It has just come out on international news wires this evening that former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, has died at age 95.
He has been gravely ill for the last six months. Even as South Africans knew his passing was upon them, they are showing their respects by reverently celebrating his life, and how he brought the village and community of South Africa together. His passing was announced by current South African President Jacob Zuma.
LEGACY OF A HERO
Born in 1918, Mandela came to renown as a lawyer, anti-apartheid revolutionary and later, as the first black South African to hold political office. He was also the first person elected in a multi-racial, all inclusive election ever held in that country.
Mandela has a legacy of dismantling institutional racism, poverty, and inequality, as well as one of fostering reconciliation because black and white South Africans. He spent 27 years in prison for fighting oppression from the white Afrikaner minority.
To change his country, Mandela, who was born to the Thembu royal family, started during college to fight colonialism and apartheid, During his tenure as a lawyer he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities, and prosecuted in a Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Originally his fight against the government was non-violent, but he co-founded a militant group that was part of bombing campaigns. He was arrested in 1962, convicted of sabotage, and sentenced to life in prison. He spent 27 years there. International campaigns lobbied for his release, and he later led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and to establish multi-racial elections in 1994. He was elected first black President of South Africa.
APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA
The ruling party from 1948 to 1994 enacted apartheid. The effects were that the rights of majority black inhabitants of South Africa were denied, and the Afrikaner (dutch descended white) minority rule was maintained and upheld. Apartheid was instituted after WWII. Segregation went back to colonial times under the Dutch but became law with new legislation in 1948. Four racial groups were instituted: “black”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Indian.” Residential areas were segregated by forced removal of millions of black Africans. They were relocated to slums, as labour tenants on white farms, and various black townships.
In 1970, non-white rights were completely stripped. Black people were stripped of citizenship, and legally became citizens of one of the ten tribal homelands called bantustans. Government segregated healthcare, education, the beaches, and various public services, as well as provided inferior services to black Africans. Mixed marriages and any mixed sexual acts were outlawed.
Nelson Mandela’s life is being celebrated and recognized tonight around the world. The U.S. President, Obama, is expected to attend the funeral services as well as heads of most major nations. Johannesburg is holding many celebrations and remembrances tonight.