Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former president of South Africa and an acclaimed citizen of the world, succumbs to the icy hands of death at 95
| By Olu Ojewale | Dec. 16, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, 95, the end was as dramatic as when he was released from prison after 27 years behind bars. After his third admission in hospital in June year, a good number of people in South Africa kept vigil at the hospital while people across the globe started praying for him. But it was obvious to everyone that the elder statesman did not have much time to live. All the years of incarceration in unhygienic condition and hard labour had taken their tolls on his health. And so as expected of every mortal, the end came for the world’s famous elder statesman in his Johannesburg home, on Thursday, December 5, leaving the world stage for millions of people to mourn him. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, while announcing the passing of the African icon said in a nation-wide broadcast: “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.” Whatever the loss may mean to people across the globe, Mandela has made sure of his immortality in the minds of the world where he played an important role as an elder statesman, diplomat, freedom fighter, president, peace maker and much more.
Mandela seized the world like a colossus that he was. It would be very difficult not to associate his accomplishment as a freedom fighter to something in his name and background. He is famously known as Nelson, his Christian name. But Rolihlahla, his native Xhosa name, which means troublemaker, probably defined his future role in politics and quest for equality. Despite the significance of his middle name, Mandela was later famously called by his other clan name, Madiba. However, history has a place for him as a courageous leader who led the struggle against white domination in his country and fought with everything at his disposal to secure equality for his people against an oppressive white minority regime. In the process some of them were either killed, maimed or jailed. For leading a bloody conflict against the state, Mandela was eventually picked up alongside his comrades in arms, charged for treasonable felony and sentenced to serve a lifetime in prison. Mandela then spent 27 years of his prime time in prison.
Perhaps, if he had stuck to his initial plan to be a councillor in Thembu royal court which he belonged, his story would have been different. But providence seems to have a different plan for him. Born on July 18, 1918 to the Thembu royal family, at Mvezo, a small village in Transkei region, South Africa, Mandela was the first child of the third wife of his polygamous father. Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, his father, belonged to the left-hand house of the royal blood family, which means his descendants could aspire to be court councillors to the Thembu king. Gadla was also a local chief and councillor to the monarch. He had four wives, four sons and nine daughters, who lived in different villages. Nosekeni Fanny, Mandela’s mother, was also of a royal family and belonged to the right hand of the amaMpemvu clan of Xhosa. At seven, his mother sent him to school; no one had ever attended school in his family before him. On his first day in school, his teacher gave him the English name, Nelson, as was the tradition at the time. He was a baptised Methodist with the same name.
At about nine, his father came to stay with his third wife at Qufu, where he died of an undiagnosed ailment, but which Mandela believed to be lung disease. Thereafter, the mother took Mandela to the palace at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted to the care of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the then Thembu regent, Jongintaba and Noengland, his wife, who raised him alongside their son, Justice, and Nomafu, their daughter. There, he attended a Methodist mission school located near the palace, studying English, Xhosa, history and geography. Listening to tales told by elders visiting the place, he developed a love for African history, and was particularly influenced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of one Chief Joyi. Even then, he did not regard the European colonialists as oppressors, but as benefactors.
After his 16th birthday, Mandela enrolled at Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo, a Western-style largest secondary school for black Africans in Thembuland. His aim was to acquire enough skills needed to become a privy councillor for the Thembu royal house. In two years, he had completed his junior certificate and in 1937, he moved to Healdtown, a Methodist College in Fort Beaufort, attended by most Thembu royalty, including Justice. It was at the college that he fell in love with African culture, made his first non-Xhosa friend, and spent his spare time in long-distance running and boxing.
Thereafter, he was to do a Bachelor of Arts programme at the University of Fort Hare, an elite black institution in Alice, Eastern Cape, with about 150 students. There, he studied English, anthropology, politics, native administration and Roman Dutch Law in his first year, with the aim of becoming an interpreter or clerk in the Native Affairs Department. It was at the university that he met Oliver Tambo and K.D. Matanzima, a kinsman. Although he had friends who were connected to the African National Congress, ANC, and other anti-imperialists’ organisations on campus, he did not join any. But he was involved in students’ activism. His role in a students’ boycott over the quality of food in his second year earned him a temporary suspension. He thus, left the university without completing his degree programme.
He returned to Mqhekezweni in December 1940, only to discover that Jongintaba, his guardian had arranged marriages for him and Justice, his cousin. Dismayed, they both fled to Johannesburg, arriving in April 1941. He first got a job as a night guard at Crown Mines and later worked as an articled clerk at a law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman. Using his meagre wage, Mandela sponsored himself for his BA degree through a correspondence course at the University of South Africa.
