…..During 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. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live 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.”      Nelson Rohilahla Mandela’s speech at his trial

Nelson Rohilahla Mandela is easily the greatest inspiration of the 20th and maybe 21st century he dedicated his entire life to making life better for all black people

He represents what is best of the human kind. His marriage to Evelyn broke down because he could not give up the struggle for his people! His marriage to Winnie broke down because Winnie was broken by the authorities and he was not there to guide her! In all he went through he is not bitter about the breakdown of his home and the lost years in prison he was determined and focused to ensure that black men and white men have equal opportunity in the land of their birth!

Nelson Rohilahla Mandela came from the Thembu tribe in the beautiful Xhosa country of the Transkei region an area which is the size of Switzerland. The Xhosa people are a proud people with an expressive clicking sounding language. Education, law, order and courtesy is very important to the Xhosa people as it is to all African people. Every Xhosa person can trace its descendant to a specific forefather and Nelson Mandela forefather is known as Madiba, he is often referred to as this as a sign of respect. In other African tribes like the Yoruba in West Africa this is known as “Oriki” or clan name. Nelson Mandela was born at the end of the “Great War” and the out break of the flu epidemic that killed millions worldwide 18th of July 1918!

When Nelson Mandela was a little boy he often heard stories from the elders of his tribe telling stories of the old days and the tales of the wars fought by his ancestors  to defend the Xhosa nation. There were names like Dingane, Bambatha, Hintsa, Moshoeshoe and they were praised  as the pride of the entire Africa. And most fascinating was the story of Shaka the great Zulu! One of the greatest Africans to thread the earth! Nelson Mandela was excited and motivated by these stories he hoped that one day he will have the chance to serve and liberate his people like his great fearless ancestors did.

When Nelson was very little his father Gadla Mpakanyiswa was deposed from his position as a Chief unfairly by a white magistrate which made his father lose his fortune, title, herd and his land! In Africa a mans fortune is measured by the amount of land he owns . This affected Nelson Mandela who had to move with his Mum to a village called Qunu. Nelson Mandela had a wonderful childhood in Qunu he learnt how to mould animals out of clay, he went fishing, he learnt to use a slingshot to knock a bird out of the sky, he knew how get wild honey. He loved the veld and open spaces, the beauties of African nature he found breathtaking!

When Nelson Mandela was seven years old he started the village school on the first day his teacher gave all the children an English name and said they must answer to this name in school. This was the custom due to bias, whites then were unwilling to pronounce African names and considered African names uncivilized his new name was Nelson after the sea captain Lord Nelson! In school Nelson Mandela only learnt about the British culture which was assumed to be superior there was no such thing as African Culture.

One night when Nelson was nine years old there was some commotion in his mothers hut his father was ill with some lung disease, which was not known because he never visited a doctor, for many days he lay still in the hut he asked for his tobacco pipe one day and when he smoked it he became calm he died after an hour with his pipe in his mouth. This was one of the hardest times of Nelson’s life he had to leave his childhood home in Qunu to live with the Regent of Thembuland, Chief Jongintaba his name in English meant “One who looks at mountains” which really means “One who aspires to great things” African names are predictions of what your parents expect of you! What a rich heritage!

In his new home “The Great Place” Nelson was very happy there were two other children Justice a boy who was four years older than him and Nomafu a girl. He was treated the same as them. They had the same food, same clothes and went to the same school. Justice became Nelsons hero after his father Justice attended a boarding school and was  very out going he excelled in cricket, rugby and soccer while Nelson was very quiet and thoughtful. Nelson and Justice became best friends. Many of the things Nelson learnt at “The Great Place” are things he took into his adult life. Fairness, listening to everyone in a discussion before giving his opinion. One main lesson he learnt from Chief Jogintaba is “a leader is a shepherd he must stay behind the flock”

At “The Great Place” Nelson learnt a lot about African history from the North to the South. The Bantu speaking people from the middle east slowly making their way to the south until they reached the tip. He also learnt that the British textbook that said South Africa began when Riebeeck landed at the Cape of Good hope in 1652 this was not true!

Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993.
Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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