M’bilia Bel and Tabu Ley Rochereau once sung for the liberation of Nelson Mandela. As we are celebrating both the king of Rumba, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and one of the greatest freedom fighters of our time, Nelson Mandela, I only saw fit to share with you Sisi Mandela sung by the greats to celebrate another Great!
I remember the day Nelson Mandela was freed from jail after 27 years of imprisonment. It was on 11 February 1990. This being a national holiday in Cameroon, we were all at home, and could watch live as Nelson Mandela was released from prison and walked hand in hand with Winnie Mandela, both with their fists raised high up. Later that day, Mandela stood outside the balcony with his fist raised high up, and said: “Amandla!” to which the overjoyed crowd replied “Ngawethu!”, in other words, “Power to the People!” And he finished “iAfrika!” I am leaving you here with some words by Mandela himself.
“I raised my right fist and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for 27 years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy.” Describing the day of his release from prison in 1990 – Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“I found solitary confinement the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There is no end and no beginning; there is only one’s own mind, which can begin to play tricks. Was that a dream or did it really happen? One begins to question everything. Did I make the right decision, was my sacrifice worth it? … But the human body has an enormous capacity for adjusting to trying circumstances. I have found that one can bear the unbearable if one can keep one’s spirits strong even when one’s body is being tested. Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.“ On Prison – Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“In the name of the law, I found myself treated as a criminal… not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of my conscience. No-one in his right senses would choose such a life, but there comes a time when a man is denied the right to live a normal life, when he can only live the life of an outlaw because the government has so decreed to use the law. … The question being asked up and down the country is this: Is it politically correct to continue preaching peace and non-violence when dealing with a government whose barbaric practices have brought so much suffering and misery to Africans? I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I, and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return.” Message read by his daughter, Zindzi Mandela, at a rally in Soweto in 1985.
“It seems the destiny of freedom fighters to have unstable personal lives… to be the father of a nation is a great honour, but to be the father of a family is a greater joy. But it was a job I had far too little of.” Talking about fatherhood – Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness… The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” On prison – Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph, because the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise… But there are still some within our country who wrongly believe they can make a contribution to the cause of justice and peace by clinging to the shibboleths [dogmas] that have been proved to spell nothing but disaster. It remains our hope that these, too, will be blessed with sufficient reason to realize that history will not be denied and that the new society cannot be created by reproducing the repugnant past, however refined or enticingly repackaged.” On receiving the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk, 1993.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Presidential Inauguration, 10 May 1994.
“Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!” Presidential inauguration, 10 May 1994.
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994.
“I am confident that nobody … will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health with my family, my friends, and also with myself.” On stepping down after his first term as president.
“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.” Message at the Live 8 Concert in Edinburgh, July 2005.
Words cannot quite express my sadness at the loss of Africa’s greatest man, and probably one of the world’s greatest icon: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Just to think that this man spent 27 years in jail so that we, Black people, could have rights, could have freedom, could be free to love, live, and work, is beyond amazing! Yes… almost 3 decades, and more, since he did not really lead a ‘true’ family life because he spent most of his time pursuing his cause for the freedom of Blacks in South Africa. What tribute could I possibly give for a man who spent most of his life fighting so that I, a Black child, could walk free in South Africa after our land was taken by the Boer invader, and we were beaten under oppressive laws? What could I possibly say for a man who epitomizes true leadership, statesmanship, democracy, humility, and love… love in the face of so much hate. Because, for Nelson Mandela to make it, there were those like Steve Biko or Chris Hani who were killed by the apartheid system. I would just like to say farewell Madiba… for you, I am a proud African child… Farewell Father Mandela, for you, I can roam the streets of South Africa free… Farewell Nelson, for you, I am free… because of you, I am a proud Black child, for you I am a proud African!
I live you with one of his quotes: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Madiba, you have truly changed my life, and that of millions around the globe! The world is a better place because you stepped on it! So long… Madiba!
As South Africa‘s President Jacob Zuma opened an exhibition about the life of the country’s first black leader, Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg yesterday, I thought it befitting to remind you of this great speech by Nelson Mandela where he was prepared to give his life for South Africa, and for his cause. Enjoy! The integral speech can be found here: Nelson Mandela 1964 speech_I am prepared to die.
“I am the First Accused.
… At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State in its opening that the struggle in South Africa is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said….
Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships … Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed. These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called ‘agitators’ to teach us about these things. …
… This struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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.”
Nelson Mandela – April 20, 1964
I really liked this poem “Our Deepest Fear” which was read by Nelson Mandela during his presidential inauguration speech in 1994. I also particularly liked the rendition by this year’s South Africa’s Got Talent Botlahle, an 11 year old South African girl, who is a great poet. Enjoy the poem itself, and Botlahle’s rendition.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a Child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson – A return to love
Since we are on the subject of Soweto 1976, and since last week Madiba (Nelson Mandela) gave us a scare, I decided to publish the song ‘Asimbonanga’ by Johnny Clegg. ‘Asimbonanga‘ or ‘We have not seen him’ was released by Johnny Clegg and Savuka, in the album Third World Child in 1987, and called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and also gave homage to three martyrs of the anti-apartheid struggle: Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett. I have posted the song with lyrics below (translation of the Zulu words to English is in italics). Enjoy, and don’t forget to visit Johnny Clegg’s website: johnnyclegg.com.
Last week, on January 8th 2012, the African National Congress (ANC) celebrated 100 years of existence. I think a trip down history lane is in order.
After the defeat of Zulu, Xhosa, and other African kingdoms in the late 1800s-1900s in the hands of British colonizers, South Africans had to find a new way to fight off the oppressors. Thus, in 1911, Pixley ka Isaka Seme called on Africans to forget the differences of the past and unite together in one national organisation. He said: “We are one people. these divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today.“ That national organization saw light on January 8th 1912, when chiefs, representatives of people’s and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein and formed the African National Congress. The ANC declared its aim to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms. Its first elected president was John Dube.
The 1920s-1930s were marked by actions such as the 1919 campaign against passes by the Transvaal ANC; the militant strike by African mineworkers in 1920; and the social organization of Black workers… The ANC went through several stages, first, as a church-based lobbying force, a non-violent nationalist movement, and then, as part of an alliance with Indians, Coloureds, and progressive Whites, including Afrikaners and Communists.
The Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960 where a group of 5000-7000 marched to protest against passes and were shot on by police forces showed the international community how ruthless the apartheid system was. Karen Allen of BBC news recalled the massacre with this chilling description: “Thousands of protesters had gathered in Sharpeville, just south of Johannesburg, to protest at the use of the infamous passbooks, or “dompas”, that every black South African was expected to carry and produce on demand. It governed a person’s movement, was a tool of harassment and was one of the most hated symbols of the apartheid state. Sixty-nine men, women and children were gunned down on that day, killed when police officers opened fire on the crowd. The police station – where they had gathered – is now a memorial to the dead.”
In 1961, the ANC took up arms against the South African White government. It morphed into a violent struggle of resistance and armed combat with Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) or Spear of the Nation, when the doors to non-violent change were brutally shut by white nationalists who built on British colonial racism to impose apartheid, a practice of physically relocating communities, regulating labour with passes and violent repression. During those years, not only did MK tried to make the country ungovernable to no avail (as they were no match to the repressive white supremacist government of South Africa), but many of its leaders were arrested like Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, and Walter Sisulu, while others like Oliver Tambo and Joe Slovo went into exile.