There is nothing more precious than peace, and nothing worse than a war
The Republic of South Africa came into being in 1961, replacing the Union of South Africa. This British dominium was established as a result of the Boer Wars which took place at the turn of the 20th century and during which the British defeated the Boer state – the home of the descendants of white settlers.
The Apartheid was granted a status of a legal state doctrine in 1948. A global system of division and discrimination was derived from the theory of racial segregation and separate development which aimed to preserve the ‘racial identity’ – it was believed that ‘mixing of the races’ would result in blurring the differences or domination of the more powerful factor. The rules defined who is supposed to reside in specific places, with whom one can meet or whom one can marry, where one shall work and for what salary, what one can read, where one can walk and which route to choose.
In February 1990, President Frederik de Klerk pronounced the end of Apartheid. The fall of a racist doctrine was accelerated by the global recession of the 1980s, the aftereffects of sanctions imposed on the RSA as well as the actions of the opposition – a rebellion, frequent strikes, passive resistance. The African National Congress of Nelson Mandela, the oldest and most powerful political movement of the Black population all across Africa, finally gained the status of a partner in negotiations,
The events which took place in Eastern-Central Europe at the turn of the 1990s inspired the method of transition, i.e. seeking compromise, transformation, according to Mandela’s doctrine of forgiveness which he proclaimed soon after being released from prison (where he ended up as an act of repression).
In the language of Xhosa, the people he stemmed from, his second name – Rolihlahla – means ‘troublesome.’ Nelson Mandela was a source of troubles for almost a century, fighting for his own freedom and the freedom of others. He was the only black student at the university. He was active in the organization of the black inhabitants of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) – the African National Congress, clandestinely in the South African Communist Party. He was a co-founder of the militant group Umkhonte we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), he organized demonstrations. Being a lawyer, he offered legal advice to the victims of Apartheid.
He spent 27 years in prison, sentenced for “a plot against the state.” He organised a university at the prison, studied Marxism and Islam, chaired debates on civil rights, homosexuality and freedom of speech. “Only free people can negotiate; a prisoner cannot make deals.” In 1985, despite the fact that he himself defied violence, Mandela rejected an offer of being released on condition he denunciates the struggle of the members of the African National Congress.
He was of an opinion that an armed rebel is weaker than his perpetrators; however, when he repudiates violence, he becomes stronger.
In December 1989, Frederick de Klerk, newly appointed President of the RSA, granted amnesty to all the prisoners from the Congress, except for Mandela. He did meet up with him though, and a couple of weeks later he released him as well. During talks with the government, Mandela suggested truce. He condemned the actions of his wife, Winnie, who was guilty of tortures and murders on the opponents of the Congress, separated from her and brought about her exclusion from the organization.
In 1994, the elections were held in the Republic of South Africa – the first time in the history of the country with no limitations in both right to vote and standing for the election. The Congress won and Nelson Mandela became a President.
The idea of the RSA as a “rainbow nation” in which various racial, ethnic, religious and social groups cooperate without losing their individual identities became a foundation of national reconciliation.
Mandela supported the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission declared that those who were guilty of violence during the Apartheid, were offered amnesty in exchange for pleading guilty for the committed faults.
In 2004, in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, Mandela said: ”I am disillusioned, cause I believed that the success of our peaceful transformation will convince others, all around the globe, that conflicts can be solved without resorting to violence. There is nothing more precious than peace, and nothing worse than a war.”