Home > Lifestyle > People
Sunday December 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday December 8, 2013 MYT 10:16:51 AM
by andrew maykuth
MANDELA, who devoted his life to fighting South Africa’s system of apartheid, became one of the 20th century’s most revered leaders after being released from prison in 1990. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, the former South African president who negotiated the white government’s abdication of power, resulting in Mandela’s landslide 1994 election at age 75 in the nation’s first nonracial vote.
Mandela became a mythic figure during his 27 years in prison. When he finally was freed, he was one of the rare heroes who actually lived up to his legend.
“I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed,” he wrote in his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom.
With equanimity and wit, he disarmed his adversaries. The National Party government released him from prison assuming it would be able to maneuver him into a deal that would effectively perpetuate white rule, but they were undone by Mandela’s perseverance.
A shrewd and skillful politician, Mandela was one of the few black leaders who had the credibility to bridge the gap between radicals and moderates in the African National Congress, the liberation movement that now governs South Africa.
His strength as a leader was his ability to tone down militant blacks who wanted to settle scores after three and a quarter centuries of racial oppression and to reassure nervous whites that they had a place in South Africa’s future, thus preserving the nation’s dynamic economy.
Genteel, dignified and noble, Mandela also had what one writer called a “puckish streak.” He was full of joie de vivre and would sometimes break out into a spontaneous slowshoe dance that came to be known as the “Mandela Jive.” He also could be stern and unforgiving to those who did not heed his orders.
Affectionately known as “Madiba,” Mandela was beyond reproach and was treated gently by the South African news media.
He did not smoke, he did not eat red meat and he sipped wine publicly only when it was helpful for promoting South Africa’s vineyards.
He disdained business suits on all but state occasions, opting for colorful print shirts that became his trademark.
He sacrificed his family life to the anti-apartheid struggle. He divorced his first wife because she did not share his passion for politics. He spent the prime of his adult life in jail, losing touch with his children and growing distant from his second wife, Winnie Mandela.
The couple were divorced after an embarrassing public trial in 1996. A prince and a lawyer Mandela grew up in a rural South Africa where he accepted the supremacy of all things white. It was only after he was politicized in the city by such radicals as Walter Sisulu that he began his transformation to black liberator and icon.
He was born July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, a tiny village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. He was a prince at birth — the son of a chief of the Thembu tribe, part of the Xhosa nation.
In 1941, Mandela was introduced to the ANC, the leading black nationalist organization. Obtaining his law degree, he set up the first black law practice in the city with partner Oliver Tambo, who would later become chairman of the ANC.
Mandela and music
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Nelson Mandela, Invictus, Nelson Mandela, South Africa, tributes, anti-apartheid
Copyright © 1995-2014 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)