Challenges for Becoming Lawyer Essay by brz81565


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Katherine McGee

ENC 1101

22 Oct. 2009

                           Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Troublemaker?

       Ubuntu: a fundamental Bantu concept of fraternity, compassion, and openness.

Rolihlahla of the Madiba tribe had a sense of dignity and ubuntu imbedded in him since birth; his

great-grandfather was king of the Thembu people prior to Britain’s arrival in southern Africa. To

his family, it must have been unsurprising that after some collegiate study in law and social

sciences that dear Rolihlahla, otherwise known to the world as “Nelson Mandela”, began to lash

out against the body of oppression in South Africa. As time has passed, views on the joint efforts

of the African National Congress and Mandela have polarized from contempt to adoration.

Perceptions of Nelson Mandela ranging from a rabble-rousing black to a modern saint may yet

prove to be less irreconcilable than one may assume.

       If one were to speak of the mischievous “Black Pimpernel”, the image of a dashing and

mysterious outlaw draped in black would likely come to mind—not the fragile South African

leader Nelson Mandela. Yet, this is exactly how TIME, during America’s Civil Rights era,

categorized him in 1962. In an feature taking place before his imprisonment, but after his

decision to lash out against the South African government, Mandela was said to be “towering (6

ft. 2 in. 245 lbs.)” and zooming “from one hideout to another” (South Africa). At 44 years of age,

lawyer Nelson Mandela was evading the Special Branch policemen by swiftly changing

locations and taking up disguises such as an elaborate Zulu janitor cover (complete with large
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hoop earrings) in order to recover vital documents (South Africa). Around the same time,

Mandela was sneaking into strategic Pan-African meetings and phoning newspapers to give

subversive statements against the oppressive South African government. TIME concluded the

article with a report of the cops having “finally got their man” (South Africa): the Thembu

menace had been captured…

       Flash forward to an article ominously published on September 11, 2001 and Anders

Hallengren of the Nobel Foundation lauds the history of one of its recipients: Nelson Mandela. A

much more endearing frame of reference is offered on Mandela, now internationally respected

worldwide and free from prison. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s stint as a “master of disguise”

is explained as having been a response to the South African government’s ban on his presence at

any public gathering. The purpose of the page at large is focus on sharing Nelson Mandela’s

hearth of influences and explaining how his methodology evolved. Hallengren chooses to respect

and detail Nobel Laureate Mandela’s auspicious beginnings from the village of Mvezo to

Witwaterstand University. Indeed, Mandela was descended from royalty and was awash in Bantu

culture such as the aforementioned ubuntu concept, but his schooling opened his mind to

liberation (one of his college teachers related English literature to African realities; another

teacher, relative Z.K. Matthews, went on to scribe the African National Congress’s Freedom

Charter). Notably, Mandela is referenced as having accentuated the point that without those early

schools which were open to Africans, “there would have been neither transfer of power nor any

black presidency” (Hallengren). More than just a crafty vagabond as older media suggested,

prison-era Nelson Mandela was quite astute and applied analogies from literature such as

Shakespeare (“The fault…is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”) and
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poetry like William Ernest Henley (Mandela memorized the poem Invictus) to Africans. In the

Robben Island Penitentiary—which he later transformed into a university during his

presidency—Mandela also organized secret lectures, held performances with prisoners, regularly

uplifted them with the European quotes he adored, and sympathized with other South African

minorities such as the Boers and the Indians.

       Strikingly, Hallengren stresses the role of Nelson Mandela’s Indian peers—an aspect of

Mandela’s world that is scantly mentioned. Indians—Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru

especially—left substantial impressions on Mandela’s doctrine. When the non-white South

Africans were just starting to combat apartheid, the Indians were in the process of becoming

independent from Great Britain. Prime Minister Nehru had aided the ANC’s alliances by

encouraging Indian South Africans to protest apartheid. Subsequently, under Prime Minister

Nehru, India was the first country to place sanctions on the South African government due to

apartheid. His support along with the legacy of Gandhi, who had spent much time in South

Africa, drove the African National Congress’s numerous instances of non- violent civil

disobedience (satyagraha). Though Mandela and the ANC shifted to the violent Umkhonto we

Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation") for a time in retaliation to the South African government’s harsh

assaults, their philosophy soon came full circle. Nelson Mandela received the Gandhi/King

Award for Non-Violence in 1999—presented by Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma.

       The Nobel Foundation wraps its piece by honoring ex-president Nelson Mandela’s

“Rainbow Government”—an administration ultimately formed from the diverse contributions of

South Africans from all religions, ethnicities, and races. Mandela championed a democracy with
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universal suffrage and kept his own words in mind: “Death to racism! Glory to the sisterhood

and brotherhood of peoples throughout the world” (Hallengren).

