The day the world lost a great man: Nelson Mandela

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Nelson Mandela

Today the world lost a great man, an inspiration for all of us, a strong activist and voice for human rights: Nelson Mandela.The sad news hit us when we were sitting in our morning block English class. To celebrate his life and legacy I would like to dedicate this post to him

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He went from a freedom fighter, to a prisoner, to a unifying figure, to a statesman. His political career started in 1944 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC), and he participated in the resistance against the government¹s apartheid policy in 1948. In June 1961, the ANC executive approved his idea of using violent tactics and encouraged members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign. Shortly after, he founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, and was named its leader. In 1962, he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment. In 1963, Mandela was brought to stand trial along with many fellow members of Umkhonto we Sizwe for conspiring against the government and plotting to overthrow it.

On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. His statement from the dock at the opening of the defense trial became extremely popular. He closed his statement with: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of those years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town. While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known across the world as the most significant black leader in South Africa.

In February 1985, President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he unconditionally reject violence as a political weapon, but Mandela rejected the proposal. He made his sentiment known through a letter he released via his daughter. “What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts,” he wrote. In 1988, Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release.

Throughout his imprisonment, pressure mounted on the South African government to release him. The slogan “Free Nelson Mandela” became the new battle cry of the anti-apartheid campaigners. Finally, Mandela was released on Feb. 11, 1990, in an event streamed live across the world. After his release, Mandela returned to his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaNelson Manla has a long and personal connection with the UWC movement since his children and grandchildren attended Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa and became the Honorary President of UWC. Through his life-long defence of freedom and justice, Nelson Mandela encapsulates many of the ideals which UWC strives to achieve and provides great inspiration for students and alumni. He will always rest in our hearts not just a Nobel Peace Prize winner, South Africa’s first black president and as the honorary president of the UWC movement, but as great man who truly changed this world.

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor; that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine; that the child of farm workers can become the President of a great nation.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” –  Nelson Mandela