“We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:
That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.”
— Opening words of the Freedom Charter
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, his middle name is an isiXhosa name which means “pulling the branch of a tree”; colloquially it means “troublemaker”, his father gave him this name. The former president of the nation, the Republic of South Africa, will forever be remembered as the man who unified a nation of diverse races. He was the country’s first black African president. His election as president marked the beginning of the end of the tyrannical period of apartheid. After nearly thirty years of being confined to a tiny Robben Island Prison cell, Nelson Mandela’s successful campaign for office marked the beginning of a new era for South Africa, and for the world.
On December 5, 2013 at the age of ninety-five years-old, Madiba, the name of the clan from which the late African statesman comes, succumbed to natural causes. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century.
It is considered courteous to use someone’s clan name. In this case it is also an expression of deep respect and affection for the former president of a country that had previously been seemingly incommensurable until he was elected as the nation’s first black South African president.
Mandela came from humble beginnings to become one of the most revered men this planet has ever known. He trained as a lawyer at a time when there were few black South Africans who were permitted to study the law. Before achieving such international renown he was reviled as a troublemaker for advocating equal treatment for blacks, thus opposing the generally accepted oppressive apartheid system of governance.
“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. “— Rivonia Trial Speech, 1964
For his courage he was jailed, like the American the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Unlike Dr. King, though King was jailed on different occasions, never for very long, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years. The day of his release was a joyous one all around the world for freedom loving peoples. His release from prison was followed by his successful campaign for the office of President of the Republic of South Africa.
“In a way I had never quite comprehended before, I realized 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 realized then and there that I could carry on the fight even in the fortress of the enemy.”
— Mandela, 1994
Today, during the ten day period of national mourning, former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man South Africans call “Tata” as they consider him the “father” of their country, is being laid to rest in a private ceremony on his family’s ancestral farm in the tiny rural community Qunu in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
Our sincere condolences to the family. He was blessed to live a long life after incarceration, to be a remarkable influence on citizens of his native land as well as an inspiration to millions around the world.
May the soul of Madiba rest in peace forever.