At the law firm, Mandela befriended Gaur Redebe, a Xhosa member of the ANC and Communist Party, as well as Nat Bregman, a Jewish Communist, who became his first white friend. He attended Communist talks and parties with them but refused to embrace communism, stating later that he could not reconcile their atheism with his Christian faith. Redebe encouraged Mandela to join the ANC, and in August 1943 Mandela marched in support of a successful bus boycott to reverse fare increases.
In late 1941, Jongintaba was in Johannesburg. He forgave Mandela for running away. On his return to Thembuland, the regent died in winter 1942, but Mandela and Justice arrived a day late for the funeral. In early 1943, after passing his BA examinations, Mandela returned to Johannesburg to pursue a course in law and get more involved in politics instead of becoming a privy councillor in Thembuland as he had planned. He enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand where he was the only native African in the faculty. Despite facing racism, he was able to make friends with a number of liberal and communist European, Jewish, and Indian students. It was there he met the likes of Joe Slovo, Harry Schwarz and Ruth First who would play prominent roles in the freedom struggle. Having joined the ANC, Mandela was increasingly influenced by Walter Sisulu, an ANC member, whom he had met while staying with a cousin, and Oliver Tambo, his old friend. Sisulu had got him the job at the law firm.
In 1943, Mandela met Anton Lembede, an African nationalist and joined him in the delegation that approached Alfred Bitini Xuma, ANC president, on the subject of forming the African National Congress Youth League, ANCYL. On Easter Sunday 1944, the ANCNL was founded with Lembede as its president and Mandela as a member of the executive committee. He also met Evelyn Mase, an ANC activist and nurse, who became his wife on October 5, 1944. In February 1946, they had their first child named Madiba “Thembi” Thembekile. Makaziwe, a daughter, was born in 1947, but died of meningitis nine months later.
In early 1947, Mandela ended his three years of articles clerkship at Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, and became a full-time student, subsisting on loans from the Bantu Welfare Trust. In July 1947, Lembede died and was succeeded as ANCYL president by Peter Mda, a more moderate person, who agreed to co-operate with communists and non-blacks. Mandela was thus, appointed ANCYL secretary. The same year, Mandela was elected to the executive committee of the Transvaal ANC, serving under C.S. Ramohanoe, the regional president. When Ramohanoe acted against the wishes of the Transvaal Executive Committee by co-operating with Indians and communists, Mandela was one of those who forced his resignation.
Now neck-deep in politics, Mandela failed his final year at Witwatersrand three times and was denied his degree in December 1949. In March 1950, he was elected into the ANC national executive. The same month, the Defend Free Speech Convention was held in Johannesburg, which brought together African, Indian and communist activists to call an anti-apartheid general strike. But because of his conviction that native Africa should lead the struggle all alone, Mandela opposed the strike because it was not led by the ANC. But a majority of black workers took part, which brought about increased police repression and the introduction of the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950, which outlawed all forms of protests. Also in 1950, Mandela was elected national president of the ANCYL. At the ANC national conference of December 1951, he continued arguing against a racially united front, but when he was out-voted, he changed his view and followed the popular line.
In April 1952, Mandela started work at the H.M. Basner law firm, but his commitment to work and political activism eroded the time spent with his family. The same year, the ANC organised a joint defiance campaign against apartheid with Indian and communist groups, founding a National Voluntary Board to recruit volunteers. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of nonviolent protest, Mandela on June 22, addressed a 10,000 audience at a Durban rally. For that, he was arrested and briefly detained in Marshall Square prison. With more protests, the ANC’s membership grew from 20,000 to 100,000, thereby prompting the government to embark on mass arrests, and the introduction of the Public Safety Act, 1953 and imposed a martial law. When in May, the authorities banned J.B. Marks, president of Transvaal ANC from making public appearances, which made it difficult for him to maintain his position, he recommended Mandela as his successor. Mandela was elected president in October.
On July 30, 1952, Mandela and 20 other ANC leaders, including Sisulu, Dadoo and Moroka, were arrested in Johannesburg under the Suppression of Communism Act. They were found guilty, but their sentence of nine months’ hard labour was suspended for two years. In December, Mandela was given a six-month ban from attending meetings or talking to more than one individual at a time, thereby making it difficult for him to function as Transvaal ANC president.
