Africa & Science – Afrika & Wissenschaft – Afrique & Science

Nr. 00265- 9th Jan. 2024 – Weekly Newspaper devoted to Science & Technology in Africa ** Pour la promotion de l'esprit scientifique en Afrique

Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013): The legacy of his generation to Africa and the rest of the world

Photo-Adrien Janv 2014In his trial in 1964 Nelson Mandela closed his statement saying: « 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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die». In my opinion, for a better society, this statement, is the most memorable that everyone in this world needs to incorporate in his/her daily life no matter colour and faith, no matter where we leave, what we are doing or our position in the society. Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013. Unprecedented, his funeral was attended by 91 most influential leaders and head of states and mobilized people around the world. This proves how influential his contribution for South Africa freedom and the world human’s dignity has been acknowledged by people around the world. His long walk to freedom took him from many activist actions with ANC to 27 years in prison, and thereafter to the presidency of the Republic of South Africa. As this black man who inspired his generation, the present as well as the upcoming generations is now for ages, people in Africa and of this world, we all need to question ourselves for a better society. What can we do so that the fight of Nelson Mandela, of his friends who sacrificed their live in prison, the fight of many other who died for freedom, for a society with dignity and harmony, the sufferings they have endured, can become the foundation of a better life ? What legacy he and his generation have left for South Africa, for Africa and the rest of the world? Throughout this paper, I will describe the hypocritical society in which we are still living in today and show that more than ever, we need to follow the path that Rolihlahla Mandela and his friends stood up for.

South Africa

South Africa which is one of the countries believed to be the ancestor of humanity in which some of the oldest human fossil has been found. In the 19th century, the country suffered from different wars such as the Xhosa – Zulu – Afrikaners war, the first and second Boers war (1880-1881 and 1899 – 1902) for the control of their natural resources mainly diamonds, goal, etc. Since the 19th century, South Africa has been under the ruling domination of the European minority settlers: the Boers (Dutch, Flemish, German, and French settlers) and the British who invaded the country. In 1948, the National Party was elected to power. This election inaugurated an era of legal discrimination known as Apartheid, a political regime which divided the country into white, black and coloured people. The white minority representing less than 20% had all privileges, including the executive power and the black majority (about 80%) was left over in poverty, lack of education, lack of respect, among other depravation. This unacceptable situation motivated the fight that Rolihlahla Mandela and many of his friends such as Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Oliver Tambo, etc., stood up for under the ANC party. The ANC party used different non-violent protest strategies such as civil disobedience, public demonstrations and later changed to sabotage of public interests when they realized that non-violent campaigns were not effective enough. This resulted to the Rivonia trial (1962–1964) where Nelson Mandela along with 10 of his friends (Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel « Rusty » Bernstein (acquitted), Raymond Mhlaba, James Kantor (acquitted), Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni) were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. During their imprisonment activism against apartheid regime remain very active. Prominent figures in the country such as Winnie Mandela, Steve Beko and outside the country such as Oliver Tambo, and many other maintain protest campaign against apartheid in and outside the country. During this particular moment of South Africa’s history, millions of people lose their life directly or indirectly from this depraved system. Despite the release of Nelson Mandela and the ruling of the country by the black majority since 1994, Negros in South Africa are still suffering of psychological depression that Frantz Fanon has described in his book “Black Skin, White Masks”, associating “blackness with wrongness”. South Africa today is still among the top countries in the world of income inequality where black people are among the poorest in the country, the less educated, the more vulnerable to VIH and infectious disease. If Rolihlahla Mandela and all those who unlike him died in fight against this unhuman system, if they were right and I believe with what I saw during his funeral around the world, that they were, white people need to apologize to what has happen, what they have done and support black people to overcome this psychological depression. Economical distance needs to be reduced among race for a better future, for harmony, dignity and equal opportunity for all.


