1918 - 2013
The SFI West Bengal State Committee expresses deep grief at the passing away of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, revolutionary leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, who spent nearly seven decades of his life in the struggle against white minority rule and for a free and democratic non-racial society. His is one of the most beloved and universally respected faces of the mass uprisings against oppression and discrimination in the 20th Century. His unwavering resolve in the fight against injustice, the example he set of strength, courage and integrity and his vision for a better world forged through the united struggles of every oppressed community will remain a source of inspiration for everyone who fights back against the discriminations and oppression inherent to the current socio-economic order.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” ― Nelson Mandela
Rolihlahla Mandela was born to a country where people of African origin where treated as inferior, with no democratic rights, and restricted economic activity. His active participation in student protests got him expelled from college. This did not stop him from continuing his education, and he became a lawyer by profession. He established the first black Law firm “Mandela and Tambo” in 1952. Throughout his life he continued to emphasize the all-important role of education in the people’s struggle.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” –Mandela
He joined the African National Congress in 1942, and formed the ANC Youth League. He led the Defiance campaign in 1952 for which he was banned and spent 9 months imprisoned in hard labour. In the Emergency which followed the police killing 69 unarmed people in 1960, the ANC and the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) were banned and Mandela was detained along with thousands of others. From 1956 to 1961 he was one of the main accused in the Treason Trial. In 1961 he wrote to the Prime Minister requesting a Non-Racial National Convention. In June that year he was asked to lead the armed struggle, and he helped form the Umkhonto WeSizwe (Spear of the nation), receiving military training from Morocco and Ethiopia and returning in 1962. He was immediately arrested and sentenced for 5 years imprisonment. Soon after, one of their secret hide-outs were raided and his comrades in the ANC and the Communist party were arrested. In 1963 he and nine others were held in the Rivonia trial, and in 1964 they were sentenced to a lifetime in prison. He spent 27 years in prison, first at Robben Island, later at Cape town, rejecting at least 3 conditional offers of release. Towards the end of his imprisonment he initiated talks of an ultimate meeting of the ANC with the Apartheid government. He was released on Sunday 11 February 1990, 9 days after the ban on the ANC and PAC were lifted. He took over after Tambo as the president of the ANC in 1991. In 1994 he voted for the first time in his life and on the 10th of May he became the first African president of South Africa. In 1994 he won the Noble Peace prize.
“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.” – from Mandela’s famous speech at the Rivonia Trial. His life is and continues to be an inspiration all who are deprived and oppressed, and for all who are against this deprivation and oppression, and especially for us, the students of SFI, who have joined this fight for freedom, democracy and equality.