Talk with Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a transformative figure & noble peace laureate who emancipated South Africa from the chains of apartheid.


Who is Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation.

Prior to becoming president, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, leading campaigns and acts of civil disobedience against racially discriminatory laws. He was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy and was imprisoned for 27 years. His imprisonment garnered international attention and helped fuel the movement against apartheid.

Mandela's leadership, courage, and lifelong fight for equality and justice earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Despite retiring from politics in 1999, he continued to be a global advocate for peace and social justice until his death in 2013.

How did Nelson Mandela maintain positiveness during his prison term?

Nelson Mandela's extraordinary positivity during his long imprisonment was largely due to his mental fortitude, and his unyielding belief in the cause of equality and freedom. He used different strategies to maintain a positive attitude.

  1. Education and Learning: He nurtured his passion for knowledge and used that as a tool to keep his spirit positive. He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London's External Programme while in prison, and encouraged other inmates to pursue education as well.

  2. Physical Fitness: Mandela believed in the power of physical activity to encourage a healthy mindset. He partook in regular exercises, including running in place for 45 minutes, wall push-ups and sit-ups.

  3. Communication: He maintained a dialogue with the outside world, often in the form of correspondence with family and friends.

  4. Imagery: Mandela often visualized his release. This visualization acted as a potent tool in maintaining his positivity and hope.

  5. Acceptance: Mandela once stated, "I found solitary confinement the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There is no end and no beginning; there is only one's mind, which can begin to play tricks." Accepting solitary confinement, acknowledging its mental strains, and developing coping mechanisms was crucial for maintaining his mental health.

  6. Sense of Purpose: Above all, Mandela maintained his positivity by reminding himself of the purpose of his struggle—trying to dismantle apartheid. This unwavering sense of purpose helped him endure those years of imprisonment.

Despite the confinement, Mandela never lost sight of the broader perspective and was always working on his mental strength to fight against the oppressors.

What was Nelson Mandela's approach towards racial discrimination?

Nelson Mandela staunchly fought against racial discrimination throughout his life and his political career. His approach was guided by a strong belief in equality and social justice. Here are some aspects of his approach:

  1. Advocacy for Human Rights and Equality: Mandela believed that all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their race. His vision of a non-racial South Africa was grounded in the notion of universal human rights.

  2. Nonviolent Protests: Initially, Mandela was a firm believer in nonviolent resistance. Inspired by figures like Mahatma Gandhi, he considered nonviolent protest as a strong and effective tool for challenging racial laws.

  3. Militant Approach: After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, where South African police opened fire on a peaceful protest, killing 69 people, Mandela started advocating for a calibrated use of violence against the apartheid government. He co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe ('Spear of the Nation'), the armed wing of the ANC, which carried out sabotage campaigns against military and government targets.

  4. Negotiated Settlement: In the late 1980s, from his prison cell, Mandela began secret negotiations with the South African government that ultimately led to his release and the beginning of democratic transition. While he continued to condemn apartheid, he was open to engage with his opponents if it could bring an end to racial segregation.

  5. Reconciliation: Perhaps the most notable aspect of Mandela's approach was his commitment to reconciliation and the restoration of national unity once apartheid had ended. As president, he worked to mend the racial divide, establish a multi-racial democracy, and prevent bitterness from hindering national healing and progress. His reconciliation policy was best manifested by the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

  6. Education: Mandela saw education as a critical weapon in the fight against racial discrimination. He believed educated individuals could contribute greatly towards the creation of a society free from racial prejudice and bigotry.

Mandela’s approach evolved over time, reflecting changes in his own outlook and shifts in the political landscape. Yet, the core goal of building a just and equal society remained consistent.

What were Nelson Mandela's thoughts on equality and freedom?

Nelson Mandela held firm views on equality and freedom. His lifelong struggle against racial discrimination in South Africa was born out of his belief in the inherent dignity and equality of all people. He stated, "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity." This signified his commitment to the principle that everyone is entitled to the same basic rights regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status.

On the subject of freedom, Mandela once said, "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." Through this, he spoke to his understanding of freedom as not an individual pursuit, but a communal attainment where everyone's liberty matters.

Mandela was also very conscious about economic equality. He said, "As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest."

In essence, his thoughts on equality and freedom were interconnected and foundational to his vision for a democratic and free society where all people live together in harmony with equal opportunities.

What kind of relationship did Nelson Mandela possess with other global leaders?

