Mandela: An Icon of Peace

Nelson Mandela: A man who changed the course of South African history. He is an icon of peace and a role model to hundreds of thousands.  Today (18 June) is a day of celebration and remembrance of his life and achievements.  Nelson Mandela day challenges the nation and the world to do something to change the world for the better.

Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtatu, Eastern Cape. He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand, Mandela was the only native African student. In 1961 he became the commander of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.  In August of the following year, he was arrested and jailed for five years. In June 1964, he was sentenced again, this time to life imprisonment, for his involvement in planning armed action.

He started his prison years in the infamous Robben Island Prison, a maximum security facility on a small island off the coast of Cape Town. In April 1984 he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and in December 1988 he was moved to the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl from where he was eventually released.  Mandela remained in prison until February 1990, when sustained ANC campaigning and international pressure led to his release. On 2 February 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990.

He and President de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.  After his release, Mandela returned to the ANC and between 1990 and 1999 he led the party in the multi-party negotiations that resulted in South Africa’s first multi-racial elections.

As the first black president of South Africa (1994 – 1999) he presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid.  He won praise for his leadership during this time, even from his former white opponents in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela is truly a remarkable man and we can learn much from him.  His integrity, values and spirit is firmly engraved into South African history and he will never be forgotten.

Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life but it is also a global call to action for people to recognize their ability to have a positive effect on others around them.  The day hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation and respect.

Historical information sourced from http://www.history.co.uk/biographies/nelson-mandela.html

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