Long Walk to Freedom by tyndale


									                      Long Walk to Freedom
The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela; the former president of
                       South Africa

                   Written by: Mielad Al Oudt Allah

Main points covered in the essay:

      Preparing a leader
      Mandela’s walk of struggle
      South Africa: the end of the crisis
      Non-violent mass struggle; a strategy not a solution
      Applied lessons to the situation in the Middle East
      Mandela: the real fighter
      How the book affected my life

The Essay:

In a world where frontiers are growing apart while people are getting
more and more together, everyday there is an emergence of new born
heroes and new experiences that can be considered as higher examples
for the seekers of freedom and liberation around the world.
Taking into consideration the oppression and the domination that
prevailed in South Africa for decades of time, one can say that the
existing harmony among all different South African people is a
remarkable achievement that needs to be highlighted.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography sheds the light on a part of this
achievement and is considered as a call for other nations around the world
to pursue their own real freedom. The struggle of the African National
Congress Party, to which Mandela belonged, is also a milestone in the
history of fighting for the freedom of all people and not just the freedom
of a particular race or colour.

In his statement: “Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my
people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all my people were
the chains on me” Mandela takes the hand of the reader and shows him
that everyone is equally subject to oppression and that liberation is a
collective need.

When Mandela became the president of South Africa, he delivered a
speech to his people telling them that he was merely a normal human
being just like they were, and that only the conditions that he encountered
during his life had made him the person he became.
His book “Long Walk to Freedom” managed to convince me that inside
each of us there is a hidden “Mandela” waiting for the right moment or
the right circumstances to emerge. And this was manifested in Mandela’s
vision about the potentials locked up deep inside each human being that
are waiting for a wake up call to be pushed to the surface.

Hence, and by reflecting upon the South African experience, I consider
this book as a wake up call, not just for me, but for every human being
pursuing and fighting for his freedom.

Below is the analysis of my point of view of Mandela’s life as described
throughout his book and how we can all learn a lesson from this great

Preparing a leader:

Mandela was not born in rich family, nor was he blessed with any extra
ordinary privileges; on the contrary he had to work hard on everyday of
his life to pursue his goals and to become the person he became.
He was born in 1918 in a small village in the region of Transkei. His
father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was designated chief of the town of
Mvezo. However, and due to the death of his father in his early years and
his mother’s desire to grant him a better future, Mandela had to leave
behind his original town and live in a complete different environment.
That experience was a main factor in building up his personality and in
structuring his system of values. Thus, we see him in his book describing
the influence of the democratic nature of the local gatherings in the house
of Governor in Mqhekezweni on him as a young boy “where the essence
of democracy means that all people enjoy the freedom of speech and that
they are all equal in their values as citizens”.

In his early years, Mandela was a wild young man; he elected to run away
from with his friend looking for a job in the coal mines in Johannesburg
because he didn’t want to marry the girl they had chosen for him. And
being able to afford his studies, Mandela obtained his B.A from the
University of South Africa, to operate later on the law firm of Mandela &

Tambo in Johannesburg providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many
blacks who would otherwise have been without representation.

Mandela grew up in a background where the tradition of considering the
whites as better people, just because they are white, had integrated into
the minds of people to the extent that they had forgotten to think of their
freedom, simply because they thought they were free.
However, as the years passed by, Mandela became more aware of the acts
of the apartheid practiced against his African people; starting with the
Bantu Education Act that was based on racist segregation, and ending up
with social, juridical and political discrimination.
Subsequently, and since his love for challenging and defying the
impossible marked his early years, he had set himself a goal that later
became the core of life; to defend and fight for the freedom of South
African people.

Mandela’s walk of Struggle

Mandela didn’t actually “choose” to be a political activist, he rather found
himself willingly and spontaneously an activist in the ANC Party; a party
whose members are of all colors and races, due to the Party’s belief in the
complete political equality as the solution to put an end to the racist

Moreover, Mandela was a prominent member in the ANC ever since he
first joined it. He contributed in establishing the Youth League and
organized a number of strikes and participated in the Defiance Campaign.
First he was a volunteer in the ANC along with his work as a lawyer at
that time. Nevertheless, the acceleration of his struggle made him live as
a fugitive who never surrendered, but who eventually got arrested and
underwent many trials and thus became a national hero.

