Apartheid no more – ‘Madiba’ made it happen

The writer is a former diplomat
By: Amb. Salahuddin Choudhry

The world today stands enriched by peoples of diverse races, far freer and respected than in the past. This has come about after long periods of tremendous struggle and human sacrifices. Of all human afflictions and coercion man applied against man, black slavery and child labour have been the worst.  Here we can recall with respect and esteem some extraordinary figures who fought against this evil.

One such great man was Nelson Mandela (first name Rolihlahla, later nicknamed as Nelson by his teacher), fondly called ‘Madiba’ by South Africans which is a title of respect.

Today, had Mandela been with us, he would surely be very happy and proud to see initiatives and vision of his to be catalytic to new human waves and movements against repression and injustice. He would be happy to see another movement at the right time when badly needed: ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, re-enkindled, – sparked by mass worldwide protests to the brutal police ‘manhandled’ killing of a helpless youth, George Floyd in Minneapolis, US – creating massive pro-black-American awareness and campaigns, spreading like wildfire, to the extent that even statues of  black-slave exploiting perso- nalities are being brought down and replaced, such as the youth leader Jen Reid’s new statue put in place of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

An unfortunate tragic news: Madiba’s youngest daughter Zindzi kissed the icy hand of death on 13th July at only 59 in Johannesburg. She died in harness, when she held the post of Ambassador of South Africa to Denmark, and coincidentally on the same date 51 years ago when he had lost his first son.

Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. He is one of the most well-known anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. He was jailed in 1963 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on the human right to live in freedom. When Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in jail, Zindzi as an active member of African National Congress was lading the anti-apartheid liberation struggle alongside her sister Zenani. One most important of her life in 1985 was when Zindzi, at a Soweto stadium of huge ANC supporting crowd, read out Madiba’s letter rejecting President Botha’s offer of a conditional release…..such was his valour, conviction and determination for attainment of freedom for South Africa from the scourge of apartheid. His letter was symbolic of reinvigoration of the values and principles of the struggle, according to another anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mandela’s prisoner number was 466 and the year was 1963 when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, off Cape Town in South Africa. The Robben Island prisoners were never referred to by their names, but rather by their numbers and year of imprisonment – hence ‘46664’ was Nelson Mandela’s number. His release from prison in 1990 fed political debates in the country and contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy.

After his release, Nelson Mandela continued addressing racial issues in his country and supported reconciliation initiatives. His efforts resulted in him becoming elected as South Africa’s first black president in 1994. He remained in office till 1999. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with another former South African president Frederik W. de Klerk, in 1993.

Nelson Mandela, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, is globally remembered as an anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist.

Born in British South Africa on 18 July 1918, Mandela studied law before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg, where he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics.

He was imprisoned for life for campaigning against the apartheid system of racial segregation established by the National Party’s white-only government.

He served 27 years in prison before being released in 1990 by the then South African President F. W. de Klerk in wake of growing domestic and international pressure, and fears of a racial civil war.

Mandela became South Africa’s first black president after the African National Congress emerged victorious in the 1994 general elections.

He gained international acclaim for his activism, receiving more than 250 honours including the Nobel Peace Prize. The first Mandela Day was launched in New York on July 18, 2009, but the UN’s resolution to declare the day occurred later that year. On November 10, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 18 as “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to “the culture of peace and freedom.” The Day marks Nelson Mandela’s active involvement in resolving conflicts, promoting human rights, international democracy and reconciliation, in addressing racial issues, major human suffering causes, gender equality, the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, the fight against poverty, the promotion of social justice and shared interests of humanity.

Nelson Mandela Day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela’s life but is also a global call to action for people to recognize their ability to have a positive effect on others around them, and making a difference in communities. The Day hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. These values include democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect. Its focus expanded to broader humanitarian work. Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better! Mandela Day is an occasion for all to take action and inspire change. The efforts from Mandela Day support the campaign’s ongoing work and other Nelson Mandela charitable orgs.

