Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy 90th Birthday Nelson Mandela

One of my all-time heroes has just turned 90.

He is South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born July 18, 1918) is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in fully representative democratic elections.

Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress and its armed wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation).

He spent 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island in Cape Town, on convictions for crimes that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apartheid.

Among opponents of apartheid in South Africa and internationally, he became a symbol of freedom and equality, while the apartheid government and nations sympathetic to it condemned him and the ANC as Communists and terrorists.

Following his release from prison on February 11, 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even by former opponents.

Mandela has received more than 100 awards over four decades, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

He is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on world issues.

In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan.

The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.

Mandela has frequently credited Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi for being a major source of inspiration in his life, both for the philosophy of non-violence and for facing adversity with dignity.

Mandela belongs to the Thembu dynasty which reigns in the Transkei Territory of South Africa's Cape Province.

He was born in the small village of Mvezo in Umtata, the Transkei capital.

His great-grandfather was Ngubengcuka (died 1832), the Inkosi Enkhulu or King of the Tembu Xhosa people, who were eventually subjected to British colonial rule.

One of the King's sons, named Mandela, became Nelson's grandfather and the source of his surname.

However, being only the Inkosi's child by a wife of the Ixhiba clan (the so-called Left-Hand House), the descendants of his branch of the royal family were not eligible to succeed to the Thembu Xhosa throne.

His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (1880–1928) was nonetheless designated chief of the town of Mvezo.

Upon alienating the colonial authorities, however, he was deprived of his position and moved his family to Qunu.

Gadla remained, however, a member of the Inkosi's Privy Council and was instrumental in the ascension to the Thembu Xhosa throne of Jongintaba Dalindyebo who would later return this favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Gadla's death.

Mandela's father had four wives, with whom he fathered a total of 13 children (four boys and nine girls).

Mandela was born to Gadla's third wife Nosekeni Fanny, daughter of Nkedama of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan, the dynastic Right-Hand House in whose Umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood.

His given name Rolihlahla means "to pull a branch of a tree" or more colloquially "rebel".

At seven years of age, Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend school, where he was given the name "Nelson", after the Admiral Horatio Nelson of the British Royal Navy, by a Methodist Christian teacher who found his native name difficult to pronounce.

His father died of tuberculosis when Rolihlahla was nine, and the Regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian.

Mandela attended a Wesleyan Methodist Christian mission school next door to the palace of the Regent.

Following Thembu Xhosa custom, he was initiated at age 16 and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute.

He completed his Junior Certificate in two years instead of the usual three.

Destined to inherit his father's position as a Privy Councillor in 1937 Mandela moved to Healdtown, the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort which most Thembu Xhosa royalty attended.

At 19, he took an interest in boxing and running.

After matriculating, he began to study for a BA at the Fort Hare University. There he met Oliver Tambo and the two became lifelong friends and colleagues.

He also became close friends with his kinsman Kaiser (KD) Matanzima who as royal scion of the Thembu Xhosa Right-Hand House was destined for the throne of Transkei, a role that later led him to embrace apartheid policies which made him and Mandela political enemies.

At the end of Nelson's first year, he became involved in a boycott by the Students' Representative Council against the university policies and was asked to leave Fort Hare.

Later, while imprisoned, Mandela studied for a Bachelor of Law from the University of London External Programme.

Shortly after leaving Fort Hare, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the Regent's own son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them.

Both young men were displeased by this and rather than marry, they elected to flee the comfort of the Regent's estate to go to Johannesburg.

Upon his arrival, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine.

However, this was quickly terminated after the employer learned that Mandela was the Regent's runaway adopted son.

He later started work as an articled clerk at a law firm thanks to connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu.

While working there, he completed his BA at the University of South Africa via correspondence, after which he started law studies at the University of Witwatersrand.

There he befriended fellow students and future anti-apartheid political activists Joe Slovo, Harry Schwarz and Ruth First.

During this time Mandela lived in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg.

