For A Better Place - Portugal

terça-feira, julho 19, 2005

Nelson Mandela: O Homem - The Man

Também conhecido por: Nelson R(olihlahla) Mandela, Nelson R. Mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Nelson (Rolihlahla) Mandela
Nascimento: 18 de Julho de 1918, em Mvezo, África do Sul
Ocupação: Presidente, Oficial do Governo, Juíz, Escritor

Fonte: African Biography. 4 vols. U*X*L, 1999.

“You had no doubt when you were with [Nelson Mandela] that he had what we call in our language `shadow'—substance, presence. He was regal.”—Desmond Tutu
BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYA herd boy from an isolated mountainous area who did not wear shoes until age 16, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela rose against overwhelming odds to be president of the richest, most culturally diverse country in Africa. He endured more than 27 years in jail for trying to overthrow a white police state, becoming the world's most famous political prisoner. He led voteless black South Africans from the racist apartheid period into a democratic era in 1994. (Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning apartness or separateness. It is a system of segregation based on race that favors whites and restricts blacks to labor reserves.) Celebrated as an international hero upon his release from prison in 1990, Mandela will be remembered as one of the twentieth century's towering leaders.
Mandela also will be remembered as the precedent-setting African head of state who announced his retirement at the peak of his power after only one five-year term in office. By retiring, he passed "the baton" to a new generation, leaving behind a reputation untarnished by corruption and brutality that besmirched so many long-term African leaders. More than anyone else, Mandela bridged African and European cultures--taking the best from each. He was an educated man, a lawyer, a democrat, a shrewd observer of human behavior, a conservative politician who led a military uprising against an inhuman system, a best-selling and wealthy author, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a connoisseur of food, and a president daring enough to wear colorful, dashing shirts rather than stuffy suits and ties.
Sparkling streams, green mountains
Though he became the toast of Western countries, outshining European and North American leaders of his era, Mandela kept in touch with a royal African heritage that molded him into a self-confident leader at an early stage in life. Mandela was born in Mvezo, a small, isolated Thembu village on the Mbashe River near Umtata, the Transkei capital. The Transkei is a land of sparkling streams and rounded green mountains in today's eastern South Africa. An area as large as Switzerland, the Transkei was home to the Xhosa people before whites arrived in the seventeenth century. The Thembu form one of seven groups that make up the Xhosa nation.
Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, gave him the first name Rolihlahla, and he got his last name from his grandfather Mandela. As a show of respect, he is often called Madiba, his clan name. The name Rolihlahla means literally in Xhosa "pulling the branch of a tree." But Mandela said its informal meaning is more accurate: "troublemaker." On his first day in school, his British-trained African teacher gave each student an English name. Mandela was named Nelson. "Why she bestowed this particular name upon me I have no idea," Mandela wrote later. "Perhaps it had something to do with the great British sea captain Lord Nelson [1758-1805], but that would be only a guess."
Mandela's father was a gifted orator, custodian of Xhosa history, and a tribal priest. He could not read or write, but he placed great emphasis on education for young Mandela. Mandela's father had four wives who lived at homesteads spaced miles apart. His wives had 13 children--nine girls and four boys--among them. Mandela was the youngest of the four boys. His mother was his father's third wife, Nosekeni Fanny. In Thembu lineage, Mandela was in line to become counselor to the tribal rulers, but never a ruler. Ironically, social and political upheavals would not only make him ruler of his Transkei people, but also of the more than 40 million people living in South Africa when he was elected president in 1994.
A "stubborn sense of fairness"
Shortly after Mandela's birth, his father became embroiled in a dispute with a British magistrate that would have a lifelong effect on Mandela. The magistrate summoned Mandela's father in a complaint involving an ox. Mandela's father refused to appear before the magistrate, sending him a message informing him that, as a chief, he was governed by Thembu customs and not by the laws of the king of England. Without an inquiry or hearing, the offended magistrate deposed (removed from power) Mandela's father as a chief.
"My father, who was a wealthy nobleman by the standards of his time, lost both his fortune and his title," Mandela recalled. "He was deprived of most of his herd and land, and the revenue that came with them." Mandela credits the incident with instilling in him his father's "stubborn sense of fairness."
With the family impoverished, Mandela's mother moved a short distance to a larger village and Methodist mission station, Qunu, where she had relatives and could count on support. Mandela's memories of Qunu were fond enough to prompt him to build his retirement home there many years later.
At Qunu, his mother became a Methodist and was given the Christian name Fanny. Mandela also was baptized a Methodist. The Methodist community persuaded Mandela's mother and father to send him to Qunu's one-room, Western-style school. He was the first member of his family to attend school.