Having passed his qualification examination to become a full-fledged attorney, Mandela and Tambo opened their own law firm named Mandela and Tambo in downtown Johannesburg in August 1953. Being the only African law firm in the country, it was popular with aggrieved Africans. A lot of their cases had to do with police brutality. Apparently uncomfortable with the firm’s thriving business, the authorities revoked the office permit under the Group Areas Act, which forced them to relocate, and their customers reduced. In May 1954, Mandela and his wife had Makaziwe Phumia, another daughter. But the relationship between husband and wife had become strained with Evelyn accusing him of adultery. Evelyn could no longer cope with Mandela’s obsession with politics.
After taking part in the unsuccessful protest to stop the demolition of all-black Sophia town, a suburb in Johannesburg, in February, 1955, Mandela resolved that the ANC “had no alternative to armed and violent resistance.” He advised Sisulu to request for weapons from the People’s Republic of China, but even though it supported the anti-apartheid struggle, the Chinese government was not favourably disposed to endorsing a guerrilla warfare.
With the involvement of other racially based associations, a Freedom Charter was drafted by Lionel (Rusty) Berstein, leader of the Congress of Democrats, calling for the creation of a democratic, non-racialist state and nationalisation of major industries. At the conference which the charter was adopted at Kliptown, in June 1955, about 3000 delegates attended. South African police cracked down on the event, but the charter has remained a key part of Mandela’s ideology.
Soon after the end of the second ban in September 1955, he was a able to visit his mother at home and also discuss issues relating to the struggle. But the freedom did not last. In March 1956, he received his third ban on public appearances, restricting him to Johannesburg for five years, which he often broke. He also broke down as his wife left him, taking away their children to live with her brother. Initiating divorce proceedings in May 1956, Evelyn claimed that Mandela had physically abused her. But he denied the allegations, and fought for the custody of their children. She eventually withdrew her petition of separation in November, but Mandela filed for divorce in January 1958, and it was granted in March, with the children placed in Evelyn’s care. During the divorce proceedings, he began courting Winnie Madikizela, a social worker, and they were married on June 14, 1958. Initiated into the struggle, Winnie became involved in ANC activities leading to several arrests and detentions.
On December 5, 1956, Mandela was arrested alongside most of the ANC executives for “high treason” against the state. On December 19, they were granted bail. In February 1958, Oswald Pirow, who was appointed to hear the case in January, ruled that there was “sufficient reason” for the defendants to go on trial in the Transvaal Supreme Court. The formal treason trial started in August 1958, with the defendants successfully applying to have the three judges – all linked to the Nationalist Party – replaced. In August, one charge was dropped, and in October, the prosecution withdrew its indictment, submitting a reformulated version in November which stated that the ANC leadership committed high treason by advocating violent revolution, a charge the defendants denied.
In April 1959, some militant Africanists in the ANC united to found the Pan-African Congress, PAC. Robert Sobukwe, Mandela’s friend, was elected president. Both parties campaigned against Africans carrying passes in May 1960, which encouraged Africans to burn the passes they were legally obliged to carry. At one of the PAC-organised demonstrations, police fired on demonstrators, killing 69 protesters in the Sharpeville massacre. In solidarity, Mandela publicly burned his pass as riots broke out across the country, thereby prompting the government to proclaim a martial law. Using the state of emergency, Mandela and his comrades in arms were arrested on March 30, imprisoned without charge in the unsanitary conditions of the Pretoria Local prison. Government also banned the ANC and the PAC.
This made it difficult for their lawyers to reach them, and thus, the defence team for the Treason Trial agreed to withdraw in protest. However, the accused were freed from prison when the state of emergency was lifted in late August. On March 29, 1961, and following a six-year trial, the judges returned a verdict of not guilty, thereby embarrassing the government.
Disguising as a cab driver, Mandela travelled across the country incognito, organising the ANC’s new cell structure and a mass stay-at-home strike for May 29. Referred to in the press as the “Black Pimpernel,” a reference to The Scarlet Pimpernel, a novel by Emma Orczy, the police issued a warrant for his arrest. Mandela held secret meetings with reporters, and after the government failed to prevent the strike, he warned that anti-apartheid activists would soon resort to violence through groups like the PAC’s Pogo. Having convinced the then ANC chiefs, in 1961, Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe meaning Spear of the Nation and abbreviated as MK, with Sisulu and Joe Slovo, his communist friend.
