Today, at 19:00 in South Africa, it is the opening of Parliament and the State of the Nation address by President Jacob Zuma. It is 11 February 2010; and 120 days countdown to the FIFA Soccer World Cup to be hosted by the country on African soil. More importantly, it is also the 20th anniversary of the release of former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born 18 July 1918) from the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl – after being moved there two months earlier from Robben Island in preparation for this day.
‘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.’
~ Nelson Mandela (1964 at the Rivonia Trial & 1990 in Cape Town)
On 11 February 1990, Mr Mandela appeared outside the prison in Paarl at 16:14 local time with his wife Winnie and then walked through the gates after 10 000 days of imprisonment. Marshals of the African National Congress (ANC) and police officers of the South African government, led by President De Klerk at the time, took hands to try and control the excited crowds outside the gates. Mandela was whisked away to Cape Town’s townhall where a crowd of half a million people congregated and the rest of the world watched on television as he – partly in Afrikaans – addressed the people who oppressed him and the people who fought for his freedom, and also, those who stood by indifferently. Indeed, the world. Nelson Mandela would contact many of his friends, allies and family members in the months to come after his release, and warden Christo Brand was one of the people who received a call from Madiba, and who remains one of his supporters today. It was a moment of hope for all of South Africa, and for many, sanity prevailed over fear – leading to a peaceful settlement by all parties in 1994 and the first democratic elections in the country.
CBS News writes an article, “Nelson Mandela: 20 Years a Free Man” and it dawns on me that Madiba has always been free, actually. Certainly, if one believes the truth from the author of ‘The Little Prince’ : “I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery quotes (French Pilot, 1900-1944). As such, the insights of Nelson Mandela has ensured that he could (never) be a prisoner of anyone, let alone by any government. However, a country and South Africans were held prisoner by injust laws and the application of a mangled philosophy of ‘neigbourhoodness’ as defined by HF Verwoerd, a precursor to Apartheid in South Africa. But make no mistake, this country in the South of Africa was and is not unique in its government’s ways of imprisoning young minds to die on battlefields in the name of keeping its people safe. The gates still need to be opened for many leaders and many followers, but Nelson Mandela (as much injustice as he suffered and as much sacrifices he made!) has always been free. This freedom of spirit is what he demonstrated after his release, when he did claimed his place amongst world leaders, but also forgave, united and enabled South Africans to open the gates of their own minds and hearts. A small part of his approach is portrayed in the award-winning movie, Invictus – a movie worth watching.
In Second Life, on 18 July 2008 and 90 years after Mr.Mandela’s birthday, the team of Uthango – many being involved in the struggle against Apartheid years before – celebrated his life and hosted a special event across a number of virtual regions, documented in this blog as Mandela’s Freedom in Virtual Worlds. Today, we call on you again to visit Robben Island inSL and join us as we celebrate freedom and justice, and honour Nelson Mandela and all those who gave their lives and their future for justice – also those who continue to do so today. And please take a moment to enjoy this awesome cartoon collection of Nelson Mandela.
Social media is indeed a powerful aggregator of views and opinions. Today, via the Twitter hashtag #mandela20, people across the world express where they were when Nelson Mandela was released and what they remember about the day, such as: @Mokotla: #mandela20 I was 6 years old playing with my kite, made out of sticks & plastic bags running on the streets of SOWETO… In Posterous, Gus Silber shares the newspaper clips he held onto and YouTube is abuzz with memories of the day to honour the respected Mandela, such as this movie clip by Londolozi Game Reserve. There is even a special website supported by the Parliament for mobilising the youth with a virtual march to the State of the Nation address today!
Come visit the African Arts and Culture Gallery at Robben Island in Second Life and share this historic moment and collective memory via sound, art, photography, journalism and video with us. At the very least, come add your name to the historic EZ-Note memory board, which now contains more than 300 messages already and was started as part of our Mandela Day & 67 Minutes Campaign inSL.
The challenge for South Africa, and for the world as a matter of fact, is to remove those obstacles that make it so difficult for people to realise their dreams of a better life. And, not a life of luxury, but simply one devoid of extreme poverty and unhealthy environments. Nelson Mandela may have always been free in spirit and mind, and he may have had physical freedom since 11 February 1990, but way too many people remain prisoners in too many respects in too many countries. After all:
“Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires”. ~ Bertrand Russell quotes (English Logician and Philosopher 1872-1970)
Ps: We also want to use this opportunity to thank all for making it possible for Uthango to still have a presence in Second Life today. We will write soon about our experience end of last year when we made our own small struggle in virtual worlds public. Your support enabled us to honour this day at Robben Island inSL. Read More About Nelson Mandela on Mahalo…