27 June, 2019

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Nelson Mandela, A Legend Of All Time

By Sulakshi Thelikorala

Dr. Sulakshi Thelikorala

Dr. Sulakshi Thelikorala

“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”- Nelson Mandela

The definition of a “freedom fighter” is made confusing in the contemporary world.  It is often argued that one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist. Yet, the best examples of freedom fighters came from an era of post-colonialism, with the rise of nationalism and patriotic movements in Asia and Africa led by renowned world leaders fighting for the right of land against the imperial powers.  Amongst them stood Nelson Mandela, a real freedom fighter, and one of the best of our times.

Nelson Mandela was the pioneer in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, protecting curtailed rights of the majority black population in South Africa. Mandela passed away today at the age of 95 years. Mandela has been seriously ill over a couple of months and has been treated continuously, being hospitalised several times.  The South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the demise of this great leader declaring “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family; Our nation has lost its greatest son.  Our people have lost a father.”

The legend has devoted his lifetime to fulfill the obligations of his country and people, becoming one of the very few great political leaders in history. The greatest transformation in South Africa’s history was the breakdown of the apartheid system in 1994 as a result of Mandela’s epic struggle. He served 27 years in prison and became the first black President in South Africa, elected by the country’s foremost democratic multiracial election.

NelsonNelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in 1918 marking the end of World War I in Mvezo, a land of fertile valleys and rolling green hills. Mvezo is the capital of Transeki which is the largest territorial division of South Africa. Almost eight decades later, it was the same small village where he decided to build his retirement house.

Mandela descends from the Thembu Dynasty of the South African Royalty whose patrilineal great grandfather has been the King of the tribe. His traits of power would have been rooted to his understanding of the tribal leadership since he was brought up to be an adviser but not an heir to the Thembu throne.

His first name “Rolihlahla” resembling “troublemaker” was bestowed upon him by his father, Glada Henry Mphkanyiswa who was the Mvezo Chief. Young Mandela always believed that the centre of his existence was his mother, Noseneni Fanny. He was the youngest of the four boys in a family of 13 and has always shown an abiding connection to his roots and the Thembu throne.

In the early years, Mandela and his mother were forced to leave his birthplace Mvezo to mitigate strained circumstances. Qunu becomes Mandela’s new home for nearly a decade where he has spent the happiest days of his childhood. At Qunu, he acquires the initial knowledge through observation and imitation based on a life of custom, rituals and taboo.

Mandela was the first member in his family to attend school. He attended a Wesleyan Missionary school after being baptized as a Methodist. His well renowned name “Nelson” resembling the great British Sea Captain Lord Nelson was bestowed upon him on the very first day at school by his English teacher Miss Mdlingane.

Young Mandela’s destiny changed when his father faced a tragic death from tuberculosis. Since then, the regent Jongintaba becomes Mandela’s guardian, making him part of the regent’s family.

It was the era of racial segregation in South Africa that Mandela was brought up amidst royal prerogative and the traditional upbringing sharpened the traits of his character.

Mandela has always exhibited his interest in learning and proved to be an excellent student. He completed his Junior Certificate in two years, instead of the usual period of three years. He completed only two years of the Bachelor of Arts Degree at the Fort Hare University before deciding to leave for Johannesburg to avoid a marriage arranged by his guardian.

The rights of the majority black population in South Africa were curtailed under the Apartheid system, a legal racial segregation coordination enforced by the South African National Party in 1948. Mandela became an active political figure in the Anti Apartheid movement, leading prominently in the African National Congress. The young freedom fighter together with his colleagues Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo formed the ANC youth league to continue the anti-Apartheid campaign with non violent resistance.

The most significant memoir of the leading anti-Apartheid campaigner lies during his 27 years of imprisonment, making the transformation into a mature political leader. In 1964, Mandela was charged with sabotage and treason as an anti-Apartheid attempt to violently overthrow the Government. He fortunately escapes execution, nevertheless gets life imprisonment.

From the 27 years of solitude in prison, 18 painstaking years were spent in the Robben Island. It has been the loathsome shelter to many political prisoners who had spent decades of imprisonment alongside Mandela and the current South African President Jacob Zuma. The rest of the imprisonment was spent in the Pollsmoor Prison and the Victor Vester Prison.

Life at Robben Island has been years of persecution confined to a small cell with the floor imitating a bed. The prisoners were segregated by race where the black prisoners received fewer rations and harsh labour.

He was forced to attend hard labour at a lime quarry and his communication with the external world was restricted to one visitor and one letter for six months. While held in custody, he was neither allowed to attend his mother’s nor his 25 year old elder son’s funeral. Proving his keen interest towards learning from childhood, Mandela undertook the degree of Bachelor of Law externally in correspondence with the London University while in prison.

