15 December 2013
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters)-Nelson Mandela guided South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to a multi-racial democracy, as an icon of peace and reconciliation who came to embody the struggle for justice around the world.
Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela never lost his resolve to fight for his peopleÕs emancipation. He was determined to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war. His prestige and charisma helped him win the support of the world.
ÔÔI hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I will fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days,ÕÕ Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South AfricaÕs first black president in 1994, … ÔÔThe time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.ÕÕ ÔÔWe have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.ÕÕ In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white African leader who had freed him from prison three years earlier and negotiated the end of apartheid.
Mandela went on to play a prominent role on the world stage as an advocate of human dignity in the face of challenges ranging from political repression to AIDS.
He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: ÔÔDon’t call me. IÕll call you.ÕÕ But he remained one of the worldÕs most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.
ÔÔHe is at the epicenter of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are,ÕÕ Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature, once remarked.
The years Mandela spent behind bars made him the worldÕs most celebrated political prisoner and a leader of mythic stature for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his countryÕs borders.
Charged with capital offences in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.
ÔÔDuring 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. ÔÔI have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,ÕÕ he told the court.
ÔÔIt is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.ÕÕ Friends adored Mandela and fondly called him ÔÔMadiba,ÕÕ the clan name by which he was known. People lauded his humanity, kindness and dignity.