After he became chairman of the militant group, Mandela started to read illegal literature on guerrilla warfare by Mao and Che Guevara. Officially separated from the ANC, the MK later became the armed wing of the ANC. Operating through a cell structure, the MK agreed to carry out acts of sabotage to exert maximum pressure on the apartheid government with minimum casualties, bombing military installations, power plants, telephone lines and transport links at night, when civilians were not there. Mandela then reasoned that should the acts of sabotage failed, MK would resort to “guerrilla warfare and terrorism.”
In February, 1962, the ANC sent Mandela as a delegate to the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East, Central and Southern Africa, PAFMECSA, meeting in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. He left the country in secret and met with the then Emperor Haile Selassie I, and gave his speech after the emperor’s at the conference. After the conference, Mandela travelled to a number of African countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal. He received financial support from some of the African leaders to fund the anti-apartheid campaign. Thereafter, he left for London, England, where he met anti-apartheid activists, reporters and prominent leftist politicians. He returned to Ethiopia to begin a six-month course in guerrilla warfare, but he only spent two months before being recalled to South Africa. He successfully sneaked into the country.
But on August 5, 1962, police were able to trace and arrest him along with Cecil Williams. He was kept in Marshall Square prison in Johannesburg and later charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission. Representing himself, Mandela had Slovo as legal advisor. His intention was to use the trial to showcase “the ANC’s moral opposition to racism” while supporters demonstrated outside the court. He was moved to a prison in Pretoria, where Mandela began correspondence studies for a Bachelor of Laws, LLB, degree from the University of London. Hearing in his case started on October 15, but he disrupted proceedings by wearing a traditional kaross to the court and also refused to call witnesses. Instead, he turned his plea of mitigation into a political speech and was found guilty and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He later said of his action in his book, Long Walk To Freedom: “In a way, I had never quite comprehended before, I realised the role I could play in court and the possibilities before me as a defendant. I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness and democracy in a society that dishonoured those virtues. I realised then and there that I could carry on the fight even in the fortress of the enemy.”
On July 11, 1963, police raided Liliesleaf Farm, one of Mandela’s hideouts, arrested those they found there and recovered some documents connecting him with MK’s activities. Consequently, Mandela appeared with his comrades at Pretoria Supreme Court on October 9, on four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government. Percy Yutar, chief prosecutor in the case, called for them to receive the death penalty. Yutar presented his new case from December until February 1964; called 173 witnesses and brought thousands of documents and photographs to substantiate his argument. With the exception of James Kantor, an attorney, who was innocent of all charges, Mandela and other accused persons admitted sabotage but denied that they had ever agreed to start guerrilla warfare against the government. The accused used the trial to highlight their political cause and one of Mandela’s speeches was said to have been inspired by Castro’s History Will Absolve Me speech, which was widely reported in the press despite official censorship. The trial itself gained international attention, prompting global calls for their release. The University of London Students’ Union voted Mandela to its presidency, and held vigils for him in St. Pauls’ Cathedral, London. But South Africa’s government called them violent communists and ignored all calls for clemency. On June 12, 1964, Mandela and two of his co-accused were found guilty on all four charges. They were sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death penalty.
Thus, Mandela and his co-accused were taken to Robben Island prison, spending 18 years there. Isolated from non-political prisoners in Section B, Mandela was imprisoned in a damp concrete cell measuring 8 feet (2.4 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m), with a straw mat to sleep on. Verbally and physically harassed by several white prison warders, the prisoners spent their days breaking rocks into gravel, until being reassigned in January 1965 to work in a lime quarry. Mandela was initially forbidden to wear sunglasses, and the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight. At night, he tried to work on his LLB degree, but was forbidden from reading newspapers. He was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for possessing smuggled newspaper clippings. Classified as class D, a lowest grade prisoner, he was permitted only one visit and one letter every six months, although all mails were heavily censored.
In 1968, his mother visited him and died shortly after. The following year, Thembi, his first son, died in a car accident. He was forbidden from attending any of the funerals. Winnie was rarely able to visit him being regularly imprisoned for political activities herself. His daughters first visited him in December 1975 and even when the wife was out of prison in 1977, she was forcibly settled in Brandfort from where she was unable to visit him.
By 1975, Mandela became a class A prisoner. The new classification which allowed him greater numbers of visits and letters. That afforded him the opportunity to correspond with anti-apartheid activists such as Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Desmond Tutu, a bishop. That same year, he began his autobiography, which was smuggled to London, but remained unpublished at the time. When prison authorities discovered several pages of the writing, his study privileges were stopped for four years. Instead, he occupied his spare time with gardening and reading until he resumed the degree studies in 1980.
