Category Archives: Student Reflection
In Part Five titled “Treason,” Nelson Mandela had been arrested along with 141 others for committing high treason when a State of Emergency had been declared. He was accused of planning to overthrow the government and committing violence. Also during this troublesome time, he was married to his wife Evelyn.
Although I found the arrest and trial interesting, the part that stuck out to me the most was his relationship with Evelyn and, later on, Winnie.
His marriage to Evelyn began to fall apart. He was dedicated to his beliefs with his people, the South African government, politics and his cause to help them. While she became very religious and felt that work to God was more important than anything else.
“I tried to persuade her of the necessity of the struggle, while she attempted to persuade me of the value of religious faith. When I would tell her that I was serving the nation, she would reply that serving God was above the nation. We were finding no common ground, and I was becoming convinced that the marriage was no longer tenable” (Mandela 206)
The marriage was falling apart, and she gave him an ultimatum- her or the ANC (African National Congress). Mandela chose the ANC. Later on he meets Winnie, who was from the Transkei and was working as a social worker at a hospital. Shortly after divorcing Evelyn, he marries Winnie. Winnie unlike Evelyn, was accepting of the path that Nelson Mandela had chose, and she supported it. She was herself a strong woman who from her marriage to Mandela had become more involved with government and politics.
He spent four years in court and was finally found not guilty. I feel as though his support he had from Winnie allowed him to push on without having to deal with problems at home.
Part 5, Chapter 27 really stuck out to me. Mandela talks about the upcoming “general” election that was supposed to take place. For him “general” seemed like the wrong term since only the whites (3 million) could vote and not the 13 million Africans. He realized that though black Africans could not vote whatever happened in the elections would still influence their lives.
At the end of apartheid in 1992 every race was able to vote. In the 1994 elections, it was no longer only whites that participated. The 1994 elections had 21.7 million people vote, for 16 million it was their first time ever being able to vote. There were some difficulties because so many people had not voted before and needed to be educated on how the process all worked. The election was much more fair than I had expected, 2.5 million people did not have proper identification and were given temporary id’s so that they could vote. I expected them to have caused much more obstacles for the blacks to vote.
Personally I found the voting interesting because it was such a small minority that could vote. It also reminded me of American history when there have been times where African Americans and women have not been allowed to vote. It seems so crazy that the small portion of people could have so much power but it has occurred here in America too.
During my reading of Part 5 of Long Walk to Freedom, the conditions and the ways the prisoners were treated stuck out to me. Mandela was arrested for treason and was therefore imprisoned with 144 other people.
Although our U.S. Constitution does not apply to South Africa, there were many amendments that resonated with me that South Africa had violated. For example, on page 205, they were released on bail. The bail amounts were different for whites, Indians, and Africans which applies to the amendment of excessive bail.
On page 217, during 1958 was South Africa’s general election, but there was discrimination in this election. Of the population of South Africa, all three million whites could vote, but none of the thirteen million Africans could vote. This relates to discrimination based on color.
Also, Mandela was arrested without a warrant, which violates the United States’ Fourth Amendment. Lastly, throughout the entire section 5, the conditions in the jails are not livable for humans.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones — and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals”.
Although South Africa abides by its own Constitution, there are certain rights that all citizens of the world should have such as equality and not be subject to demeaning conditions in jails.
While reading Part 5 of Long Walk to Freedom, one particular section really stood out to me. It was when defense attorney Vernon Berrange began to cross examine Professor Aaron Murray during Nelson Mandela’s trial for treason.
Aaron Murray was the head of the Political Science Department at the University of Cape Town and seemed to be very knowledgeable. Murray was read a number of passages and would then be asked if he thought those statements were to be that of communism thoughts. These passages had in fact been said by Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and himself. He believed all of the passages were communist and in regards to his own statement he described it as “communism straight from the shoulder” without knowing that the passage was in fact his own words. (Mandela 210)
This shows the naivety of some of the people in this trial and how it seems they were just out to get Nelson Mandela and his comrades just because they were black. Their actions were not those of communists but those of Civil Rights activists who were just trying to find some equality for their people. The idea of communism was so broadened that they forgot what communism actually meant.
Communism means a classless society in which everyone is equal regardless of jobs or how much work a man does to earn a living. That was obviously not the intentions of Mandela and his comrades, but there were some similarities, because of the strive for equality.
