Glory to the Indispensable Mandela

There are men who struggle one day , and are good
There are men who struggle for a year, and are better
There are men who struggle many years, and are very good
but there are those who struggle all their lives, these are indispensable .
– Bertolt Brecht

Nelson Mandela. Photo:

Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES – Many tribal religions celebrate a birth with mourning and death with song. They believe that human beings are born to struggle and find it sad. When they die, they believe that their souls rest and rise to another dimension, so they celebrate.

However, today all over the world, in addition to these customs and creeds, songs and tears mix. After almost a century of existence, an essential man has died.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died in Johannesburg on December 5th. Known in his country as Madiba, an honorary title bestowed by elders of Mandela’s clan and that means the man who made the miracle. He had an eventful and intense life.

Of the Xhosa ethnic group, Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo. He was one of thirteen children born to one of the four wives of Gadla Mphakanyiswa Henry (Henry Mgadla Mandela), a leading adviser to the royal house Thembu.

Orphaned at nine, he received primary education in a Wesleyan Mission (Methodist) followed by high school in the Healdtown Methodist Boarding School of Fort Beaufort. His teacher, a British missionary, gave him the Anglophone name Nelson, which became valid for legal purposes.

In 1939 he went to the city of Alice for his degree in law at the Fort Hare University College, an academic institution reserved for non-white students. In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a movement of struggle against the oppression of black South Africans.

After the creation of the South African National Party in 1948, with its policy of racial segregation (Apartheid), Mandela became important within the ANC, in the civil disobedience campaign of 1952, and at the People’s Congress of 1955, in which the adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the main program in the case against apartheid.

In 1957 he separated from his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, with whom he had three children: a girl who died as an infant, his first born Madiba Thembekili, who died in 1969 in a car accident and Makgatho Mandela, a lawyer and businessman who died in 2005 of AIDS at the age of 54.

Committed to nonviolent methods of resistance, and following the inspiration of Gandhi, Mandela and 150 other colleagues were arrested on December 5, 1956 and sentenced to prison.

He was later convicted of sabotage and other charges, and given life imprisonment. He spent 27 years in prison, most of which confined in prison on Robben Island where he was prisoner number 466/64.

During those years, his wife Winnie symbolized the continuity of the struggle, reaching important positions in the ANC.

In 1988 Mandela was transferred to the Victor Verster prison, remaining there until his release and where various restrictions were lifted him.

Throughout Mandela ‘s imprisonment, local and international pressure on the South African government to release him were notorious.

After his release in February 1990, he led his party in the negotiations to achieve a multiracial democracy in their country. He won the election, becoming the first black president of South Africa. He governed from 1994 to 1999.
After 38 years of marriage to Winnie Madikizela (Winnie Mandela), he separated because of political scandals in April 1992 and finally divorced on March 19, 1996. With Winnie he had two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born February 4, 1958, and Zindziswa (Zindzi), born in 1960.

On his 80th birthday, July 18, 1998, Mandela married Graça Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and ANC sponsor who died in 1986.

He received more than 250 international awards over four decades. Prominent among them: Sakharov Prize (1988), Bharat Ratna (1990), Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation (1992), Isithwalandwe (1992), Nobel Peace Prize (1993), The Order of Merit of the United Kingdom (1995), Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International (2006), among others. Mandela also had more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees, awarded by universities around the world.

Respiratory disorders, a consequence of the cruel years in prison, were affecting the health of Madiba. Nevertheless, he achieved the miracle of immortality. He is one of the indispensable people of history.

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

4 thoughts on “Glory to the Indispensable Mandela

  • Dariela, thanks for this contribution and eulogy. Don’t mind the reactive silliness. Some people just can’t help “nitpick” when the truth is overwhelming. From my reading and knowing a few revolutionaries personally, I would guess that Mandela would have much preferred to remain non-violent and it seems clear to me that taking up an armed struggle, including targeting opponents not in the police or military, was something he wished could be avoided and clearly when he could, he did. Every revolution that managed to overthrow intrenched power, included violence. Was it ever necessary? Or completely avoidable? Apparently, we humans are still suffering vast oppression at the armed hands of violent people working happily for one or another ruling class. Always revealing that those who denounce civilians taking up arms, are so often loyal supporters of “their own” military state powers. And while Gandhi was a great and creative man, he was far from perfect or fully successful. India still needs a revolution it never quite had. And if we can learn anything from Mandel and even Cuba today, it is that we need to keep improving our methods, not just harping about imperfect revolutions, but figuring out how to do it better in the time we have before the climate implodes. Thank you Dariela for your positive contribution.

