An Ode To Madiba, President Nelson Mandela by Dr. Sherine Vie
Dr. Vie, a fellow South African born in the time of apartheid: http://www.DrVie.com
The world’s most famous prisoner who freed his mind during his 27 years in prison.
It is said that modern humans evolved from the great continent of Africa over four million years ago. By the early 900 AD the African groups of Zulu and Xhosa were well formed in South Africa. Then saw the coming of the European explorers en route to conquer new lands and in search for a viable sea route to the jewels and spices of India. In 1497 the Portuguese Vasco da Gama set foot in South Africa. Yet it was only in 1652 that the terrain of South Africa changed when the Dutch East India Company led by Jan Van Riebeeck landed in South Africa.
Since then many nations tried to take ownership of South Africa. The main rulers were the Dutch then the British in 1795 and back to the Dutch rule when South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961. On that day it was decided by the ruling party that apartheid – racial segregation will continue in the new South Africa.
This was nothing new to the non-white people of the nation. For hundreds of years, even though they were the majority of the population, Africans together with the Coloureds, and the Indians who were brought from India as indentured laborers, were subjected to apartheid and were discriminated against. These three groups were the outcasts of South Africa, without many human rights including the right to vote.
When Mandela spoke at the Rivonia trial in 1964, tens of thousands of Africans had already been killed since the occupation of the foreigners.
Mandela said: “Forty percent of the Africans live in hopelessly overcrowded and, in some cases, drought-stricken reserves…Thirty per cent are laborers, labor tenants, and squatters on white farms and work and live under conditions similar to those of the serfs of the Middle Ages. The average wage was R 32.24 per month ($4 per month). “The incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases is very high amongst Africans. These diseases, My Lord, not only destroy the vital organs of the body, but they result in retarded mental conditions and lack of initiative, and reduce powers of concentration.
As Nelson Mandela spoke to the court room before his sentencing he was talking on behalf of the 90% percent of the population that were ruled by 10%. He continued to say:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life 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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Transcript of Rivonia Trial, 1964.
What does this all mean? Simply this: Everyone is created free. The very essence of the planet is here to be enjoyed by everyone. Why should one person be subjected to invisible chains just because of the color of their skin or any attribute that is created by Mother Nature and does not cause harm to another?
As a young Indian girl growing up in South Africa, I lived with my family in an Indian residential area-it was the law. I went to an Indian pre-school, elementary and high school. I lived in a time of four separate beaches: White, Indian, Colored and African. We were deemed non-whites and could not eat at the same restaurant as the white population. My parents could not afford to finish high school. Yet my father persisted and through working in a shoe factory, making shoes, and then getting a loan from his childhood friend, pursued a dream to become an entrepreneur in a country beset with hatred against the non-whites.
I often wondered: What is wrong with me, what did my parents do, why can I not walk where I wanted to or touch the water of Indian ocean that was just on the other side of the fence where I played?
Yet at times as I stood on the beach, looking at the White side, when the forbidden water seemed to smile at me, to take a miscalculated turn and drift my way through the wooden barriers, I joyfully dipped my feet in it with the greatest of glee! Those were my stolen moments of freedom. Alas, I still did not know what it felt like to be really free.
I was raised in an Indian household where we spoke four languages, English, Afrikaans-dialect of Dutch (at school), one Indian language and Zulu-one of the African languages. My forefathers were brought to South Africa from India in the 1860’s to work as indentured labourers in the sugar cane plantations. Shortly thereafter in 1866 diamonds and gold were discovered thereby changing the value of the land.
Savage wars were waging between the settlers and the culture rich African Xhosa and Zulu kingdoms finally leading to the defeat of the African tribes and the loss of thousands of lives in bloody massacres. The British were also fighting the Dutch settlers in two major wars that will remain imprinted in the history of South Africa. The Anglo-Boer war, the second of which in 1899-1901, used British concentration camps to kill over 20 thousand Boers under age 16 and over 13 thousand Africans.
As the diamond and gold industries grew, the Africans were put to work in the mines and Indians were working hard in the fields. In India at that time the British had invaded and Gandhi had returned to his home after graduating as a lawyer in England.
A South African Indian business man offered Gandhi work for a year. Little did he know what lay ahead of him in the foreign country when he boarded the train from Natal to Transvaal in 1893, with his first class ticket. Branded as a “coolie” he was thrown out at the next stop because he refused to move to the third class, non-white section of the coach.
So started Gandhi’s work in South Africa to help the Indians attain some form of freedom. On 22 Aug 1894 he co-founded the Natal Indian Congress in my home town where he pioneered Satyagraha – truth through passive resistance, which he would later use to lead India to freedom from the British. By the time of Mandela’s birth in 1918 through 1960 the non-whites were focused on passive resistance.
Gandhi returned to India in 1913 and in 1915 received the title Mahatma “Great Soul.” It seemed as if South Africa would be the breeding grounds not just for the start of the modern human but also for the creation of legends.
By the time Mandela joined the ANC in 1944 at the age of 26, a few years before Gandhi’s assignation, much had changed in South Africa. In 1947 the Indian Congress formed a pact with the ANC to work together while still focused on passive resistance.
