South Africa: Mandela at 90

Photogragh by Andrew Zuckermann

This week “Time” dedicates its cover to Nelson Mandela, one of most important leader of our ages, to celebrate his 90th birthday in a significant way.

On July 18th, the day of his 90th birthday, Nelson Mandela gave this message to the world: “There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate who have not been able to conquer poverty. Poverty has gripped our people. If you are poor, you are not likely to live long.”

Why is this man so important not only for South Africa? In order to better understand, just take a step backward to Mandela’s life and South Africa recent history.

Mandela was born in South Africa on July 18, 1918. He graduated in law.

He joined the African National Congress at the age of 26 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland until 1990.

During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.

In 1986 strong foreign sanctions were tightened to South Africa, which lost an estimated $ 4 billion over two years.

In 1990 the president of South Africa K.W de Klerk released Nelson Mandela, and in 1993 Mandela and DeClerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1994 was held the first democratic election in South Africa, and Mandela was elected President with de Klerk as deputy. Mandela’s presidency was characterised by the successful negotiation of a new constitution; a start on the massive task of restructuring the civil service and attempts to redirect national priorities to address the results of apartheid; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up primarily to investigate the wrongs of the past.

Mandela retired from politcs in 1999, but he is continuing his work through his foundation. He is involved in a global HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, and in many scholarship programs throughout South Africa.

In spite of the big problems that still affect South Africa, such as poverty and AIDS, this Country, with its democratic transformation, represents a hope for all the African countries.

South Africa will have another great chance to demonstrate reconciliation through sports, as the world’s greatest sporting showpiece, the Fifa World Cup, will come to Africa for the first time in 2010.

If you’d like to read more:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1821467,00.html

http://www.nobelprize.org

http://www.nelsonmandela.org

http://www.nelsonmandelachildrensfund.com

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