In a press release he issued in 1961 he said: “I have made my choice, I
will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender… I will continue fighting
for freedom until the end of my days”.

The many trials Mandela and his colleagues were subject to were more
like toleration tests than tools to achieve the justice. These trials lasted for
so many long years during which the Government presented hundreds of
evidences and too many witnesses, but each time it would meet failure or
the prisoners would be convicted in simple charges for lack of evidence.
One can say that Mandela and his colleagues had often managed to

reverse the context of the trial putting the government instead behind the
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case in Rivonia’s ill-fated trial where
Mandela was sentenced to life time prison in charges of co-founding
MK’s armed movement and planning for a guerilla war against the

MK (Spear of the Nation) is the military wing of the ANC. Mandela co-
founded this movement due to his urgent need of switching from the non-
armed to the armed mass struggle, for having perceived that it was the
only competent way to fight for freedom. MK started to organize
sabotage campaign against military and government targets with the least
civil casualties.

During the establishment phase, Mandela toured around the African
Continent seeking the financial support necessary for the activities of MK
among the inclinable African Governments. Meanwhile he himself had
received training in Addis Ababa, but the moment he came back from his
tour he was arrested before even getting to teach his comrades what he
had been trained on.

Mandela was charged twice and was convicted both times, in the second
(Rivonia Trail) he was sentenced to life time prison where he and other
convicts were transferred to Robben Island, and thus became the world’s
most famous political prisoner. Even in Robben Island, the apartheid acts
were practiced as well, hence, Mandela and his colleagues decided to
continue the fighting against racism but inside the prison this time.
Unexpectedly, and after long years they managed to make the prison look
as if the prisoners were heading the prison and not the other way around.
Robben Island Prison was called the “University” because it became a
school where political activists learned the political history of different
parties and movements in South Africa, and where all their
misconceptions were subject to a radical change. It was an opportunity
for Nelson Mandela to correct what the political prisoners thought of the
ANC as being controlled by the Communist Party.

While in prison, things started to develop drastically, police started to
arrest prominent ANC leaders and those who were not arrested managed
to leave their country and flee. Meanwhile, MK accelerated the sabotage
activities and the toll of armed struggle victims was gradually increasing.
In the 70s the sense of rebellion started to emerge among the angry
revolutionary young generation, which coincided with the emergence of
the Liberation Movements across the Continent in general.

In his latest days in prison, Mandela believed that the ultimate solution
for the crisis in his country would be a political non-militant one. Hence,
he took the initiative and a series of tentative meetings took place, laying
the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations with the
government. Meanwhile, F.W De Klerk became the promising president
of the country.

South Africa: the end of the crisis

Mandela learned when he took his training in Algeria that “International
public opinion is sometimes worth more than a fleet of jet fighters”.
Subsequently, the South African cause was a hot topic of the International
public opinion after Sharpeville Massacre took place where 99 people
were killed and over 400 were wounded. Voices from all over the world
like the United States, the Security Council and other Governments called
the National Party for achieving justice and equality among all the races
in the country.

Nevertheless, the National Party didn’t manage to deceive the
International community by the slight amendments it had made on the
segregation laws.

Meanwhile, there was a controversy among the members of the ANC that
lasted for decades on whether they should conduct negotiations with the
racist government or not. Here, Mandela decided to take the initiative,
with the International public Opinion on his side. The primary outcome of
these negotiations was the release of political prisoners, putting an end to
the sanction of some political organizations and the amendment of some
regulations and laws. Shortly after that, Mandela was released in
February 1990 after 27 years of imprisonment, and the state of emergency
in the country was called off along with other changes.
Even though Mandela was released, he didn’t feel like he was literally
free; he was unable to choose the neighborhood to live in, he didn’t have
the choice of sending his grandchildren to the school he wanted, he didn’t
have the right to vote, nor did he have the right to nominate himself for
any elections in his country.

Hence, his political struggle took a new turn; it was a time of blood
shedding and violence. Here, the mounting International pressure and the
ANC refusing to disclaim their core principles had paved the way to

setting a date for South Africa's first democratic elections in which full
enfranchisement was granted on 24 April 1994.