That was the plan, until the Sharpville incident on 21 March 1960. A march was arranged to protest the carrying of passes – akin to what Gandhi had done in 1908 when the Indians burned their passes. However, it was not meant to be without great pain. The 5000 unarmed protestors were fired on continuously for two minutes by 300 policemen, killing 69 and wounding 180. So the ANC began stronger measures against the apartheid regime.
After Mandela’s imprisonment in 1962, people wanted their freedom even more than ever. Massive student and worker boycotts were arranged and escalated in the 1970’s On one such occasion in June 1976 in Soweto, 20, 000 school children were peacefully protesting the introduction of Afrikaans into the schools. At the end of that day, hundreds of the children were shot, the first of who was 13 year old Hector Pieterson. During the time of turmoil, Mandela was calling for calm.
In the 1980’s school boycotts went national. In 1983 the government tried to pacify the Indian and Colored groups by introducing the Tricameral Parliament with the House of Assembly with exclusively Whites, the House of Representatives with Coloreds and the House of Delegates for the Indian representatives. That was not acceptable to the non-whites of South Africa.
It caused more uprising as the Indian National Congress, ANC and trade union COSATU voiced their disgust. Hundreds were imprisoned, hundreds more went missing. From July 1985 a State of Emergency was declared. Then in June 1986 until 1990 a national state of emergency was in force. Parents were terrified that the children will be taken from them, and many youngsters were dragged out of their homes in the wee hours of the morning, to be tortured and never seen again.
On one fateful day at the age of sixteen, something happened, and I realized that I was actually free even though we were non-whites and could not eat at the same restaurants or ride the same buses as everyone else. I then realized the need for freedom of the mind. Over time I began to realize that Mandela was setting himself free even though he was in prison. He was breaking free from the chains around him. He was actually free already.
Finally after many lost lives, at the age of 71 Mandela walked out of prison in 1990. For me, while Madiba (Father) was in prison he had already gained his freedom- freedom of mind. When he walked out of prison on 11 February 1990, he was now setting us, his people and the nation free.
The world’s most famous prisoner who freed his mind during his 27 years in prison.
When we celebrate the life of Madiba President Mandela, we remember that he led us to freedom. With freedom comes great responsibility. Some of the greatest inventions can turn into a weapon if it falls into the wrong hands. We know this from history. Sometimes people take a few steps back before stepping forward again.
Nothing good happens overnight. Everything takes time, it takes trial and error and it takes the persistence of wise leadership and immense inner strength and the trust in goodness.
We need to look ahead at how we can carve a future of truth, compassion and wisdom. How can we instill values in the people of a country that has a history of poverty, lack of advantages and feelings of fear? Initially it may sway the other way, but just as a pendulum it will sway back.
As humans, we have the capacity to choose right from wrong and to turn left or to turn right. Today more than ever the future of South Africa is in the hands of its children.
Education is the key only if it instills values, just as much as it teaches one how to read, write, talk and the skills to make it in the work force. We must learn how to live life first, before we learn how to be literate and collect degrees and titles.
Everywhere in the world today, we are beginning to see the same problem arise. People who are politically free and live in a democratic society can easily imprison themselves through the choices in life. We are surrounded constantly by temptations that promise power, and material wealth and happiness. It is easy to become corrupt, it is even easier to stray to the other side. We see it in our children in the free world – where peer pressure or even celebrity role models can mold a malleable child to be compassionate and wise or to pursue a life driven by addiction.
So too in South Africa, we now face the challenges of every free society. How do we guide the children of today to be the leaders of tomorrow instead of being tempted by attractions of temporary happiness?
We need basic human rights to be met: food, shelter, health and values. At the same time we need to teach our children the need for truth and pure love and compassion. Let us inspire those who have more to help those who have less so that both can find their peace in giving joy.
The philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Madiba Mandela and the great sages and prophets of many cultures before them all teach the same lesson: that we should empower the hungry and the weak so that they can learn to lovingly feed and strengthen themselves and contribute to the well being of others.
Madiba Nelson Mandela “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
This is true wherever we are in the world. A country is only as strong as its children and the mothers who bear them. The planet is only as strong as every nation on it.
As we look upon South Africa today on the passing on of dearest Madiba Nelson Mandela, let us bless the nation and bless all nations around the world so that every child may find inspiration from the great Souls who lived before them and forge ahead with their heads high and their hearts pure with love.
Meet the Author
Born in South Africa, with roots in India, Dr. Sherine Vie, a former Swiss-based medical device scientist changed her career to natural health after losing her father to heart disease and helping her mother recover from breast cancer. Facing heart-breaking challenges while living solo in six countries, in 2004 Dr. Vie Research pioneered Dr. Vie SuperFoods™ in the North Americas, & since 2007 Dr. Vie SuperKids mentors children & recently, Dr. Vie Academy with Dr. Vie Radio helps all ages globally. Dr. Vie is focused on restoring the link between humanity, nature and the source of all life. Dr. Vie is a mountain-lover and has trekked many ranges including the Himalayas.
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