Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela, from apartheid fighter to president and unifier

A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.

Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela emerged determined to use his prestige and charisma to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war.
"The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come," Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.
"We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation."
In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor he shared with F.W. de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who freed him from prison three years earlier and negotiated the end of apartheid.
Mandela went on to play a prominent role on the world stage as an advocate of human dignity in the face of challenges ranging from political repression to AIDS.
He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: "Don't call me. I'll call you". But he remained one of the world's most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.
Whether defending himself at his own treason trial in 1963 or addressing world leaders years later as a greying elder statesman, he radiated an image of moral rectitude expressed in measured tones, often leavened by a mischievous humor.
"He is at the epicenter of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are," Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature, once remarked.
Mandela's years behind bars made him the world's most celebrated political prisoner and a leader of mythic stature for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his country's borders.
Charged with capital offences in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities," he told the court.
"It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Destined to lead 
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, destined to lead as the son of the chief councilor to the paramount chief of the Thembu people in Transkei.
He chose to devote his life to the fight against white domination. He studied at Fort Hare University, an elite black college, but left in 1940 short of completing his studies and became involved with the African National Congress (ANC), founding its Youth League in 1944 with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.
Mandela worked as a law clerk then became a lawyer who ran one of the few practices that served blacks.
In 1952 he and others were charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act but their nine-month sentence was suspended for two years.
Mandela was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid, going underground in 1961 to form the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, or 'Spear of the Nation' in Zulu.
He left South Africa and travelled the continent and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare and building support for the ANC.
After his return in 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.
Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.
He was incarcerated on Robben Island, a penal colony off Cape Town, where he would spend the next 18 years before being moved to mainland prisons.
He was behind bars when an uprising broke out in the huge township of Soweto in 1976 and when others erupted in violence in the 1980s. But when the regime realized it was time to negotiate, it was Mandela to whom it turned.
In his later years in prison, he met President P.W. Botha and his successor de Klerk.
When he was released on February 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.
"As I finally walked through those gates ... I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over," Mandela wrote of that day.
Elections and reconciliation 
In the next four years, thousands of people died in political violence. Most were blacks killed in fighting between ANC supporters and Zulus loyal to Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, although right-wing whites also staged violent actions to upset the moves towards democracy.
Mandela prevented a racial explosion after the murder of popular Communist Party leader Chris Hani by a white assassin in 1993, appealing for calm in a national television address. That same year, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Talks between the ANC and the government began in 1991, leading to South Africa's first all-race elections on April 27, 1994.
The run-up to the vote was marred by fighting, including gun battles in Johannesburg townships and virtual war in the Zulu stronghold of KwaZulu Natal.
But Mandela campaigned across the country, enthralling adoring crowds of blacks and wooing whites with assurances that there was a place for them in the new South Africa.
The election result was never in doubt and his inauguration in Pretoria on May 10, 1994, was a celebration of a peoples' freedom.
Mandela made reconciliation the theme of his presidency. He took tea with his former jailers and won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa's national rugby team - once a symbol of white supremacy - at the final of the World Cup in 1995 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.
The hallmark of Mandela's mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated apartheid crimes on both sides and tried to heal the wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.
In 1999, Mandela, often criticized for having a woolly grasp of economics, handed over to younger leaders - a voluntary departure from power cited as an example to long-ruling African leaders.
A restful retirement was not on the cards as Mandela shifted his energies to fighting South Africa's AIDS crisis.
He spoke against the stigma surrounding the infection, while successor Thabo Mbeki was accused of failing to comprehend the extent of the crisis.
The fight became personal in early 2005 when Mandela lost his only surviving son to the disease.
But the stress of his long struggle contributed to the break-up of his marriage to equally fierce anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie.
The country shared the pain of their divorce in 1996 before watching his courtship of Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday in 1998.
Friends adored "Madiba", the clan name by which he is known.
People lauded his humanity, kindness, attention and dignity.
Unable to shake the habits of prison, Mandela rose daily between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to exercise and read. He drank little and was a fervent anti-smoker.
An amateur boxer in his younger days, Mandela often said the discipline and tactics drawn from training helped him to endure prison and the political battles after his release.
Rainbow Nation
But prison and old age took their toll on his health.
Mandela was treated in the 1980s for tuberculosis and later required an operation to repair damage to his eyes as well as treatment for prostate cancer in 2001. His spirit, however, remained strong.
"If cancer wins I will still be the better winner," he told reporters in September of that year. "When I go to the next world, the first thing I will do is look for an ANC office to renew my membership."
Most South Africans are proud of their post-apartheid multi-racial 'Rainbow Nation'.
But Mandela's legacy of tolerance and reconciliation has been threatened in recent years by squabbling between factions in the ANC and social tensions in a country that, despite its political liberation, still suffers great inequalities.
Mandela's last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he donned a fur cap in the South African winter and rode on a golf cart, waving to an exuberant crowd of 90,000 at the soccer World Cup final, one of the biggest events in the country's post-apartheid history.
"I leave it to the public to decide how they should remember me," he said on South African television before his retirement.
"But I should like to be remembered as an ordinary South African who together with others has made his humble contribution."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How will winning the World Expo 2020 bid affect Dubai's economy?

