Remembering Nelson Mandela By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Remembering Nelson Mandela
By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

It is really a beautiful coincidence that when I reached South Africa to conclude the Africa tour, people are celebrating the Nelson Mandela International Day to mark the birthday of their beloved revolutionary leader. Nelson Mandela is indeed a legendary unique character of human history who carried a longest but successful struggle against racial discrimination in South Africa.

The UN General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in November 2009 to acknowledge the positive contribution of recognition of South African leader to promote the culture of peace and freedom. The Mandela Day emphasized that everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better.

Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent, has its own unique role in the human civilization and it has witnessed various magnificent empires throughout its history and worst kinds of human exploitation as well. South Africa is the most important country, that was remained occupied by western colonial powers including Portugal, Holland and Britain in the past. On May 1961, the country became a republic but the real independence from white minority rule was achieved in the 1990s as a result of heroic struggle by Nelson Mandela.

While visiting key cities of South Africa, Cape Town and Johannesburg, I am amazed that just 25 years ago, the victimization on the basis of racial discrimination was on rise in the South African society and most ironically, such unethical “Apartheid” policies were enforced through legislation by the ruling National Party from 1948 to 1994. Anyone who raised voice against the segregation, was declared traitor and anti-state, and Nelson Mandela was not exceptional.

Free Yourself, Free others, and Serve Every day, were three golden rules that were followed by Nelson Mandela throughout his life. He believed that it is very easy to break down and destroy but the heroes are those who make peace and build. Nelson Mandela was also a strong supporter of education promotion. Education, according to him, is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world positively.

He joined the African National Congress to become active part of revolution movement. In 1955, he wrote the “Freedom Charter” to declare that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people. Such demand for social harmony was a grave crime in the eyes of the white-only government. Thus, he was declared traitor while his party, ANC, was banned. Latter, the cruel government sent Mandela to jail along with his fellows. During his trial, he admitted to struggle for establishing a peaceful society where all races will have equal opportunities for progress. Despite, expressing all positive views for democracy, human rights and social harmony, he was awarded the life imprisonment.

The white-only government was in fact trying to move forward its hate agenda in the absence of Nelson Mandela but his sincere charismatic personality kept attracting the sensible people, not only across the country but also on international level, to continue the efforts for equal rights. During the 1980s, his one of closest fellows, Oliver Tambo, started promoting Nelson Mandela as a global symbol of political freedom and resistance to Apartheid-based policies in South Africa.

In 1990s, the white government found no other option but to release Mandela who spend a long period of twenty-seven years in jail. The ban on his party African National Congress was also lifted and a negotiation process was initiated to introduce political democratic system in the country. First ever fully representative democratic election were held where the blacks were also allowed to vote. At last the day has come when the people of South Africa had elected Nelson Mandela as their first black president and the dark era of Apartheid government was finally ended. Nelson Mandela brought a number of positive reforms to promote black-white harmony. Nobody was allowed to victimize former ruling white community. While ensuring equal opportunities for black citizens, whites were allowed to serve on public offices. Promotion of education, healthcare and end to poverty became his top priorities. Eleven languages were declared national languages. Mandela-led new government also tried to establish cordial diplomatic relations with other countries.

After completing his presidential tenure, Nelson Mandela decided to retire and kept himself busy in various welfare activities on the platform of Mandela Foundation, which he founded for rural development, school construction, and combating HIV/AIDS. On the occasion of his sad demise, a large number of world leaders gathered in South Africa World leaders to pay tribute. The day was officially declared as a national day of prayer by the South African government. More than hundred awards including Nobel Peace Prize were conquered to him. Government of Pakistan also announced the most prestigious award, Nishan-e-Pakistan.

While observing South African people celebrating the Mandela Day, I think it is also a matter of great concern for us that despite so much love to our beloved country Pakistan why we are failed to move Pakistan towards peace and prosperity. Finding answer to this must be a collective responsibility to entire Pakistani nation. Today, Nelson Mandela is no more among us but his vision for serving humanity is lasting. Let’s salute the legendary revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela for setting a bright example for whole mankind.

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The Times of India (21 August 2017)