Free Nelson Mandela - 20 years later

Today is a great day to be in South Africa. February 11, 2010 marks the 20 year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. For 27 years Nelson Mandela was in prison. There are some great article pieces coming from the South African news. The one supplement piece in the Star newspaper brings in many perspectives which reflect on the dawning of the new democracy in South Africa. The audioslide show by BBC is fantastic – brought a tear to my eye. Read more here...

This day also makes me reflect on my recent visits to the Apartheid Museum, Soweto, Nelson Mandela’s house and the Hector Pieterson Memorial. I had the chance to move around to these historical places of South Africa with a seasoned activist from Canada. She was part of the Canadian network which rallied for the freedom of Nelson Mandela and pressured the Canadian government to lay international pressure on the apartheid government for a non-racial, non-sexist democratic state. It was eye opening to be more aware of the reach that this political prisoner had around the world.

I recently had to look through some of IDRC’s past accomplishments in South Africa and one of the most outstanding pieces which I speak with pride is the organization’s help in building research and recommendations in economics, urban and environmental policy which would be implemented in a new South Africa which is inclusive to all citizens of the country. Many of the researchers funded continue to be part of South Africa’s political network.

They were worthy contributions in South Africa and in Canada and I respect those who have dedicated their lives to a more fair society in this African state. Unfortunately, I live here in South Africa now and I see how the struggle continues for its people. Activism remains strong as citizens still fight for the right a more equal education system, and improved services for all (housing, electricity, water). My final reflection is if this was still an apartheid state, what would I be doing today – do I remain aware of the struggles of the people yet be complacent as the rate of poverty rises, or do I rally forward with the movement as would have been done by the Canadian activist more than 20-30 years ago? Could history repeat itself but in another form if we don’t stay active in the new struggle?

The photo of the coloured glass Mandela is found at the Regina Mundi Cathedral in Soweto.