Rawlings Hails Mandela
Former President, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings has described the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990 as one of the most significant moments of the 20th Century.
In a statement to mark the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release, former President Rawlings said: “This moment not only gave humanity hope, but showed the world what true statesmanship is all about. “After years of oppression by the Apartheid regime and 27 years in jail Nelson Mandela walked out with a message of peace and reconciliation.
President Rawlings called on all people across the world to never forget that momentous historic day, and to celebrate it as a day signalling peace, prosperity and equality. “Political leaders across the globe and particularly in Africa must always take a cue from the sense of perseverance of Mandela and his desire for peace, development and reconciliation in spite of the pain he and his kinsmen endured for decades. “For the continent to develop we must do away with the politics of retribution and nepotism and work to unite our people for development. Mandela was at the forefront of South Africa’s campaign to host the World Cup. Today at age 91 he must be a proud man to see the world’s biggest sporting and social event arrive on the continent for the first time in history.”
President Rawlings concluded by saying, “Nelson Mandela, we salute you on this 20th celebration of your release from prison, and wish you good health and happiness in the days to come.”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961.
After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.
During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after the organization had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected President of the ANC while his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation’s National Chairperson.