Nelson Mandela International Day is observed every year on July 18 across the globe. The purpose is to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the great leader for ensuring equal civic rights for everyone in South Africa.


Being the first democratically elected black president of South Africa, Mandela is one of those great human beings in history who are still alive in the hearts of the people despite their physical departure from this mortal world. The UN General Assembly passed an unanimous resolution in November 2009 to celebrate his birthday on July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day.

Today, South Africa is ranked among one of the developed countries of the world but just three decades ago, people there were suffering with racism and hatred. Although the era of British imperialism was over, white people were still in government. Deprived of fundamental rights, the black people were required to serve the white elite class.

All exploitative policies against the black population also had constitutional protection. Raising one's voice against injustice was considered an anti-state act. In such critical circumstances, Nelson Mandela publicly denounced the abuse of power by the government, which was pushing South Africa away from the path of development.

According to him, people living in such conditions are unable to positively contribute to the welfare of society. Thus, Mandela initiated the freedom struggle to break the chains of slavery. In the charter of freedom, he wrote that "...South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people."

Due to such ideologies, the white government booked Mandela on treason charges and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defending himself in court, Mandela once again emphasized the importance of democracy, human rights, societal harmony and justice for all. He was of the view that education was the most powerful tool for socio-economic development. He was also an advocate of women's empowerment and gender equality.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 precious years of his life in jail but did not bend before the prejudiced government. On the other side, his closest companion Oliver Tambo carried on an organized campaign in favour of Nelson Mandela. Finally, the government had to listen to the public and free Mandela. People were given the chance to cast their vote independently without any discrimination in the country’s first ever national elections. As a result, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first democratic black president in the entire history of South Africa.

Mandela was aware of the fact that he was in position to temporarily win the heart of black people by taking revenge from the white people. However, he adopted a policy of tolerance and forgiveness in the best interest of South Africa. Right after coming into power, Mandela took various concrete measures to maintain trust among both the black and the white population, to eradicate poverty, and to promote education. Merit was ensured throughout the country, and government officials from the white community were asked to keeping serving people.

For the promotion of social harmony, eleven languages were recognized as national languages and cordial relations with the international community were developed on the basis of equality. After completing his tenure as president, Mandela kept himself engaged in welfare activities under the platform of the Mandela Foundation.

Mandela was a great visionary leader who demonstrated throughout his entire struggle that never ever falling in life is not success but rising after falling is a real achievement. Mandela believed that wise people, in order to achieve their noble cause, never hesitate to forgive their opponents. "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner," Mandela had once stated.

Nelson Mandela was also privileged with many international awards, including the Noble Peace Prize, and Nishan-e-Pakistan. Several international personalities attended the funeral of the father of new South Africa and people from different faiths organized special prayers for his soul.

Today, Nelson Mandela is no more present among us, but the world still celebrates his birthday with the message that all conflicts can be solved with dialogue, and that to make this planet a beautiful place for everyone, we need to say goodbye to all kinds of biases and prejudices.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.