January 3: Apartheid and Religious Persecution

Today was another inciteful day in Frenschoek. First, we traveled to Solms-Delta Vineyard. The vineyard had a long and dark history of racial oppression where the indigenous slaves would work throughout the day and rather than being paid with money they would be paid with wine. Many of these people began work in the fields, and now they are old yet have bone development problems because their bones were still developing while they worked in the fields. According to our tour guide, their bones would develop and permanently stabilize them in a raking position because their muscles were not used to other forms of coordination and movement.

Along with a background on the vineyard, there was also quite a good chunk presented on Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. The Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed in South Africa in 1953. This act made it illegal to support political campaigns against the government. The African National Congress (ANC) Youth League would develop into a campaign of defiance of the party in power, or the National Party. From 1956-1961 came the “Treason Trial” in which those in political defiance were arrested. 1962 was the year in which the South African government was able to capture Nelson Mandela, along with Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, and Govan Mbeki. All of these men were sentenced to life in prison, with many of them, including Nelson Mandela, being shipped off to serve their time on Robben Island.

There was one quote presented in the newspaper at the vineyard that stood out to me and seemed like a great example of explaining why Nelson Mandela was so dedicated to his cause. The quote is from his defense statement given at the Rivonia Trial in 1964. It reads as follows:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought back against white domination, and I have fought back 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.”

Not only did this quote provide me an idea for his determinism throughout his fight for racial equality, but another quote stuck out to me. This quote from Nelson Mandela was presented to us after we left the vineyard and traveled next to the Huguenot monument. The second quote from Mandela reads as follows:

“I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

What seemed to have made Mandela effective as a revolutionary leader of South Africa was that he did not have a hatred for the white men who had oppressed him and other Africans. Mandela did not wish to fight back and bring “black domination” as he said in his quote, but rather what he fought for was an equal society. These are the principles that Dr. King and Gandhi preached in the United States and India respectively. It could have been very easy for Mandela to have hated whites in South Africa, but in reality, some of them came to South Africa to escape institutional persecution themselves.

An example of this is the Huguenot people. These people were from Northern Europe and fled their homes because they were protestants during Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, an original Catholic priest himself, wrote the 95 thesis in defiance of the Catholic church and managed to spread his beliefs all throughout Europe due to the creation of the printing press. Because of the printing press, masses of people were able to read the bible for themselves and discover that what the Catholic church had been preaching to them was not 100 percent consistent with what they read in their holy book. The Catholic Church responded by persecution of those in defiance of their teachings, and would burn those at the stake who refused to vanquish their beliefs.

In response to these horrific slayings, many of the Huguenot people fled from France and sailed a dangerous journey to the Western Cape in South Africa. These people would eventually settle mainly in Franschoek and would bring Dutch influence to South African art and culture.

What I gained mainly today in regards to my research question is that Mandela was effective in his approach to social change through his incarceration because he suffered while demanding dignity and respect for who he was yet also did not resort to revenge or violence. He understood that South Africa had a history of differences in culture and people would only respond to his approach based on his words rather than his weapons. Like Dr. King and Gandhi, Mandela had an unbreakable spirit, and was willing to die for his ideas.

Along with those two trips, we also had a chance to go up on top of Table Mountain today, which is one of the seven new world wonders. On top of Table Mountain, we could see all of Cape Town, as well as Robben Island in the distance. It was a sight I will never forget.

Tomorrow is my last day in Cape Town, as we will be flying to Johannesburg on Saturday morning. Tomorrow will be a great day to add to my research in regards to my topic, for we will be having a discussion with Christo Brand, a former warden of Nelson Mandela during his incarceration who later became friends with Mr. Mandela after his incarceration.

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