As a result, Mandela won the elections and became the first black
president of South Africa.
As a president, Mandela issued a work agenda that was far from being a
fictitious one “do not expect to be driving a Mercedes… or swimming in
your own backyard pool”. The laws of the country were changed to
embody the message of the Freedom Charter of the ANC and aiming to
reach a state of reconciliation and reviving the trust and harmony among
all people.
South Africa is still nowadays recovering from the effects of the
apartheid policy, the political discrimination, and the lack of equal rights
and opportunities.

Non-violent mass struggle a strategy not a solution

Gandhi had initiated the non-violent mass struggle while he was in
Johannesburg working as a lawyer in 1906. Later, in the early years of the
ANC, the Party committed itself to this same concept in its struggle
against apartheid acts.
However, Mandela and his comrades realized at a certain point that non-
violence was a useless strategy; therefore, they suggested establishing an
armed wing for the ANC. Subsequently, the MK was born and Mandela
was assigned as a leader of this wing. Mandela didn’t perceive non-
violence as a success talisman or a moral principle but rather as a
“strategy” and thus the effectiveness of this strategy is subject to the
prevailing conditions. Mandela admired Martin Luther King and
Gandhi’s methods of fighting; however, he knew they were not
applicable in South Africa’s case. “In India, Gandhi had been dealing
with a foreign power that ultimately was more realistic and far-sighted.
That was not the case with the Afrikaners in South Africa. Non-violent
passive resistance is effective as long as your opponent adheres to the
same rules as you do. But when peaceful protest is met with violence, its
efficacy is at an end…... there is no moral goodness in using an
ineffective weapon”. Moreover, “the conditions in which Martin Luther
King struggled were totally different from my own: the United States was
a democracy with constitutional guarantees of equal rights that protected
non-violent protest (though there was still prejudice against blacks),
South Africa was a police state with a constitution that enshrined
inequality and an army that responded to non- violence with force”.

In this cruel world, and as the killing is rising in Iraq, Sudan, Nepal and
other spots around the world, the need for developing the non-violent
culture becomes indispensable. However, the contexts in which and how
the violence is used should be defined taking into account the civilians
and innocent victims. This is how Mandela and his comrades had
designed and oriented the MK movement for organized violence.

Applied lessons to the situation in the Middle East

As the tension grows in Iraq and Lebanon, and with absurdity of the
Palestinian Cause, the reader can find between the lines of “Long Walk to
Freedom” an implicit message addressing these global issues.

In 1994, South Africa put an end to the Apartheid acts, the ANC came to
power attempting to heal the wounds of the past and lead the country for
a better future. The fact that colored and black people during the
apartheid system, unlike the white ones, couldn't get the proper education,
the health care or the equal opportunities has never set the people back
from fighting for a regime that unites all colors and races in one country.
Likewise, the Palestinians should realize that obtaining equal political
rights is long termed fight; each Palestinian citizen should be equal to the
Israeli citizen in all aspects of life. And despite Israel's and its allies
around the world constant objection to grant them these rights,
Palestinians should be more aware of their new goal and should initiate
the struggle towards achieving it.

If we carefully examine the contemporary history of South Africa, ever
since the enforcement of the apartheid laws, we can detect how likely it is
to today’s Israeli-Palestinian struggle; oppressing the minorities,
massacres of the majority, the armed mass struggle, and the fighting of
the oppressed to take the power…..etc
 And if we take a closer look at the details of the similarities between the
two situations, it becomes clear in our minds that the only solution for
this struggle would be having one united state and believing that this
same struggle can at a certain point obtain the support of the Public
Opinion and finally achieve the justice.

Mandela, during the campaign of the first just presidential elections in
South Africa, "felt that the campaign should about the future not the
past". Thus, his strong powerful will is all what our Arabic-Israeli

struggle necessitates; to set the “better future” as our ultimate objective
and work on achieving it regardless of our disagreements.
South Africa is still in the process of healing the wounds of the bitter past
with the help of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Hence, if people continued to be haunted by the past, Europe wouldn't
have united, nor Hiroshima would have been reconstructed, and South
Africa wouldn't have achieved political equality.

As for Lebanon, the sectarian fanaticism had been stirred up only to
enable certain parties to be in power. Thus, Lebanon is badly in need of a
National Unity Government where disagreements are put aside and where
everybody works for a higher collective interest.
Mandela throughout his long struggle loved his enemies but hated the
system that created the hatred between the people of his country. This
would teach us that political systems are merely traps put to stir up the
hatred and detestation among the people, and that our fight should be the
one aiming to overthrow these systems. This is the lesson that Lebanon
should learn from Mandela.

