Presidenti K.R. Narayanan ,conferring Gandhi Peace Prize 2000 on Dr. Nelson Mandela{ Dr. P.J. Sudhakar*}  Nelson Mandela, a true Gandhian adopted democratic methods for achieving Human Rights, freedom and emancipation of Blacks from the South African apartheid regime. As a leader, Nelson Mandela can be compared to radical reformers like Mahatma Gandhi, Garibaldi of Italy and Lenin of Soviet Union who waged life-long struggles for freedom and human dignity. He led the struggle against apartheid- the inhuman practice of racial discrimination followed by rulers in South Africa. Mandela’s relentless crusade fructified in getting equal rights for Black people who were denied the basic rights to equality, freedom, human dignity and right to life. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life in the prisons of oppressive white rulers. Eventually, the Pretoria government had to release him in the autumn of 1990. The Indian Government honored Mandela with Nehru Peace Prize in 1980 and the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna conferred on him in 1990.  Bharat Ratna was conferred on him, the award so far given to only two foreign nationals and the other one being Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan- Frontier Gandhi, a freedom fighter during Indian Freedom Struggle. The Entire world hailed him as a great leader, who launched constructive revolt for the liberation of the coloured nationals in association with the African National Congress. The world recognized his struggle for freedom and awarded Noble Peace Prize to him. Mandela was a symbol of courage and crusader for human dignity and liberty. Mandela helped for smooth transition of power in South Africa and avoided bloodshed and hatred. The UNO celebrates 18th July as Mandela Day.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela popularly known as Madiba in his homeland was born on 18th July 1918. His father was chief of Tembu Tribe. As a young law student, he became involved in political opposition to the white minority regime. As a boxer, Mandela loved the sport and in his younger years, he was classed as a heavy-weight. The boy would later be given the English name Nelson by his school teacher; Mandela was name of his grandfather.


Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942 and co-founded its more dynamic Youth League in 1944. His father was the chief of the Thembu tribe and counselor of Thembu king. Mandela has had a first-hand experience of the atrocities unleashed by the white rulers on the coloured people. He came to Johannesburg at the age of 22. There, he met an active revolutionary named Walter Sisulu. He started studying Law. Mandela in association with Sisulu and Oliver Tambo started an agitation against the white rule which was crushed by the Pretorian authorities. The 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party led to apartheid system of racial segregation Nelson Mandelabecoming law. Mandela rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the fundamental programme of the anti-apartheid cause. Initially committed to non-violent mass struggle and acquitted in the marathon Treason Trial of 1956-1961, Mandela and his colleagues accepted the case for armed action after the shooting of unarmed protesters at Sharpeville in March 1960 and the banning of anti-apartheid groups. In 1961, he became the commander of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. In August of the following year, he was arrested and jailed for five years. In June 1964, he was sentenced again, this time to life imprisonment, for his involvement in planning armed action. He started his prison years in the infamous Robben Island Prison, a maximum security facility on a small island off the coast of Cape Town. In April 1984, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and in December 1988 he was moved to the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl from where he was eventually released.


During his incarceration Mandela taught himself to speak Afrikaans and learned about Afrikaner history. While in prison, Mandela rejected offers made by his jailers for remission of sentence in exchange for accepting the Bantustan policy by recognising the independence of the Transkei region and agreeing to settle there. Amongst opponents of apartheid in South Africa and internationally, he became a cultural symbol of freedom and equality. Mandela remained in prison until February 1990, when sustained ANC campaigning and international pressure led to his release. On 2 February 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990. He and President de Klerk – who did much to dismantle the institutions of apartheid – shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, he did not reveal anything about the alleged complicity of de Klerk in the violence of the 1980s and 90s, or the role of his ex-wife Winnie Mandela in that bloodshed. However, he later discussed those issues in ‘Mandela: The Authorised Biography’. While he was in prison and was invited to negotiate with White regime in February 1985, he stated that “only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated”.


After his release, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and, between 1990 and 1994, led the party in the multi-party negotiations that resulted in the country’s first multi-racial elections. As the first black president of South Africa (1994 – 1999) he presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid. He won praise for his leadership during this time, even from his former white opponents in South Africa. Following his retirement as president in 1999, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human-rights organizations. He used his status as a respected elder statesman to give weight to pertinent issues. The fight against Aids was one of Mandela’s primary concerns and he used his gravitas to raise awareness about the issue on the global stage. Having backed the 46664 Aids fundraising campaign, which was named after his prison number, he went on to call for more openness in discussing the condition. In 2007, he brought together elder statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates including Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Li Zhaoxing under a non-governmental organization dubbed The Elders. The aim of the organization was to combine the elders’ collective wisdom and use it to solve some of the world’s problems. Although he spoke out less about issues affecting neighboring country Zimbabwe in his retirement. His last public outing was during the closing ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg. He started Nelson Mandela foundation and served the poorest of the poor and needy.

In November 2009, Mandela’s contributions to world freedom were rewarded with a unique gesture by the United Nations General Assembly. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is to be known as ‘Mandela Day’ marking his contribution to world freedom. On 18 July 2012, Mandela’s 94th birthday, 12 million schoolchildren across South Africa honored him with a specially composed song to mark the day. Mandela has won international acclaim for his sacrifices for the cause of human rights and freedom. In 1980, he was given the Nehru Peace Prize by India. In 1990, India conferred its highest award the ‘Bharat Ratna’ on him. Nelson Mandela has come to symbolize human struggle against racial discrimination. East Germany honored him with the ‘Star of International Friendship’ and Venezuela conferred the ‘Simon Boliver Award’ on him. He has also been honored with the ‘Sakharov Award’ and the ‘Human Rights Award’.

Nelson Mandela was a protestor, prisoner and peacemaker. His death on 5thDecember 2013 has become a celebration of life of fellow human beings on Presidenti K.R. Narayanan ,conferring Gandhi Peace Prize 2000 on Dr. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africathe Earth. Nelson Mandela changed South Africa and the world. He became a father of a nation, an international icon, and a legend. He showed that heroes may leave but their wisdom remains. His compassion, humility, genuine caring, listening and talk leave an indelible impression on human history.

Nelson Mandela admired Gandhi who started his own freedom struggle in South Africa in 1890s but he regarded non-violence as a tactic. By the time he stepped down as the country’s first black President in 1999 in the age of 80, he was, almost without rival, the most admired person on Earth- seen as a secular saint, an embodiment of human greatness and an icon of peace and wisdom. He became the rarest thing in African history, a one term President who chose not to run for again. Like George Washington, he understood that every step he made would be template for others to follow. He could have been President for life, but he knows that democracy, he could not. Two democratic elections have followed his presidency, and if the men who have succeeded him have not been his equal, well, that too is democracy. He was a large man in every way. His legacy is that he expanded human freedom. He was tolerant of everything but intolerance. Nelson Mandela believed in justice throughout his life.


The UNO celebrates 18th July as Mandela Day.

* Dr. P.J. Sudhakar-  Addl. D. G. Government of India


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