This can relate to South Africa today because of the racism towards blacks and how they insisted that they were communists. But in reality they never understood what there true intentions were. Or they just wanted a reason to throw them in jail which is most likely the true reason.
On June 18th 1951, the National Party introduced the Separate Representation of Voters Amendment Act in order to remove coloureds from the common voters’ roll.
When the act was first introduced, it was declared invalid by the Supreme Court. Unhappy with the decision, the South African government was able to avoid this decision by increasing the number of Appellate Division judges from five to eleven, and increasing the size of the Senate from forty-eight to forty-nine. After a re-validation of the amendment, the new bill introduced the Coloured Persons Representative Council. The counsel consisted of forty elected members and twenty nominated members. This council could make laws concerning topics such as finance, pensions, and education, which affected only coloured people.
The government is acknowledging the coloured community by giving them the right to vote and have a say in the government, yet they still are separated from the other communities. There would be less confusion, and less work needed to be done on the government’s side if everyone in the country were taken into consideration as one national community instead of separate racial ones. This act just set the boundary lines for the government to slowly isolate them from the rest of the nation.
“The wife of a freedom fighter is often like a widow, even when her husband is not in prison. Though I was on trial for treason, Winnie gave me cause for hope. I felt as though I had a new and second chance at life. My love for her gave me added strength for the struggles that lay ahead.” – Long Walk to Freedom, page 217
This quote comes from the very end of Chapter 26, when Mandela has just married his new wife Winnie after his marriage to Evelyn failed. Mandela attributes the breakdown of his marriage to Evelyn largely to his ongoing treason trial and his work as an activist. After his divorce, Mandela says that he made a point to be honest with Winnie about his financial struggles and his intention to continue the fight. As he says “I told her it was more than likely that we would have to live on her small salary as a social worker…I never promised her gold and diamonds, and I was never able to give her them.” Winnie’s father warned her that she was “marrying a man who was already married to the struggle,” but despite his reservations he told her that she must follow him on whatever path he may take. Although the surrounding situations are different, these excerpts immediately reminded me of Yesterday.
While Yesterday is not really related to apartheid, I think that there is a connection here that is relevant to culture in South Africa. One of the main things that I took away from Yesterday is how vast and expansive a country South Africa is. Outside the cities, the rural villages and communities could easily be considered states of their own, and in fact were for some time (see my blog about the Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act). Yesterday’s story was one of a struggling and devoted mother who was essentially head of household given the constant absence of her husband who would spend months at a time away from home working in Johannesburg. The film also demonstrated the cultural acceptance of polygamy in many parts of the country, as well as violence against women. Such a life for women is hard to imagine as a westerner, yet in the face of such injustice and hardship Yesterday remained devoted to the well-being of her family, including her abusive husband, all the way to the end. The role of women in South Africa has been a recurring thought for me ever since we watched the movie.
The connection that I see here is not literal. Nelson Mandela is not hundreds of miles away from his new wife Winnie, but as her father said he is indeed “married to the struggle.” Thus, I would say that this represents the same kind of strain on what we as westerners think of as family life that we saw in the movie. So when Nelson Mandela says that the wife of a freedom fighter is often like a widow, I immediately picture Yesterday. While Mandela is not physically “away,” he is consumed by his work as an activist. Just like in the case of Yesterday, Winnie will need to assume all major responsibilities in the family which is a huge burden to bear. To me, her willingness to follow Mandela on his path to freedom is another unbelievable demonstration of strength from a South African woman. Even in the face of all of the injustice and hardship they often face, these women seem to constantly honor a deep-seeded commitment to their husbands and to their families above all else.
The Promotion of Bantu Self-government Act of 1959, later renamed the “Promotion of Black Self-government Act,” and finally the “Representation between the Republic of South Africa and Self-governing Territories Act,” was a piece of apartheid legislation that transformed many land reserves into special territories set aside specifically for black South Africans. These territories were referred to as “Bantustans.”
The act also separated black South Africans into eight different ethnic groups, with each group being assigned a Commissioner-General who was responsible for overseeing the development of their assigned Bantustan into a self-governing state. Thus, the act effectively carried out comprehensive segregation and eliminated black representation in the South African parliament. The act’s mission of segregation proved successful.
