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Nelson Mandela frequently reiterates “The struggle is my life,”. What struggle is he speaking of? Is he being flippant? The struggle to end racism in South Africa, where it plagues denizens of all races has certainly affected Mandela, as it has all Africans, how can he say he devoted his life to the cause of anti-racism? Racism became official policy with the passing of an apartheid law in 1948. The term ‘Apartheid’ means “apart”: not necessarily racial victimization and converse favoritism.
However, Apartheid has come to denote the culmination of unspoken laws excluding blacks made literal. Apartheid implied that whites –namely the English and Dutch, Japanese, and Italian, were to be segregated and favored as citizens of South Africa while the black majority, labeled Bantus regardless of their tribe or homeland, were to live in Bantustans. Similar to America’s Native American Reservations, but much more extreme, Bantustans were territories with arid, infertile soil and little-perceived value. In cramped homesteads, natives struggled to provide food and decent living conditions for themselves and their family. Africans were not allowed to own their own land or officially marry. If they went to a white settlement, as most did to find work, they were required to carry a pass stating their name, Bantustan address, Identification number, picture, state of employment, and age. Curfews restricted Africans to daylight hours, and men could be arrested for a traffic violation. But public racism was rampant, even more so, before the issue of apartheid. There is a long and bloody history of European infringement and victimization upon the African peoples, starting with the Cape Colony in the 1600’s.
Africans were kept apart so that language and cultural barriers could not be breached to form a united revolt. Essential slavery was practiced though it had been outlawed long ago. The above average African couldn’t even write. These are the conditions with which Nelson Mandela rose to become the president of the ANC, form the ANC Youth League, convert a prison to a place of learning, become the president of South Africa, and to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. It was not easy. Nelson Mandela grew up in Qunu in the territory of Transkei, where he was born on July 18, 1918. He was taught the relationship between the farmer and the earth, and the value of family. Mandela learned that of all things held dearest to the people was brotherhood, and unity in the face of injustice. As the son of a chief, he learned leadership and how to fine tune himself to the need of his people. Inspired by other great African leaders, such as Makana, David Stuurman, and Siyolo, Mandela vowed to make the most effective contribution singularly possible to the plight of his people: to lead them out of degradation and injustice by himself. To accomplish this goal, he decided he must first become educated so as to be recognized by the supremacist white government as one who, albeit black, was well versed and disciplined in both white and black culture and therefore capable of representing the African people. He studied African politics and global war history, especially the battles of Africans and Europeans. Genuinely interested in gaining knowledge of all cultures, he also studied poetry and ancient Greek history as well.
As a typical African territory, Qunu had a local missionary school where Christianity and rudimentary arithmetic and reading were taught. The pedagogy was one of blatant eurocentrism, “And in 1652 the Boers landed on this continent, bringing civilization to the pagans inhabiting the region. They brought medicine, clothing, soap, organized government…only did they lack the knowledge and resources brought by our venerable queen…” 2.kuy8 Mandela attended this school diligently but longed to comprehend more than was taught by the desperately impaired school. He went to Healdtown to attend the Wesleyan secondary school, a fairly rare ambition for an African, as most were trained for menial work and didn’t go to school after the Fifth grade. He excelled at academics and accepted a scholarship to the University College of Fort Hare. While studying for his Bachelor of Arts degree, he was an active member of the Student’s Representative Council and became notorious among his peers for his excellent debating capabilities and his dedication to the cause of his people. Always involved in movements speaking against the government, he was suspended for participation in a student boycott. Mandela did not let this detail set him back or slow his progress, he moved to Johannesburg and completed his BA by correspondence while upholding a nightly job.
While in Johannesburg he also received his articles of clerkship and studied for his LLB. During this period Mandela married a young nurse, Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Although their marriage did not last due to Mandela’s dedication to his cause, they had three children. One died in a car crash in 1970, and the other two now live in South Africa.As racial injustices became more prevalent and intrusive in the dawn of the Twentieth century, a small but influential party formed, called the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC was a government-sanctioned collection of representatives from all major African tribes founded in 1912. Mandela joined the ANC in 1942, and he helped transform the exclusive inert group into a mass movement. He moved to do away with government assigned protocol and concentrate on essential points. He updated the held principle from constitutional deviation to self-determination, and he discarded esoterism, making the ANC as the tool for all Africans–farmers, laborers, servants, educators alike– regardless of social or political standing.After only 2 years as a member of the ANC, Mandela had been recognized as a valuable political asset. Recalling his beginnings in the remote bantustan, Mandela, along with a few other ANC members, formed the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL).
Membership became a sacred claim of unity and importance to young Africans and gave them an effective way to concentrate their efforts on the cause of African liberation. In 1947, Mandela was elected to the secretary of the ANCYL, a promotion which enabled him to spearhead his election into the presidency of ANCYL. The motto of the ANCYL was a Bantu word, “Inyaniso”, which meant “truth”.”Inyaniso! Say we the people of Africa, the true children of mother Africa, that by seeking the truth we shall not tolerate any effort to obstruct our right to govern ourselves…This is the truth, and it is our claim to democracy which will carry us beyond drudgery and malnutrition, the results of the injustice that is apartheid.”
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