Many people and organizations around the world take part in many activities to promote Nelson Mandela Day. These activities include volunteering, sport, art, education, music and culture. Various events are also held on or around July 18 to honor Mandela’s works and to promote different projects that were inspired by his achievements.

Mandela Day is a global movement to take his life’s work into a new era and change our world for the better. Mandela Day asks us all to “Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day.” The main objective of the Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere. 

In the words of Nelson Mandela,

“It is time for the next generations to continue our struggle against social injustice and for the rights of humanity. It is in your hands.”

As launched in South Africa, MANDELA DAY was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”.

It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to honour his life’s work and to change the world for the better.

Various statues and civic tributes have been made to honor Nelson Mandela. For example, a statue in Mandela’s image stands at Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg, South Africa. A bridge, known as the Nelson Mandela Bridge, is also found in Johannesburg. Postage stamps have also been dedicated to Mandela, as well as various musical tributes, on many occasions.

Nelson Mandela International Day is Important:

  1. He showed the way for all of us…..

Revolutionary. Philanthropist. President. Mandela lived a breathtaking life — showing impossible courage against all odds. He spent 27 years in prison. He rose to become South Africa’s first Black Head of State — bringing down apartheid in the process. He won the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • He provided unlimited help for others…..

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, started in 1999, focused on things like rural development and school construction — while launching a prolonged and sustained attack on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

  • He never stopped fighting for South Africa….

South Africa suffers from high poverty — triggering issues with malnutrition, poor education, and unemployment. On Nelson Mandela International Day, many activists pledge to strike a light on the needs of the struggling country — hoping to provide a brighter future.

Nelson Mandela has many accolades. He’s  an iconic figure that triumphed over South Africa’s apartheid regime. He was a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, and an international peacemaker. And he was the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. So, on 18 July — Mandela’s birthday—Mandela Day celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world and the ability to make an impact. So, in honor of his 67 years of public service, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the UN ask that we spend 67 minutes of our time helping others.

Mandela’s Birthday is not only celebrated in South Africa but also in many African countries because he fought for freedom. He was involved in the transformation of South Africa and initiated process of reducing poverty and steering South Africa to be the most developed nation in Africa. He helped many black South Africans get more rights and not be persecuted by governing parties. And, therefore, Mandela the Madiba earned love and respect from all South Africa people.

The 18th July celebration is a message to many people in the world about this amazing African leader. It also sends a clear message to racists, a message of uniformity and equality for all. It is evident that Madiba is an icon who will be celebrated throughout the world today and in days to come.

MANDELA DAY Makes a Difference in –

  • Getting out in the community and lending a hand by devoting some time to volunteering.  Volunteer for as a little or as long as one wants, and one’s sure to feel good about the positive impact one has made afterwards.
  • Finding a charity that partakes in a mission that is important, and contributing to the cause.
  • Showing support for the noble causes that gain attention on this day by using hashtags #MandelaDay and #ActionAgainstPoverty.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Mandela Day provides a global call for the people to recognize their ability and have a positive effect on others around them. People also inspire others about the values that Mandela shared like democracy, freedom, diversity, reconciliation and respect. To promote the Day, many people and organizations across the world take part in several activities like volunteering, sports, arts, education, music and culture. This Day also celebrates a campaign known as “46664”, in reference to Mandela’s Robben Island prison number that gave him a calling name !

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Nelson Mandela


Let’s each of us be a Mandela for every one of us, for our family, for the society. Let’s ALL be like Madiba to learn to respect each other, be tolerant to our disparate ideas & views, and learn to be patient to all else and listen to them. Let’s inculcate positivity in our mindset, let’s find peace within first to find peace without.

Each of us can make a small difference. If we all make a difference together, our collective effort can truly change the world. Mandela Day is not a holiday. It is a day for all of us to opt into humanity – to roll up our sleeves and play an active role in building our communities. This is an opportunity for each of us to share Nelson Mandela’s vision of a better future for all. By becoming a Mandela Day change-maker and doing something that affects positive change every day, we can show that actions speak louder than words. And, we become the live action !!

The author is a Rotarian and former. Senior career diplomat, he is available on [email protected] and @SaladinCh.