On 5 December 2013 the world was shaken to learn the death of a man who fought against injustice.

Late World President and African leader Mr.Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Late World President and African leader Mr.Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

I am talking about the man lovingly called the father of the world had been critically ill for months; the announcement of his dearth nevertheless sent a shockwave through the universe as many were aware of his health. Now let me give you some accurate facts about him. He was born on the 18 July 1918 at Mvezo a tiny village on the banks of Mbashe river in the district of Umtata, the capital of Transkei. His father Gadla Henry Mpakanyiswa did not name him Nelson, in fact Nelson was given only by his teacher on the  first day at school, whites were either unable or unwilling to pronounce an African name, and considered it uncivilized to have one. His name given by his father is Rolihlahla. His  mother’s name is Nosekeni Fanny. They move to Qunu after his father refuse to attend the summons ordered by a magistrate after one man lodged a complaint against him involving an ox that had strayed from his owner. He reply in Xhosa saying ‘Andizi, ndisaqula” (I will not come, I am still girding for battle) One did not defy magistrates in those days.

His father`s response bespoke his believe that the magistrate had no legitimate power over him, asserting that when it came to tribal matters , he was guided not by the king of England, but by the Thembu custom.. This defiance was not a fit pique, but a matter of principle. His father possessed a proud rebelliousness, and a stubborn sense of fairness that deprived him his chieftainship and his fortune. He was further deprived most of his herd and land, and the revenue that came with them. Because of their straitened circumstances, they moved to a place where he grow up and where his was buried, Qunu.At that village there were two brothers named George and Ben Bekela, they were exception in Qunu : there were educated  and Christians. George the elder was a retired teacher and Ben was a police sergant.

This two brothers would often see Nelson Mandela playing and or minding sheep and will always came talk to him. One day George paid a visit to Nelson`s mother and say, your son is a clever young fellow; he should go to school, his mother did not say anything as women until recently did not make any decisions, but she convey the message to his father. His father did not hesitate he immediately decided that his younger son should go to school. Thanks for this dear readers. One night, when Nelson was 9 years old, he found his father lying in his mother’s hut, in the midst of what seemed like an endless fit of coughing. He was ill with some type of lung disease , while lying in their hut, he took  his pipe fill it with tobacco, lit it and then start smoking for perhaps an hour, and then with his pipe still lit, he died. So, as we all know that he also died from lung infection. Both father and son died of the same illness, what a curious co incidence?

Although his mother was the center of his existence, he defined himself through his father. His fathers passing changed his whole life in a way that he did not suspect at the time. After a brief period of mourning, his mother inform him that he will be leaving Qunu .

He went to stay at Mqhekezweni the royal palace of chief  Jongintamba Dalindjembo of the Thembu people who was chosen as a Chief by Nelson Mandela`s father. Jongitamba had offered to become his guardian in the wake of his father’s dearth.

The king did not forget that it was due to Mandela`s father’s intervention that he has became acting paramount chief. The chief treated him well as if he was his biological son, same privilege with the rest of the kids at home; in short he was treated equal with the rest. When he was sixteen the chief decided that it was a time he became a man.

In Xhosa tradition to become a man you must achieved this through one means only: circumcision. An uncircumcised male cannot be heir to his father’s wealth, cannot marry or officiate in tribal rituals, for he is not considered as a man at all, but a boy.

In most African countries that practice circumcisions, it represents the formal incorporation of males into the society. It is not just a surgical procedure, but a lengthy and elaborate ritual in preparation for manhood. He was circumcised and given a circumcision’s name “Dalibhunga: After some few years the chief summoned Justice the chief’s son and Nelson, the meeting was about marriage and the chief already arranged unions for both of them including lobola the bride price or dowry which is normally paid in the form of cattle by the grooms father. Now this announcement took them both by surprise and they look each other with a mixture of shock and helplessness, so they work out of the interview with their head down, daze and dejected.

They did not want this marriages that was organize by their father as they consider it unfair and ill –advised. At the same time, they believe that they can no longer remain under their fathers guidance if the reject his plan. Justice agreed, and the two decided that the only choice remaining is to run away from the palace, and the only place to run was Johannesburg. That is how Nelson Mandela comes to Johannesburg.

But traveling in those days for an Africa was a complicated process; all Africans over the age of sixteen were compelled to carry “Native passes” issued by the Native Affair Department, and were required to show that pass to any white police man, civil servant or employer.

The pass stated where the bearer lived, who his chief was and whether he has paid the annual poll tax, which was tax levied only on blacks. A friend called Sidney Nxu who was working for a white attorney inform them that his master will be driving to Johannesburg the following morning and arrange for them transport. In those days, it was customary for blacks to ride in the back seat of the car if a white was driving. They reach eGoli, the city of gold. All seemed to be going smoothly, but unbeknown to them that they will face hard ship in Johannesburg  as Nelson Mandela find himself as a night watchman (a mine policeman) his ever first occupation. But again to be recruited you need to have a letter from your chief, in this case the only person to issue this letter is their father who is the chief.

Do you think that the father will issue them with the said letter if they have run away from home? But for Justice the father had already sent recommendation letter months before making arrangements for him to get a clerical job, the most coveted and respected job in the mine.

Mandela was unknown to the man who is recruiting, but Justice explains that he was his brother. The recruiter keep on demanding the letter of Nelson but eventually he drops everything and recruit them both. Flushed with their success they boasted their cleverness to a friend whom they knew from home who was also working at the mine’s. They related how the run away from home and how they tricked the mine recruiter into a bargain. This fellow went straight to the mine induna and revealed their secret. They were dismissed on the spot. Their fortunes were now reversed. They were without jobs, a place to stay, and prospect. A new plan was needed for them to survive this; he was just 21 years and the search around town to get a place to stay in the mean time.

He came across with one of his cousin named Garilck Mbekeni who was staying at George Goch Township Johannesburg. When Nelson runs away from home he was a law student at Fort Hare. He narrates this to his cousin that his aspiration is to become a lawyer. His cousin promise that he knew a lot of law firms, and that they will go tomorrow morning to a white lawyer whom he knows. One day, while looking for a job, he was unshed into the inner office; where he was introduce to a man who was in the late twenties, with an intelligent face, light in complexion, and dressed in a double breast suit, he was from Transkei, but spoke English with a rapid of urban fluency. His name was WALTER SISULU. He explains about his difficulties, his ambition to be a lawyer, and his intention to register at the University of South Africa to finish his degree by corresponding. SISULU got him a job at Lazar Sidelsky Law firm as a articled clerk.

To be Continued in the next edition.Written by Mr. Leopold Mnakapa

Human Rights Rundu Office Tel/Fax 066 25 62 79 Mobile : 081 37 60 120

Email: rundu@nshr.org.na , Website: www.nshr.org.na





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