In April 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, in Tokai, Cape Town along with Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba, all ANC leaders. Conditions at Pollsmoor were better than at Robben Island. Now permitted 52 letters a year, Mandela was able to communicate widely with the outside world. He was appointed patron of the multi-racial United Democratic Front, UDF, founded to fight against reforms implemented by President Pieter W. Botha’s National Party government. The reforms allowed coloured and Indian citizens to vote for their own parliaments which would have control over education, health, and housing, but black Africans were excluded from the system. Like others, the UDF saw this as an attempt to divide the anti-apartheid movement on racial lines.
Irked by escalating violence across the country, many foreign countries feared of civil war, and thus urged Botha to release Mandela, to defuse the volatile situation. In February, 1985, Botha offered him a release from prison on condition that he ‘”unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon.” He shunned the offer, releasing a statement through Zindzi, his daughter, stating: “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people, ANC, remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”
In 1985, Mandela had a surgery on his enlarged prostate gland, before being given new solitary quarters on the ground floor. When he turned 70, in 1988, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, organised the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute music concert at Wembley Stadium, London. The concert attracted international audience and renewed calls for his release from jail.
To the international observers, Mandela was a hero. But like other family men and women, he had his own personal problems. For instance, he was distressed when the ANC leaders told him that Winnie had become head of a criminal gang, the “Mandela United Football Club.” The club was said to be responsible for torturing and killing opponents, including children, in Soweto. The leaders advised him to divorce her and allow her to face the full weight of the law. He refused, saying he would stick by her until she was convicted by a competent court of law.
After recovering from a bout of tuberculosis caused by dank conditions of his cell, Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl, in December 1988. There, he was housed in the relative comfort of a warder’s house with a personal cook. He used the period to complete his LLB degree. In 1989, Botha suffered a stroke, and was replaced by Federik W. de Klerk as leader of the National Party, while the president retained his post. In a surprise move, Botha invited Mandela to a meeting over tea in July 1989, an invitation Mandela considered genial. Six weeks later, de Klerk replaced Botha as the nation’s president. Believing that apartheid was unsustainable for the country, the new president unconditionally released all ANC prisoners, except Mandela.
In November 1989, de Klerk called his cabinet together to debate legalising the ANC and other political parties in the country as well as freeing Mandela. Despite opposition from his cabinet, de Klerk met with Mandela in December, that year. The meeting paved the way for legalising all formerly banned political parties on February 2,1990. Going further, the apartheid regime president ordered the unconditional release of Mandela on February 11. The event was broadcast live across the world.
On his release from prison, Mandela went on tour of African countries, and then to Europe and the Americas, where he met presidents and other heads of government. In May 1990, Mandela led a multiracial ANC delegation into preliminary negotiations with the government, which led to the lifting of the state of emergency. He then devoted his time trying to unify and rebuild the ANC. Speaking at the ANC’s national conference in Durban, in July 1991, Mandela admitted the party’s faults and announced his aim in building a “strong and well-oiled task force” for securing majority rule. At the conference, he was elected ANC president, thereby replacing the ailing Tambo. It was there also that the ANC elected its first 50-strong multiracial, multi-gendered national executive council.
On the home front, his marriage with Winnie was increasingly strained as he learned of her affair with Dali Mpofu, but he supported her during her trial for kidnap and assault. He even helped to get funding for her defence from International Defence and Aid groups and from Muammar Gaddafi, then the Libyan leader. But the court convicted her in June 1991 and sentenced her to six years. The sentence was reduced to two on appeal. On April 13, 1992, Mandela publicly announced his separation from Winnie. The ANC then forced her to step down from the national executive for allegedly misappropriating the party’s funds.
Worried by the increase in “black-on-black” violence, particularly between the ANC and Inkatha supporters in KwaZulu-Natal, in which thousands of people died, Mandela met with Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha leader, a rival party in the struggle. But it later became apparent to Mandela that there was a third force within the state intelligence services fuelling the conflict, thus, he publicly blamed de Klerk for it. To stop the increasing violence, a national peace conference was held in Johannesburg in which Mandela, Buthelezi and de Klerk signed a peace accord, in September 1999. But in spite of the peace agreement, the violence continued.
