only white people are given the opportunity to vote and they had the best opportunities and the most money was spent on their facilities back then. Apartheid made others live in poverty. Black South African lives were strictly controlled and thousands died in the struggle to end apartheid.
#4: Champion of Human Rights – Nelson Mandela
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” — Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s vision during the apartheid era was for the eradication of racism and for the establishment of a constitutional democracy. He envisioned a South Africa in which all citizens had equal rights and where every adult would have the right to vote for the government of his or her choice. Mandela was driven by an unshakeable belief in the equality of all people and his determination to overthrow the system of apartheid in South Africa.
And so he did!
He educated himself with a university degree and law degree. In 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and actively worked to abolish the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party.
On trial for his actions, Mandela declared, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Sentenced to life imprisonment, Mandela became a powerful symbol of resistance for the rising anti-apartheid movement, repeatedly refusing to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom. Finally released in February 1990, he intensified the battle against oppression to attain the goals he and others had set out to accomplish almost four decades earlier.
In May 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president, a position he held until 1999. He presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation. An international celebration of his life and re-dedication to his goals of freedom and equality was held in 2008, on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
#5: Inspired by his childhood lessons of Ubuntu, Mandela shared those values with the world
At his core, this was Nelson Mandela’s mission, and its story goes back all the way to his days as a child in that small African village. Ubuntu is the Xhosa idea that there is a oneness to all people. An impenetrable tie that binds us all to one another.
A principle stating that conflict among people is temporary, only a brief diversion from the natural order of our true nature as human beings: togetherness. Mandela took this belief to heart, and with it shaped the world around him, believing that strength will overcome strife and refusing to be cynical.
As Barack Obama said during Mandela’s eulogy:
“Ubuntu, a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: His recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. . . . He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.”
We miss you, Madiba!