Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, died December 5, 2013. “He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages,” President Barack Obama stated in remarks at the White House. “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela ever again,” the president said. “So it falls to us, as best we can, to carry forward the example that he set.”
Mandela was the first black President to hold office in South Africa. While in office he dedicated his presidency to dismantling apartheid through tackling poverty and racial inequality. Prior to his presidency, Mandela was an advocate against the apartheid throughout his life. On August 5, 1962 he was jailed and subsequently convicted of sabotage, inciting worker’s strikes, and leaving the country without permission. He used his trial to highlight the racism in South Africa. At the trial, instead of testifying, he opted to give a speech:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said. “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.”
He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, despite pleas for clemency by the United Nations and World Peace Council. He spent the next twenty-seven years of his life in prison.
In 1990, Mandela was released from prison and in 1994 was elected President. Despite chronic political violence in the years preceding the vote that put him in office in 1994, South Africa avoided a full-fledged civil war in its transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy. The peace was due in large part to the leadership and vision of Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk. Although his presidency only last for one term, he dedicated the rest of his life promoting democracy and peace.
Sandra Holzner, Esq.
Associate Attorney Bromund Law Group