Despite the fact that Africa is considered by most of the paleoanthropologists to be the oldest inhabited territory on Earth, with the human species originating from the continent approximately 150 000 to 100 000 years ago, the rest of the continent follows similar path with South Africa. The African brothers who emigrated approximately 50 000 years ago the continent either across Bab-el-Mandeb over the Red Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar in Morocco, or the Suez Canal in Egypt returned in Africa and practised slavery to populate and develop the new world. Arab and Atlantic slave trade took approximately 30 million people between 7th and the 20th century out of Africa. In the late 19th century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent. It was to consolidate this power that King Leopold II of Belgium called for the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885) during which African countries were divided in the absence of African people. After World War II, the European power weakened and the independence movements in Africa pushed most of the countries to another dependence called in-dependence except in South Africa which was ruled by the Apartheid regime. In addition to the long slavery that has traumatized Africa continent and depopulated it from its valuable sons, in-dependence movement has put in power leaders who acted mostly as representative governors for European countries against the interest of African people. This has resulted to poverty in the large majority of the continent and a voluntary migration of Africans from the continent to Europe and other part of the World. Despite the economic growth which has reached an average of 5% these recent years, Africa is still suffering from vulnerable systems that have evolved mostly from in-dependence to serve European nations creating wars among brothers as has been seen in Ivory-Cost, Libya, the two Congo, Angola, CRA, etc. The challenge of Africa, black and coloured people around the world is to make good use of Nelson Mandela’s legacy to cure the psychological trauma that Africa and black people are still suffering in and outside Africa. This seems to me necessary to develop self-confidence and respect for the development and growth of black people and the continent.

Legacy to people of African descent

Steve Biko used to say “Black is beautiful”. Black people around the world are still suffering of conscious or unconscious discrimination, racism, wrongness belief, etc., as the consequence of what has been described above. However, people of African descent need to develop a fighting and winning spirit. They need to rely on the force of hope that Rolihlahla and his friends maintained during their long long journey in jail. If Mandela has been able to make the long walk to freedom, ending at becoming the first African Black president in South Africa, if a citizen of African descent Barack Obama is ruling the most important country in the world, among other great achievement of black people, it also means that the dream that Martin Luther King Junior had is on the way for you. Yes Africa, yes black and coloured people, you can make it. You, Negro, you are not the “Wretched of the Earth”, you are a Human Being and many of your brothers have proven that the future can also be on your side. You need to believe in yourself and trust your true brothers so that you can work hand on hand. It will not be easy as it has not been for them, but we have to keep on working hard and Africa is the prominent continent for the future. South Africa shows the sign with the last organization of the World Cup which has been rated 9 over 10. The economic growth these recent years in Africa is another sign for a better future if we all believe in and work for it. People around the world have to give more respect to black people, mother of the humanity. It is time to develop positive cooperation with Africa continent because Africans and Africans decent are more than ever ready to change the wheel of the world in their favour. Representative Governors we have today in Africa must understand that their time is over and time for change is coming. They must use the path of Rolihlahla and help the move to go on the positive direction. They have to move or the move will carry them!

Legacy to Whites and other people around the World

The mobilization of people during Rolihlahla’s funeral proves that the time has come to teach to our children that the “polygeny theory” that was the fundament of race distinction, classification, race superiority and discrimination was a false theory. The scientific racism has been developed for many centuries by eminent scientists such as Carl Linnaeus, Georges Cuvier, John Hunter, Christoph Meiners, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Lord Kames, G.W.F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Charles White, Samuel George Morton, etc. to support this egocentric polygeny theory that has been used to alienate other races then considered as “inferior races”. Today science from different fields with DNA, fossil, brain analysis has proven that “monogenism” is the most likely explanation of the human origin. According to scientific explanations, human has been separated 100 000 to 150 000 years ago from the Apes in Africa and pigmentation and the exposure to different climatic conditions is the most likely explanation of the differences in colour among people at different latitudes around the world. Therefore, White people have to apologize to their faults / errors towards black and colour people. Given that all human have the same origin on Earth, it means that we are all brothers with different interests. Therefore, we must pay a mutual respect to all for a better world in which everyone can live in harmony, dignity, equal opportunity and respect of each other. No one must tolerate such mistake or path again in the future; White people not only in South Africa, but also around the world need to follow the wisdom of Rolihlahla “Reconcialition, mutual respect, dignity and equal opportunity for all”.

By Adrien Djomo
Queen’s University
Kingston, Canada

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