We must never forget Madiba

Published: Monday | December 9, 2013 Comments 0
A man draped in the South African flag poses with his daughter for a picture beside a statue of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, South Africa, last Saturday. - AP
A man draped in the South African flag poses with his daughter for a picture beside a statue of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, South Africa, last Saturday. - AP
Bert Samuels, Guest Columnist
Bert Samuels, Guest Columnist

Bert Samuels, Guest Columnist

On behalf of my entire family, I salute the life of Madiba, Brother Mandela - boxer, lawyer, armed freedom fighter, prisoner, and president.

We, in Jamaica, could not fully understand how a country in the Motherland could have its majority black African population subjected to torture, murder, and segregation in ghettos called Bantustans. We suffered with Nelson, who was tried by an immoral regime and taken away from the people of South Africa and from his family. We will never forget that this unjust trial of our brother destroyed his family, confined to Robben Island for 27 long years of misery.

Those countries which supported the racist South Africa at the time must have bowed their heads in shame when Madiba, upon being released, handed the brutal racists in South Africa the olive branch of peace. He showed them true African civility and pushed the outrageous, uncivilised white minority on to the dump heap of history.

We must never forget that his African National Congress was labelled and treated by Reagan and Thatcher, the United States and British leaders, respectively, as a "terrorist" organisation. This system, which survived only because it was supported by those who hate us, was appropriately described by Emperor Haile Selassie as "an ignoble and unhappy regime that holds our people in subhuman bondage".


Two moments in the life of Madiba stand indelibly written on my mind. The first is his statement from the dock at his trial for treason. Facing the maximum sentence of death, he told the court that the struggle he was engaged in to free his people was one for which he was prepared to die. What a man!

Finally, during his seemingly hopeless life imprisonment, he refused the conditional offer of being released, and remained behind bars until the illegal regime made his release unconditional. He turned down F.W. de Klerk's offer of being flown to a meeting with him upon being released. Mandela told him in no uncertain terms that upon being freed, his wish was to walk amid his people. This walk, on February 11, 1990, hand in hand with Winnie, ended his long wait for freedom.

We salute peace in Africa. Mandela was a living example of what we Africans at home and abroad support in the interest of our brothers and sisters there - peaceful solutions to our problems. Madiba took up guns when it was necessary to do so, but was prepared to lay down arms for the greater reward of peace.

He gave up political leadership gracefully as a living example to others that, when the time is right, you must be prepared to hand over power to the young.

We will never forget the torture and slaying of Steve Biko, and the hundreds of others who took to the streets unarmed, and faced white, racist police who unflinchingly used lethal force to cut them down.

Nelson had to bear this awful burden much too long, chained to his Robben Island cell. The achievements of this African icon cannot be divorced from the fire that Winnie, his then wife, kept burning until and after his release.

Long live freedom. Long live the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Africa. Madiba, the ancestors are pleased.

Bert Samuels is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and bert.samuels@gmail.com.

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