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Nelson Mandela Essay

South African Anti-Apartheid leader and first black President Nelson Mandela. Pictured burning his “pass” which was required for blacks to carry with them to identify their race and area of the country. They were not permitted to leave to travel to another region without a passport. Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s most influential leader. Nelson Mandela was a dominant figure in the South African liberation movement, burning his pass as a peaceful protest. The twentieth century in South Africa is something that unfortunately cannot be retrospectively looked at with pride, because of the practice of apartheid.

Apartheid had similarities to segregation in the American South, but was much worse. In addition to not being able to vote and separation from the whites in public businesses, blacks (which made up seventy percent of the population) were forced to live in a small area of the country, and could not leave without a “pass,” which very few people had and were very hard to get. Also, apartheid laws were explicitly stated laws, not just de facto rules that society followed, which South African blacks were forced to follow for nearly fifty years.

Nelson Mandela rose up as leader of the African National Congress and major speaker against the evils of Apartheid, becoming the voice of the movement to end apartheid. The use of passes came into effect when Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd developed the policy of separate development, in which the nine African groups that lived in South Africa were moved from the urban areas into the country areas. If the Africans wanted to travel anywhere, or work, they needed a pass showing that they were allowed out of their designated section.

If found without their passes, or traveling outside of the regulated boundaries, they were arrested and put in jail for a minimum of 30 days. These passes were used to keep the Africans in check, to regulate their ability to move and their freedom. To the people of South Africa, the passes represented lost freedom. Nelson Mandela’s contribution and dedication to South Africa’s struggle in achieving freedom and equal rights for every South African led to his popularity and respect in South Africa. In the 1950’s, Mandela began working on ending the apartheid.

In 1964, he was arrested and imprisoned for trying to overthrow the government, but continued his fight even from his prison cell. After his release in 1990, Mandela traveled throughout the world trying to earn money to support the anti-apartheid movement. Mandela continued to advocate equality for all South Africans regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. In 1993, Mandela earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in improving human rights. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black South African to be elected as president of his country.

His presidency was characterized by the successful negotiation of a new constitution for South Africa, but his main focus was the restructuring of South Africa after the damage done by the apartheid. The picture as a whole is significant to South Africa because it showed the people that they could stand up for themselves and fight against their oppression. Nelson Mandela presented the people of South Africa with a leader in their struggle, providing the inspiration needed for a drastic change. He planted the idea in the people that there was something they could do about their situation.

Mandela would do anything to win the battle. The picture is significant to the twentieth century because it provided yet another example of the common theme of the struggle against oppression and the fight for freedom. It may be possible to oppress a group of people, but it is impossible to oppress the spread of ideas. Once the idea of freedom is sparked it can spread like wildfire. Therefore the picture represents the fight and struggle that people will go through no matter what the cost might be. In Afrikaans apartheid means ‘separateness’.

In South Africa it grew to be a system of governance that discriminated against black South Africans. Nelson Mandela and people such as Ahmed Kathrada fought long and hard against this discrimination. From 1948 until early 1994 Apartheid was made law in South Africa, even though it is considered to have been a violation of international law. The idea of ‘grand apartheid’ was essentially one of political separation, while ‘petty apartheid’ had more to do with segregation. People in South Africa were segregated into categories of white, black, Coloured, Indian (or Asian).

In 1958 Blacks were deprived of their citizenship. There were separate schools, buses, shops and hospitals for blacks and coloured people and the services available were well under the standard provided for the minority whites. Even laws were different. A black man found raping a white woman for example could expect years in prison, whereas a white man raping a black woman would probably be charged a small fine. The black and coloured people of South Africa protested against this inequality led by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada.

Most of the initial protests were in the form of passive resistance. In one protest against apartheid Mandela publicly burnt his ‘pass’. These passes had to be carried by all black men and they were not allowed to leave their own district without a pass. There was much unrest among the black community when the government tried to force the carrying of passes to include women. Working with the ANC (African National Council) Nelson Mandela apartheid efforts increased and he himself began to realise that passive resistance was not winning the fight.

Plans were made to bomb places of significance to apartheid, but these were always planned to avoid anyone being hurt or killed. Nelson Mandela was tried for treason and at one stage was acquitted. In 1964 though, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Under apartheid Mandela served nearly 27 years in prison but he never gave up the fight. When Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island he continued his work and teachings. In South Africa and around the world, Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid messages gained in popularity.

There is probably no one who has done so much to end the rule of apartheid as Nelson Mandela. He has been the voice of the people and made the message heard right around the world. Certainly Mandela did not act alone but his voice and actions held real power and the battle was eventually won. After his release from prison in 1990 Nelson Mandela went on to become president of South Africa. Apartheid was officially ended though there is no doubt that much of the racism is still deeply rooted in the country. While Nelson Mandela is no longer president, he is highly respected and his voice is still heard.

As a leader and a peacemaker Nelson Mandela was the leading force in the battle against apartheid. A battle worth fighting for and a battle won. In his household, he never asked his parents a question, he must learn it himself. There were many stories passed on from generation to generation depicting Xhosa warriors. The stories all had a moral, mostly depicting virtue and generosity. The Xhosa childrens’ lives were shaped by custom, ritual, and taboo. Men followed the path of their fathers, women did so with their mothers.

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