Released from Prison – It’s a Long Walk to Freedom for South Africa
Nelson Mandela’s incarceration at Robben Island eventually came to an end in 1982 when he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. On 12 August 1988, he was admitted to hospital after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. After three months in hospital, he was relocated to Victor Verster Prison in the Cape Winelands.
He spent his last fourteen months in this maximum security prison.
On 2 February 1990, the government of South Africa unbanned the ANC, and Nelson Mandela was released nine days later.
Paving the Way for Democracy in South Africa
Mandela travelled straight to Cape Town’s city hall, where he addressed the public, assuring them of his commitment to peace and reconciliation between black and white South Africans. However, his message came with a dire caveat – the ANC would not give up its armed struggle until the country embraced democracy.
The next few months involved ongoing talks with President FW De Klerk and the South African government to end white minority rule. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was elected president of the ANC in 1990.
In 1993, De Klerk and Mandela were joint winners of that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The nation held its breath – expecting a severe backlash against the tyranny of apartheid rule. These apprehensions were fuelled by ongoing violence between the ANC and Inkatha supporters.
Mandela did much to soothe these apprehensions and to solidify his commitment to peace by arranging a peace accord between De Klerk, the ANC, and Buthelezi – the head of Inkatha. He called for a referendum to get the public’s opinion on his ideals of democracy and the nation rewarded him with a resounding, ‘Yes’.
Two years later, the country held its first democratic election. Over 85% of registered voters turned up on this occasion, with a majority of 68% choosing a new future for the country.
On 27 April 1994, Nelson Mandela took the top spot as the country’s first democratically elected president, with FW De Klerk as his deputy. The fact that he didn’t turn his back on his former arch enemy further showed his commitment to equality and confirmed his status as a great statesman.
By embracing his enemy without vindictiveness, Nelson Mandela set the tone for South Africa’s peaceful transformation to democracy.
One of his first major accomplishments was implementing the Reconstruction and Development program aimed at remedying past evils to eliminate poverty. This policy
infiltrated every area of life in South Africa, including land issues, housing, electricity, water, transport, and employment.
Now, thanks to the RDP housing scheme, black South Africans could own their own home for the first time ever. Although Nelson Mandela never directly lashed out against the previous ruling party he did take a firm stand when it came to punishing those guilty of human rights abuses during the apartheid era.
This no-nonsense approach helped black South Africans to realize that their concerns were relevant to him and that he would not tolerate the abuse of power to intimidate others.
One Step at a Time
Step by step, Nelson Mandela convinced the world that South Africa was on the mend, and instilled investor confidence in the economy. Inevitably, this led to the country’s selection as hosts for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
This sporting event turned out to be one of Mandela’s finest unifying moments. He embraced a sport once associated with the ruling regime, surprising the team in their changing room before the final wearing the Captain’s No 6 Springbok jersey. In wearing the jersey, a symbol of draconian apartheid, Mandela took a fundamental step in helping to heal a broken nation through the unity of sport.
His efforts were rewarded when the national side won the tournament, and he marched proudly onto the field to hold up the cup, shoulder to shoulder with players of every nationality. This instance remains an iconic moment in the history of sport and politics in South Africa and will forever symbolize his ideal of a unified South Africa working toward a common goal.
In 1996, Nelson Mandela initialled the new Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, lauded as one of the most progressive in the world, and signed his great ambitions into law.
How Nelson Mandela Released South Africa from its Chains
Manging the transition from white minority rule to a multicultural democracy was never going to be easy. Mandela knew that drastic steps were needed but recognised that rash actions would only create more fear and uncertainty among all races.
Inspired by knowledge of economic harm caused by the departure of white elites, he went out of his way to reassure white South Africans that they had a role to play in the new Rainbow Nation he envisaged.
He was careful to include leaders from opposing parties in his cabinet, including De Klerk, and Buthelezi. He went out of his way to engage with senior figures or the apartheid era, emphasizing personal forgiveness, stating, “courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
He never once gave in to racism and maintained a reputation for outstanding leadership until his death in 2013.
The reign of Nelson Mandela was a time of great prosperity and hope for South Africa and it’s a time that many South Africans long for again.
International sanctions fell by the wayside one by one, and new opportunities became available for the previously disadvantaged.
Throughout his lifetime, Mandela embraced charitable works via the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, which are still active today.
Elements of Mandela’s Greatness
Throughout his reign, Mandela had a magnanimous answer for almost every eventuality and many of his quotes are still used to inspire and motivate people around the world today.
He’s held up as an example of what can happen when you stick to your convictions and make personal sacrifices for the greater good.
Mandela became well-known for his calm, considered demeanour, and humility and had a penchant for wearing casual Batik-print shirts on any occasion, no matter how formal.
The Impact of Mandela on South African Society
Nelson Mandela led by example. He practiced compassion and kindness where he could have acted with vengeance. He promoted forgiveness as a better way forward than revenge and hatred.
He set the pace for a peaceful and prosperous transformation and all the people of South Africa followed him, willingly and confidently.
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