Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela dies at the age of 95

 

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95 of complications from a recurring lung infection.

Born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918, he was one of the world's most revered statesmen and revolutionaries who led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
His political career started in 1944 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC), and he participated in the resistance against the then 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 by the use of violence.

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.