South Africa: Madiba

Nelson Mandela Experience in South Africa

South Africa was a troubled nation for a very long time. Things are not yet perfect, but the South Africa Nelson Mandela fought so hard and long for is a victory of great triumph for the people.

In 1652 the Dutch (Boers) occupied Table Bay, now known as Cape Town. The Boers saw this land as a place they could settle in, but the invasion of Britain from around 1795, eventually led to what were known as the Boer Wars (1899 and 1902).In 1902 the British took control of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal and created the Union of South Africa. The South Africa Act established an all White form of governance that unofficially segregated blacks and other ethnic groups.

Over the years more and more legislation widened the gap between white minority and black majority, until in 1948 (when the White regime came fully into power) the repressive political system of apartheid (apartness) mandated this totally segregated system into being.

The Group Areas Act of 1950 was a major factor in putting apartheid into place. This act essentially meant blacks, and other ethnic groups, could not move freely in their own country. The ANC (African National Congress) which had been formed in 1912, began to react to this increased forced power and separatism with more and more peaceful protests. In this Africa Nelson Mandela, among many others, saw the need for further action against this repression.

Particularly after the Sharpeville Massacre where police opened fire on unarmed blacks and 69 were killed, the fiercely proud African Nelson Mandela was ready to act. He, and his comrades, formed the Spear of the Nation (MK), armed themselves and were ready to do battle to free their nation.

In late 1959 Mandela and 155 other members of the ANC were arrested and tried for treason. They were eventually acquitted. In the meantime apartheid grew stronger and stronger and any resistance was met with brutal force. Mandela went underground for a long time leading his army of resistance in a determination to bring freedom and peace back to all South Africans. For South Africa Mandela and all those in the ANC wanted peace, democracy and freedom for all.

After 17 months of evading capture Nelson Mandela was arrested and tried for treason and sabotage in 1964. He was sent to Robben Island, the most notorious prison in South Africa, on a life sentence.

The ANC continued to fight for the rights of all people in South Africa, and Mandela’s (at the time) wife ‘Winnie’ continued to be a strong political force in the ANC. There were horrifying protests and massacres in Soweto, and again in Sharpesville, as the black majority of South Africans fought for their freedom and against apartheid. In 1977 Steve Biko who had led many of these protests was killed while in police custody.

Nelson Mandela was in prison, but he was still an active force and established ‘teaching community’ at Robben Island. To Nelson South Africa was everything and he would never give up the struggle.

Finally the rest of the world began to see the sheer wrongness and atrocities that were occurring in South Africa and began to put more and more sanctions in place against South Africa. Free Nelson Mandela became the cry, and eventually the apartheid government had little choice but to give in. South Africa, Mandela, and the people were freed.

Mandela went on to form the first multi-racial government in South Africa, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and became President. This was a battle well worth the struggle. This still may not be the South Africa Nelson Mandela would see as perfect but this man changed a country and freed a nation.

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