Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid lawyer, revolutionary and politician.
When he qualified as a lawyer, South Africa was dominated by white lawyers who often charged poor black clients higher fees than rich white people. Mandela co-founded his own law firm to represent black people. It was the first firm of black lawyers, and he was repeatedly arrested for subversive activities. In 1956, he was charged with high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government and replace it with a communist state. The trial lasted until 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in 1961 Mandela co-founded a militant group that sought to sabotage the apartheid government and he trained as a guerrilla fighter. In 1962, he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and given a life sentence. He was imprisoned for the next 27 years. Upon his release, he became South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, working to dismantle the apartheid government and foster racial reconciliation.
Mandela was a man who both fought and forgave. He appreciated that the segregation of apartheid made everyone prisoners, and forgiveness and reconciliation would be required in order for everyone – both black and white – to be liberated from restriction and resentment. He knew the necessity of continued dialogue, and he told us: “You don’t make peace by talking to your friends; you have to make peace with your enemies”.
It is difficult to find a picture of Mandela where he is not smiling.
Do you think you would retain your good humour
after being wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years?
What makes you become angry and exasperated with people?
Do you bear grudges against those who have acted unfairly towards you?
Is there anyone that you have not forgiven?