Nelson Mandela: What one man’s vision can accomplish
Nelson Mandela (Madiba) is unarguably one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time.
With official statements using stronger language everyday to report on his ailing health, it is a time for reflection for the global community as the fulfillment of several causes upheld by Mandela remains ambiguous. What is crystal clear, however, is Mandela’s everlasting influence on how the world will perceive equality, freedom and change for years to come
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942 to give a platform to peasants and workers voiceless under the racist apartheid regime. For 20 years thereafter, Mandela led non-violent movements against the racist policies of the South African government, earning himself a sentence of life imprisonment in 1963 for his political struggle. For the next 27 years, Mandela remained a symbol of courage for his supporters, who protested against racial discrimination along the lines of Mandela’s manifesto whilst he remained a prisoner. Upon his release, Mandela lobbied for free elections. His efforts culminated in the 1994 general election, the first fully representative, multiracial election in 300 years where black Africans were allowed the right to vote. From an incarcerated alleged terrorist, Mandela rose to become the first black South African to hold the presidential office.
Mandela’s journey bears evidence of the success that resilience and optimism are capable of producing. True, there were points in his journey where progress was seemingly slow. However, real change rarely happens very fast. To get tangled up in the desire for immediacy is to misunderstand the nature of change itself. Nevertheless, the quest for betterment has to be a constant motive, as it was for Mandela.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela
Mandela, even as he was surrounded by a system of racial inequality that is classified as one of the worst the world has seen, dreamt of a perfect, equitable democracy. He balanced non-violent protests and armed struggle with open negotiations to convince the white minority of equal rights for the black South African population. Admirably, Mandela remained loyal to the concept of equal freedom even when factions in the black populace supported a complete transfer of power instead of sharing power among the majority and minorities in government. He knew that racism is not exclusive to the behavior of white people; he guarded against it in all its forms.
Today, in a local setting where religious and ethnic minorities are discriminated against economically, socially and in certain cases, constitutionally, Mandela’s motive of impartial, equal rights is a much-needed political concept. Be it the Pakistani community or the larger global arena, Mandela understood that it is degradation of one group in favor of another that destroys the humanity and harmony within human society. He rooted for multiracial, impartial democracy, a form of government several societies in the contemporary world have failed to produce. The crippling inequalities we inhabit can be dismantled only via a vision as strong as Mandela’s.
“Realise that the time is always ripe to do right.” – Nelson Mandela
Mandela utilised every downfall in his journey to accelerate his progress towards the next milestone in sight. Despite enduring tuberculosis during his prison sentence, he acquired a Bachelor of Law degree through a correspondence program and wrote much of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom during his prison years. When his son passed away, Mandela responded by adding steam to the fight against AIDS, the disease his son succumbed to. In 2007, he convened a group of world leaders including the likes of Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson to form “The Elders”, a group that went on to promote peace, humanitarian aid and women’s rights across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The beloved “Madiba” led from multiple fronts, never compromising his beliefs or conceding the causes he championed. The only form of authority he held supreme was the moral authority of his own principles of freedom and equality.
As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate struggles for every breath in his most severe illness to date, he is doing what he has always done. He is fighting the odds against him to live the way he wants to live. His journey is miraculous, yet his message is simple – one courageous individual can rewrite history the way he or she sees fit. All it takes is unwavering commitment to creating a happier, safer, more equal world.
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