Nelson Mandela: A One Man Band?

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is hailed as a great man. A saint to some. A hero to others. The father of the nation. To a majority of people in South Africa and around the world, Mandela is the man who brought about South Africa’s freedom.

That Mandela should be credited with bringing about South Africa’s freedom is too simplistic. After all Mandela had been on Robben Island for almost three decades. While he was in prison, women, men, and children played an active part on the road to freedom.

If it needed being on Robben Island to be credited with bringing about South Africa’s freedom, then what of the other men who were on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela but whose names are not inscribed on the plaque below the pedestal on which Mandela is placed.

Away from Robben Island others marched, campaigned, protested, were killed, tortured, or went into exile.

Neville Alexander, Wilfred Brutus (brother of Dennis), Yusuf Cachalia, Dr Dadoo, Eddie Davies, Ebrahim Ismail, Natvarlal Bebenia, Kisten Doorasamy, Alfred Duma, Ahmed Kathrada, Ragoowan Kistensamy, Oom Gov Mbeki, Oom Ray Mhlaba, Mkhwanazi, Kisten Moonsamy, Dr Moroka, Indres Naidoo, George Naicker, Billy Nair, Curnick Ndhlovu, Siva Pillay, Dr Setlogelo, Girja Singh, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe are some of the lesser known names.

Some of the forgotten women are: Elizabeth van den Heyden, Dorothy Alexander, Dulcie September, Doris van den Heyden and White women who were members of the Black Sash.

There are many others. Some people remember Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo. Others remember Dennis Brutus.

For some reason people only give credit to Mandela as if he was a one man band when there was a countless band of brothers (and sisters) of all races, who risked their lives, many of whom gave their lives and relinquished their happiness and that of their families, for South Africa’s freedom.