Within this essay, I am going to write about three main turning points in Nelson Mandela’s life. Mandela was the leader of the ANC youth league, he later went on to become the first black president of South Africa. He also created MK, Umkhonto we Sizwe, which helped to bring down Apartheid with their violent ways. The three main turning points I am going to write about, describe and explain are Mandela, joining the ANC youth league, starting Umkhonto we Sizwe and his imprisonment for 27 years. I will be discussing these three events in relation to Mandela, the ANC and the anti-Apartheid movement. The ANC was formed in 1912 and stood for the African National Congress, it was the main black anti-Apartheid group for South Africa. It set up many protests to fight for rights but failed to achieve its aims many times. It was originally called the African Native National Congress until 1923.
Its first president was a man named John Dube. The ANC had a policy of Non-violence which they later came to rethink as a response to government actions. The ANC youth league was formed to gain more members and give the chance for younger people to get involved with stamping out Apartheid. The ANC youth league was formed in 1944 and aimed entirely at destroying the Apartheid system. Nelson Mandela was the leader of the youth league; he later went on to become the leader of the ANC. From the ANC youth league, many young men arose who had very strong and powerful leadership qualities, which would later come to help the fall of the Apartheid system. The membership steadily grew because the ANC became better organized and began bigger and better protests to end the Apartheid system.
In the 1950s the ANC began many campaigns which would help their cause. The Defiance Campaign (in 1952), Freedom Charter (in 1955) and The National Day of Protest (in 1952). The Defiance Campaign was mass protests against the Apartheid system, black Africans would wear ANC armbands and protest in white-only areas to show that they were not scared to protest. The Freedom Charter was written because blacks needed to make a statement of their vision for South Africa so the higher powers in the South African government could see what exactly was demanded by the ANC. The Freedom Charter demanded that there should be basic human rights for all colours within South Africa, the abolition of all Apartheid laws, equal sharing of wealth throughout the country and equal education and free medical care for all among others. Without all of these demands reached, the ANC would continue protesting.
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The National day of Protest was created so that everyone opposed to the Apartheid system could unite and protest together, this helped to group them all together and show the government that it wasn’t just blacks that were against the Apartheid system. This was a significant turning point for Mandela, the ANC and the anti-Apartheid movements because Mandela becoming leader of the ANC youth league helped the ANC as it was his first time as leader, so they would gain more support from the public, his popularity grew and he met many important people. He also created long friendships with many ANC leaders. Mandela became leader of the ANC youth league helped gain more members because he offered more and better ways of protesting. The membership rose from 7,000 to 100,000 meaning there were more people willing to join in the fight to end Apartheid. The ANC gaining more members meant they had more power and could create bigger and more powerful protests.
This put pressure on the White South African Government as they made the white governments take notice and become more aware of anti-Apartheid groups forcing them to consider their Apartheid position. The ANC became a lot more radical in going about their protesting. This gave the government more problems and showed themselves as a bigger, more organized threat to white supremacy. Umkhonto we Sizwe, MK for short, Meant Spear of the Nation was also an anti-Apartheid group created by Nelson Mandela in response to the Sharpeville massacre. Umkhonto we Sizwe aimed at scaring the government and showing that they were a threat violently, as long as no life was lost in the process. They also aimed to destroy the Apartheid system and create equality throughout. Umkhonto we Sizwe has a view that violence was the only way forward and any other type of protesting wouldn’t bring huge changes.
They had only two choices, give in or fight, so they chose to fight. Even though they tried as hard as they could, they were unable to stop the deaths of many people which were unavoidable. However, they carried on their ways as they knew this was the only way forward. If they reverted back to the old ways of non-violence, they would put themselves back where they began. This was a significant turning point for Mandela because he realized that non-violent methods were never going to be enough to force the government to end Apartheid. After Sharpeville, Mandela was able to convince the ANC to drop their policy of non-violent methods in favour of MK’s policy of sabotage. This put pressure on the white government to rethink their Apartheid policy as they were scared not only of the violence from black people but also of the white deaths as a result of violent actions.
In 1963 Mandela was imprisoned for life. He was later released in 1990. He was imprisoned in a prison called Robben Island. Robben Island prison was an all-black prison where the only whites were the police. Whilst in prison he remained anti-Apartheid and kept his protesting up inside. Many times he was told he could leave as long as he disbanded the ANC and MK, he refused and was again locked back up. This showed he was brave and wouldn’t stop until there were equal rights for all, this made him a worldwide legend and a familiar face in many countries. These countries began to back him, so the South African government was put under huge pressure and had made many enemies worldwide, due to Mandela’s fame. He didn’t give in to any of the Government rules and stayed anti-Apartheid. His fame grew every time he refused to compromise his political position to obtain freedom. Whilst imprisoned he campaigned for better living conditions, at the time he did this the staff at Robben Island began a food boycott to gain better living conditions.
A few days later, the staff gained better conditions. Not long after, the same happened for Mandela and the other prisoners and better conditions were acquired. This was a significant turning point for Mandela, the ANC and the anti-Apartheid movements because Mandela was recognized as the anti-Apartheid leader. The significance of this was that he became more famous and gained more control over the organizations. He was also shown as a huge political power in helping to destroy Apartheid, he also had the backing of all the biggest European countries without which he would never have seen the end of the Apartheid system. These countries helped heap pressure on the South African government because they were a lot wealthier and had a lot more power. They also had the backing of all the other African countries; these had only just gained independence themselves.
With the backing of these countries the ANC, PAC and MK moved forward with their strikes and created a huge uproar within South Africa. The white government had nothing else left to do but lose control and power over South Africa. This showed that the Apartheid system was failing and making things worse for themselves, they had to rethink their position in the government. Not long after, Nelson Mandela was released because the Apartheid system was failing under huge international and domestic pressure. If they hadn’t released Mandela at the time of the Apartheid system being destroyed there would have been much uproar worldwide, mostly in the anti-Apartheid groups as South Africa was on the verge of a civil war. In conclusion, these turning points are so significant because they show the struggle in South Africa for equality and better rights throughout. It shows the life of a huge political leader, Nelson Mandela, as he helps to end the Apartheid system, which had enslaved his race. They show how the South African government will go to stop the start of equality for mixed races. They also show that the Apartheid system was a failure and that the black’s political ambition and protesting became too much for the government to handle.