What You Do Not Know About Nelson Mandela
18 July 2018 marks Nelson Mandela’s 100th year. Why is he still so revered across the world yet a controversial figure in his home country of South Africa? The answer simply is that despite the fact that racial inequality in South Africa is still a major issue, he is widely regarded as the personification of values that he spent much of his life fighting for, including social justice, democracy, and freedom.
At the Rivonia Trial in 1964, he asserted that it was these values for which he hoped to live, but for which he was “prepared to die”. He would later spend 27 years in prison before he realizing his dream of a South Africa freed from repressive and brutal racial segregation.
In prison, Mandela’s stature and mythology was carefully nurtured by his movement, the ANC, and the anti-apartheid movement. This established him as the focus for the global struggle against apartheid.
By the 1980s, Mandela was the world’s most famous political prisoner. He was celebrated at rallies, featured on protest posters, and immortalised in popular culture.
Mandela’s conviction and adherence to non-racialism and democratic ideals came to symbolise the intrinsic moral nature of the struggle against white minority rule.
In the world’s current international climate of conflict and political cynicism, Mandela’s legacy continues to serve as a rare example of a principled politician who represented an indefatigable commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation although some have begun to reassess Madiba’s legacy, calling him a “sell-out”.
Mandela commanded respect and moral authority at home and abroad for his strong convictions, humility, and courageous actions that ensured all South Africans could live in a democratic society. These achievements in the face of enormous challenges should not be underestimated.