Nelson Mandela, who passed away on Thursday 5th December aged 95, will go down in history as one of the most iconic and influential men of the past century. Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994 after fighting the apartheid system which had being dominant from the 1950s to the 1990s. From prisoner, freedom fighter, president, to global icon, Mandela’s image will remain with the world forever. On the one hand, Mandela represented change, after leading his country to democracy after 40 years of apartheid and on the other, he represented great humanity, and showed the rest of us how to look for the good within ourselves.
Tributes are flocking in from around the world in light of Mandela’s death. Jacob Zuma, the current South African President, said ‘our nation has lost its greatest son.’ Also, from British politicians such as Prime Minister David Cameron, who paid his respects by stating that ‘Mandela was a hero of our time.’ It’s easy to see why Mandela is so iconic. In the 1950s when the apartheid system dominated South African society, Mandela formed the youth league of the African National Congress (ANC) in order to protest against the oppression of black people in South Africa at the time. Mandela became a key figure in the fight to gain equal rights in South Africa, however was imprisoned in 1964 until 1990 for treason. Whilst imprisoned, South Africa struggled with its apartheid system, seeing various clashes between white and black forces, but Mandela never gave up on seeing his country one day overthrow the apartheid system.
Mandela being freed from prison ushered in a new era in South Africa. Mandela became president of the ANC and talks began between his party and the White National Party to form a multi-racial democracy, something which led to the end of the apartheid system and equal rights amongst black and white South Africans. Mandela himself was elected as South Africa’s president in 1994, an election which saw black South Africans vote for the first time as Mandela proclaimed, “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.” However, as well as this, Mandela wanted to see a unified nation where all was equal regardless of race. This was seen by many as impossible due to racial tensions. Nevertheless, moments such as the Rugby World Cup Final in 1995, where he handed over the trophy to the South African captain, eased tensions within the country and allowed for a more united nation.
So what has Mandela left us with? Mandela will always be remembered for helping to bring peace and unity to a divided country and showing great leadership though the post-apartheid years in order to maintain this. In doing so, he also realised his own dream. Even after 27 years in prison he never gave up. It is because of this that Mandela will now and always be an icon, exemplifying great humanity, courage and dedication in order to achieve unity within his country. However, and perhaps more importantly, he has shown the rest of us how good can eliminate evil and that we should never give up on what we as individuals believe in.
In an interview in 1996 Mandela said about death “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
RIP Nelson Mandela July 18th 1918- December 5th 2013.
By Beccie Ions