Long Walk to Freedom By Nelson Mandela – 1994

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Success is most likely when it becomes a necessity.

 

Nelson Mandela grew up in a traditional village in the Transkei in South Africa hundreds of miles from either Johannesburg or Cape town. A member of the Thembu tribe that forms part of the Xhosa nation. Hid father was both a tribal chief ton and adviser to the Thembu king and Mandela was groomed to follow in his fathers foot steps. The name given to him at birth was prophetically Rolilahlah, in his native Xhosa the meaning of the name is trouble maker. The first member of his family to go to school Mandela was given his English name Nelson. He recalls and idealic Transkei childhood of animal Harding stick fighting and story telling. But after his father died he was moved to the Thembu capital to live under the wing of the tribal chief.

 

In his early years Mandela says, he saw the white man more as a benefactor than an oppressor, admired the British culture and its political system. He came to realize that Xhosa were a conquered people with most of the men having to slave away in gold mines for little pay or work on white owned farms. Mandela observed, no matter how high a black man advanced, he was still considered inferior to the lowest white man.

 

Early Lessons, Life long contacts

As a student Mandela was introverted and not brilliant but worked hard. He was placed in an English style secondary school for blacks and met young people from other backgrounds and began to get a sense of being African as opposed to simply Thembu or Xhosa. At Fort hare university college, run by missionaries with black professors, he studied English and anthropology, politics, native administration and roman Dutch law. At this time his ambition was to be a law level civil servant, a Clark or a interpolator in the native affairs department. For a black South African, Mandela’s education was privileged, and he believed that a BA was his ticket to prosperity, only later he realised that their where people without degrees who were smarter then he was, and that character was the greater ingredient in success. Competing id cross country in college taught him he could make up for a luck in natural training by hard work. In his studies he observed, I saw many young men who had great natural ability, but who did not have discipline and patient to build on their endowment. Back home from college for a break, Mandela found an arranged marriage waiting for him on which he was not keen and fled to Johannesburg. After trying to get work in the offices of a gold mine, he eventually found an article courtship in a liberal Jewish law firm. He was paid pity and often had to walk in the centre of Johannesburg from his township. Slowly he began to get involve in politics and the Africa National Congress – ANC, but for a number of years was more as observer that activist. It was that this time that he met ANC Stewart Walter Sesulu, a real estate agent when blacks were still allowed to own some property. A black lawyer was a great novelty and when Mandela enrolled in the university of Wits Waters Rand for a bachelor of law degree in 1943, he was the only Africa black student in the faculty. His discomfort was lessened by a support of white students and Indians who would later prove to be important in the struggle for black freedom.

 

Beginning the fight

On a platform of the Nagger in his place, In 1948 the nationalist party came to power in South Africa. Though the idea of apartheid a partners had been around for centuries, the Africana nationalist entrenched it in hundreds of oppressive laws designed to create a brutal hiracy. Whites at the top, blacks at the bottom, and Indians and coloured in the middle. African, the language of the original Dutch farm settlers took over from English as an official language. With race as the basis for South African society, elaborate tests were required that often broke up families. Where one was allowed to live and work could rest on such distinction as the colour of one hair or the size of ones lips, Mandela note. The defiance campaign that the ANC organized involving stay at homes and gatherings to protest against new laws only made the government iron willed in keeping black people down. School education was scaled down, old town were razed to make way for white housing and the system made it difficult for non white people to move freely. The 1950 suppression of communism act was only partly related to cabbing communism its real purpose was to allow the government to imprison any one on a trump-up charge. Despite this hasher climate in 1952 Mandela and Oliver Tambo established the first black law office in South Africa, it was inedited with cases from the first day and was highly successful. In those days Mandela admits that he was a hot headed revolutionary, without a great deal of discipline, and that he enjoyed wearing smart suites and driving around Johannesburg in a large American car. He even bought land in the Transkei with the view to moving back home. Fate had other ideas. At 35 Mandela was banned from any involvement with ANC which meant that any work he did for the organisation would have to be secret and risk long term imprisonment. His role as freedom fighter and family man were never compatible and from this point on he lived with the constant anguish that he had made the people he loved secondary to the larger struggle for freedom.

 

Criminal and Outlaw

In the famous 1958-1962 treason trial the nationalist government charged Mandela and others with trying to overthrow the state. Though the prosecution lacked real evidence, the trial dragged on for years, by this time Mandela’s marriage had collapsed and the time required to be away from the law practice saw that too fall apart. When the members of the group were acquitted, the authority embarrassment was so great that it made the even more determined to quell surjection. In 1960 70 black demonstrators were killed at Sharpeville a township south of Johannesburg when they peacefully surrounded a police station. Many were shot in the back trying to flee the gun fire. South Africa came under a state of emergency in which the rights of blacks were further curtailed. Mandela new he will soon be arrested for something, so he decided to go underground. Moving from place to place with the help of disguises, he grew his hair and wore the blue overall of the worker and because he had a car, pretended to be driving it for his boss, white master. During this outlaw existence, when their was a warrant for his arrest, the newspaper started calling Mandela the black pimpernel. For several months he actually left South Africa to visit various African states including Sudan, Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia and Egypt to seek support for ANC’s course, solicit donations, and learn about gorilla war fair. This trip was the first time Mandela had experienced freedom, and had seen blacks either running their own states or being treated as equals and it only inspired him feather however back in South Africa he let his guard down and in 1962 he was captured on a road leading to cape town.

 

Captive revolutionary

At his trial, Mandela tried to put the honours of guilt to the government and wore traditional clothing to symbolise that he did not recognize the white legal system and the charges that was making against him. He received a five-year sentence without parole, however much worse was to come. As the ANC non violence philosophy was clearly not working, Mandela had founded a military that began a sabotage campaign on government property. In 1964 he was charged with sabotage and conspiracy along with a number of other ANC members. The death sentence was expected and in his address to the court Mandela said that he was prepared to die for the course of justice, perhaps because of international pressure however the man only received life sentences.  This seemed like a great victory, Mandela would spend the next 18 years in the notorious Robben Island Prison. The first decade involved hard manual labour terrible food and a climate of fear and abuse. However, the political prisoners were kept together, and so could continue their discussions. Denied virtually all outside contact the accusation of a newspaper was prized almost above food. The mans political struggle was reduced to within the prison walls, and they had to fight for any kind of improvement in their daily lives. Mandela writes, It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but how it treats its lowest ones and South Africa its imprisoned African citizens like animals. The years on Robben Island made Mandela a virtual stranger to his family and he often wondered whether the struggle was worth it. His mother died while he was there and he was not allowed to attend his funeral, on the rear occasions that he was allowed family visits he was given only half an hour with them. Because of the restriction on her movements he didn’t see Winnie his second wife for two whole years and his children were not allowed to visit before the age of 15. The nature of Mandela’s time on the Island when he received news that his 25 years old son had died in a road accident.

 

In the later years of his imprisonment as his legend grew, Mandela was moved to mainland prison and received special treatment ending up with his own house and cook and was able to receive visitors. He been seeking dialogue with the government for sometime and after 75 years of bitterness politicians began to listen to his ideas for a fully democratic South Africa. They NEW THAT HISTORY WAS NOT ON THEIR SIDE and the country was becoming explosive. Amid great euphoria Mandela was released in 1990 having spent 27and a half years in jail. Four years later after the country’s first non racial election he was elected president of South Africa. In the meantime their had been much blood shade but the worst years were behind the country.