Symbol of South African people’s struggle against colonial white racist apartheid rule and first democratically elected President of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela breathed his last on 5th December 2013. Born in 1918 in Cape province, he studied law in Johannesburg and became a student organizer of ANC. He was among the founders of ANC Youth League, taking an active role in the struggle against white colonial apartheid regime. He became a prominent leader during ANC’s ‘defiance campaign’. He was repeatedly arrested on treason charges.
In the course of his participation in the ANC led struggle against white colonial regime, he drew close to communists and was inspired by Russian and Chinese revolutions. In 1952 he was arrested along with other leaders of ANC under Suppression of Communism Act and convicted under it.
He was gradually convinced that white colonial regime could not be overthrown through peaceful means concluding ANC had no alternative to armed and violent resistance. He was convinced of the necessity of forming an armed wing of the movement. To this end, he formed an organization, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), along with communists of South Africa. After Sharpville massacre during anti-pass campaign during a rally organized by Pan African Congress (PAC), Mandela led a wide and sharp campaign throughout South Africa, working underground and organizing the resistance.
Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962 and charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission. Later, along with other ANC leaders he was charged with high treason and convicted for life. During his trial, Mandela declared his resolve: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,”…. “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.”
For twenty eight years he remained in jail and in this period he became not only a symbol of struggle of black people of South Africa against white apartheid regime there, but of the struggle of third world people against imperialism and colonialism. While colonial rulers confined his body but his message spread far and wide, inspiring people not only in South Africa, but throughout Africa and also beyond.
In 1990 he was released as the white colonial regime faced deep crisis and its western imperialist patrons found it difficult to continue their support in face of worldwide anger. This was also the time when the camp of social imperialism was disintegrating and the world had become unipolar. The negotiations conducted by ANC were also influenced by this change in world situation.
In 1994, Mandela was elected the President of South Africa in its first representative elections and remained so till 1999. At the time of his inauguration as President, Mandela had declared: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.” … “Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!”
Of course the glorious achievement of dismantling white colonial apartheid regime will always be remembered but the struggle against exploitation and oppression continues in South Africa. Despite long struggle and sacrifices, the vision of a society free of exploitation and oppression has not been realized. People of South Africa continue their struggle for land, for decent livelihood and for unabridged democratic rights. The earlier struggle against racist regime has culminated in success but struggle of exploited classes and oppressed masses continues. Fertile land continues to be mostly in the hand of white minority while vast majority groans under the burden of neoliberal economic policies.
Central Committee of CPI(ML)-New Democracy pays its homage to this world renowned symbol of anti-colonial struggle, particularly anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.