South Africa takes a step with release

By Claudia Curry

Feb. 11, 1990 is a day which long will be remembered by one word—freedom. This is the day South African President F.W. de Klerk approved the release of long-time political prisoner Nelson Mandela.

For nearly the past three decades the name Nelson Mandela has stood for equality. A prominent leader of the anti-apartheid movement, 71-year-old Mandela left prison last Sunday afternoon after serving 27-years of a life sentence.

His crime—plotting to overthrow the white rule in South Africa. Mandela was the leader of the African National Congress, an organization which protested governmental apartheid in South Africa and lobbied for black equality until banned by the white minority government in 1960.

Over the span of his imprisonment, Mandela refused all offers of freedom on condition that he renounce armed struggle, go to another country or limit his political activities, and was released Sunday on an unconditional basis.

In addition to Mandela’s release, the ban on the ANC was lifted by de Klerk two weeks ago, as well as bans on almost 60 other anti-apartheid organizations.

It seems that the South African government lately, under the power of recently elected de Klerk, is in the process of taking steps toward a long-awaited and much-needed political reform.

The one person, one vote system of democratic rule is one with which many people in this country are very comfortable. No matter what color or gender you might be, if you are a registered U.S. citizen, you get a vote—a voice in what our country’s future will be.

Now, you don’t have to be a college student to know that that’s not how it’s always been. During it’s youth, the this country supported similar policies such as South Africa’s non-black voting system and even went as far as supporting the slavery of blacks.

It took our country’s forefathers almost 300 years to realize that slavery was wrong. The colonists who founded this country fought in the American Revolution for freedom—to break their ties from British rule and set up a more democratic society based on equality and freedom for all men (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?), but could still justify having slaves.

Even after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which granted freedom to all slaves, blacks still were not given the right to vote in this country until 1870. After they gained the right to vote, blacks could still be discriminated upon in public and by employers until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s’ forced the government into civil rights legislation.

Although the South African government freed their slaves 30 years before ours did, their civil rights movement has been at a standstill for nearly 170 years.

The freeing of Nelson Mandela is only a start. The South African government has a long way to go in its political reform. Hopefully, it will learn from our mistakes.

Granting equality doesn’t have to be a long, dragged-out process. Had our forefather’s truly listened to their own sacred words in the Declaration of Independance—”…that all men are created equal..,” such acts as slavery and inequality might have never existed on this land.