Nelson Mandela: A brief profile of the ailing Anti-Apartheid African


Anti Apartheid leader and Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was born on 18th July 1918 in a small village of Mvezo which was then a part of South Africa’s Cape Town province. He was given the forename Rolihlahla which basically means ‘troublemaker’. Mandela’s name was going to have a huge effect on him in the future as he would go onto create enormous trouble for the ruling racist regime in South Africa.

No one in Nelson Mandela’s family had ever attended school. He was the first one to avail of this luxury as he was sent to a Methodist school to study when he was seven. At that point in time, there was a custom among Africans that they would generally be given English names while attending school. On the first day of his school, Mandela was given the name Nelson by his teacher Miss Mdingane.

At a tender age of nine, Nelson Mandela lost his father to an undiagnosed ailment. Mandela inherited several aspects of his father’s personality. In his own words, he inherited his father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness”.

Coming of age:

At the age of 16, Mandela underwent the ritual of circumcision which basically marked ones evolution from being a boy to a man. After observance of the said ritual, Mandela was given the name “Dalibunga”.

During his initial days, Mandela avoided any revolutionary activity. Instead he was supportive of Great Britain during the days of the Second World War. This was principally because he saw European colonialists of the time as benefactors and not oppressors.

Politics & Personal Life:

In the year 1944, Mandela married his first wife Evelyn Mase who was a serving nurse. The couple gave birth to two kids one of whom died early due to a childhood ailment. In the same year he founded the African National Congress to stage protests against the racist regime.

Nelson Mandela’s political career went on the ascendance when he was elected National President of the ANCYL in 1950. During these years Mandela was heavily influenced by Communist ideologues like Karl Marx. Alongside Indian and Communist groups, Mandela chalked out a non violent resistance to the apartheid regime.

Mandela was arrested in 1952 and booked under the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1953, at an ANC meeting, Mandela’s supporters read out his historic speech ‘No easy walk to freedom’ whose title was inspired by a famous quotation of India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

After getting divorced from his first wife in 1957, Mandela got married for the second time to Winnie Madikizela in 1958. Their wedlock lasted for more than three decades until the couple finally separated ways in 1992 and filed for divorce in 1996.

Struggle and Imprisonment:

In 1962, after getting frustrated with the slow movement of his anti-apartheid campaign, Mandela left the country to receive military training in neighbouring countries like Morocco and Ethiopia. On his return to his native home, Mandela was nabbed by security forces and taken into custody. On June 12th, 1964 Mandela along with seven others was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

February 1990 saw a dramatic turn of events as South Africa’s last White President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on ANC and other revolutionary movements which had sprung up. On February 11th of the same year, the unthinkable happened as Mandela walked out of prison.

Nelson Mandela is going to go down in history as one of the most remarkable challengers to the repressive phenomena of colour-based racism. (AFP)

Nelson Mandela is going to go down in history as one of the most remarkable challengers to the repressive phenomena of colour-based racism. (AFP)

Nobel Prize, General Elections and Presidency:

In 1993, both Mandela and Klerk were awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts towards forging a country free from racial bias. South Africa held a historic general election in the year 1994 in which Nelson Mandela and the ANC took active part. Mandela spent bulk of his time campaigning and raising funds for the party. ANC grabbed over 60% of the national vote count and stormed to power.
Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s President in Pretoria on 10th May. He laid down excessive stress on national reconciliation and annihilating racism. He was also deeply concerned about the problems of hunger and poverty which were intrinsically associated with the African continent. In May 1996, a new Constitution of South Africa was formally agreed upon by the South African Parliament.

3rd Marriage and Retirement:

On his 80th birthday, in the beginning of the twilight years of his life, Nelson Mandela married Gracy Machel on the insistence of his colleague and fellow South African icon Desmond Tutu. The two have had a fairly successful relationship ever since their marriage fifteen years ago.

Mandela retired from active political life in 1999 but he carried on with his social activism. He held regular meetings with world leaders and was busy deliberating on how to combat diseases like HIVAIDS and propel rural development. In the former half of the first decade of the 21st century, Mandela vociferously criticized the Western powers for their military interventions.

In June 2004, Mandela announced that he was “retiring from retirement” and urged people not to call him but instead he would call them. From here onwards, Mandela made limited public appearances and was seen in public as an icon whose time had come to pass.

Deteriorating Health:

The second decade of the 21st century brought about serious health problems for Nelson Mandela as he was rushed to hospital multiple times because of various ailments. On 8th June 2013, his condition worsened and he was rushed to a hospital in Pretoria. Government officials and doctors have since described his condition as “critical but stable”.


Legacy of India’s Foreign Policy – Shouldering the Baggage of Pakistan

The foremost reason why India has not been able to make its presence felt at the international forums of diplomacy is because our diplomats seem to be out of touch with reality and it becomes evident on evaluating the narrow foreign policy which we have pursued over the years. We have spent most of our time, energy and resources on a country which hardly has any say in matters of international importance.

Yes, you’re right, I am talking of Pakistan. Had Pakistan been bereft of its internal disturbances, the international community would have treated it as just another Islamic Republic with a fundamentally flawed democracy. Most of our foreign policy initiatives have been directed at Pakistan and they have yielded no results at all. The other major Indian contribution to the world of international affairs was the Non Aligned Movement, a Nasser-Nehru brainchild, but it seems to have turned into a Non-Commital-Movement since the non aligned countries have chosen to be modern day Nero’s as they have looked the other side each and every time when the world was burning and required them to take a stand. SAARC happens to have had a total loss of direction and has become plainly a photo-op event held every year where leaders go only to decide when and where they’ll be meeting next year.

It’s time we had a substantial change in our foreign policy. South Asia is going to play a very critical role in the decades to come. In our immediate neighbourhood, we have two growing giants, namely, China and Indonesia. Indian interests would be better served if we would set our sights towards having a more proactive relationship with the two countries. The reason why I choose China and Indonesia over Pakistan is because both these countries are politically in a far more stable position than Pakistan. The polity of the two nations is less fragile and not as irrational as in Pakistan. Economically, both China and Indonesia have piloted financial miracles. While China has registered a growth rate of 9.2%, Indonesia has continued to grow annually at a decent pace of 6.2% with a GDP of $ 1 Trillion.

The third reason is the religious pluralism which exists in these two countries in a far greater quantity than in Pakistan. Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world and also has a good share of Protestants who happen to be well over 6% of the total population. Catholics and Hindus are next big minorities in Indonesia with a total share of approximately 4.6%. China’s cultural diversity is also worth a watch. With over 60% population being atheists, it houses the highest number of Atheists in the world. Taoism and Buddhism happen to be the biggest Theism’s in the country with a population share of 30%. Christians and Muslims are significant minorities with a population of 4% and 2%, respectively. The statistics are indicative of the fact that both these countries are religiously more tolerant than Pakistan where consistent persecution of Christians, Hindus and even Muslim minorities like Shias and Ahmaddiyas has become a day to day affair. Safety and security are pre-requisites to having a stable relationship. The prospects which China and Indonesia have on offer for India are far more economically prosperous and culturally peaceful than the ones offered by Pakistan. John F Kennedy, the youngest elected President of the United States, remarked, ‘Domestic Policy can defeat us, foreign policy can kill us.’ Keeping this in mind we should move towards forging better relations with China and Indonesia. This doesn’t mean ignoring Pakistan or going to war with Pakistan with the intention of obliterating the nation. It simply means that Pakistan should rank low on our priority list since they are more of a liability rather than an asset. A sound relationship with Pakistan is good for India’s future but Pakistan is not the country to concentrate on if we intend to take forward the dreams of becoming a superpower.