After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner (Dutch South African)-dominated National Party with its apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela was prominent in the ANC's anti-apartheid struggle.

Mandela and fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo operated the law firm of Mandela and Tambo, providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many Blacks who would otherwise have been without representation.

Mandela's approach was influenced by Gandhi, who inspired him and succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists.

Indeed, Mandela took part in the January 2007 conference in New Delhi, India which marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's introduction of Satyagraha or non-violence in South Africa.

Initially committed to non-violent mass struggle, Mandela was arrested with 150 others in 1956 and charged with treason.

They were all acquitted.

From 1952–59 the ANC experienced disruption as a new class of Black activists emerged in the townships demanding more drastic steps against the National Party regime.

The ANC leadership of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu felt not only that events were moving too fast, but also that their leadership was challenged.

They consequently bolstered their position by alliances with small White and Coloured (Indians, Malays and Chinese) political parties most notably the South African Communist Party (SACP) in an attempt to appear to have a wider appeal.

In 1959 the ANC lost its most militant support when its radical activists, with financial support from Ghana and significant political support from the Transvaal-based Basotho people (who also live in Lesotho), broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) under Robert Sobukwe and Potlako Leballo.

In 1961, Mandela became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), which he co-founded.

He coordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid.

Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.

Mandela explained the move to embark on armed struggle as a last resort, when increasing repression and violence from the state convinced him that many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed.

A few decades later, MK waged a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s, in which many civilians were killed.

Mandela later admitted that the ANC, in its struggle against apartheid, also violated human rights and has sharply criticised attempts by parts of his party to remove statements supporting this fact.

Until July 2008, Mandela and ANC party members were barred from entering the United States —except the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan — without a special waiver from the US Secretary of State, due to their designation as terrorists by the former South African apartheid regime.

On August 5, 1962 Mandela was arrested after living on the run for 17 months and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort.

The arrest was made possible because the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tipped off the security police as to Mandela's whereabouts and disguise.

Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance.

On October 25, 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison.

Two years later on June 11, 1964, the sentence was increased to 27 years.

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next 18 of his 27 years in prison.

On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry.

Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with Black prisoners receiving the fewest rations.

Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges.

He was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. Letters, when they came, were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison censors.

Whilst in prison Mandela undertook study with the University of London by correspondence through its External Programme and received a Bachelor of Laws.

He was subsequently nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London in 1981, but lost to Princess Anne of the United Kingdom.

In 1982, Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba.

This was to remove the influence of these senior leaders on the new generation of young Black activists imprisoned on Robben Island, the so-called Mandela University.

In 1985, President Pieter W. Botha offered Mandela conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle.

He replied: "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was being treated for prostate surgery.

Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.

Throughout Mandela's imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela!

In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem De Klerk of Dutch-Indian ancestry.

De Klerk announced Mandela's release in February 1990.

On February 2, 1990, De Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison.

Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990. The event was broadcast live all over the world.

On the day of his release, Mandela made a speech to the nation. He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country's White minority but made it clear that the ANC's armed struggle was not yet over.

He also said his main focus was to bring peace to the Black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.

Following his release from prison, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and between 1990 and 1994 led the party in the multi-party negotiations that led to the country's first multi-racial elections.

In 1991, the ANC held its first national conference in South Africa after its unbanning, electing Mandela as President of the organisation.

His old friend and colleague Oliver Tambo, who had led the organisation in exile during Mandela's imprisonment, became National Chairman.

Mandela's leadership through the negotiations, as well as his relationship with De Klerk was recognised when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Following the assassination of senior ANC leader Chris Hani by the South African Secret Service in April 1993, there were renewed fears that the country would erupt in violence.

Mandela addressed the nation appealing for calm, in a speech regarded as 'presidential' even though he was not yet president of the country at that time.

Democratic elections took place on April 27, 1994, just over a year after Hani's assassination.

Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, was published in 1994.

Mandela had begun work on it secretly while in prison.