Although Dubai’s position as a world-class tourist destination has been cemented, the Expo will undoubtedly increase the city’s share of international tourism.

It has been called the largest trade show on earth. All over Dubai, we can see hopes of winning the bid to host the World Expo 2020 plastered across billboards and websites and with just a day left for the announcement, the mood across the city is upbeat. The question that needs asking however is, if Dubai does win, what impact will it have on the emirate’s economy?
Of course, there is no doubt that the country which will eventually win the coveted bid will gain significant economic, cultural, technical and promotional benefits. To understand the truth behind this statement, all we need to do is look at what the World Expo 2010 did for Shanghai. The event saw over 70 million visitors, boosted China’s tourism market and tourist spending significantly and augmented the city's GDP.

Even as Dubai waits to hear the final decision, industry experts are speculating about the ripple effects that winning the bid is likely to have on the economy, with so much being said and written about the potential boom in jobs, salaries, tourist influx and property prices. It has also been projected that the UAE economy will see overAED 100 billion in revenue and the creation of more than 200,000 jobs between 2013 and 2021.
What’s also apparent is the impact that the decision will have on the construction sector. To begin with, a 438-hectare site for hosting the World Expo 2020 will be constructed in Jebel Ali. The win will also accelerate the implementation of megaprojects such as Mohammed bin Rashid City and residential and business districts in and around Dubai World Central Airport and fast track the construction of infrastructure projects such as the Dubai Metro Purple Line.
Coming to property prices, we know that they are already on the rise. So, whilst winning the bid is sure to trigger fresh investment and spur construction given that some of the world’s landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower have been borne from international expositions, we should remember that at least with respect to real estate, the growth in Dubai’s property market started much before the Expo bid garnered widespread attention.
Hospitality will be a clear winner should the decision be made in Dubai’s favour. Although Dubai’s position as a world-class tourist destination has been cemented, the Expo will undoubtedly increase the city’s share of international tourism. Retail will also greatly benefit from the rise in resident and tourist spending, opening up the possibility of more tourism and leisure destinations in the emirate and in the UAE.
If Dubai succeeds in its bid, the impetus to the emirate’s economic growth will be enormous. However, failure to win will not prove devastating by any measure. Driven by strong fundamentals, Dubai’s economy is robust. The realty industry is growing in tandem with economic growth, improving demographics and government spending on infrastructure development. Key drivers such as trade, tourism, hospitality, logistics and retail sectors are buoyant and are in turn, driving property prices and investments. Hence, regardless of the decision tomorrow, Dubai will continue to look ahead.

Michael Lahyani is CEO and Founder of regional real estate and property website