The Fight for Equality in South Africa

Apartheid, a segregational policy from South Africa based on race, has been around since the late 1940s. As Apartheid was passed more and more acts of racial segregation were placed. The African National Congress, or the ANC, was a group formed in 1912 to promote the cause of racial equality. In 1952, the ANC demanded for the repeal of Apartheid laws and threatened for non-violent protest. After little to no change was found Nelson Mandela, a co-leader of the ANC, argued towards the use of armed protest and was later put in jail. Mandela compromised his time, family, and mentality to help resolve the conflict of Apartheid. Racial segregation began in South Africa in the early 1900s. Colored africans were forced to live in reserves and it was illegal of them to work as sharecroppers.

In 1913 the land act was made. This act made 80% of South Africa’s land the white man’s. A variety of other acts caused separate public facilities based on race, a limited amount of non-white labor units, no colored people in office, the division of non-whites from each other, and the division of South African tribal links to decrease their political power. The colored people of South Africa were forced to leave their land and nearly 3.5 million South Africans were obligated to move by 1990. (Tree Shaker) Apartheid first came into action in 1948 when the all white government wanted to enforce more policies of racial segregation. In 1950 acts banning interracial marriage and sexual relations were placed splitting up families and relationships. A group, called the congress of the people, attempted to slow the spread of racial separation and made the freedom charter in 1955.

(World History) They claimed, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black or white.” Sadly the congress of the peoples progress came to a halt in 1958 when all colored citizens were made Bantustans. Bantustans were the segregated communities for colored people only. The government covered up their actions by saying this gave them political rights when in reality it removed them completely from their nations body and allowed the government to claim there was no black majority. Nelson Mandela, born Rolihlahla Mandela, was from Transkei, South Africa and is apart of the tribe known as the Thembu. His father, Galda Henry, had 3 wives and he was one of 10 children.

(Salem Press) When young he was very responsible and would often listen up on the local politics of his village. As he grew older he had a thirst for knowledge and wanted to study law. At 9 years old his father died and Mandela and his mother, Nosekeni Fanny, moved to the Great Place where his uncle lived. In the Great Place he was adopted by Jongintaba Dalindyebo and he found himself getting the first formal education in his family at two schools. One of the things that stuck with Mandela during his schooling is the name Nelson. In Africa it is a common practice to give students english names.

(Salem Press) When he was finished with his basic schooling he was admitted into South African Native College. In his second year he ran away from school to escape an arranged marriage. Two years after his drop out he found himself in Soweto and joined the ANC. (Tree Shaker) Mandela worked with the ANC for five years until he and two others took over in 1949. On June 26th, 1952 he started the defiance campaign, a series of protest in South Africa to fight against the unjust laws for colored people. The cops were on the constant watch for Mandela. He had been before arrested for violating curfew and protesting. Due to Mandela’s previous convictions he needed to be careful in his actions.

Once avoid imprisonment he snuck out of a conference disguised as a milkman. (Salem Press) During this time the ANC also adopted a declaration of peoples principles which they called the Freedom Charter. In 1956 Mandela was arrested once again for ANC involvement. The trial reached global attention and went on for about 4 years. On the date of his trial Mandela gave a great speech on Apartheid. His testimony is still regarded as one of the best speeches about the topic.

“I cherish the idea of a democracy in which all persons live together in harmony and equal opportunities.” On March 29th, 1961 Mandela was found innocent of his charges. Once Mandela was released the government put a ban on the ANC. Mandela was named new leader and was now forced to build it underground.

The African National Congress formed a rebel army and named Mandela commander. Later on Mandela was tried again. This time for sabotage, guerilla warfare, inciting unrest in the country, leaving the country without a passport, and engaging in anti-Apartheid related activities. Mandela attempted to make his case a trial of the Apartheid system but did not succeed. In June of 1964 Mandela was sentenced life in prison.

From 1962 to 1964 he was imprisoned on Robben Island. During his time on Robben Island, a prison like Alcatraz, Mandela could only have 30 visits of six hours, write 52 letters, receive 52 letters, receive 12 birthday and Christmas cards, and access  local tv and radio. Mandela was treated with great respect by the prisoners and guards here. A sergeant went as far as calling Nelson, Mr. Mandela. By 1985 the South African president at the time, P.W. Botha, offered Mandela’s release if, and only if, he abandoned his cause.

Mandela rejected offer unless Botha was willing to end Apartheid.In 1986 Mandela was cleared to receive visits. During visits his family was often discussed. At the time his wife, Winnie Mandela, was 55 years old and his 2 daughters and son were celebrities.

