“Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” – Nelson Mandela (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)
The World mourns Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, anti-apartheid leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and one of the most important human rights activists in the history.
Mandela died on Thursday, December 5, at age 95 in his home in Johannesburg, South Africa in the presence of his family, after dealing with a recurring lung infection for the past three months.
A praised hero of his country and the World, Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918 in a small village in Umtatu, then part of South Africa’s Cape Province. The name Rolihlahla is a term which colloquially stands for “troublemaker.” His father was a local chief and councilor to the monarch. Upon his death, Mandela, aged nine, was taken to the “Great Place” at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted under the guardianship of the Chief. The Chief and his wife took care of the boy as he was their own. Mandela studied at a Methodist Mission School, and attended church service every Sunday with his guardians, making Christianity a significant part of his life.
Mandela continued his education at Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo, the largest Western-style institution for black Africans in Thembuland. In 1937, he moved to Healdtown, the Methodist College in Fort Beaufort attended by Thembu royalty. Due to a student boycott, Mandela was temporarily suspended from the institution, and then fled to Johannesburg without receiving a degree to avoid an arranged marriage. Eventually, he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1943 at the University of South Africa, while working multiple jobs in between.
Mandela, then, started his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand where he was the only native African student, facing racism on a daily basis. In 1942, he joined the African National Congress.
After 20 years of non-violent campaign leadership against the South African government, he came to the opinion that the ANC had no other alternative but armed and violent resistance. On December 5, 1956, Mandela was arrested for high treason. In 1964, he was sentenced to life, upon which he spent 27 years in prison.
Mandela was finally released from prison on February 11, 1990, and was elected the president of the ANC in 1991.
In 1993, Mandela and President Frederik Willem De Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, aged 75, Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, and served until 1999. Upon that, he became an activist for a number of human rights organizations and a spokesman against AIDS.
His activism and his leadership philosophy of peace, love, and understanding made him the leader of an era.
“Social equality is the only basis of human happiness.” (A letter written on August 1, 1970)
“Difficulties break some men but make others.” (From a letter to wife, Winnie Mandela, from Robben Island, February 1975)
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)