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Imprisonment to Integration.

Nelson Mandela is a name taught to children still in primary schools today as a starting block for teaching them about diversity and equality. The foul treatment and bad luck he sustained during his lifetime makes our hearts bleed, especially since he was such a good man determined to do right by his homeland. He had a point to prove, made it his purpose to achieve equality goals and persevered until he accomplished them. But how did he do this and why did he become so famous for it? And what was it he did to prove his loyalty to the cause?

Early Life.

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18th, 1918, in South Africa somewhere along the banks of the Mbashe River. The name given to him at birth by his father was actually Rolihlahla Mandela, which roughly translates as “troublemaker” in Xhosa, a meaning that would start to show its true colours later in life when he developed his own opinions. The name Rolihlahla only lasted him through until he started school (the first member of his family to do so, we should point out); as was custom at that time and due to the basis of the British education system in South Africa, it was Rolihlahla’s teacher who said his name would be Nelson from then on. With this, a seed had been planted in Mandela’s mind about the unjust system he and his fellow South Africans suffered from in their own country. And at such a young age, a change in first name would have been sure to confuse and hurt anyone.

At age nine, Mandela’s father died from lung cancer. Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo adopted Nelson as a favour to his father who recommended him for his position, meaning little Nelson had to move homes and get used to a whole other town. He did however seem to have a good education from there on out. He studied a variety of subjects including English and Geography and excelled in extracurricular activities including track. In 1939, he enrolled in the University College of Fort Hare.

Sparks of Rebellion.

In his second year of university, Mandela was elected as Student Representative Council, but he soon resigned as the students began boycotting due to the dissatisfaction of food and the control the council actually had. For this, under the grounds of insubordination, Mandela was expelled for the remainder of the academic year and was told he could only return if he took his place on the council again. Mandela refused – this was the first instance of his stubborn determination for things to be equal and fair which would later make him an international hero. When his adoptive father arranged a marriage for Mandela, he felt he was being cornered and decided it was better for him to run away, landing him in Johannesburg where he finished his degree through correspondence courses.

In 1942, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) which was known as an anti-apartheid movement. They believed in non-violent protests, staging boycotts, strikes and examples of non-cooperation, keeping things as peaceful as possible. This continued for 20 years, until Mandela began to believe that a little more force may be the way to go. After he orchestrated a three-day worker’s strike, he was arrested and charged with five years in prison…until he was brought to trial again, and that sentenced was extended to life imprisonment.

Proving His Point.

While in prison, Mandela contracted tuberculosis, and as a black inmate he received the lowest level of treatment. Despite all this, he managed to earn his Bachelor of Law degree through a correspondence programme. His story was also drifting around the world by this point and hearing of his struggle, an international campaign for his release commenced.

But this is what makes his story truly emotional. In 1985, Mandela was offered his freedom by President P.W. Botha, but only if he renounced armed struggle – and Mandela refused. He chose to stay imprisoned in awful conditions while being bullied by the guards for what he believed in. The international campaign grew.

After President Botha suffered a stroke, he was replaced by President Frederick Willem de Klerk who gave Mandela his long-await and well-deserved freedom in 1990. From there, Mandela went from strength to strength. For example, he and President de Klerk received a joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and he was even inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president 10th May the following year at the age of 77.  He continued fighting for what he believed in, finding ways as president to increase the quality of black South Africans’ lives. He did not retire from politics until 1999, to which he focused on raising money for schools and clinics instead.

We lost Nelson Mandela in recent years. He passed away on 5th December, 2013 at the age of 95. In his life he was as moveable and flexible as a mountain, holding up the beliefs the people of South Africa needed, and as a result became one of the most influential names and inspiring people to have fought for equal rights. We hope that this proves to you that with a little resistance and strong-will, you could also achieve your main goals in life and have an effect on other people in unimaginable ways.

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