       Perceptions of Nelson Mandela as just a humble but charismatic man who was o nly

empowered through the millions he spoke for are slightly at odds with Mandela’s legitimate

skill. Richard Stengel, a journalist intimately familiar with Mandela’s ascendancy after having

co-authored his Long Walk To Freedom autobiography, proposes that Mandela is a “master

tactician” with talents that “the world has never needed” more. As he lays out eight of “Madiba’s

Rules” (Madiba was Mandela’s clan and his preferred nickname), one understands more about

how integral a role Mandela played in South Africa’s success. Mandela has sported the veneer of

a passive leader in the past due to his strategy of leading “from the back” and letting others

“believe they are in front” (Stengel). Mandela would gather a consensus from his colleagues,

summarize their points, and slowly steer the conversation into what he believed to be the correct

course. Likewise, when he took the lead as he did in the attempted negotiations with the South

African government of 1985, he was sure to explain at length to skeptical followers why he

dropped his “prisoners cannot negotiate” mantra. “Madiba” firmly believed that “you must put

up a front,” (Stengel) and would consistently wear a mask of fearlessness in order to inspire

strength in others (this led to his own triumph over fear). His unwavering attitude allowed him to

excel at knowing and keeping close his enemies. Throughout his career, Mandela knew how his

rivals would be “more dangerous on their own than within his circle of influence” (Stengel) and

was unashamed about building rapport. When faced with the complicated viewpoints of the

Afrikaners, the whites who instituted apartheid, he went forth learning Afrikaans and made

friends with those he despised in his heart. Charm has always been essential to Nelson Mandela’s
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image as “it was the iconography that people understood” (Stengel). His personality paired with

a diligent smile won him the South African presidential election of 1994 as he exhibited an air of

confidence and a lack of bitterness. Mandela has always been a pragmatist who looks at the

complexities of each choice. In one case, he was loyal to the controversial Fidel Castro because

Castro fully supported the ANC “when the U.S. still branded Mandela as a terrorist” (Stengel).

Instead of selecting either black or white, Mandela’s mandate was “Why not both” (Stengel).

          As Mandela soars into his 90s, a more critical view has emerged about “the Icon”.

“Mandela exceptionalism” (Fairbanks), as former South African president Thabo Mbeki put it,

has come to be expected of every South African president who succeeds Nelson Mandela. Thabo

Mbeki, who took Mandela’s office in 1999, was criticized for lacking significant social grace, in

spite of the efficient economic-transformation programs he put into place. President Jacob Zuma,

on the other hand, directly credits Nelson Mandela for his spirit and is focused on “ostentatious

outreach” (Fairbanks) rather than concrete results. In the face of one of the worst unemployment

rates in the world, local assessments of the South African president boil down to whether or not

he is a good listener (Fairbanks). From this viewpoint, Nelson Mandela, with all of the

reconciliation he has done, has unintentionally stagnated his nation’s growth.

          Depending on where and when your research originates, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

might come off as anyone from a radical African militant to a saint. Without question, he has at

least done well in terms of countering an unjust system of oppression. Whether or not he was

indeed a strong, active leader or if his excellence has inadvertently doomed the future of South

Africa to dancing politicians who “nurture the national mood” (Fairbanks) is up for history to

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                                                Works Cited

Fairbanks, Eve. “How Nelson Mandela’s Legacy Hurts South Africa.” Newsweek. Newsweek,

       Inc., 27 Aug. 2009. Web. 24 Sept. 2009.

       Fairbanks takes on a perspective that is indirectly critical of Nelson Mandela. Despite the

title, the author is actually referring to how politicians are adopting Mandela’s charming,

whimsical style to dodge the challenges of honest reform and governing. According to the

article, any South African president who does not use Mandela’s general reconciliatory

techniques (which were appropriate for the time) is looked down upon.

Hallengren, Anders. “Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow of Culture.” Nobel

       Foundation, 11 Sept. 2001. Web. 24 Sept. 2009.

       Rather than spending a page reciting a timeline of events, Anders instead focuses more

on Mandela’s scholarly interpretations and peaceful contributions to the world. In a sense,

Hallengren justifies Nelson Mandela’s gift of a Nobel Peace Prize by lauding his honorable

viewpoints on equality and his extensive love of humanity.

Stengel, Richard. “Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership.” TIME. Time Inc., 9 June 2008.

       Web. 24 Sept. 2009.

       Richard Stengel, who aided Mandela in writing the autobiographical Long Walk to

Freedom, formed a list of Mandela’s ethics about leadership. Stengel feels that “the world has

never needed Mandela’s gifts…more,” and pulls different tactics from Nelson Mandela’s long

political history to illustrate the former president’s importance.

“South Africa: The Black Pimpernel.” TIME. Time Inc., 17 Aug 1962. Web. 24 Sept. 2009.

       This TIME piece by an unknown article uniquely reports on one of Mandela’s earlier
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efforts to combat apartheid. Notably, the article characterizes Mandela as a sneaky radical and

few, if any, positive comments are made. Here, Mandela’s efforts are reduced to a blurb about

being a master of disguise rebelling against British control.

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