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Mandela: A Biography Paperback – March 29, 2011
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Like any biography the author goes over Mandela's childhood and into his teen years, then transitions into the formative adult years where Mandela's disgust of oppressive government evolved. We hear of his life fighting against the government and about his years imprisoned, his role in forming a new government while working with the same government that oppressed the South African people, and his time as president of the new system he formed. We learn not only about Mandela's life but also the system in which he grew up and the politics of the times.
One complaint I have is that in the first quarter of the book many names, towns, phrases etc. are discussed which come from various cultures and languages I am unfamiliar with and it would have been helpful to have pronunciation included. I also would have enjoyed more information on his presidential years which I think the author only skimmed through.
I believe this is the hardest book I have ever read, which made it the most satisfying as well. It is definitely a tough read and one to take seriously.
Long live Madiba!
The book had refreshed my memory on many issues of which I was not aware. The biography does not only describe Nelson Mandela's experiences and suffering under the minority white Nationalist Party rule but goes back even further.
The author goes into incredible detail about Mandela's tragic past,his imprisonment and acquittal during the infamous Treason Trial of 1956 which lasted five years. It portrays Mandela's incredible personality. His dedication in his fight against the suffering of his people under apartheid and the personal sacrifices he made was amazing and well described in the book. He harbored no hate for his former oppressors and those who were responsible for his imprisonment and even on occasions physical abuse.
At the same time as appears later in the book, the author also describes vividly Nelson Mandela's weaknesses and how his notorious ex-wife Winnie Mandela had been unfaithful to him and was also an accessory to murder and torture while she had strong influence in the running of the Mandela Football Club which was nothing but a band of vigilantes and thugs who carried out her bidding and desire for power.
Despite these various blemishes, Mandela had the strength of character to prevent a blood bath between white and black during the critical transition period towards black majority rule. It is doubtful if any leader would have achieved what Nelson Mandela had achieved in this sphere. Of course one must also praise Frederik de Klerk the president at the time for his contribution despite the differences in approach between these two men and the animosity that Nelson Mandela had against de Klerk.
The African National Congress (ANC)which was had a non-racial platform and had an almost impeccable ideology against racism is not the same today as it was 100 years ago. It has now become a corrupt and autocratic party filled with party hacks who have no talent or education to lead South Africa into a just, non racist society. This is made clear. The ANC is in moral decline. The attitudes towards AIDS by Thabo Mbeki, Mandela's successor and his Health Minister Misimang were unscientific, destructive and totally unhelpful in solving the problem. The crime rate in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. Today the ANC is composed of "fat cats" out for the money and oblivious to the severe problems that need to be solved.
The present President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, with his criminal baggage and his sexual capers is no credit to South Africa's image either.
The book is excellent reading and despite its close to 800 pages, it was never long winded or boring. Non South Africans may find the book a bit too detailed but if one had lived through the apartheid years and had played a minuscule part in its demise will find this book an excellent read.