30 years after Nelson Mandela's Release

By  Srimal  Fernando

25 June 2020

Thirty years have passed since Mandela’s walk to freedom out of Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990. The television footage of the anti-apartheid campaigner’s release is still fresh in our memories. On that day in a speech broadcast live around the world Mandela quoted his own words during the Rivonia trial in 1964 which he said were true on that day as they were back then, “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.”

Mandela, affectionately known as ‘Madiba’, fought the forces of apartheid for years, stood for a non-racial democracy and was an  enduring symbol of hope to all those who remained oppressed. Nonetheless it was a courageous decision by the former South African President FW de  Klerk to release Mandela from prison after 27 years.

Mandela’s victory against apartheid, his democratic upheaval as an advocate of South African people has become the fascination of the twentieth century. But the actual struggle to heal the wounded society commenced after Mandela was elected as the first black President of South Africa in 1994. To heal wounds of the past, Mandela set up the South African Truth Commission: Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (TRC). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) originated in 1995 as an outcome of the promotion of national unity and reconciliation act no 34.

On the African continent, the leadership of South Africa has been overwhelmingly important. Moreover, Mandela’s profound commitment to the precious ideals of fairness, accomplish the introduction of South Africa to the larger world. African nations have been able to use this window of opportunity in their favour due to South Africa’s prominent role in the continent.  Today South Africa maintains strong  relations with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), South African Development Cooperation (SADC), and Brazil Russia India China and South Africa (BRICS) member states on a number of key issues. There is no doubt that South Africa’s influence has been enormous and this influence was strengthened by forming greater economic and political spaces for the other member nations.
Furthermore South Africa’s vision on foreign affairs during Mandela’s period also witnessed the constitution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to set in place the justice mechanism.

Mandela‘s tenure from 1994 to 1999 was recognized for its importance in economic growth through a framework of market economics and encouragement of foreign investment. On the economic front, South Africa transformed from Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) policy to Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy. This policy fast-tracked the economic growth of the nation to 3.5%, led to creation of 400,000 employment opportunities and raised the Black middle class.

Changes in South Africa’s social arrangement during the past decades are inadequate to rationalize the policy changes that occurred throughout Mandela’s period. Transforming the democratic leadership in South Africa was a process of what’s called undoing of the old structure in a way that concurrently constructs a new foundation for a political system that will take South Africa to new levels. Today South Africans can proudly hold their heads up high, because of Mandela’s contributions to the nation.

Srimal Fernando is a Doctoral Fellow at Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), India and Advisor / Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa. He is the winner of the 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ award in South Africa, and has been the recipient of GCA Media Award for 2016.In the field of politics, and Policy affairs, Fernando is a specialist, with over ten years of first hand experience in Sri Lanka and the Maldives