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Mandela's Long Walk To Freedom

By Farooque Chowdhury

06 December, 2013

Mandela, the name, needs no annotation, no analysis, no explanation. It stands with its own dignity, own strength, own activity, own journey along the path of humanity. It was his, Nelson Mandela’s journey for humanity, his journey for humanity’s freedom, his Long Walk to Freedom.

Mandela invigorated and emboldened the walk to freedom that humanity cherishes and dreams, and tries hard to achieve. Mandela’s walk towards freedom will not cease. Mandela will live as humanity’s long walk to freedom

Mandela’s journey began at Mvezo, a South African village, as Rolihlahla, troublemaker, the name his father bestowed upon him. He encountered apartheid, a variety of supremacist ideology and practice, an injustice. His journey turned into an integral part of the black people’s fight against apartheid. The journey went through our world’s all hamlets and villages and slums and townships and towns and cities, wherever humanity faces injustice. The journey touched all hearts in the world that stood in the fight against apartheid and injustice. It was irrespective of color as toiling masses have no color, neither black nor white, neither in political fight nor in organizing union.

Mandela was not destined to work in gold mines, to spend entire life mining gold for the rich. His was a destiny to struggle for freedom. South African time politicized him as, Mandela writes, “To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not.”

It’s the same with humanity in all lands ravaged by capital that imposes inequality – a variety of apartheid – which is not only on the basis of color of skin, but also on the basis of access to essentials of life, opportunity to flourish as human being, access to the political space essential to practice inalienable rights as human being. Commoners are thus politicized in all lands ruled by inequality. Thus Mandela was of the commoners.

Mandela’s walk to freedom takes him to Robben Island, as prisoner, in the Atlantic. Mandela, transgressing all ocean blue waters of imprisonment and banishment, was indomitable. His job as prisoner in the island was to crush stones. The rulers tried to crush him, bend him down, and subdue him down. But he refused to get crushed, refused to bend, refused to get subdued, and he won, as Mandela writes, “a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people”. It’s a dream and desire and defiance of the entire humanity, but capital, but exploiters, but racists. Thus Mandela upholds the spirit of humanity. And, this gave birth to defeat of the supremacists, fascists. It was a defeat beyond the imagination of the supremacists!

The declaration that Freedom Charter, adopted in the Congress of the People on June 25-26, 1955, made was also Mandela’s declaration as he is part of his people:

We, the people of South Africa, declare …:

That South Africa belongs to all who live in it … and that no governance can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people;

That our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;

That our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;

That only a democratic state, based on the will of the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;

Mandela’s walk went on. It was a walk for decades. In the annals of humanity, it’s a walk for centuries. The system of apartheid made a retreat as Mandela and his comrades and his people refused “to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” The apartheid system was formally dismantled as “the whirlwinds of revolt” continued “to shake the foundations of” the apartheid rulers.

But scourges and strings of apartheid are difficult to eliminate. Miners, farm workers, the industrial labor, the poor, the unemployed, the fighting youth in South Africa face the difficulty. Whips of capital lash them. Exploitation appropriates them. Inequality in distribution presses them down to the state of inhumanity. Humanity struggles in the dense, dark poverty. They face appeasements by a section. Poverty, exploitation, discrimination, the rich-poor divide persist. It’s a long path with risky turnings. So, Mandela’s spirit illuminates. So, Mandela bestows hope to all fighting spirits.

So, there is urgency; there is the need, as Nkrumah suggests: “act at once, with resolution and in unity.” Mandela united his people. The act of resolutely marching forward still is there.

Mandela dreamed an economically happy people. To be economically free, Nkrumah suggests, there is need to be united politically. For complete “liquidation and collapse of imperialism”, Nkrumah suggests, people’s political unity is needed. The path is long. The path is long in South Africa, in Africa, in all the continents.

So, Mandela concludes autobiography, his Long Walk to Freedom:

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back to the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has yet not ended.

As Mandela’s long walk has not yet ended there is still the call over all of South Africa, over all of Africa to, as Martin Luther King called, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops …Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains …. Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill… From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

“To die”, Mao wrote, “for the people is heavier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.” Mandela was for people. Mandela’s struggle is for people.

Farooque Chowdhury is Dhaka-based freelancer.


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