Mandela Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela’s greatest achievements were that of turning around the African National Congress and winning the Nobel Peace prize for his fight to abolish the Apartheid system in South Africa. The African National Congress was established in 1912, and in 1919 they organized their first public action, though unfortunately it resulted in the arrest of several hundred people. Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944, at a time when the abolishment of the Apartheid was just talk. Also in 1944, in hopes to pull younger people into the African National Congress the ANC youth league was formed. de Klerk unbanned a number of organisations including the ANC and the South Africa Communist Party in February of that year. Nelson Mandela was released, and soon elected president of the ANC who four years later swept to power with a 63% majority in the first free elections.
Mandela was elected President of South Africa Colonial South African Native National Congress (renamed the African National Congress in 1923). They hoped to fight racist laws by building solidarity among South Africa’s diverse and sometimes warring African societies. Seme’s speech to the founding convention, in which he addressed chiefs of royal blood and gentlemen of our race, suggested the aristocratic nature of the group’s original leadership. The ANC intially fought the color bar through legal and constitutional means, mostly petitions, speeches, and publicity drives. These efforts accomplished relatively little, but for several years the ANC membership resisted a more radical approach. In 1930 it expelled its president J.
T. Gunmede because he advocated cooperation with the South African Communist Party. More an intellectual movement than a political or popular force, the ANC was almost completely inactive for the next decade. During the 1940s, a period of unprecedented trade union activism in rapidly industrializing South Africa, the ANC was revived. Its new president, Dr.
Alfred Xuma, worked with the Communist Party to draft a set of demands, including full political rights for Africans. He also organized protests against the hated pass laws, but his overall caution disappointed a new generation of activists. In 1943 young ANC members, including Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, and Anton Lembede, formed the ANC Congress Youth League (ANC-CYL). Their passion and political savvy drove the ANC for the next 50 years. In 1949, a year after the newly elected National Party government began implementing its apartheid policies, the CYL took over the ANC leadership. Influenced by the principles of nonviolent action and passive resistance pioneered by Indian nationalist leader Mohandas K.
Gandhi, in 1952 the ANC drafted the Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws. The campaign’s strikes, boycotts, and other acts of civil disobedience did not result in any legislative reforms, but they did help swell ANC membership from about 7000 to 100,000 members within a few months. In addition, the campaign ushered in a new era of cooperation with antiapartheid groups representing other racial constituencies, such as the Coloured People’s Congress, the South African Indian Congress, and the mostly white Congress of Democrats. These groups, together with the ANC, formed the Congress Alliance, which met in 1955 to draft the Freedom Charter. The Charter called for multiracialism, economic equality, and full democratic rights for all South Africans, and was adopted by the ANC as its official program in 1956.
Even as the ANC’s membership and alliances grew, however, the organization faced new challenges. Increased harassment by the government resulted in treason charges against 156 members, and helped provoke the defection of several ANC leaders, who subsequently founded the more militant, black-only, Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959. The struggle against apartheid intensified after March 21, 1960, when police opened fire on a group of unarmed protesters at a PAC anti-pass demonstration in Sharpeville, a black township south of Johannesburg. Riots ensued, and the government banned both the PAC and the ANC. Operating underground, Mandela and other ANC leaders concluded that the time had come to meet government violence with armed resistance. While ANC President Albert Luthuli refused to renounce pacifism, he gave permission for Mandela, Tambo, and longtime ANC associate and Communist Party leader Joe Slovo to form a separate paramilitary organization. Umkhonto we Sizwe, the spear of the nation, was launched in December 1961.
Although Umkhonto primarily committed acts of sabotage against South African industry and infrastructure, in 1962 its leaders began planning a guerrilla war, hoping to inspire a popular uprising that would topple the apartheid government. These plans were foiled when police raided Umkhonto’s South African headquarters, at Rivonia. Evidence found there was used to convict Mandela and others of treason. Mandela, already in prison for inciting strikes, was given a life sentence and sent to Robben Island. Slovo, out of the country at the time of the raid, was forced into exile.
With most of its leaders either exiled or imprisoned, in the 1960s the ANC entered a period of internal turmoil. Factions disputed the role of economic versus political liberation. Beginning in the 1970s, however, the ANC, now led by Oliver Tambo, was re-energized by both the student-led Black Consciousness movement and South Africa’s increasingly militant labor unions. The Soweto uprising of 1976, sparked by a police massacre of protesting students, helped unite disparate antiapartheid elements and heal the generational rifts that had dogged the ANC. At the same time, the defeat of white-ruled regimes in Angola and Mozambique brought new hope that the battle against apartheid could be won.
The government responded to the ANC’s growing strength with harassment, detentions, torture, and assassination. But the crackdown only solidified the ANC’s standing as the most viable alternative to apartheid rule. As international pressure grew in the 1980s, the South African government began secretly negotiating with Mandela and others. When F. W.
de Klerk succeeded P. W. Botha as president in 1990, he freed Mandela from his 28-year-imprisonment and lifted the ban on the ANC. Three years later, talks among more than 20 organizations, but dominated by the ANC and the ruling National Party, led to a transitional government, new constitution, and plans for the country’s first democratic election in April 1994. The electoral power of black South Africans, exercised for the first time, swept the ANC into a commanding legislative majority, and Nelson Mandela into the presidency. Since becoming the nation’s ruling party, the ANC has faced the challenge of retaining and broadening its appeal with considerable success.
Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, the ANC has crafted an image of pragmatism over militancy that attracts liberal capitalists and continues to be popular with labor, socialists, and women’s groups. Even potentially damaging testimony about Umkhonto activities before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigates South Africa’s apartheid-era crimes, has not significantly eroded the ANC’s popularity. Most analysts believe it will be victorious in the 1999 elections, when the likely ANC candidate will be Thabo Mbeki, who assumed ANC leadership in December 1997. Bibliography Internet History Essays.