The ANC won 62 percent of the votes in the election and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10, 1994 as the country's first Black President with the National Party's De Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second.

As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Mandela encouraged Black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela, wearing a Springbok shirt, presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, a Dutch South African.

This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of White and Black South Africans.

After assuming the presidency, one of Mandela's trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as "Madiba shirts", even on formal occasions.

In South Africa's first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government.

Commentators and critics including AIDS activists have criticised Mandela for his government's ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis.

After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

He has since taken many opportunities to highlight this South African and international tragedy.

Mandela has been married three times, has fathered six children, has 20 grandchildren and a growing number of great-grandchildren. His grandson is Chief Mandla Mandela.

Mandela's first marriage was to Evelyn Ntoko Mase who, like Mandela, was also from Transkei although they actually met in Johannesburg.

The couple had two sons, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) (born 1946) and Makgatho Lewanika (born 1950) and two daughters, both named Makaziwe (born 1947 and 1953).

Their first daughter died aged nine months and they named their second daughter in her honour.

The couple broke up in 1957 after 13 years.

Thembi was killed in a car crash in 1969 at the age of 25, while Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Evelyn Mase died in 2004.

Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, also came from the Transkei although they, too, met in Johannesburg, where she was the city's first Black social worker.

They had two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born 1958 and Zindziswa (Zindzi), born 1960.

Later, Winnie would be deeply torn by family discord which mirrored the country's political strife.

While her husband was serving a life sentence at the Robben Island prison, her father became the agriculture minister in Transkei.

The marriage ended in separation (April 1992) and divorce (March 1996), fuelled by political estrangement.

Mandela still languished in prison when his daughter Zenani was married to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1973. He was the elder brother of King Mswati III of Swaziland.

As a member by marriage of a reigning foreign dynasty, she was able to visit her father during his South African imprisonment while other family members were denied access.

The Dlamini couple live and run a business in Boston.

One of their sons, Prince Cedza Dlamini (born 1976), educated in the United States, has followed in his grandfather's footsteps as an international advocate for human rights and humanitarian aid.

Thumbumuzi’s and Mswati's sister, Princess Mantfombi Dlamini, is the chief consort to King Goodwill Zwelithini of KwaZulu-Natal, who "reigns but does not rule" over South Africa's largest ethnic group under the auspices of South Africa's government.

One of the Zulu King's sons is expected to eventually succeed him.

Many Zulus support their very own Inkatha Party whose leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was one of the political rivals of Mandela, before and during his presidency.

Mandela remarried in 1998 on his 80th birthday. His bride was Graca Machel Simbine, the widow of Samora Machel, the first Mozambican president and ANC ally who was killed in an air crash 12 years earlier.

His plane was sabotaged by Botha’s Secret Service.

Negotiations were conducted on Mandela's behalf by his traditional sovereign, King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, born 1964.

It was this paramount chief's grandfather, the Regent Jongintaba, whose selection of a bride for him prompted Mandela to flee to Johannesburg as a young man.

Mandela still maintains a home at Qunu in the realm of his royal nephew, whose university expenses he defrayed and whose Privy Councillor he remains.

Mandela became the oldest elected President of South Africa when he took office at the age of 77 in 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term as President and retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

In July 2001 Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. He was treated with a seven-week course of radiation.

After his retirement as President, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organisations. He has expressed his support for the international Make Poverty History movement.

Mandela is a vocal supporter of SOS Children's Villages, the world's largest organisation dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children.

Mandela appeared in a televised advertisement for the 2006 Winter Olympics and was quoted for the International Olympic Committee's Celebrate Humanity campaign.

The Nelson Mandela Invitational Charity Golf Tournament, hosted by Gary Player, has raised over twenty million Rands for children's charities since its inception in 2000.

This annual special event has become South Africa's most successful charitable sports gathering and benefits both the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Gary Player Foundation for various children's causes around the world.

On July 18, 2007, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel and Desmond Tutu convened a group of world leaders in Johannesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems.

Mandela announced the formation of this new group The Elders in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday.