Mandela’s reputation grew steadily over the last few years in prison when local and international pressure mounted on the South African authorities to free the Nobel Laureate under the slogan of “Free Nelson Mandela”. Moreover, the US Senator, Edward Kennedy visited South Africa to extend his anti-Apartheid view hosted by Bishop Desmond Tutu, the third South African to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thus, the greatest freedom fighter of our time was released on February 11, 1990 from the Victor Vester Prison amidst the celebrations of thousands clamouring in the streets of Cape Town.

On his release, Mandela declared his commitment to peace stating “our march to freedom is irreversible”.

This was the very first instance Mandela was shown speaking on television. The legend’s release from 27 years in prison led to further changes in the political system of South Africa such as relaxation of Apartheid laws, including lifting the bans on leading black rights.

Following his release from prison he returned to the African National Congress leadership who led the party for multi party negotiations which resulted in South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

In 1994, Mandela became South Africa’s first black President to be elected in a full representative democratic election. Mandela served as President for five years when Mandela’s advocacy in national and international reconciliation gained high international recognition.

The Nobel Laureate retired in 1999 and went on to become an advocate for human rights organizations. He has become a famous public figure in charity since retirement. The legend became the first South African to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, sharing it with Frederik Willem de Klerk, the last state President of the Apartheid South Africa.

Mandela married three times to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Graca Machel. Winnie Mandela was a political activist whom he met in Johannesburg, where she was the city’s first black social worker. She played an active political role, parallel to Mandela’s journey for an Apartheid free South Africa. Mandela is the father of six and a grandfather of 20 grandchildren with a growing number of great grandchildren.

“Long Walk to Freedom”, the autobiographical manuscript by Nelson Mandela was published in 1995 by Little Brown and Company. The book profiles his boyhood, education, political ascension and imprisonment giving much needed emphasis to South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movement. This book remains one of the most treasured autobiographies in the modern times.

The Nobel Laureate won the Alan Paton Award in 1995 for his admirable autobiography.

Nelson Mandela has been the greatest freedom fighter of the 20th Century, undergoing protracted trials to establish freedom in South Africa. He was a man of victory, an inspiration to many and will be a memory worth a lifetime.

I have walked the long walk of freedom. I have tried no to falter, I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret to that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” – Nelson Mandela

* Email – sulakshi.thelikorala@gmail.com 

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Restored democracy beating a facist minorty. Who is the other “Matiba” we know?

    • 0
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      Vibhushana ……… “Restored democracy beating a facist minorty. Who is the other “Matiba” we know?”………. I can assure you definitely its not you, Banda, Hela, Jimmy, Sumane, ………… Who is going to rest democracy from the totalitarian Sinhala/Buddhists and Mahinda’s Pol Potistas?

  • 2
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    Nelson Mandela was a legend in his lifetime, and his name will be engraved forever in History.

  • 2
    1

    Nelson Mandela’s name and V.Pirabakaran’s name must be engraved in gold and perpetuated for ever in the annals of human history. Long live Mandela, long live Piraba in the hearts
    and minds of the Tamils the world over. Death cannot
    take away your spirit and you will live amongst us for ever. As long as the humanity live you
    will live in the people’s hearts. You have defeated death . May God bless you.

    • 0
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      I respect your love to your hero. However, Mandela is my hero too and he never liked Gold, so please don’t engrave Mandela’s name in Gold…

    • 0
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      Your sense of judgement is awful. If you had listened to an interview he gave to BBC David Dimbleby, you would not have compared Mandela with VP! Do you think Mandela would have sent confused young men and women on suicide missions? Do you think Mandela would set off bombes killing innocent civilians to make a political point?

    • 0
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      Pirana…..It would be absolute blasphemy, if not the joke of the century, to use the name of the incomparable hero Mandela and that maniacal murderer Prabakharan in one sentence!

    • 0
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      Prabakaran the ‘Hacker’, in the same sentence with Mandela ? U are a f_cking Genius man ! Long live Pirana the moron !

    • 1
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      For those morons who failed to see a paralell between Mandela the great freedom fighter who was referd to as terrorist by his adversaries and V.Pirabakaran the greatest freedom fighter (the 20th century world produced)who was also referd to as a terrorist by his enimies the following article will be illuminating:-

      http://sangam.org/tribute-nelson-mandela-1918-2013/

      • 0
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        Get over it VP was an obstinate and self-centred fanatic who did not understand his own limitations. All he did was to leave the Tamils in perilous situation. He wanted to create a state for Tamils and Tamils alone. Mandela stood for unity and freedom. Mandela defined what terrorism is to bbc; ANC never targeted civilians and this was why he was given a long sentence instead of a capital punishment! I think you need to bury your head in the sand. I am a Tamil before you accuse me of a racist.

