The “Iron Man” of South Africa


In the early 1900‘s, when modern history was in the making, the most prominent of problems in societies around the world was the oppression, deprivation and discrimination towards people of non-white origin.

Simply put, the white people had a misconception that dark-skinned humans of non-christian ideology belonged to a class below their own in the social status quo.

They conquered countries around the globe and tried to force their ideas of self worth, government and colonization on the people of those nations.

During this phase, many freedom fighters emerged. Different people tried different means of fighting.

Many gave their lives in the fight for the freedom to hold on to their ideologies and nations. Others spent years of their lives in prison.

Some of the people who fought during these times are still alive, yet many youngsters nowadays may have no knowledge of who they are or the sacrifices they made or how much their attitudes have played a part in shaping the world as we know it now.

One such personality is 94 year old South African politician and anti-apartheid  revolutionary, Nelson Mandela, who is currently hospitalized due to recurring lung infection.

Though he was admitted in a very serious condition, reports have been saying that he is responding well to medication and is currently in a stable condition.

Hospital securities are tight – stairwells under guard, lifts being monitored, access to certain floors have been restricted even for medical staff, and anyone who enters or leaves the hospital is stopped and searched.

Born as Rolihlahla Mandela in 1918, he was given the Christian name Nelson by his school teacher, as was the custom in South Africa during those days – a result of British Colonization.

He was interested in politics from an early age and helped form the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).

Nelson Mandela took part in many revolutionary missions, in the fight against a suppressive system of racial segregation and was arrested multiple times. He spent a total 27 years in prison during white minority rule.

Perhaps one of his most prominent speeches is the ‘Speech from the Dock’ on 20th April 1964, which he recited as he was facing a possible death penalty.

His words at the end of the speech has been etched into the hearts and minds of many people: “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 to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Throughout the term of his imprisonment, he rejected multiple conditional offers of release.

His time in prison ended in February 1990, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He became first black President in the first inter-racial democratic elections in 1994. 

After serving one term as President of South Africa, he stepped down and worked with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela-Rhodes Foundation.

There are many tributes to the legacy of this world icon, and as one CBS News Reporter puts it, Mandela “is so revered for his efforts to reconcile a racially divided nation that many South Africans cannot even bring themselves to speak openly about the possibility of his death”.