Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 9, 2013

Mandela lived life of courage, perseverance

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela, one of few people in my corral of courageous leaders including Winston Churchill, Sir Thomas More, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and George Washington.

My first exposure to Mandela’s lifelong fight against South African apartheid was in my early teens when I listened to shortwave broadcasts from around the world.

Many of the communist countries I listened to including Cuba, Russia and Red China spewed an endless stream of propaganda and I came to realize that Radio RSA (South Africa) had its own line of propaganda to promote its white supremacist agenda.

During this time frame I learned I had a family connection to South Africa when my Scottish mother told me about her Aunt Margaret who had immigrated to South Africa somewhere around the late 1920’s and had been the head of nursing at a hospital in Johannesburg.

My mother last saw her aunt before the start of WWII in the late 1930’s and she passed on to me her aunt’s stories about her adopted country.

With my interest piqued I started studying South African history exploring the Zulu Wars, the Boer War, Nelson Mandela’s rise as the leader of the African National Congress, the tragic implementation of apartheid and the severe persecution of the black and colored races.

Ironically I found a connection to another famous person whose books I was reading, Sir Winston Churchill. He served with the South African Light Horse during the Boer War, was captured by the Boers and escaped to immediate international fame.

Irony again came into play when I learned that an Indian lawyer named Gandhi served with an ambulance squad at the battle of Spion Kop and nearly crossed paths with Churchill, a key participant in the same battle.

Fast forwarding to the 1980’s and 1990’s and I was reading more about Mandela and his 27 years of imprisonment as well as the abduction, torture and death of many other freedom fighters including Steve Biko who was immortalized in the book and movie, Cry Freedom as written by white South African Donald Woods.

My son, wife and I, traveled to South Africa in 1998 with Winston Churchill’s daughter, granddaughter and a small band of other Churchillians to retrace his steps during the Boer War 100 years earlier.

One of the highlights was a dinner with the descendants of the people in Churchill’s life during the Boer War. This included the grandsons of the early South African Prime Ministers and a special guest, former President Nelson Mandela was invited.

I was certainly excited about the possibility of meeting the great Madiba, but alas it was not to be and he did not attend.

Mandela during his life exuded integrity, perseverance, wisdom, remarkable courage and he never gave in to anything but his own firm convictions.

He suffered many arrests and trials resulting in his long imprisonment on Robben Island near Capetown.

He was sentenced to hard labor and was allowed few visitors and limited mail service. He had many opportunities to cut his prison time short if he gave into government demands but he refused and was released in 1990 solely on his own terms.

He became the first black President of South Africa, won the Nobel Peace Prize and led his nation out of the horrible curse of apartheid without the bloodshed and genocide that has so plagued the African continent.

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, it is the quality which guarantees all other,” Churchill said in 1931. A perfect description of Nelson Mandela.

May you rest in peace, Madiba!

J. Jeffrey Hutter Sr.

Cumberland

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