Mandela, the Man in Humanitarian

Colleen Napolitano

Posted on July 18 2013

Mandela, the Man in Humanitarian

"He who touches one human being touches all humanity. He broke the cycle of conflict by placing the future above the past, humanity above vengeance." These are the words spoken about Nelson Mandela and his influential and inspiring work to end the apartheid in South Africa. Mandela, a boy who came from the small village of Quno,grew to be one of the most influential people to ever grace Earth. His relentless dedication to end the apartheid was something that he made a lifelong goal and that goal was achieved on May 10, 1994 when he was inaugurated as the country’s first black president.

South Africa, once a country divided by the mere color an individual’s skin, was transformed into a country of equal citizens. In Mandela’s childhood blacks were deprived of their citizenship and were given medical and educational programs that were inferior to their white counterparts, something that Mandela couldn’t seem to understand. He joined the African National Congress in 1942 and began organizing boycotts and strikes in hopes of gaining full citizenship, trade union rights and free and compulsory education for all children of all skin tones.

As you can imagine Mandela’s road was a bumpy one, including a 5 year jail sentence, for what was called treason, which quickly turned into a life sentence. That didn’t stop Mandela's movement towards equality as many people fought for his release and after 27 years behind bars he was released on February 11, 1990. Mandela went immediately back to work as he was elected the president of the African National Congress in 1991 and began negotiating with President Frederik Willem de Klerk to introduce the country’s first multiracial election. As a result, Mandela and Klerk were given the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize and shortly thereafter Mandela, using the new multiracial election format, was elected as South Africa’s first black president.

Mandela didn’t let this success stop him from furthering his influence on the people South Africa. He worked to unify the country using the Rugby World Cup as a symbol for the population to rally behind. Also, through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, he led the South African government in creating jobs, housing and basic healthcare for its population. Mandela’s goal was fulfilled but he wanted to make sure that the future of his country was one he could be proud of so he signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, guaranteeing the rights of minorities and the freedom expression. With this in place Mandela knew that South Africa would have a bright future for all of its citizens, something that wasn’t the case when he was growing up in the small village of Quno. 

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