The results of this segregation were similar to those that arose from America’s own experiment with the “separate but equal” concept. Separate was indeed inherently unequal. Widespread poverty, poor living conditions and a glaring lack of employment opportunities were trademarks of life in the Bantustans.
The governments of the Bantustans were inherently corrupt and unstable and were only kept afloat by subsidies from South Africa proper. As people were unable to find work, many black South Africans were forced to find work in South Africa proper, and many lived there legally or illegally.
The act was repealed by the Interim Constitution of South Africa in 1994, at which point all Bantustans were officially reincorporated into South Africa and all of the Bantustans’ inhabitants were extended full citizenship.
At this point in the book Nelson Mandela had chosen a life that neither him nor his wife had wanted, but it was necessary for Nelson to stand up for what he believed in. The police were becoming more and more strict, and the penalties were worsening as time went on. This never stopped Mandela. The National Working Committee decided that they would work underground so they would not get caught, only protesting in large enough crowds to make a statement out in public.
This related to South Africa today because if Nelson Mandela did not stand up for what he believed in, the blacks of South Africa could possibly still be living in the harsh ways they were when he was fighting for freedom. Although he knew the path he was choosing was one that can result in life in prison or even worse, death, he still fought for what he believed in.
I found this interesting because I wonder what South Africa would be like if Nelson Mandela was not as brave as he was. It would have been so easy for Mandela just to give up on his people and his beliefs for the sake of himself. Part 5 showed how deeply Nelson really wanted change in his country and for his people.
The Criminal Law Amendments Act of 1953 was passed as a response to the Defiance Campaign. The Defiance Campaign was one of the first rebellions against the Apartheid. Thousands of volunteers rebelled against these discrimination laws and were imprisoned.
The Criminal Law Amendments Act was enacted to control the citizens. The act gave the government more power to prosecute citizens of the country who disagreed with any law of the country. Not only did this make any person guilty who actively opposed the law, it made passive resistance to the law illegal.
There were severe penalties for any person opposing the law. The most minor was a small fine and the most severe was whipping and prison time.
The effects of this act were that many citizens of South Africa were arrested and beaten. This gave the government(whites) an excessive amount of power and made the provisions of the Apartheid worse. Citizens were discriminated and prosecuted against even more than before this act.
I disagree with this act. It is evident that the Apartheid in South Africa was wrong. Discriminating against someone based on their skin color, race, sexual orientation, or gender is wrong, but it is something that will always be present in the world.
This act is similar to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, especially the south. African Americans were the only group discriminated against, and when they rebelled they were arrested and beaten.
I have always thought of South Africa and other countries in the east as very different from the United States in terms of human rights. However, during this time period, the United States was similar in threatening certain groups of people.
Reading Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela has opened my eyes to the extreme racism and prejudice that blacks experienced. If it weren’t for men like Nelson Mandela, racism would still exist, specifically in South Africa.
Throughout Part 6 of the book, I utterly realized how much Nelson Mandela contributed to the equal rights of blacks. Not only did he create the MK organization, he traveled to different parts of the world, gaining knowledge, information, and intelligence about the different strategies and tactics of violent warfare.
One part from this section that stood out to me the most was the contradictory and conflicting views of whether the ANC should resort to violence or remain nonviolent in their protests to freedom.
Because the nonviolent protests did not work, Mandela believed that violence was the only thing left.
“I was candid and explained why I believed we had no choice but to turn to violence” (Mandela, 271).
If they did not turn to violence, nothing would ever be changed. He stated how people were forming military units on their own.
Although Mandela had very strong viewpoints of violence, J.N. Singh stated,
“Nonviolence has not failed us, we have failed nonviolence” (Mandela, 273).
However, in the end, the decision to remain nonviolent or resort to violence was concluded with “violence would begin whether we initiated it or not” (Mandela 272).
This can relate to South Africa today for several reasons. When nonviolent strategies do not work, violence is inevitable. People who protest, go on strike, and boycott utilize the tactics of nonviolence until there comes a point where nothing changes.
I thought this part was interesting because I enjoyed reading about the different perspectives on violence. I do however agree with Mandela that if violence is not used, the fight for freedom will remain stagnant. But, I can understand the conflicting views because when one resorts to violence, innocent people will be killed.
Overall, I liked this part of the autobiography and enjoyed reading about how the MK organization came about and how Nelson Mandela did everything in his power to get freedom for blacks.