Nobel Prize Winner and First Post-apartheid President of South African. Nelson Rolilahla Mandela is well known. Everyone I’m sure has a good idea of who he is and what he has done. He is considered the father of South Africa and was a key architect of Apartheid’s long overdue demise. He braved terrible hardships and a long 27-year prison sentence in the famed Robben Island Prison.
I have already spoken at some length about the apartheid system in my examination of Steve Biko’s life, but it bears repeating: It was a horrific and brutal regime that was quite happy to use violence to perpetuate and maintain its unjust system. In the face of this brutality, what I love most about Mandela’s leadership in the fight against apartheid was his pragmatism. He responded in kind as necessary. He was originally the leader of the militant wing of the ANC ‘Umkhonto We Sizwe’ which used guerilla tactics to fight against the regime and their cadre of military might.
It’s easy to say that he was young and rash, but it’s clear that he used the tactics that he felt would yield the best results. For a time, these guerilla tactics paid dividends, but they led to an even more brutal crackdown and Mandela to his credit changed tactics. His use of non-violent resistance then proved a stark contrast to the regime’s brutality and led to an outpouring of sympathy for the anti-apartheid activists.
He also was willing to subsume his own well being and accepted his 27 year imprisonment to further the cause. He was brilliant in so many ways; a great orator, a brilliant strategist and an unparalleled leader who inspired unwavering loyalty. He could not have done it alone, but his leadership was key. I have constantly been inspired by his courage and dedication. He is rightfully now a statesman of the world and has advocated for human rights around the world. The world will be a darker place when he is gone.
Greatest Quote: I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear