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Nelson Mandela

South Africa's Greatest Hero of our time. Our nation calls him "Madiba" our father, and his struggle for the fight against oppression is one of the most admirable ones of our times.

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
from Nelson Mandela's statement from the dock at the opening of the defense case in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, 20 April 1964.

Born in Umtata on the 18 July 1918
Joined the African National Congress in 1942

Mandela: leader among leaders

Chief among African leaders, Nelson Mandela is one of few statesmen to have achieved almost universal respect around the world and across the political spectrum.

His role in fighting apartheid, his imprisonment on Robben Island - where he came to symbolize the struggle of oppressed people around the world - and his ability to steer South Africa through the crisis of its rebirth have earned him the international reputation of benevolent negotiator and quintessential peacemaker.

Imprisoned for 27 years for his opposition to apartheid, Mandela came out of prison in 1990 expressing no bitterness towards his tormentors. Instead, he championed reconciliation among South Africa's polarized races, espousing the principles of nation-building and cooperative governance.

Mandela was one of the few leaders capable of inspiring confidence both inside and outside the country. Few others would have managed to unite the disparate warring parties and steer South Africa from what seemed to be the brink of civil war.

To some, Mandela has a near-omnipotent power at the negotiating table, carrying with him an indubitable moral authority and gentle but firm sense of fairness. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with former South African president FW de Klerk.


"Everyone wanted to have a photo opportunity with him: the Spice Girls, Princess Di, various heads of state and miscellaneous politicians ... the list is endless." (Desmond Tutu in his foreword to Mandela: a Life in Cartoons)

As South Africa's first democratically elected President in 1994, Mandela tackled the challenge of uniting both the country's racial groupings and a fragmented public service whose delivery mandate was skewed in favor of the white population.

A significant milestone of the his presidency was the exemplary constitution-making process, which delivered a document that is the envy of the democratic world.

Mandela is equally known for taking a strong stand against the giant world powers - especially in defense of Africa. As President, he was unrestrained in embracing the ANC's former allies, such as Libya's Muammar Gadaffi and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, in spite of criticism from the United States.

His position has also made for fluid relationships with both Russia and China, former communist allies of the ANC.

Since handing over the reigns of the presidency to Thabo Mbeki in 1999 - Mbeki had been groomed for the job since 1994 - Mandela has played a key role as middleman in crisis-hit areas.

In particular, he sealed a peace deal with the warring factions in Burundi, after replacing Tanzania's Julius Nyerere - an African leader of similar status - as chief negotiator.

He was also called upon to hammer out a peace agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mbeki took over his role in that war-ravaged country, which in 2006 held its first presidential elections in over 40 decades.

The above article is accredited to:

SouthAfrica.info.
www.southafrica.info

Source: SouthAfrica.info
The all-in-one official guide and web portal to South Africa.

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