1942 started Nelson Mandela’s participation in the racial oppression in South Africa. He joined the African National Congress (ANC), led by Anton Lembede. In 1944, Mandela joined up with Walter Sisulu, William Nkomo, Oliver R. Tambo, and Ashby P. Mda to form the African National Congress Youth League. Quickly, Mandela became the secretary of the ANCYL in 1947 because of his consistent effort and disciplined work.
In 1949 the Programme of Action was accepted as authorized ANC policy. The Programme of Action supported boycott, strike, civil disobedience, and non-co-operation. Nelson Mandela became the president of the ANCYL in 1952. “Under his leadership the ANC began sponsoring nonviolent protests, strikes, boycotts, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience and in the process becoming a target to police harassment and arrest.
” This came to be known as the Defiance Campaign. This marked the beginning of mass resistance to apartheid. In 1959 a small group of ANC members broke off and started their own group called the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). And on March 21, 1960, 20,000 PAC protesters left there homes without passes and joined together in Sharpeville. The police, thinking that the group would become unfriendly, opened fire on the protesters. Sixty-Nine Blacks were killed and another 186 were wounded.
After this attack, the South African Government outlawed the ANC and PAC organizations. But this would not stop Mandela and his companions from fighting the apartheid. In 1961 Mandela helped establish the ANC’s military wing, known as the Umkhonto we Sizwe -Spear of the Nation-, also known as the M-plan or MK plan named after Mandela himself. He was named its commander in chief and was sent to Algeria for military training. In that time 200 acts of sabotage took place.
When he returned in 1962, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for illegal exit from the country and the fear of becoming too powerful from the white government inside his hideout just outside of Johannesburg. In Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, he described his arrest:At 1:30 in the morning on 30 March I was awakened by sharp, unfriendly knocks at my door, the unmistakable signature of the police. The time has come,’ I said to myself as I opened the door to find half-a-dozen armed security policemen. They turned the house upside down, taking virtually every piece of paper they could find.
I was then arrested without a warrant, and given no opportunity to call my lawyer. They refused to inform my wife as to where I was being taken. I simply nodded at Winnie; it was no time for words of comfort. (pg.
239)While in prison many other ANC leaders were also found and arrested. They were all put on trial (Rivonia Trial) for sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison at the maximum security Robben Island Prison. Although in a maximum-security prison, Mandela was still able to keep in contact with the anti-apartheid movement secretly. For 18 years Mandela stayed at Robben Island, where he lived under harsh conditions with other political leaders. This time spent in the prison changed his attitude and made him become the great political leader that he is today.
He realized that violence was not the answer to all his problems. Furthermore, many would think that this imprisonment would hurt the anti-apartheid movement, but in reality it helped much more. Many world leaders demanded that Mandela be released from the prison. In March of 1982 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, another maximum-security prison.
While at Pollsmoor, Mandela was offered many times to be released if he would stop using violence. Mandela refused to do so stating “only free men can .