The Great Place
When Mandela was nine years old, his father died. After that, Mandela was raised at Mqhekezweni, the Thembuland capital in the Transkei, in the Great Place of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, acting regent (ruler) of the Thembu people. As a local chief and counselor to Thembu kings, Mandela's father had been instrumental in getting Jongintaba chosen acting regent to rule until an infant prince came of age. Jongintaba repaid the counselor's favor by taking his son into the Great Place. Mandela was taken by his mother to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni where he was to be integrated into Chief Jongintaba's court and treated as a member of the royal family. Mandela remembers his mother's parting words as she left him in the majestic new world of the royal house (the chief even had a V-8 Ford): "Brace yourself, my boy!" It was motherly advice that Mandela could use for the rest of his life.
In the Great Place as a boy Mandela watched Jongintabe hold court on public affairs. Thembu men, no matter what their standing, were free to speak and make their arguments until a consensus (general agreement) could be reached--with Jongintabe summing up at the end of debate. "It was democracy in the purest form," Mandela recalled. He added in his book Long Walk to Freedom: "As a leader, I have always followed the principles I first saw demonstrated by the regent at the Great Place. I have always endeavoured to listen to what each and every person had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in a discussion. I always remember the regent's axiom [rule or principle]: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."
At Mqhekezweni, Mandela continued his education at Christian schools, where he learned about British ideas, culture, and institutions. From Chief Jongintaba's Great Place he learned tribal culture and stories of past Xhosa heroes and glories. At the Christian church, Mandela learned another thing: how to eat with a knife and fork.
A promise to be fulfilled
At 16, Mandela went through an elaborate Xhosa circumcision ceremony, a ritual that declared him a man. At the end of the ceremony, Mandela listened to a lamentation (an expression of grief) by Chief Meligqili: "There sit our sons, young, healthy and handsome, the flower of the Xhosa tribe.... We have just circumcised them in a ritual that promises them manhood, but I am here to tell you that it is an empty, illusory promise, a promise that can never be fulfilled. For the Xhosa, and all black South Africans, are conquered people.... They will go to cities where they will live in shacks and drink cheap alcohol, all because we have no land to give them where they could prosper and multiply. They will cough their lungs out deep in the bowels of the white man's mines.... Among these young men are chiefs who will never rule because we have no power to govern ourselves; soldiers who will never teach because we have no weapons to fight with; scholars who will never teach because we have no place for them to study."
Shortly after Mandela's circumcision, Chief Jongintaba told the young man he was being sent to school in a wider world. "It is not for you to spend your life mining the white man's gold, never knowing how to write your name," the chief told Mandela.
In his royal V8 Ford, the chief drove Mandela to Clarkesbury Boarding School at Engcobo, one of the oldest Methodist missions in the Transkei. The chief left the young scholar with pocket money and a new pair of boots. In Long Walk to Freedom Mandela remembers his first days at the school: "On this first day of classes I sported my new boots. I had never worn boots before of any kind, and that first day I walked like a newly shod horse. I made a terrible racket walking up the steps and almost slipped several times. As I clomped into the classroom, my boots crashing on the shiny wood floor, I noticed two female students in the first row were watching my lame performance with great amusement. The prettier of the two leaned over to her friend and said loud enough for all to hear: `The country boy is not used to wearing shoes,' at which her friend laughed. I was blind with fury and embarrassment."
His world widens
In 1937, Mandela transferred to Healdtown, a Wesleyan college at Fort Beaufort, near East London, South Africa, still in the Transkei but 175 miles from home. His world was getting larger. Two years later at the age of 21, Mandela entered University College of Fort Hare at the Transkei town of Alice, also near East London. Fort Hare, the only residential (live-in) center of higher education for blacks in South Africa at the time, had been founded in 1916 by Scottish missionaries. By the time Mandela arrived for study in 1939, the university had evolved into a training ground for the African elite--some of them later to be heads of state--from southern, central, and eastern Africa.
At the end of his second year at Fort Hare, Mandela's studies were cut short by a tribal tradition. Chief Jongintaba decided it was time for Mandela to marry, picked out a wife for him, and set a wedding date. "He loved me very much and looked after me as diligently as my father had," Mandela said in a quote from Mary Benson's book Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement. "But he was no democrat and did not think it worth while to consult me about a wife. He selected a girl, fat and dignified."
To escape the arranged marriage, Mandela really opened up his world. He fled 550 miles north to Johannesburg, the city of gold where tens of thousands of people hurried to and fro all hours of the day and night. Mandela got a job on the police force at a gold mine. But Chief Jongintaba's agents soon found him, and he fled to Alexandra, a black township north of Johannesburg. There he met Walter Sisulu (1912-), a one-time teacher from the Transkei and a real estate dealer in Alexandra, who was bent on overturning the white-minority government.
