Our Political Heroes
Of all South African political heroes, the most well-known is Nelson Mandela. Fondly known as Madiba, the former president is an icon for human rights and democracy across the globe. He sacrificed 27 years of his life imprisonment fighting for equality for all South Africans. Another key figure, F.W. de Klerk, is celebrated as the bold leader who broke away from fundamentalist Afrikaner prejudice: he unbanned the African National Congress, released Nelson Mandela from prison, and supported the notion of a one-man, one-vote national election. F.W. de Klerk went on to enter peaceful negotiations with Nelson Mandela, earning himself a joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with Nelson Mandela.
Helen Suzman is another anti-apartheid hero. The mouthpiece of liberal white South Africans, Suzman was an outspoken politician who spent her 36 years in Parliament before retiring in 1989 – most of which was spent criticising the National Party’s white privilege policies and demanding civil rights for all South Africans. Former African National Congress (ANC) President OR Tambo dedicated his life to the fight against inequality and spent over 30 years in exile in the UK along with Alfred Nzo. Pixley Isaka Ka Seme made his contribution to South African history by founding the ANC.
He was one of the earliest black South African to study overseas and paved the way for many others in the dedication to excellence and political awareness.
Another important one of South Africa’s political heroes is Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews, who is revered by generations of South Africans for his intellectual, political and academic achievements. Considered to be “a pathfinder, a teacher to millions of people”, Matthews was the principal of the University College of Fort Hare – the meeting ground for black politically-conscious intellectuals.