His son Makgatho would visit his father regularly, nearly 2 times a month. Makgatho was only 12 years old when his father was put in jail. At the age of 39 he was interviewed and he said that, “[He] yearned for him.” (Tree Shaker) He said he is proud of his father and said he feels like he has been on the right track all along.

Mandela’s wife on the other hand tempted Mandela to return home by building him a mansion and getting other luxuries. Mandela said back that he wanted to return to a simple brick house like the one he had while he lived in Soweto. A big house would not matter to him if he was to be release in a world with apartheid laws still active.

Mandela said on the topic, “I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free.”From 1973 to 1986 pressure was put on South Africa due to a variety of events. In 1973 the United Nations general assembly denounced Apartheid. The first event of 1976 was when police fired on colored children with tear gas and bullets with no reasoning.

Following the shooting were protests, government crackdown, and national economic recession. Also in 1976 United Nation security control voted to impose mandatory embargo on the sale of firearms in South Africa and in 1985 the United Kingdom and the United States both imposed economic sanctions on South Africa. (Tree Shaker) On January 15, 1986 there was a anti-apartheid protest in New York City. Old, young, black, white, blind, and even some in wheelchairs surrounded central park for the rally. Police say 35,000 people attended but organizers estimated 95,000. A woman in particular, named Tuz Mende, flew out all the way from San Francisco at the age of 74 just support Nelson’s cause. She believed in Mandela and the rights for people to be equal.

(Time Magazine) Even the Reagan administration from the United States did not agree with the policies of South Africa. On March 21st, 1990 a terrible event occurred. Police killed 69 peaceful protesters, this became to be known as the Sharpeville massacre. Unrest in colored towns made country very difficult to govern.

The condemnation from the outside world and immense pressure from all of the publicity forced president Botha to institute reforms all throughout South Africa. Botha abolished multiple Apartheid related laws including the removal of the ban on interracial marriage and others. Unfortunately for Botha his series of reforms failed to change anything. In 1989 Botha was forced to step down from office and F.W. Klerk took over. F.

W. de Klerk was born in Johannesburg, Gauteng South Africa and was educated by Krugersdorp schools. He attended Monument High School and went to university at Potchefstroom university for higher education. (Medium) De Klerk was a successful lawyer and was happy with his career.  Among his first goals as the president of South Africa was to abolish Apartheid. It was a challenge for de Klerk to change the minds of his government because for decades South Africa had been under white control.

After only 4 months in office he initiated the end of Apartheid. When de Klerk called for the referendum he wished to get at least the bare minimum of 54%. On his birthday the ballots were counted and he received the great news of a 69% majority vote to remove Apartheid. De Klerk did not stop his changes there. He thought it was pointless to keep political prisoners against Apartheid in jail after the law was repealed. 9 days after the ban was lifted and after nearly 3 decades of Mandela’s life, on February 11th, 1990 Mandela, among other political prisoners, were released. In 1993 de Klerk and the ANC announced their agreement to form a transitional government.

In the next year Mandela battled de Klerk in the race for presidency and was elected to represent South Africa. Mandela said on de Klerk that, “We might be opponents, but in the end, we stand together.” F.W. de Klerk served as Mandela’s first deputy. When he first became president, Mandela chose to draft a new written constitution.

The new constitution enfranchised black and other racial groups and came into effect in 1994 when it was finally signed by the man himself. In the same year of 1994 Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I didn’t do it myself. I just played a role.” Said Nelson Mandela on de Klerk, “My worst nightmare is to wake up, and he is not there.” Under president Mandela South Africa’s tourism and trade were increased and economic sanctions on South Africa were lifted.

Mandela started the children fund. In 1997 F.W. de Klerk retired from politics. “I didn’t have to look for a vision, [Nelson] chose to give justice to all South Africans.” He created the Mandela invitational golf tournament and raised millions of dollars for charity. In 2000 he funded a foundation to promote political debate and social reform. Since he was criticized for neglecting the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDs, movement, in 2001 he worked to raise funds for the epidemic.

In 2003 he denounced George W. Bush for invading Iraq and started protests in the United States. After 5 years of presidency, campaigns, political races and political factions, and being active in international affairs Nelson’s first term was over.  Mandela chose not to run for president again, but chose to allow Thabo Mbeki, his second deputy, succeed him. Due to Mandela’s case of prostate cancer he retired from the public in 2004 and later died at the age of 95, in 2013.

(Tree Shaker) Mandela ended his career as the first colored president of South Africa, the ender of Apartheid, and a world wide influencer on human rights. Mandela didn’t care about anything else other than the fight for human rights. He sacrificed his family and friends, time, and freedom to support his cause and what he believed in. He spent nearly 30 years, or a third of his life, compromising himself towards the greater good of the people, peace, and the abolition of Apartheid. Nelson Mandela’s compromising changed the equality of everyone based on race.