The Sacred Warrior
BY NELSON MANDELA
The liberator of
South Africa looks at the seminal work of the liberator of
India is Gandhi's
country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He
was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries
contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped
the liberatory movements in both colonial theaters.
He is the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary. His strategy
of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated
only if we cooperate with our dominators, and his nonviolent
resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements
internationally in our century.
Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression, and both of
us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that
violated our freedoms.
The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the
African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power
it generated and the unity it forged among the apparently
powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major
African coalitions, and the South African A.N.C. remained
implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence.
Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian
strategy for as long as I could, but then there came a point
in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could
no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We
founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to
our struggle. Even then, we chose sabotage because it did
not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope
for future race relations. Militant action became part of
the African agenda officially supported by the Organization
of African Unity (O.A.U.) following my address to the Pan-African
Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962,
in which I stated, "Force is the only language the imperialists
can hear, and no country became free without some sort of
Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly.
He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He
said, "Where choice is set between cowardice and violence,
I would advise violence... I prefer to use arms in defense
of honor rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor ..."
Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is
the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle.
Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 at the age of 23. Within
a week he collided head on with racism. His immediate response
was to flee the country that so degraded people of color,
but then his inner resilience overpowered him with a sense
of mission, and he stayed to redeem the dignity of the racially
exploited, to pave the way for the liberation of the colonized
the world over and to develop a blueprint for a new social
He left 21 years later, a near maha atma (great soul). There
is no doubt in my mind that by the time he was violently removed
from our world, he had transited into that state.