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International Nelson Mandela Day

July 18 is International Nelson Mandela Day, celebrated every year on his birthday. This year’s celebration is even more special as it comes a decade after Mandela’s death in 2013.  This day is used to remember Nelson Mandela, one of the most admired and respected figures in modern history. Mandela remains a revered symbol of the fight against apartheid.


For decades, from 1948 to 1994, South Africa was a country that was run under an apartheid system under an all-white government. The apartheid system promoted racial segregation and institutionalised racism. 


During the hard times of apartheid, Mandela became a beacon of hope for his country as he fought incessantly for black Africans' rights  through his non-violent approach. Despite his long years of imprisonment, Mandela managed to keep his message of hope and peace alive through his unwavering determination, strong moral courage, and consistent commitment to justice.


Mandela’s Early Life and Activism


Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in a village in the Eastern Cape called Mvezo. Mandela was born a Xhosa, an ethnic group originating from the Cape region. Nelson Mandela experienced and witnessed great levels of racial inequality; having grown up in an apartheid society where segregation was deeply entrenched, he witnessed the constant systematic oppression suffered by the majority of black South Africans. 


Nelson Mandela studied law at the University of Forte Hare as well as the University of Witwatersrand. During his time as a student, Mandela was inspired to join the African nationalist and anti-colonial group, the African National Congress (ANC), where he  adopted his nonviolent approach to fighting  apartheid. 


Following his studies, he became a lawyer in Johannesburg. Mandela fought against  discriminatory policies and laws that perpetuated racial injustice in South Africa, defending and advocating for black rights. Law gave him a non-violent and effective approach to fighting the discrimination present in South Africa. 

Imprisonment and Resilience 


On 12 June, 1964,  Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. Mandela and other co-conspirators were charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the South African apartheid government. 


Mandela spent a total of  27 years behind bars, most of his sentence being in the famous Robben Prison. 


Mandela’s prison sentence was not an easy one, but through the hardships he never gave up on his fight for freedom from Apartheid. 


The Triumph of Democracy:

Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990, following the South African president, at the time, DeKlerk urged for his release. 

Mandela’s release marked a turning point in South Africa's history. He quickly resumed his work to tear down the apartheid system and to seek reconciliation between the racial and ethnic groups of South Africa. 


Mandela's strong leadership and negotiation skills were crucial to the peaceful transition of South Africa from a systemically racially divided society to a functioning equal democracy. 


On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president.


Mandela’s Legacy and Global Impact 

Even outside of South Africa, Nelson Mandela's impact echoes worldwide. Mandela became a gleaming symbol of hope internationally  and he became a catalyst for change. Mandela’s constant fight against oppression, for justice and peace inspired millions worldwide to join in his fight.


Mandela's steadfast commitment to the reconciliation of the South African population was exemplified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had as its aim to address the crimes of apartheid while still advocating for healing,forgiveness and peace.

Mandela’s efforts culminated in earning him  the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.


Mandela’s legacy lives on. His fight for peace and justice still inspires millions to this day. 

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