Moreover, Mandela highlighted the "transparent chains" that detain our
freedom with out seeing them. When he was young he thought he
enjoyed the freedom of going back home late, of choosing who to get
married with… but as he grew older, he came to realize that he and his
people were far from being free.
Nowadays, America aims to "spread the democracy" in the Middle East;
a democracy of mere political freedom disregarding economic and other
kinds of freedom. Thus, people of the region should be able to decide the
kind of democracy they want to adapt, and should not agree on any pre-
made imported recipes of freedom imposed by the "more developed"

The negotiations process with the Government that took place in South
Africa was absolutely self-reliant, then why would Lebanon need an
International Court in its people's search of justice while they have
professional Lebanese judges? And why would we need the mediation of
the United States in the Arabic-Israeli struggle when we know that
America is exploiting this need to achieve its interests in the region?
Countries of the Middle East should learn from the experience of South
Africa how to be self reliant in solving the internal conflicts without
allowing the intervention of the International Community.

Mandela: the real fighter

It is inevitable that every real fighter shall suffer and that suffering shall
become indispensable and inseparable from his walk of struggle.
Likewise, Mandela, during his "long walk to freedom" suffered from
imprisonment, trials, segregation laws, the separation from his family and
his deprivation from living a free dignified life.

In his book, Mandela describes thoroughly the inner conflict that he had
to live with for so many long years. In each day of his life he wondered
and questioned if he had made the right decision of choosing to fulfill his
duty towards his people over fulfilling his obligations towards his family.
He couldn't be at his daughter's wedding nor was he present when his
mother or his two children died. His children grew up away from him,
and when he finally came back to them, he was then the father for the
entire nation.

Mandela's fight for freedom made him once a fugitive, other time a
vagabond with no home or family, he lived like a monk even though he
was a lover of life and nature. Nevertheless, he fought for his own
people's freedom, and while being in prison, he wrote a speech that his
daughter Zindzi delivered saying "I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I
care even more for your freedom".

Mandela spent 27 years in a prison where one is destined to be
dispossessed of his identity. However, he managed to confront everyone
armed with hope and self dignity and refusing to submit to oppression or
fear, and even in the moments where his trust in humanity was shaken he
didn’t surrender to despair.
Mandela's statement “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear
but the triumph over it” demonstrates a greatness that he shared with all
great people of the 20th century like Che Guevara who fought for the
social justice of South American People, Gandhi who struggled for the
liberation of India in the 1920s, Martin Luther King and many other
anonymous heroes who fought for the freedom of their people and their
liberation from oppression and domination.

How the book affected my life

Reading “Long Walk to Freedom” will revive the hope inside each and
everyone who reads it, it is one of the few books that stimulates our
revolutionary sense of struggling and fighting and declining to surrender.
The book succeeds in making the reader travel through the time to picture
himself by Mandela’s side during his consistent walk of struggle,
challenging and defying his own imperfections not allowing them to
stand in the way of his determined struggle. It teaches the reader that
there is nothing “impossible” and that the consistent hard work and hope
are the key elements of success at any time.

I learned after reading the book that human beings, despite their
differences in terms of race or mentality or culture, are capable of putting
their hands together and working to achieve one higher goal, they are
capable of transforming this goal into reality. The book taught me that
life is full of love, and that the hatred that some societies develop towards
certain groups can be transformed into love and harmony “for love comes
more naturally than its opposite”. I also learned that the walk of struggle
is a dangerous path with no guaranties whatsoever; human beings choose
this path with full awareness that they might sacrifice their dearest and
most valuable things, but they equip themselves with the faith and the
belief that the future will be a better one. The book gave me the hope that
all the exerted efforts during our daily struggles are never in vain.

Mandela’s book is highly significant, in every page and every line there is
a lesson to be learned. And as Mandela says: “After climbing a great hill,
one only finds that there are many more hills to climb” signifying that the
struggle for freedom is an infinite one. The book of the former president
Nelson Mandela motivated me enormously to remain a fighter during my
entire life, It was as well a source of hope and knowledge about a
remarkable experience in the human history; the experience of South
Africa in its struggle for freedom.

- All the sentences in Italics and between converted commas are extracted from Mandela’s


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