In Afrikaans apartheid means ‘separateness’. In South Africa it grew to be a system of governance that discriminated against black South Africans. Nelson Mandela and people such as Ahmed Kathrada fought long and hard against this discrimination.
From 1948 until early 1994 Apartheid was made law in South Africa, even though it is considered to have been a violation of international law. The idea of ‘grand apartheid’ was essentially one of political separation, while ‘petty apartheid’ had more to do with segregation.
People in South Africa were segregated into categories of white, black, Coloured, Indian (or Asian). In 1958 Blacks were deprived of their citizenship. There were separate schools, buses, shops and hospitals for blacks and coloured people and the services available were well under the standard provided for the minority whites. Even laws were different. A black man found raping a white woman for example could expect years in prison, whereas a white man raping a black woman would probably be charged a small fine.
The black and coloured people of South Africa protested against this inequality led by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada. Most of the initial protests were in the form of passive resistance. In one protest against apartheid Mandela publicly burnt his ‘pass’. These passes had to be carried by all black men and they were not allowed to leave their own district without a pass. There was much unrest among the black community when the government tried to force the carrying of passes to include women.
Working with the ANC (African National Council) Nelson Mandela apartheid efforts increased and he himself began to realise that passive resistance was not winning the fight. Plans were made to bomb places of significance to apartheid, but these were always planned to avoid anyone being hurt or killed. Nelson Mandela was tried for treason and at one stage was acquitted. In 1964 though, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Under apartheid Mandela served nearly 27 years in prison but he never gave up the fight. When Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island he continued his work and teachings. In South Africa and around the world, Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid messages gained in popularity.
There is probably no one who has done so much to end the rule of apartheid as Nelson Mandela. He has been the voice of the people and made the message heard right around the world. Certainly Mandela did not act alone but his voice and actions held real power and the battle was eventually won.
After his release from prison in 1990 Nelson Mandela went on to become president of South Africa. Apartheid was officially ended though there is no doubt that much of the racism is still deeply rooted in the country. While Nelson Mandela is no longer president, he is highly respected and his voice is still heard. As a leader and a peacemaker Nelson Mandela was the leading force in the battle against apartheid. A battle worth fighting for and a battle won.