The African chapter of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) pays tribute to Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013), whose life was dedicated to the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality.
He firmly believed that the black race of South Africa had the same rights as the white minority: the right to equal opportunity to education and employment, public services, freedom of speech and assembly; the right to the freedom necessary to realize the full otential of every South African as citizens and inheritors of their own country.
Nelson Mandela’s famous walk to freedom did not begin when he was released after being imprisoned for 27 long years. The walk to freedom began when he and the African National Congress (ANC) rose up in revolution against the South African racial segregation system, known as apartheid.
Western imperialist powers had colonized vast swathes of Africa, stripping Africa of its riches and Africans of their right to govern themselves.
As African countries began demanding independence in the 1950s, led by African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, and Kenneth Kaunda, the white minority rule in South Africa further tightened its stranglehold on power through apartheid.
The white government segregated residential areas and beaches, medical care, education and grudgingly gave black people basic services inferior to those of white people.
Apartheid is a violation of human rights and human decency. Because Mandela and the ANC sought to change the status quo of exploitation and oppression by fighting for freedom, they were labeled terrorists. In leading the resistance movement against apartheid, Mandela and other ANC members were arrested, charged with treason and subversion, and imprisoned.
Eventually, the growing resistance movement within South Africa coupled with international worldwide pressure led to the release of Mandela, the abolition of apartheid, and the election of Mandela as South Africa’s first black president in 1994. He was 75 years old.
As he worked to bring about change in South Africa, he knew that poverty was his biggest problem.
He stated that “Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity; it is an act of justice.” He knew that structural change was needed to redress inequality and injustice.
Mandela knew that peace would not be possible if people were hungry. “It is no use to talk about democracy and stability, when people cannot put food in their stomachs,” he said.
A hungry nation cannot be truly free. Mandela understood that South Africa, with its vast natural resources and fertile lands, could feed its people — but only when it is the people themselves who control food production and benefit from food security.
Ensuring no one went without food on the table or went to bed hungry was not so much a matter of producing more food as it was a matter of making sure that people had sovereign rights over their own
agricultural and food systems.
The South African word ubuntu neatly summed up the life, vision, and work of Mandela. It means “humanity to others”. Mandela once defined it in this manner: “In the olden days, when one traveled through the country and stopped through a village, one did not have to ask for food and water, these were automatically offered.” Ubuntu is the concept of sharing the bounty of the earth with one another.
Mandela’s life and death were widely celebrated and eulogized by world leaders from the United States, the European Union, and other powerful Western states.
We say to these leaders, who continue to monopolize and profit from the global food system, that their tributes to the late great Nelson Mandela will remain hollow unless they embrace and live out Mandela’s vision.
We at PCFS are committed to the realization of Nelson Mandela’s
dreams for Africa, and we join him in condemning those who would deny humanity their right to food, and their right to life itself.
Fare thee well, Madiba.