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In looking at the life of Nelson Mandela one is better off superficially separating, (to gain more insight) his life into three overlapping categories; Mandela the person, Mandela the freedom fighter and Mandela the statesman and more. In addition, these phases need to be looked at within the specific epochs they were actually lived, since it is their amalgam that ultimately made Mandela an icon of our world system!
With the exception of very few countries, Africa was under full blown colonialism when Mandela came into being. Though he had a relatively privileged background (royalty) the full potential of his youth nonetheless could not be realized because of the broader oppressive system. Subsequently he was forced to questions many of the unappetizing dogmas of the global power that be, which the South African version was only one appendage. In those days escape from the all-pervading injustice was literally unthinkable, given its formidable worldwide presence! His recent preaching (mostly to the youth) continue to inspire and tell unflinching commitment mustered in his earlier years; “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
As a lawyer in South Africa, like his former predecessor and a global icon in his own right-Gandhi, Mandela was also very close to the workings of the comprehensive injustice that was legally established by the oppressive regime. It is the recognition of such blatant anti-human attitude of the power that be, not only towards their ‘subjects’, but also towards their own downtrodden kinfolks that finally drove him to join the struggle in earnest. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” Thereafter, he was fully engaged in a protracted and systemic struggle to bring down the atrocious regime. “No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.” This was Mandela the revolutionary strategizing the direction of the struggle. A disciplined revolutionary cannot entertain adventurism, however seductive the case might be. He knew from the beginning that it is only the committed collective, which can wage effective struggle. He affirmed; ‘Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.’
When Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa, he was still classified as a terrorist by many western spying agencies. In fact his status, according to the CIA (It was the CIA that informed the apartheid regime the whereabouts of Mandela that led to his capture.) only changed very recently, long after he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize! Nothing new here; Yasser Arafat & Menachem Begin were considered terrorists and were denied entries to countries like the UK, etc. It seems it is only after one wins the battle against oppression the narratives of the establishment changes. These two leaders were ultimately awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (Arafat-1994 & Begin-1979)! Why was the sudden change of heart by the global power that be, in regards to apartheid in South Africa?
South Africa is a country endowed with humungous amount of natural resources, some of which hardly exist anywhere on earth. Hence, whatever the internal governance situation in the country, the west (industrial countries) could not afford to remain indifferent to what simmers and boils in South Africa. During the apartheid era, western powers were aggressively supporting the regime. The support was so extensive and deep they even helped the apartheid regime acquire nuclear arsenals. Naturally these arsenals were promptly dismantled and shipped out just before ANC took power and the scientists were resettled in places like the US. During the last phase of the struggle it was clear the days of the apartheid regime was numbered and other strategies were desperately needed to assure the continuation of business. The acceptance of ANC and its long jailed leader as legitimate contenders to power became the corner stone of the new western strategy. The rest is mixed history!
Finally here is a lesson to those who aspire to become genuine leaders of free people, not the types that are still under all kinds of covert & overt subjugations: “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” Nelson Mandela. Good Day!