Honoring the Life and Legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandelaby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2013-12-13
BOXER. Madam President, last week the world lost a true hero
with the passing of Nelson Mandela. His determined and courageous
advocacy helped end South Africa's disgraceful system of apartheid,
while his enlightened leadership set an example for national
Apartheid was a policy of hate. It was a severe form of segregation that denied the non-White population their basic human rights. Millions of non-Whites lost their homes and were forced from their lands.
In order to travel or work in a restricted White area, special passes were necessary. Non-Whites could not participate in national government and were segregated in almost every way imaginable--from education to transportation to health care.
Nelson Mandela dedicated much of his life to ending this injustice. After years of protesting the harsh policies of the South African Government, he was imprisoned for 27 years--18 of which were spent at the infamous maximum security prison on Robben Island that was surrounded by shark-infested waters.
There he suffered in a cell that he described as ``perpetually damp'' and only measured 7 feet by 8 feet.
From prison, Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to those fighting apartheid both inside South Africa and throughout the world. And as pressure grew, the South African Government initiated secret talks with Mandela for the first time in 1986.
That same year, I was a Member of the House of Representatives when Congress voted to impose sanctions against the South Africa Government--overriding a Presidential veto to do so.
Two months before that historic and long overdue vote, the President gave a speech opposing comprehensive sanctions against South Africa. That same day, I went to the House floor to respond, asking: How many children have to die? How many funeral mourners have to die? How much bloodshed will be spent before the President decides that words are no longer enough--that `constructive engagement' has done nothing to prevent 2,000 deaths since late 1984? In that same statement, I spoke about the ``concerned citizens all over the country who have emphasized the need to do something specific to demonstrate our abhorrence of the policies of the South African government.'' Those concerned citizens included the Solano County board of supervisors, who sent me a resolution in 1985 that declared, ``Acquiescence to South Africa's apartheid policy, whatever the rationalization would be a rejection of the ultimate sacrifices made by those who died to ensure justice for all human beings . . .'' It was the grassroots movement against apartheid in the 1980s that pushed Congress to enact sanctions, and this grassroots movement was inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela.
In 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison, and in 1994 he was elected as South Africa's first Black President.
Despite more than 40 years of suffering under the brutality of apartheid, Nelson Mandela chose reconciliation over resentment.
During his inauguration, he declared, ``The time for the healing of the wounds has come . . . the moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.'' The legacy of Nelson Mandela lies not just in his courage to fight repression but in his courage to forgive his enemies.
In his words, ``Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.'' My deepest sympathies go out to Nelson Mandela's family, the nation of South Africa, and all those who are mourning the loss of this great man.