Archbishop Tutu became the Chair of The Elders. The founding members of this group also included Graca Machel, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus.

Since his retirement, one of Mandela's primary commitments has been to the fight against AIDS.

In 2003, he lent his support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign, named after his prison number.

In 2004, he flew to Bangkok to speak at the 15th International AIDS Conference.

His son, Makgatho Mandela died of AIDS on January 6, 2005.

In 2003 Mandela criticised the foreign policy of US President George W. Bush in a number of speeches.

Criticising the lack of UN involvement in the decision to begin the War in Iraq, he said: "It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations."

He urged the people of the US to join massive protests against Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to oppose him.

Mandela has criticised Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his autocratic and repressive rule.

Many artistes have dedicated songs to Mandela.

One of the most popular was from the The Specials who recorded the song Nelson Mandela in 1983.

Stevie Wonder dedicated his 1985 Oscar for the song I Just Called To Say I Love You to Mandela, resulting in his music being banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1985, Youssou N'Dour's album Nelson Mandela was the Senegalese artiste's first United States release.

In 1988, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at London's Wembley Stadium was a focal point of the anti-apartheid movement, with many musicians voicing their support for Mandela.

Jerry Dammers, the author of Nelson Mandela, was one of the organisers.

Simple Minds recorded the song Mandela Day for the concert, Santana recorded the instrumental Mandela and Tracy Chapman performed Freedom Now, dedicated to Mandela and released on her album Crossroads.

Salif Keita from Mali, who played at the concert, later visited South Africa and in 1995 recorded the song Mandela on his album Folon.

In South Africa, Asimbonanga (Mandela) became one of Johnny Clegg's most famous songs, appearing on his Third World Child album in 1987.

Hugh Masekela, in exile in the UK, sang Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) in 1987.

Brenda Fassie's 1989 song Black President, a tribute to Mandela, was hugely popular even though it was banned in South Africa.

In 1990, Hong Kong Cantopop band Beyond released a popular Cantonese song, Days Of Glory. The anti-apartheid song featured lyrics referring to Mandela's heroic struggle for racial equality.

A tribute concert for Mandela's 90th birthday took place in Hyde Park, London on June 27, 2008.

In 1997, the film Mandela And De Klerk told the story of Mandela's release from prison.

Mandela was played by Sidney Poitier.

Goodbye Bafana, a feature film that focused on Mandela's life had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 11, 2007.

The film starred Dennis Haysbert as Mandela and chronicled Mandela's relationship with prison guard James Gregory.

In the final scene of the 1992 movie Malcolm X, Mandela – recently released after 27 years of political imprisonment – appears as a schoolteacher in a Soweto classroom.

He recites a portion of one of Malcolm X's most famous speeches, including the following sentence: "We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence..."

The famous final phrase of that sentence is "by any means necessary."

Mandela informed director Spike Lee that he could not utter the phrase on camera fearing that the apartheid government would use it against him if he did.

Lee obliged and the final seconds of the film feature black-and-white footage of Malcolm X himself delivering the phrase.

On March 31, 2004, Sandton Square was renamed Nelson Mandela Square, after a 6-metre statue of Nelson Mandela was installed on the square to honour the famous South African statesman.

On August 29, 2007, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Parliament Square in London by Lord Richard Attenborough, Ken Livingstone, Wendy Woods (wife of the late anti-apartheid activist and journalist Donald Woods) and Gordon Brown.

The campaign to erect the statue was started in 2000 by Donald Woods, a South African journalist driven into exile because of his anti-apartheid activities.

Mandela stated that it represented not just him, but all those who have resisted oppression, especially those in South Africa.

He said: "The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines, some of them leaders, some of them followers. All of them deserve to be remembered."

In 2004, zoologists Brent E. Hendrixson and Jason E. Bond named a South African species of trapdoor spider as Stasimopus Mandelai, "honoring Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and one of the great moral leaders of our time."

Information from Wikipedia and New Straits Times. Thanks to both.