My dear readers, today, the world has lost one of its finest elder statesmen. Former President of South Africa, anti-Apartheid activist and champion of human rights Nelson Mandela has died from a lingering lung infection at the age of 95.
Born in a small Xhosa village in 1918, Mandela would become an active member of the African National Congress while studying law in the 1940s. His influence within the ANC would grow over the following decade, and he proved influential in spearheading the group’s adoption of various means of civil disobedience, ranging from strikes to sabatoge. As Apartheid ramped up, so did Mandela and the ANC’s efforts to struggle against it. In1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison for organizing one such strike – this would be extended to a life sentence at a following trial for himself and ten other members of the ANC in 1964.
It would be during his nearly three decades of imprisonment that Nelson Mandela became known world-wide for his opposition to Apartheid, and calling for equal rights for all of South Africa. He spent eighteen of his twenty-seven imprisoned years at the infamous Robben Island prison, working in a lime quarry when he wasn’t confined to a damp 56-square foot concrete cell. Limited to one visitor and one letter every six months, Mandela’s continued calls for resistance to Apartheid made him famous the world over, but despite international pressure for his release, South Africa would refuse to do so. He was offered release in 1985 under the condition he give up the struggle against the regime – Mandela refused.
Finally, upon F.W. de Klerk’s ascension to the South African Presidency in 1989, they long overdue process of dismantling Apartheid began – Mandela would be released from prison in February 1990. Following his release, and a brief tour around the world meeting with various heads of state, Mandela was elected president of the ANC, and entered a case-fire with the government. Here, Mandela would make good on all of his promises on non-violence and respect for democracy, Mandela worked to establish a new constitution for South Africa and to hold free democratic elections, which were finally held in April 1994. The ANC won 62-percent of the vote, and Nelson Mandela was elected President, an office he would hold until 1999, when he stepped down. He spent much of the last decade either doing charity work, or in quite retirement with his family.