Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Tribute to Nelson Mandela, and to the New African Peace Movement
"Veterans For Peace Salutes Nelson Mandela"
Veterans For Peace joins the international community in celebrating and remembering the life of Nelson Rolihlahla "Madiba" Mandela.
Living in a world where injustice and oppression were legal tools of a White minority government to control a Black majority in their indigenous homeland, he came to symbolize the essence of the struggle to end Apartheid. His example of success in standing up to an immovable force to lead his nation to end the brutal practice of racism and segregation and then setting it on a course of democracy, peace and reconciliation has made him a moral voice for peace and justice in his country and around the globe.
Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary freedom fighter as well as a politician and philanthropist. He began his struggle for justice working in the system by joining the African National Congress in the early 1940’s. But frustration with the lack of change and reaction to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre of 69 protestors by police turned Mandela to armed resistance in 1961. He and many resistance leaders were jailed for life by the South African government in 1963. Mandela’s and his comrades’ perseverance and an unprecedented international campaign for his freedom resulted in his 1990 release. He emerged from prison a changed man, saying of his departure, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
But leaving the hate behind did not mean leaving the struggle for justice. He immediately threw himself into continuing the effort to end Apartheid. He garnered international support for sanctions to pressure South Africa and opened negotiations with then South African President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994.
Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. He served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
Nelson Mandela was the quintessential leader who against enormous odds and in the face of state sponsored brutality changed the look and character of his nation. His ascent from 27 years in a prison cell to presidential office was an international blow to White supremacy and a testament to the power of the people when struggling for justice.
Nelson Mandela was not a pacifist, as he once used violent resistance as a means to achieve justice. But he also understood that violence was not the answer and that the time had come for him to work for peace and to make common effort with enemies who hated him and his people. He is quoted as saying, “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.”
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
At a time when the world is in deep turmoil his voice and wisdom will be greatly missed. But we do have his life as an example of steely determination, pragmatism and integrity to follow. There is much world leaders can learn from Madiba to lead our planet to a better and peaceful state. As we work to abolish war, address climate change and to meet human needs, let us keep the legacy of Mandela alive by learning from his words and experiences and as best we can walking in his footsteps.
Nelson Mandela Presente!
"For Nelson--Leader, Tribal Person, Elder", a poem
from Poet Ines Hernandez-Avila (With thanks to Abdullah Ibrahim, because this poem was written to his composition “Mandela"). Written Summer 1988, on the occasion of Mandela's 70th birthday, when the South African government offered him a six hour visit with his family.
Oh Mandela, Mandela
I sing your name
in the name of all peoples locked in and
in their very cells
weighed down by all the forces
that do not want their hearts light
and spirits lifted
Triumph is a sweet song
the one you know
saxophones jubilant for your spirit
in your space
to will your conscious waking
for all of us to see
And it is hard, Mandela, Mandela
Six hours offered you with family
with Winnie and your daughters
six hours to hold each other
gulp in every detailed facet
talk with hands eyes ears mouth
nose smiles tears
as if the heart of the very mother earth
would burst with joy at such a moment
but this joy cannot be
it is, as you say, not possible
for you are not alone
but one of oh so many whose pain like yours
meted out minutely daily
seeks to engulf you in despair
This visit offered is not to them
but to you
And what is six hours in the face of terror centuries old
horror with the face of most intentional genocide?
Six hours more or less of time
when in those same six hours
Children, little children
sit, like you, in other prison cells for their "subversion"
When heads are cracked and bodies wracked
across the landscape of a continent that is yours theirs
A motherland keeps count of each heart battered to a bloody pulp
to stop its count of life
And you know, too, that count
So you stop the maddened offer of a visit
What would you have said, Mandela, Mandela?
"Shall we have tea, Winnie?
Daughters, rub my back, I am so sore.
What shall we talk about?"
And in the next cells casually inflicting itself
in studied vehemence on seemingly countless others
the obscenity of racial/cultural boundless hatred
We are visiting for you all over the world
for you and with you in our homes your face shines
from the walls of our hearts
Poets gather to sing for you
Peoples gather to struggle with you
Workers pass the light of your name from mouth to mouth
Races, classes and sexes unite for you and for the people
Children learn of you and of the brave children
through whose eyes and spirits we find courage
Agelessness is where principled commitment is born and lives
Even in the splattered, broken bones of death
that wants so badly to detain the march of liberation
in all its splendor
you are real
The people you stand firm for are real and true
The visionary will outlast the cynic, the impotent and depraved
It is a matter of time
Only a small matter of time
The freedom spirit is soaring from heart to heart
around the world
To stop for six hours for convenience?
No, Nelson, Nelson
How you knew how time is precious
How you knew to keep on soaring
Oh, Mandela, Mandela
Keep on soaring