The African National Congress
Sisulu sent Mandela to law school and made it possible for Mandela and Oliver Tambo (1917-1993) to establish South Africa's first black law firm in Johannesburg in 1952. Besides helping Mandela to start a legal career, Sisulu introduced him to the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC had been organized in 1912 by a group of black lawyers for the purpose of promoting the interests of blacks in the newly created Union of South Africa. In 1944, Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo, and other young ANC members who were ready to fight for the rights of black Africans formed the core of a militant ANC Youth League movement. They removed the ANC's conservative leadership, helped elect Zulu Chief Albert John Luthuli (c. 1898-1967) ANC president, and embarked on non-violent mass action campaigns of defiance by promoting work stoppages throughout South Africa. The militants, including Mandela, opposed cooperating with other racial groups. Mandela became president of the Youth League in 1950.
In 1952 the ANC leadership appointed Mandela "volunteer-in-chief" of a "defiance campaign," by which the ANC hoped to combat apartheid through strikes and civil disobedience. Mandela traveled around the country recruiting volunteers to break apartheid laws through such acts as passing through "whites only" entrances to railroad stations, defying curfews, and burning passes. On June 26 he and 51 others started the campaign by breaking a curfew.
From the time Mandela joined the ANC in 1942 until he went underground after the organization was banned in 1960, the white government beat, banned, jailed, and tried him, unsuccessfully, for treason. In 1952 he and other ANC leaders were arrested under South Africa's Suppression of Communism Act. Mandela was given a suspended sentence, but was then served with an order prohibiting him from attending meetings or leaving the Johannesburg area. The banning order would be continually renewed. At that time Mandela was deputy national president of the ANC, but forced to resign in 1953 because of the banning orders, he had to lead the organization secretly. In 1955 Mandela and 155 others were charged with treason. The case did not go to trial for three years. Mandela helped to conduct the defense, and it was largely through his efforts that he and all of his co-defendants were acquitted.
Umkhonto we Sizwe
By mid-1961, Mandela, Sisulu, and other ANC members concluded that the white government of South Africa would respond only to violence. They set up Umkhonto we Sizwe (known by the initials MK), or "Spear of the Nation," which would become the military wing of the ANC to carry out sabotage and guerrilla warfare. Mandela was made commander of the MK. The military unit launched a campaign of sabotage on December 16, 1961, with the announcement: "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remains only two choices: submit or fight.... We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defense of our people, our future and our freedom."
Travels across Africa to London
In January 1962, Mandela left South Africa for the first time--and the only time until he was released from prison 28 years later. Leaving secretly because police sought him on a charge of organizing illegal demonstrations, Mandela went to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where he spoke to a summit of African leaders. Then he and Tambo, then based in Tanzania, went to London to confer with leaders of Britain's Liberal and Labour parties. On his return to Africa, he underwent military training in newly independent Algeria. He returned through East Africa, seeking promises of help for the ANC military campaign inside South Africa.
Shortly after his return to South Africa, Mandela was arrested by police on August 2, 1962. At a subsequent trial, he was sentenced to five years of prison labor for encouraging people to strike and leaving the country illegally. Mandela was serving that sentence when, on July 12, 1963, police arrested Sisulu and others in a farm house at Rivonia, just north of Johannesburg. The farm house was the ANC's operational headquarters for the MK. During the raid, police found a copy of Mandela's plan for carrying out sabotage and new charges were brought up against him. In the 1964 trial that followed, Mandela and other Rivonia defendants admitted to carrying out sabotage against government installations, but denied engaging in guerrilla war. At the end of the trial, the only question left was whether the defendants would get death sentences.
Against advice from his lawyers, Mandela insisted on giving an opening defense statement of more than 10,000 words, explaining objectives of the ANC and indicting (accusing of crime) white supremacy. Mandela concluded his long statement: "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 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."
Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, reacted to this speech as quoted in Benson's biography: "When you read his testimony in court you are proud that you too are black."
On June 11, 1964, at the conclusion of the trial, Mandela, Sisulu, and six others--Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Denis Goldberg--were convicted of sabotage. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.
A "giant of a man"
Mandela was eventually sent to to prison, intially at Robben Island, the "Alcatraz" of South Africa. (He would later be moved to less harsh prison conditions.) There he was assigned tasks such as gathering seaweed and breaking rocks. He also taught himself to speak Afrikaans, and quickly became a leader and teacher among the prisoners. The middle-aged commander of a guerrilla unit who narrowly escaped the South African hangman gained an uncanny perspective on life during his 27 years in prison. But he never departed from the ideal for which he risked the gallows: a chance to live freely in a society where rules are decided by fairly elected representatives of the people.
After his sentencing, Mandela became an international symbol of resistance to the white supremacy government. Even in prison Mandela projected a natural sense of command. "He is, quite simply, a giant of a man with an enormous intellect," said Desmond Tutu. "You had no doubt when you were with him that he had what we call in our language `shadow'--substance, presence. He was regal." At several times during his imprisonment the South African government tried to negotiate his release, but Mandela would not agree to the terms even though it meant staying in prison.
