The Father of Africa
On Oct. 1, 1994, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela visited the United States as the first non-white President of South Africa. His first year in office, he gained international respect for his advocacy on national and international peace. But who was this guy and how does he relate to social justice?
Mandela was born July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, South Africa. He attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Here he became involved with a political organization against apartheid, the African National Congress.
Apartheid literally means “the state of being apart,” and was a system of racial segregation in South Africa. Under the government the rights, associations, and movements of the black inhabitants were reduced.
Here are some examples of apartheid laws:
1949-Act No 55, Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act: Prohibited marriages between white people and people and non-white people.
1951-Act No 27, Building Workers Act: Prevented black Africans from performing skilled work in any areas except those designated for black occupation.
1951-Act No 52, Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act: Gave the Minister of Native Affairs the ability to displace blacks from public and privately owned land and to place them in resettlement camps.
1953-Native Labor (Settlement of Disputes) Act: Prohibited black people to go on strike.
In 1950, Mandela became the National Executive for ANC working toward anti-apartheid campaigns, like the Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws. This law spoke for the underprivileged people of Africa, and around the world.
“All people, irrespective of the national group they belong to and irrespective of the colour of their skin, who have made South Africa their home, are entitled to live a full and free life. Full democratic rights with direct say in the affairs of the government are the inalienable right of every South African – a right which must be realised now if South Africa is to be saved from social chaos and tyranny and from the evils arising out of the existing denial of the franchise of vast masses of the population on the grounds of race and colour. The struggle which the national organisations of the non-European people are conducting is not directed against any race or national group. It is against the unjust laws which keep in perpetual subjection and misery vast sections of the population. It is for the creation of conditions which will restore human dignity, equality and freedom to every South African.”
In 1962, Mandela was captured by police, arrested and charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission. During his hearing he refused to call any witnesses and turned his plea mitigation into a political speech. He was found guilty and spent the next 27 years in jail.
Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president May 10, 1994, presiding over the transition from minority rule and apartheid. During his presidency he promoted national reconciliation and domestic wealth programs.
December 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95 from a prolonged respiratory infection. Believing in equality for all, Mandela is a true advocate for social justice.