  • John, where the hell do you get off calling me a racist? I am of mixed race and will not be called a racist by anybody!

    I stated clearly in my comment that I supported the armed struggle against the apartheid regime. I wrote about the brutal Sharpeville Massacre carried out by the South African police against unarmed civilians. Yet you ignore that and call me a supporter of apartheid.

    Are your reading comprehension skills that poor or are you simply a deliberate liar? Is that how you deal with opinions you don’t like: ignore the facts and call your opponent a racist?

    It sounds to me that it is you who feel chagrin and disappointment that instead of peace, truth and reconciliation, the more militant ANC members didn’t succeed in unleashing the violent retribution of the Red Terror. No doubt you would have praised the “true democracy” of a single-party Marxist dictatorship imposed on a brutalized South Africa.

  • Wow ! What a startling revelation.
    Black South Africans resorted to FORCE when fighting the peace- loving apartheid regime who never harmed a soul ?
    Go figure .
    I guess it’s just the natural violent nature of those uncivilized black savages eh Griffin ?
    But Griffin while I understand your chagrin at the equality the end of apartheid brought in the voting booth, you should be overjoyed and full of praise for Mandela for making sure that the inequities and immiseration of the existing ( totalitarian ) capitalist economy for the majority (black) poor were maintained, albeit with black faces in the CEOs offices .
    The lack of democracy where it counts in the lives of that majority poor and black population has not changed despite the praise heaped on the sainted Mandela .
    SA was a case of a win over apartheid and a huge loss to the still standing neoliberal economics that renders the victory end of apartheid rather hollow in the long run.
    It’ seems your stronger racism has won out over your love of totalitarian capitalism in your anti- Mandela post .

  • Dariela, you are mistaken. Mandela was not always committed to non-violence. In fact, for most of his life he supported armed revolution and in some cases, terrorist attacks, against the South African regime. You may consider his tactics were justified or not, but you cannot pretend that he was a man of peace his whole long life.

    In my opinion, the armed struggle against the police and soldiers of the South African regime was justified and legitimate warfare, but the targeting of civilians (i.e., terrorism) was not. As it happened, both sides in the war, the ANC and the South African regime, committed act of terrorism against civilians.

    Mandela came to the opinion that the ANC “had no alternative to armed and violent resistance” after taking part in the unsuccessful protest to prevent the demolition of the all-black Sophiatown suburb of Johannesburg in February 1955.[83] He advised Sisulu to request weaponry from the People’s Republic of China, but while supporting the anti-apartheid struggle, China’s government believed the movement insufficiently prepared for guerrilla warfare.[84]

    Beginning in the early 1960’s, Fidel Castro would supply weapons and training to the ANC for their armed struggle against the South African regime.

    Mandela was arrested and charged with treason in 1956 and was released on bail. During the next few years he went underground and travelled in disguise, organizing ANC guerrilla cells and delivering weapons and money. He was again arrested in 1962 and charged with a long list of terrorism charges based on his involvement in violent armed struggle against the government of South Africa.

    For the whole time he was imprisoned, Mandela refused to renounce the use of violence. Attacks by the ANC on police, military and civilain targets were carried out from the early 1960s and for the next three decades. The brutal practice of “necklacing” the burning of car tires around a victim’s neck was used by the ANC during this period against suspected collaborators. During this period, Mandela never called for an end to attacks on civilians or against the practice of necklacing.

    It was only when he was freed and the first democratic elections were held in South Africa did Mandela finally call for an end to political violence. There were those around him who wanted revenge on the white minority and the blacks who had colluded with them in apartheid, but Mandela bravely and forcefully argued for peace, truth and reconciliation. It is for this decision that Mandela should be given praise and credit. Were it not for Mandela at last embracing peace, there would surely have been a horrendous bloodbath in South Africa.

    It is curious that the idea that Mandela was a man of peace committed to non-violence persists, even when Mandela’s own statements on the topic, and the events of the long violent struggle, are a matter of the public record.

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