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Death of the anti-apartheid icon



The icon of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela, passed away late Thursday at the age of 95. As mentioned in a New Age report on Saturday, he died at his home in Johannesburg after a long battle against lung infection. His death was not unexpected as he had to be in hospital because of the disease on more than one occasions in the past few months. He had, moreover, been under intensive care at home for the past three months. Yet, the death came as a shock not only to his fellow countrymen but also to people across the world, especially those who are still struggling for peace and democracy in general and a society free of discriminations, social, racial, etc, in particular. Meanwhile, as a person living just a few streets away from Mandela’s house is quoted in the report as saying that it is indeed time to ‘celebrate’ the life of a great man as well. Mandela devoted all his life for the emancipation of the black people of South Africa. The uncompromising struggle he led decade after decade ended an all-white apartheid rule that had gripped the country for three centuries. He was the first democratically elected black president of the country. Significantly still, he disagreed to cling to power just after a term of five years to pave the way for his fellow young fighters.
Nearly a third of his life was spent in jail under successive racist regimes. After the heinous massacre at Sharpeville in the early 1960s, he even led an armed struggle against the then ruler. But, as a manifestation of his rare ability at responding to what a situation demands, he emerged a deeply changed man after his release from jail in 1990. By persuading the black majority not to take revenge against their previous oppressors in order to build up a multi-racial nation, he managed a peaceful transfer of power and introduced a new order. As his fellow Nobel laureate and comrade-in-arms, Desmond Tutu, pointed out, Mandela was the man who taught a deeply divided nation how to come together. Such a unique contribution to the struggle for peace and democracy made Mandela a towering figure in the 20th century politics at the global level.  One can refer here to his famous notes issued at his trial in 1964, where he said, ‘I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
It is happy to see that like many other countries, Bangladesh also declared three days of mourning for Mandela who greatly inspired the nation in its struggle against autocracy during the 1980s in particular. It is hoped that our political leaders bickering over parochial interests for long will learn from his life to end such an unfortunate situation in Bangladesh as well.




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