My friends and I had joined and have been a member of the African National Congress for a long time. Our non-stop mission is to remove apartheid. Since 1944, when I had just joined the antiapartheid organization ANC, we have been trying to talk with the government officials about the unfairness and the disadvantages of apartheid. Our non-violent mission to get rid of apartheid seems to go nowhere. The United Nations and the United States, too, is backing us up with our couple of hundred black colored folks. Since the government is mostly white dominated, they wouldn’t listen to our concerns because removing apartheid would be a great disadvantage for them. Most factory or company owners are white. Removing apartheid would mean that they would have to pay the blacks and the colored folks the same money since right now white people get more paid than us.
This is just one of the many things the whites would suffer if an antiapartheid nation was formed. In the footsteps of Mohandas Gandhi we pursue a non-violent protest. “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” Clearly, one could draw the point on how miserable our lives were and under these circumstances you suffer greatly or stand up for your culture, stand up for your country and the meaning of our tribes. A changing world demands redefinition of old concepts. Africa, first step where humans took on this planet and we follow the biblical rules. “I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
Dear Journal: November 1962
This is my first night in prison. I do not write to you in shame since I believe to be lucky enough to escape hanging. I am currently imprisoned at Robben Island with some of my colleagues for protesting against the true Africans not having any democratic rights, which wiped out the possibility of bringing peace to South Africa. We Africans do not even have any of the Basic Human Rights. We are born with these rights and unless we give them up for a certain type of government they are ours to keep. Us not having any human rights was an unarguable point since at Sharpeville in March of 1960 the police fired at an African crowd and killing 67. Most of them were shot in the back. “No one in his right senses would choose such a life, but there comes a time when a man is denied the right to live a normal life, when he can only live the life of an outlaw because the government had so decreed to use the law.”
I could have continued with my life with what I was taught to do in life; fight, and since I was almost considerably a professional boxer I could have made good money and have a high-social life. But I chose to fight for our Basic Human rights, bring peace and end apartheid. And is this what I get for trying to get equal rights? I have been sentenced for life in this forbidding, desolate place. “This was my home. It was so big at the time. I don’t know why it is so small now.” I am treated harshly in this place. We do not receive healthy food and we have to work in a lime quarry. I can only write letters no longer than 500 words every six months and eventually I was able to talk with Winnie my dearest wife. We were not allowed to read books nor newspapers so the only way I could get information about what is going outside was through Winnie and her letters.
Dear Journal:December 27, 1988
You could say I’m getting used to my imprisonment. Since December, I was moved to a cottage at Victor Verster Prison. The reason I believe why the government moved me to this comfortable prison is because; back in August, when I became very ill the government was afraid that if I died there would be a massive revolt. Because of my enormous popular support, I was taken to one of the best medical centers in the country. When in October I felt better, I was moved here. I feel much safer and more comfortable. This was just a prison farm even with a swimming pool. At least I do not have to work on fixing roads and collecting seaweed on hot summer days. During the winter, back at Robben Island, we worked at Limestone Quarry and after 10 years of labor my doctor told me that I shouldn’t lift so hard. The South African Government published my photos to show how much comfort I was living in. After all the restrictions I have received, these were the first photos of myself since 1966.
“In the name of the law, I found myself treated as a criminal…not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of my conscience.” After all I did expect them to treat me harshly, I was the one of few man who stood up for my country and because of what I was trying to accomplish made it so unbearable towards the government. 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.” The United Nations Article states that all men shall have the basic human right, independence and equal treatment. So I shall receive that right.
Dear Journal:August 17, 1984
I have been telling you about in how horrible living conditions that black people live in. But maybe you don’t exactly know what they are. Well let me tell you a broad definition of apartheid. Apartheid was a law unfair to black people in South Africa and it was made even before I was born. It limited our civil rights. We couldn’t vote nor have proper jobs. We endured bad housing such as slums with no electricity or pluming. Black people were arrested most of the time for no major particular reason and put into really bad prisons. So now you know why it is so important for me to end apartheid. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness….The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
After 20 years at Robben Island, the state’s most guarded prison, my people were asking for my independence. In my isolation section, I was secretly able to keep track of what was going on at the outside world. According to the information I received, newspapers started writing headlines such as “FREE MANDELA” and “LET MANDELA GO.” I was so respected and recognized that the whole world started to notice how much the people wanted to free me. What I don’t understand is why they waited so long. It was hard to know what was going on but I made it my business to keep track of what was happening in my nation and in the world.
The United States and Great Britain were naming streets and parks after me. I didn’t realize till today how people looked up to me and considered me important, for what I have tried to do and will still try; end apartheid. Human rights groups and Universities gave me honors and awards but it was impossible for them to ever reach me. It’s not like they’re papers which could be sneaked in, well I will just have to wait till I receive my independence.
Dear Journal:May 11, 1994
Yesterday was one the happiest days of my life. I was the president of South America. After 27 years if suffering in prisons. After the next 4 years of my release I had been involved in rebels against the government, beside my followers. These last 4 years chaotic and violent. My supporters fought viciously with the Inkatha Party of the Zulu chief Gatsha Buthelezi. Many were killed on their side but unfortunately so did many on our side. When in 1986 I started to make negotiations with Botha I had refused his deal to give me my freedom under such conditions where I had to live in Transkei, reject violence and many other things. If I accepted these conditions just for my freedom, it would be a violation of what I stand for in my spot at the ANC. I kept it a secret till when I had to tell my friends so they could help me get my freedom and I could do well for my nation.
The new President of South Africa and leader of the National Party, F.W. de Klerk, in the end decided to release myself and the other political prisoners. He also made ANC legal so I when I asked him for my freedom he released me. On February, 1990 I was released. But my joyful days weren’t over yet. A general election was held in April, 1994. And about a year after the elections, yesterday I became the new and first black president of South America. “Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another….
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!” The people were dependant on me because they knew that I would spare a civil war and follow whatever the ANC says to do so. As the people saw me end apartheid along F.W. de Klerk back in 1993 and received the Nobel Peace price, they expected me to bring many other good reforms. I promise to change the whole perception towards black people.