Nelson Mandela and the Spirit of South Africa
Mandela: "Father of the Nation"
Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa's first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Mandela joined negotiations with Nationalist President F. W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory and became South Africa's first black president.
He gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honours, including the 1993Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata ("Father"); he is often described as the "Father of the Nation".
The Power of Sports
While football was plagued by racism, it also played a role in protesting apartheid and its policies. With the international bans from FIFA and other major sporting events, South Africa would be in the spotlight internationally. In a 1977 survey, white South Africans ranked the lack of international sport as one of the three most damaging consequences of apartheid. By the mid-1950s, Black South Africans would also use media to challenge the "racialisation" of sports in South Africa; anti-apartheid forces had begun to pinpoint sport as the "weakness" of white national morale. Black journalists for the Johannesburg Drum magazine were the first to give the issue public exposure, with an intrepid special issue in 1955 that asked, "Why shouldn't our blacks be allowed in the SA team?" As time progressed, international standing with South Africa would continue to be strained. In the 1980s, as the oppressive system was slowly collapsing the ANC and National Party started negotiations on the end of apartheid. Football associations also discussed the formation of a single, non-racial controlling body. This unity process accelerated in the late 1980s and led to the creation, in December 1991, of an incorporated South African Football Association. On 3 July 1992, FIFA finally welcomed South Africa back into international football.
Sport has long been an important part of life in South Africa, and the boycotting of games by international teams had a profound effect on the white population, perhaps more so than the trade embargoes did. After the re-acceptance of South Africa's sports teams by the international community, sport played a major unifying role between the country's races. Mandela's open support of the previously white-dominated rugby fraternity when South Africa hosted and won the 1995 Rugby World Cup went a long way to repairing broken race relations.