There are few people in the world who truly deserve the title of ‘hero.’
But today the world has lost someone who is exactly that. Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, who has been a symbol of resistance, peace and moral leadership for decades died today at the age of 95.
Mandela’s unwavering commitment to fighting apartheid and oppression in South Africa won him love and respect the world over.
His support of countless international humanitarian causes over many decades only further exemplified the power of compassion and conviction this man had.
Each and every one of us, regardless of nationality, gender or age, can take something from his legacy.
So let’s take a moment today, as we mourn his passing, to also remember and acknowledge the tremendous contribution Mandela made to our world.
Nelson Mandela was born as Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918 in the South African province of Transkei. His father, known as Henry, was a principal counsellor to the Thembu royal family. Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school, and it was a teacher at his primary school in Qunu who gave him the English name Nelson.
Mandela commenced a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Fort Hare, but was asked to leave when he joined in a student boycott of university policy. He eventually completed his Bachelor of Arts through the University of South Africa and studied law at the University of Witwatersrand. He later founded a law firm, Mandela and Tambo, with his friend and fellow Fort Hare alumni Oliver Tambo. The pair provided low-cost counsel to black Africans who could not afford representation.
In 1944 Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a multi-racial nationalist movement advocating change within South Africa, and was instrumental in forming the ANC Youth League.
Following the 1948 election, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party came to power and began implementing laws of apartheid – i.e. forced segregation based on race – causing the ANC to stage a passive resistance campaign.
As the government’s discrimination intensified, the organisation began to adopt the more radical approach advocated by the Youth League including boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience. Mandela, inspired by the ethos of Mahatma Ghandi, aimed for non-violent resistance. In 1956, he and 150 fellow activists were tried for treason; the trial lasted five years and resulted in their acquittal.