FEATURED | JULY 2013 | DJ SPECIAL EDITION
It is a fine line to thread, one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist! The most famous person to fall into this category in our lifetime is NELSON MANDELA. As I write this Nelson Mandela is critically ill *[RIP 5.12.2013]. Our coverstar IDRIS ELBA stars in LONG WALK TO FREEDOM the yet to be released movie based around Nelson’s life and is already being tipped as a strong OSCAR candidate.
The Nelson Mandela story is a complex one. It is also a painful story of human hardship, suffering and cruelty. Inspirational as it is depressing, the Nelson Mandela story is evidence if ever you needed it that one man can change the world, maybe not alone but he can change it.
In this time when the West is preoccupied with ‘terrorism’ it should be noted that for over 30 years Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist by his Government and other Governments around the world. He is now feted as one of the finest politicians ever by the same Governments and press organisations that initially condemned him.
Born in South Africa Nelson was a big lad. He was a keen boxer and an even more keen student. This combination of physical strength and academic aptitude were key to the path Nelson’s life would take. His presence meant that people listened to him. His intelligence meant that what he said resonated with his audience, they began to take note and a leader was born. Nelson graduated from law school and began to practice law in Johannesburg South Africa. Nelson and his associates were skilled practitioners of the law and with this success came notoriety. They were winning cases and helping the township people but South Africa was a very harsh place for the indigenous black population and Nelson and his friends themselves experienced the unjustness they were combating first hand every day. They began to challenge the laws that they felt were unfair and unjust and this brought them into direct conflict with the South African Government. They organised strikes and were able to mobilise large sways of the population behind their movement.
Controversially they sometimes used forms of violence to defend themselves and to make statements supporting their plight. Their cause, that everyone should be treated equally, that was it nothing more nothing less. Time has proven that what they were fighting against was unfair and what they were fighting for was fair.
In 1964 at the age of 44 Nelson was imprisoned for crimes against the state and was detained for the next 27 years. He was often tortured physically and mentally and his confinement was compounded by the harsh routine he was forced to endure. However his imprisonment did not quell the movement and he became a focal point for the global anti-apartheid movement. It is suggested that they only kept him alive because his captures were fearful that Mandela could be more dangerous as a dead martyr than a living prisoner.
Throughout the 70s and 80s activists, musicians and politicians campaigned tirelessly for his release and for an end to apartheid. In 1990 after much bloodshed the South African ruling party conceded and agreed to the end of apartheid and the release from prison of its most famous opponent. This began a process that would lead to free elections for the entire population thus putting a nail in the coffin of minority rule in South Africa.
It is now widely accepted that Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter and that he was unjustly imprisoned. It is also accepted that the government he was fighting against was discriminating negatively against the majority of the population it represented. However Nelson still carried out activities that even by today’s standards would be deemed as terrorist acts. Time has proven that his cause was just, but does this mean that his terrorist actions were justified? This is a question that is very relevant today and one that when related to Nelson is not as easy to answer as it may first seem.
For Nelson personally the question is no longer relevant, his place in history is cemented. Nobel Peace Prize winner and Father of a Nation he will remain one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen. Yet now that his life is at it’s eleventh hour *[RIP 5.12.2013], you will hear many things about his personal circumstances and relationships that may raise an eyebrow when attributed to someone so revered. Nelson was not a saint neither was he immune to the customs, traditions and attitudes of his culture. This however should not detract from or dilute the tremendous achievements he made in his lifetime.
If you do not know the story of apartheid then the movie ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ will be a good introduction. You may want to check out the lives of Winnie Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Steve Bico, Desmond Tutu, Pik Botha and FW De Klerk to name but six major players in the apartheid story. It’s an incredible part of African and world history and an illustration of how selfish, heartless and greedy mankind can be. It is also a demonstration of how resilient we can be also. A lesson in history that unfortunately we have yet to fully learn from as conflicts and unjust governments continue to oppress people in regions throughout the world. Now we have a new generation of freedom fighters or are they terrorists, you decide?
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