Nelson Mandela: Iconic Leader

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Nelson Mandela: Astute politician or iconic leader?

Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa, but his road to presidency and political power was a long and tumultuous one. From his beginnings; being born into tribal royalty, through his commitment as a lawyer to fighting for justice and human rights, and well into his actions as a leader of activist parties and eventually the South African government, Mandela has achieved (warranted) recognition as one of the most prominent and influential people in South African and international politics. Playing an instrumental role in the transitioning of a nation from minority rule and in an international campaign for reconciliation, Mandela’s political capability has proven to be significant, but this being said, his influence and ability to promote change comes largely off the back of his status as a cultural icon; an embodiment of justice, democracy and peace, for South Africa and for the world.

When the African National Congress first emerged as South Africa’s dominating left-wing party in the 1920’s, Nelson Mandela deeply involved himself in the politics of the movement that fought for the abolishment of apartheid. Mandela was influential and active in the development of the ANC’s defiance campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the fundamental program of the anti-apartheid cause. A large amount of his work with the ANC however, was based heavily on the conversion and empowerment of the masses, such as raising funds for and taking lead of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed branch of the ANC. Nelson Mandela himself said “It is not the kings and generals that make history, but the masses of the people.” This statement I feel represents the basis for his principles and methods of governance and it is this ideal, which led him to become predominantly a figurehead for the people, rather than a leader whose actions convey an astute political ability and...
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