        • 0
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          Burning issue

          Do you know even Luxman Kathirgamar, Karuna and Douglas devananda are also Tamils . In Tamil we call them Kodari kampus. People like you are a scourge to the Tamil community.

          • 0
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            Piraña,

            What gives you the right to call me a “scourge of the Tamil community”? This is the kind of mindset VP practiced that anyone did not agree with him paid with their lives! MR and GR operate on the same basis! By the way, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Amirthalingham, Yogeswaran and many others are Tamils too! First you need to comprehend that one can critique VP and at the same time critique the MR regime too. Why don’t you read this article that Sumanthiran wrote: Tamil People, Where Did We Go Wrong? This is published on CT. Please do some self-searching and may be you will learn to think outside the box. One thing I will not allow for people like to induce another armed struggle.

      • 0
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        Pirana,

        VP had at least one major chance to make a Mandela-like transformation–during the ceasefire period between 2002–2005.

        There were many westerners, like Chris Patten, who took the trouble to visit the Vanni and meet VP to urge such a transformation.

        Mandela knew the importance of the West for South Africa and knew how to charm them. The very people who had previously blacklisted him as a terrorist embraced him as a compassionate leader who brought peaceful transformation in South Africa.

        Had VP made an attempt to change even as late as 2005, the world could very well have forgiven him his past sins — though India would still not have forgiven him for Rajiv Gandhi’s murder– and the conflict would not have reached Nanthikadal.

        But VP never could; after all Mandela knew that once the transformation was made, he would become the leader of South Africa. There was no such chance for VP in Sri Lanka. To make such a transformation, VP would have had to agree to Federalism or even less, but having told his cadres to shoot him dead if he ever deviated from the pursuit of a separate state, how could he?

        When the powerful US under Clinton administration asked him to distance South Africa from Cuba and Libya, two states the US had marked as state sponsors of terrorism, Mandela, then President of South Africa, could stand his ground, arguing that when the ANC was fighting apartheid, Cuba and Libya had stood with him, and so he couldn’t sever ties with such steadfast friends. Such was his stature that the US made no more demands about it.

  • 0
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    How does Nelson Mandela compare with Mahinda Rajapakse? Mahinda also went to prison for something or other

    • 0
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      Gunadasa Mahinda must have gone to jail for stealing things that didn’t ‘t belong to him.

  • 0
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    I should have said for stealing some body else’s
    Property.

  • 0
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    “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in way that respect and enhance the freedom of others” – Nelson Mandela

    Lets not forget he was a terrorist. Many Tamil terrorist died in their teens deprived of good leadership and the opportunity to transform-themselves, within the racist environment created by the Sinhalese and nurtured by the Tamils. The few Tamil Mandelas were murdered too early by the LTTE – while the racist Tamil Expats clapped in appreciation.

    • 0
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      If Lankans had resisted the Brits militarily, they would have been branded Terrorists. It’s just a term one side uses to demonize the other side.

  • 0
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    One mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist
    ———————————————————————-
    In 2008 just before his 90th birthday, the United States gave Nelson Mandela a special present, striking him from a decades-old terror watch list and ending what US officials called “a rather embarrassing matter”.—————-

    On Thursday, when Mandela died at age 95, President Barack Obama hailed him as belonging “to the ages” and ordered that flags on US government buildings be flown at half-mast – a rare tribute to a foreign leader.——————–

    Yet decades ago many in America did not share in the adulation of Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC), which had been billed a terrorist organisation by both South Africa and the United States. His severest right-wing critics painted him as an unrepentant terrorist and a communist sympathiser.—————-

    It was even reported that the CIA had helped engineer Mandela’s 1962 arrest when an agent inside the ANC supplied South African security officials with a tip-off to track him down.
    ———–http://www.news24.com/NelsonMandela/News/Mandela-once-branded-terrorist-by-the-US-20131206
    ———————————————————————–
    Let us hope that the values he stood for and principles he followed are kept alive by those who rush to register their condolences.
    ———————————————————————–
    “I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”

  • 0
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    Kiri Yakka ……..

    “Tamils. The few Tamil Mandelas were murdered too early by the LTTE” ……… Could you name them.

    • 0
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      I can feel you Native these Sinhala and Tamil buggers make me sick some times. Comparing Mandela with rapist, thugs , robbers. Worst comparing with Sinhala Buddhist criminals…

      • 0
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        J.Muthu

        Mandela has unique place in history for several reasons, comparing this “wise old man” Elder to any other is a futile exercise. .. He was a great source of humanity, wisdom,……….