Hendrik J. Coetsee, the minister of justice, prisons, and police in South Africa's white minority government, had his first of many visits with Mandela in 1985. At the time, Mandela--sentenced to life in prison--had been in jail for 22 years and was 67 years old. He had undergone prostate surgery in a Cape Town, South Africa, hospital. Coetsee was accompanied by General Johan Willemse, the commissioner of police. From his hospital bed where he was attended by two nurses, Mandela cheerfully greeted his jailers like long-time friends. He displayed no bitterness about his lost years in prison. Allister Sparks quotes Coetsee's description of that day in Tomorrow Is Another Country: "It was quite incredible. He acted as though we had known each other for years, and this was the umpteenth time we had met. He introduced General Willemse and me to the two nurses. I remember he made a little joke about this being his ward and me being his warder. He took complete command of the situation. He was like the host. He invited us to sit down, and `General Willemse, are you comfortable and is there anything we can do for you?' I had read a lot about him--all his speeches and all these reports that came across my desk every day--and I was fascinated at what kind of man he must be to have attracted all this international attention and have all these honorary degrees and awards given to him. When I met him I immediately understood why. He came across as a man of Old World values. I have studied Latin and Roman culture, and I remember thinking that this is a man to whom I could apply it, an old Roman citizen."
In mid-1984 ANC activists and others had made it virtually impossible for the white minority to govern South Africa. An upsurge in violence across the country took hundreds of lives. The government responded by declaring a state of emergency and arresting thousands. In 1988 the ANC conducted a bombing campaign against mainly civilian targets. Fearing civil war between blacks and whites, Mandela opened negotiations from his prison cell with the government of South African President P. W. Botha. A few weeks later Botha was replaced as president by F. W. de Klerk.
Freed at last
The negotiations between de Klerk and Mandela were lengthy. But on February 11, 1990, de Klerk freed Mandela from prison with no preconditions. Following his release, 120,000 people welcomed Mandela home at a rally in a Soweto soccer stadium. When Mandela addressed the crowd, he took a moderate line. Among other things, he urged that school boycotts as a means of resisting apartheid be called off and rejected the idea that "liberation must come before education." He also called for "goodwill to our white compatriots."
Mandela worked with President de Klerk for four grueling years to establish a representative government. De Klerk wanted some form of power sharing, commenting that "a party that wins 51 percent of the vote should not have 100 percent of the power." Mandela wanted a one-man, one-vote system in which the party that won a simple majority would take power. In 1992, when the talks broke down, the ANC began a series of strikes and demonstrations that eventually resulted in the deaths of 28 demonstrators. Mandela and de Klerk went back to the negotiating table.
Mandela saw his ideal become a reality on April 27, 1994. That day he was chosen in a one-person, one-vote election as the first black president of South Africa. His political party, the African National Congress, was elected as the majority in South Africa's parliament. During the five years he watched over South Africa's fledgling democracy, Mandela raised millions of dollars for charity. He retired in June 1999 at the age of eighty. His ANC protege, Thabo Mbeki, won the 1999, all-race election in a landslide.
Mandela was married and divorced twice. He had two sons and a daughter by his first wife, Evelyn Mase, a nurse and relative of Sisulu's from the Transkei. His second marriage was to Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela, known as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She was South Africa's first black female social worker from Tambo's home area in the Transkei. They have two daughters. With Mandela in prison, Winnie Mandela became the beacon of the black resistance movement inside South Africa. After Nelson Mandela's release, their relationship deteriorated, ending in divorce at Mandela's initiative in 1996.
Meanwhile, Mandela developed a close relationship with Graca Machel, widow of Mozambique President Samora Machel. At times, she filled the role of South Africa's first lady when Mandela traveled abroad or at state functions in his presidential home in Houghton, a shady residential suburb of Johannesburg where South Africa's mining barons live. (Mandela returned to his childhood village to live after he retired.) Mandela married Machel on his eightieth birthday on July 18, 1998. Two months later, Mandela was presented with an honorary degree from Harvard University for his work for racial justice. Only two other people, American president George Washington and British prime minister Winston Churchill, were awarded this degree at a time other than at the Harvard commencement ceremony.

Obras relacionadas:
Benson, Mary. Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement, New York: Norton, 1986.
Hunter-Gault, Charlayne. "From Prisoner to President to an Uncertain Future." CNN Interactive, (May 31, 1999).
Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom, Tunbridge Wells, Devon, U.K.: Abacus, 1995.
Sparks, Allister. The Mind of South Africa, London: Heinemann, 1990.
Sparks, Allister. Tomorrow Is Another Country, South Africa: Struik, 1994.