Saturday, 07 December 2013
Many tried, and quite a few did succeed, at changing the course of history by the use of force, but there was one who was entirely unarmed yet he succeeded in attaining the impossible. He ended the centuries-old apartheid rule of South Africa's brutal white-minority regime, not by defeating it in the battlefield but by his message of human dignity, equality and freedom. He was Nelson Mandela (Madiba to his people who refer to him for the name of his clan), a giant of history. In his death the world has lost one of the most extraordinary men. In the words of Bishop Tutu, Mandela was "a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison" - an unbelievable change for a man who spent 27 years of his life, most of it in solitary confinement at the notorious Robben Island prison, where for the world outside to him was nothing more than a fist of blue sky seen through the hole in the roof. It's not that Nelson Mandela had no heart for armed struggle; he knew well the art of war, in fact he was the founder of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Before going to the prison as the commander-in-chief of the armed wing of the National African Congress he had received training in Algeria and Ethiopia. But there was a change of heart and mind as imprisonment lasted. Courtesy his close contact with his white jail wardens he discovered that people across the racial divide, irrespective of colour of their skin have more in common than what differentiates them. On coming out of jail he talked of racial harmony and national reconciliation as the only possible future for South Africa.