  • 1
    0

    What Mandela did was possible in South Africa. He fought his freedom with Humans.28 years or so he was in a cell or prison. Wasnt he lucky to come out of Prison?.Now the world is praising him for what ever he has done for his people.
    However the current strategy for freedom and the way how to deal with those freedom fighter have changed.
    We Srilanakns are proud as we have the innovative method to deal with freedom fighters. We would get in them in white van or prison and would kill them. How could they become heros?. The Tamil freedom fighters sacrificed their lives? We call them terrorists and kill them. Though what they have done or sacrificed is more than Mandela has done , we Srilankan are clever we managed to call them as terrorist not Heros.
    While the world is praising Mnadela for his 18 years in cell for his peoples freedom, We Srilankns have led the world in a different pathway and successfully suppress their freedom fighting in a different way .T
    The LTTE freedom fighters and their leader were terrorist as they were in Srilanka. But had they been in SouthAfrica, would they have been HEROS?
    Not any more We Srilankans and the so called international community have changed the way of dealing with freedom fighters. No more HEROS.

    • 0
      0

      sinhala friend:

      ……….. Please bear with me, I take it that you preferred the psychopath VP to have been put in prison and transformed him into a great humanist and released him after 27 years at the age of 82 to achieve freedom for all people in this island. …………. Your idea sound interesting. ……

  • 0
    2

    MAHINDA RAJAPAKASE is an example of another great leader.

    • 1
      0

      MR is no Mandela. Mandela forgave the Whites and did not take revenge for the suffering meted out to the Blacks. Mandela was humble in victory.
      MR has not forgiven the Tamils. (He never will!) He does not believe in living in harmony with the Tamils. MR was pompous, haughty and arrogant in defeat.

      • 0
        0

        (correction) MR was pompous, haughty and arrogant in “victory”

    • 0
      0

      Aubergine no wonder you are a vegetable. Are you suffering from hallucination? Mahinda Rajapakse is a war criminal pure and simple. He is waiting to face the gallows with his younger brother and their hench men.

  • 0
    0

    Native Vedhha,

    You ask me to names “….The few Tamil Mandelas were murdered too early by the LTTE” . I used to think that the Vedhas were welled informed of the follies of the late arrivals. It appears not.

    To be “Nelsan Madela” you got to possess “Independence intellect” – not the kind that the herds of educated Tamils expats posses – or the herds of Sinhalese intellects that out number them. You will see in their posting a desperate attempt to fake civilizational values – now that the are threaten with a global inquiry into their sad mental state – while they cannot even figure out why.

    Do you not know that every Tamil Potential leader who expressed alternate approaches was gunned down while the expats clapped. Not all of them were racist or fascist. In the early days LTTE used to divide the kids into two separate boats dispatching them from India after training. One boat had loyal unquestioning followers of the leader – the other was for the kids who questioned things. The kids who question – were dispatched midway to the bottom of the sea to join the hundreds of TELO kids – who may have stolen the odd chicken – that was so so important for the Jaffna Man.

    • 0
      0

      Kiri Yakka,
      Batches of tamils were periodically murdered in cold blood,commencing 1951,simply because they were tamils,by the armed forces. This was the commencement of hatred against the sinhala dominated government – long before tamil militancy occurred.
      Many thousands of young mostly unarmed sinhala youth too,were murcered in cold blood in 1971 & 1987/88/89,by the then governments. The sinhalese took this meekly,unlike tamils who retaliated commencing after the islandwide pogrom in July 1983.Now,after killing thousands of tamils,their lands are being stolen & their homes being demolished by the army.
      The Minister of Justice has told the visiting UN Special Rapporteur that “the matter is beng addressed”.Elsewhere it is reported that Land Ministry officials are engaged in this matter – this is a Law and Order problem and should be addressed by the new Ministry of Law and Order,and NOT by the Land ministry !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      TNA leader said in parliament that even after being ordered by the President,demolition of homes of tamils by the army goes on.None of the government said anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0
      0

      Kiri Yakka:………………”I used to think that the Vedhas were welled informed of the follies of the late arrivals. It appears not.”………. I agree with you, however I must say all my teachers were either Tamils or Sinhalese during my formative years. ……… Please don’t judge my Elders by my ignorance…………. Still you haven’t named potential Sri Lankan Mandelas. Do you really believe this island has the potential to unleash Mandelas? You must be deceiving yourself. ……. I am aware of the extent which atrocities have been committed by the Tamils on ordinary people. it is somewhat mind boggling though may not know individual cases.. ……Where and when did the stupid Tamils go wrong? ………According to my Elders Tamils used to boast themselves as the most peace loving people of this earth. ….. My Elders never bought into this myth anyway.

  • 0
    0

    All Tamils go to South Africa.

    • 0
      0

      Fart man why don’t you go to Mecca?

  • 0
    0

    Let’s see from here where is the Africa is Head to. and also it has a fear the Post colonial Apartheid is going to Start as the former South African Vice president said. she told there is a fear.

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