In his book, “The Heart of America: Ten Core Values That Make Our Country Great”, Bill Halamandaris listed ten core values that built America. Ten values with proven ability to build a world superpower:
Compassion Opportunity Responsibility Equality
Valour Ambition Liberty Unity Enterprise Spirituality
In this case study of the value Unity, we look at an individual who provides an excellent example of what it means and what it does for a nation.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa on 18 July, 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, a principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.
In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni . Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.
He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom to give all school children “Christian” names. He completed his secondary education at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Wesleyan secondary school, Healdtown. He then began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.
On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni, the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943. A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practice law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.
Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League. The ANC later adopted ANCYL’s more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action in 1949.
In 1952, he was chosen at the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months hard labour, suspended for two years.
Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on December 5, 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. On March 21, 1960, police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress on April 8. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.
The marathon trial only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela were acquitted on March 29, 1961. Days before the end of the Treason Trial Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike.
In the face of massive mobilisation of state security, the strike was called off early. In June 1961, Mandela was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) which launched on December 16, 1961 with a series of explosions.
On January 11, 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on August 5 while returning from KwaZulu-Natal where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.
He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment which he began serving in the Pretoria Local Prison. On May 27, 1963, he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on June 12. Within a month, the police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hide-out in Rivonia used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.
On October 9, 1963, Nelson Mandela joined ten others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. On June 11, 1964, Nelson Mandela and seven other accused were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment in Robben Island.
In 1982, Mandela and other ANC leaders were moved to Pollsmoor Prison, allegedly to enable contact between them and the South African government. In 1985, President P.W. Botha offered Mandela’s release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle but he flatly rejected the offer (he was said to have rejected at least three conditional offers of release). With increasing local and international pressure for his release, the government participated in several talks with Mandela over the ensuing years, but no deal was made.
It wasn’t until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela’s release was finally announced—on February 11, 1990. De Klerk also unbanned the ANC, removed restrictions on political groups and suspended executions.
In 1991, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress and he continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country’s first multiracial elections. On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president on May 10, 1994, at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy. True to his promise Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President.
He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation. Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality, learning and a united South Africa. In 2009, Mandela’s birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day, an international day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader’s legacy.
Mandela was married three times, beginning with Evelyn Ntoko Mase (m. 1944-1957). The couple had four children together: Madiba Thembekile, Makgatho (d. 2005), Makaziwe and Maki. Mandela wedded Winnie Madikizela in 1958; the couple had two daughters together, Zenani and Zindziswa, before splitting in 1996. Two years later, Mandela married Graca Machel, with whom he remained until his death in 2013. He died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013.
His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.
What can we learn about Unity from life of this great man?
He was sold out to his vision for a united South Africa: What is not always emphasized is that during the years between his release from prison (1990) and when he was elected President (1994), Mandela ensured in his negotiations with de Klerk that a united South Africa was the product of his release from 27 years in imprisonment.
White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. As a result, the negotiations were often strained and news of violent eruptions, including the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani, complicated matters. Mandela had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations amid the demonstrations and armed resistance. He even agreed to have de Klerk as his Vice President in the new republic to aid integration.
In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid. Mandela saw South Africans, not whites or blacks. He saw unity between whites and blacks as essential to South Africa’s development.
He used every tool available to him to unite black and white South Africans: From 1994 until June 1999, he used the nation’s enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which helped to ensure integration between the white minority and the black majority.
To remove obstacles to unity, he created the reconciliation commission: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 1985 to help heal the country and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid.
Mandela sought to cause the healing of the past to ensure the integration of the present for a united South African future.
There is no doubt that Mandela is an excellent example for equality as a core nation-building value. However, he was chosen for the case study on unity because he also worked tirelessly for a united South Africa with his conviction that the present and future prosperity of that nation lay in their unity.
As we strongly desire a developed Nigeria, we must fully accept this fact – unity provides the platform for true sustainable development. Yes, we can have unity in diversity.
What are you willing to do to ensure a united Nigeria?