After series of negotiations with government, it was agreed that a multiracial general election would be held, resulting in a five-year coalition government of national unity. The process allowed the whites to keep their jobs in the civil service. Both Mandela and de Klerk agreed on an interim constitution, guaranteeing separation of powers, creating a constitutional court, and having a United States-style bill of rights. It also divided the country into nine provinces, each with its own premier and civil service, a concession between de Klerk’s desire for federalism and Mandela’s preference for unitary government.
In July 1993, both Mandela and de Klerk visited the US, separately meeting with the then President Bill Clinton. Each was honoured with the Liberty Medal. Soon after, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway, “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” On April 27, 1994, the first multiracial election was held in South Africa, which gave the ANC 62 per cent of the votes cast. With 62 per cent of the national votes, the ANC was short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. The ANC was also victorious in seven provinces, with Inkatha and the National Party each taking one each.
Thus, on May 10, Mandela was inaugurated as the first black president. The event was televised to a billion viewers across the globe. The event was attended by 4000 guests, including world leaders from disparate backgrounds. In line with earlier agreements, de Klerk thus, became first deputy president, while Thabo Mbeki, Mandela’s running mate, was selected as the second. Although Mbeki was not his first choice for the job, Mandela eventually grew to rely heavily on him throughout his presidency, allowing him to organise policy details.
In December 1994, his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published. In August 1995, he initiated divorce proceedings against Winnie. In the year, 1995, he had entered into a relationship with Graca Machel, a Mozambican widow of the late President Samora Machel, who was 27 years his junior. They first met in July 1990, when she was still in mourning, but their friendship grew into a partnership, with Machel accompanying him on many of his foreign trips. When Mandela first proposed marriage, she turned him down, preferring to maintain her independence while dividing her time between Mozambique and Johannesburg. But while celebrating his 80th birthday in July 1998, their marriage was consummated.
The new Constitution of South Africa which was agreed upon by parliament in May 1996, enshrined a series of institutions to check political and administrative authority within a constitutional democracy. De Klerk, however, opposed the implementation of the constitution and thereafter, withdrew from the coalition government in protest. Thus, the ANC took over the cabinet positions formerly held by the National Party, with Mbeki becoming the only deputy president.
At the ANC conference in December 1997, Mandela stepped down as president. When Mbeki was elected to succeed him, he famously said that Mbeki had become the de facto president of country. Jacob Zuma, a Zulu, was elected to the position of deputy president vacated by Mbeki, despite opposition from Winnie who challenged him for the post. But Mandela and the executive supported the candidacy of Zuma.
As South African president, Mandela made reconciliation his primary duty and he appointed a number of whites and coloureds into his cabinet. This drew some criticism from militant blacks, but he worked to reassure South Africa’s whites that they were protected and represented in “the Rainbow Nation.” He also established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC. He appointed Desmond Tutu, a bishop, as its chairman. To avoid the creation of martyrs, the commission granted individual amnesties in exchange for testimony of crimes committed during the apartheid era. The commission which started work in February 1996, sat for two years, and issued its final report in October 1998. In the end, Mandela praised the commission’s work, saying that it “had helped us move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future.”
True to his promise not to seek re-election, Mandela announced his retirement from politics in June 1999. He then sought a quiet family life and occupied his time with some of the foundations he had set up to give scholarships, promote good health and arts, among others. He was also engaged in international conferences in issues relating to development and human rights. Mandela also led the successful campaign for South Africa to host the FIFA World Cup tournament which held in the country in 2010.
Publicly, Mandela also became more vocal in criticising Western powers. For instance, he strongly opposed the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo and the war in Iraq led by the US and Britain in 2003. He lambasted former President George W. Bush of the US and Tony Blair, former prime minister for undermining the United Nations. Faced with failing health in June 2004, Mandela announced that he was “retiring from retirement.” Thus, he retreated from public life, remarking “Don’t call me, I will call you.”
In 2007, Mandela, Machel, and Desmond Tutu convened a group of world leaders in Johannesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to some of the world’s toughest problems. On his 89th birthday, he announced the formation of a new group known as The Elders. While he celebrated his 90th birthday quietly in Qunu, it was made a national celebration across the country and a concert in his honour was staged in Hyde Park, London. In a speech marking the event, Mandela called for the rich to help the poor across the world. In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared July 18, Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.
Whatever may be his shortcomings as a human being, Mandela was, indeed, a Pan-African crusader who sacrificed his freedom for the struggle to liberate his people. He was also an international elder statesman widely respected and revered around the world. His legacy promises to endure for several generations. He will be sourly missed. Adieu Madiba!