Nelson Mandela was seen as a pivotal figure on the global stage and he had a significant relationships with many global leaders across different continents. His relationship with each varied, often depending on their response to apartheid in South Africa.

  1. Fidel Castro: Nelson Mandela maintained a warm relationship with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whom he saw as a friend and ally. Mandela thanked Castro for his support during the anti-apartheid struggle.

  2. Margaret Thatcher: The British Prime Minister had a complicated relationship with Mandela. She had initially described Mandela's ANC as a "terrorist organisation." However, after Mandela's release from prison, their relationship greatly evolved and they met a few times.

  3. Bill Clinton: The U.S. President and Mandela enjoyed a personal friendship, and Clinton has since frequently referred to Mandela as one of his heroes.

  4. Muammar Gaddafi: Despite international criticism, Mandela maintained a close relationship with the Libyan leader due to Gaddafi's support for the ANC during apartheid.

  5. The Dalai Lama: Spiritual leader of Tibet and Mandela shared respect for each other's struggle for freedom and human rights in their respective countries.

Mandela, due to his iconic status, was granted audiences with leaders who disagreed with him. Even where differences existed, many world leaders respected Mandela for his unflinching commitment to democracy and equality. So, even in disagreements, most global leaders maintained a cordial and respectful relationship with him.

Why is Nelson Mandela considered a symbol of integrity?

Nelson Mandela is considered a symbol of integrity for several reasons. Firstly, he is known for his tireless struggle against racism and apartheid in South Africa, where he was imprisoned for 27 years for his defiance against the government. Rather than breaking due to this treatment, he emerged from incarceration resolved to forgive those who had imprisoned him and to work towards national reconciliation.

In fact, one of the most profound examples of Mandela's integrity was his establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994. This commission provided a platform for people to address the abuses committed under apartheid and was designed to help heal the nation, showcasing Mandela's commitment to justice and healing.

Furthermore, Mandela always upheld the principles he believed in, even facing death for his convictions during his trial in 1964. At one moment during his life, Mandela was offered a conditional release from prison by then South African president, P.W. Botha. However, he rejected the offer as it was conditionally based on the termination of violent protest against apartheid and involved compromising his principles.

Also worth noting is his decision to step down voluntarily after one term as president, denying himself any opportunity to become an autocrat, which has been the fate of many liberation leaders across the continent.

All these actions and decisions indicate a man of deep integrity, committed to the principles of justice, freedom, and equality. Hence, Nelson Mandela is viewed globally as a symbol of integrity.

What are the best Nelson Mandela quotes?

Nelson Mandela was known for his eloquence and had a in-depth philosophical charm to his words. Here are some of his most well-known quotes:

  1. "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

  2. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

  3. "It always seems impossible until it's done."

  4. "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."

  5. "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it."

  6. "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

  7. "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

  8. "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."

  9. "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

  10. "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

These lines reflect his perspective, practices and experiences, and they have continued to inspire millions worldwide.

Where was Nelson Mandela incarcerated?

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in several prisons over the period of his 27 years of imprisonment. He was initially confined in Pretoria Local Prison following his conviction in the Rivonia Trial. Then after a brief period, he was transferred to Robben Island Prison where he spent 18 of his 27 years imprisoned.

Mandela was kept in a damp concrete cell with just a straw rug for sleeping. His number was 46664 and he was classed as the lowest grade of prisoner which meant he received the least amounts of food and was allowed only one visit and one letter every six months.

Then in 1982, he was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, which is located in the suburb of Tokai in Cape Town. Finally, he was moved to Victor Verster Prison (now Drakenstein Correctional Centre) near Paarl, where he spent his last 14 months of detention before his release in February 1990.

What did Nelson Mandela think about Christianity?

Nelson Mandela was raised in the Methodist Church, and Christianity had a significant influence on him. He didn't often speak publicly about his religious beliefs, spending much more time talking about his political and social views. Whilst in prison, he continued to attend church services.

In his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom", he noted the impact Christianity had on him, "The Church was as concerned with this world as the next: I saw that virtually all of the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about through the missionary work of the Church.”

Nevertheless, Mandela's focus was on equality, freedom, and human rights above all. His approach to religion was largely inclusive, valuing the contribution and rights of individuals of all faiths in contributing to a diverse and unified South Africa. He fully supported and appreciated the role of the Christian church in the anti-apartheid movement but also maintained a staunch commitment to religious pluralism in his vision for South Africa. He recognized that religious belief, including Christianity, was deeply entwined with the cultural and political lives of his people. His legacy, therefore, is one of religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

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