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Monday, 14 March 2016

Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela was born in Mvezo, Transkei South Africa on July 18, 1918 to a Thembu royal family. He had thirteen siblings by the same father. His parents were Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa and Nosekeni Nonqaphi.

Mandela's original name was Rolihlahla Mandela. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker.

The name "Nelson" was given to him by his teacher Miss Mdingane on his first day of elementary school. African children were given English names so colonial masters could pronounce them easily.

Nelson Mandela was brought up and educated by Methodists and other Christian missionaries.

Mandela's father died when he was twelve. Mandela then lived with the local regent.

Mandela c. 1937

He was temporary suspended from Fort Hare University in 1941 for refusing to rejoin the student's council after a peaceful protest about better food. Mandela left without receiving a degree.


After leaving university, Mandela found a job as a night watchman at a mine.

He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and opened the first black legal firm in South Africa, with fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo in 1952. Mandela gave free legal counsel to many blacks.

In 1944, Mandela helped start the African National Congress Youth League. He was soon a high-ranked leader of the group.

Mandela wasn't removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 - aged 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.


Nelson Mandela was arrested in August 1962 near the South African town of Howick for conspiring to overthrow the state. He was detained wearing a chauffeur’s uniform — just one of the disguises he used while on the run, when he was dubbed the ‘Black Pimpernel.’

On October 25, 1962 Nelson Mandela was convicted of high treason and sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.

While he was in prison, Mandela would read William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus to fellow prisoners. The poem, about never giving up, resonated with Mandela for its lines "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." You may know it from the movie by the same name.

The inside of Mandela's prison cell as it was when he was imprisoned in 1964 and his open cell window facing the prison yard on Robben Island,. Mandela's cell later contained more furniture, including a bed from around 1973. By Witstinkhout - Own work, Wikipedia Commons

In March 1980 the slogan "Free Mandela!" was developed by journalist Percy Qoboza, sparking an international campaign that led the UN Security Council to call for his release.

Mandela's 70th birthday in July 1988 attracted international attention, notably with the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at London's Wembley Stadium.

Nelson Mandela met South African president F.W. de Klerk for the first time on December 13, 1989.

A political prisoner for 27 years, Mandela was finally released from Victor Verster Prison near Paarl, South Africa on February 11, 1990. Leaving the jail, Mandela held his wife Winnie's hand in front of amassed crowds and press; the event was broadcast live across the world.

Schooled in a biblical ethos Madela was able to forgive those who allowed him to languish in a tiny prison cell for 27 years to which the up-and-coming lawyer had been sentenced because of his determination to win justice for South Africa's oppressed black community.


Politically a believer in socialism, Mandela served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.

Nelson Mandela won the 1994 general election. His inauguration was in Pretoria on May 10, 1994. Mandela was the first South African President elected in a completely democratic election and the first modern black president of his country.

Mandela casting his vote in the 1994 election

The 74th award of the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Nelson Mandela and former South African President F. W. de Klerk, on October 15, 1993 for their work to end apartheid.

Mandela adopted a new Constitution of South African in 1996 that prohibited all discrimination, based on race, language, religion, handicap and sexual orientation.

Mandela gave his farewell speech on March 29, 1999. His term ended on June 14, 1999 and Thabo Mbeki succeeded Mandela as President of South Africa.


Nelson Mandela was a heavyweight boxer in his younger years. He continued to train while he was in prison. "I did not like the violence of boxing. I was more interested in the science of it - how you move your body to protect yourself, how you use a plan to attack and retreat, and how you pace yourself through a fight," he said in his biography.

Mandela's first marriage was to Evelyn Mase. They tied the knot on October 5, 1944, after initially living with her relatives, they rented House no. 8115 in Orlando from early 1946. Mandela filed for divorce in January 1958; the divorce was finalized two months later with their three children placed in Evelyn's care.

Mandela and Evelyn in 1944, at Walter and Albertina Sisulu's wedding party in the Bantu Men's Social Centre

During the divorce proceedings, he began courting and politicizing a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, whom he married in Bizana on June 14, 1958. He divorced her in 1992 after she was convicted of kidnapping. Six years later, he married Graca Machel on his 80th birthday.

Mandela and Winnie Madikizela at their wedding

Before tying the knot with Mandela, Grace Machel was first lady of Mozambique from 1975 to 1986, when her husband president Samora Machel was killed in a plane crash. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband's death meant she has been the first lady of two nations.

At the very end of Spike Lee's 1992 biopic Malcolm X, , Mandela played a teacher reciting Malcolm X's famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn't say "by any means necessary.” So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the movie.

Mandela moved into Westbrooke Manor near his presidential office at Tuynhuys in Cape Town.. Westbrooke was renamed Genadendal.  He also had a house built in his home village of Qunu. Mandela visited Qunu regularly, walking around the area, meeting with local people who lived there, and judging tribal problems.

Despite his surroundings, Mandela lived simply, donating a third of his $552,000 wealth to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which he had founded in 1995.

His autobiography Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1995.

His favorite dish was tripe. Yup, the stomach lining of farm animals.

Nelson Mandela's favorite breakfast was plain porridge, with fresh fruit and fresh milk.


Nelson Mandela retired from public life in June 1999 at the age of 85 and started residing in his birth place.

Nelson Mandela on the eve of his 90th birthday in Johannesburg in May 2008

In 2001, he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

Mandela remained on the U.S. terror watch list until he was 89. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a bill removing Mandela’s name from it.

The 2009 movie Invictus starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela. told the story of Nelson's interest in the South African Rugby team as a unifying force for his country.

Mandela made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.
After being in and out of hospital several time for a continuous lung infections, he was discharged on September 1, 2013 though his condition remained unstable. Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at his Houghton Estate home in Johannesburg from the lung infection. He was 95 years old.

On December 6th President Jacob Zuma announced a national mourning for ten days. He declared Sunday December 8th, a national day of prayer.

Mandela was buried in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Qunu is where he grew up.

Queen Elizabeth II honored Mandela with a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey in early 2014. This made Mandela the first non-British person to be honored at Westminster Abbey.

Here is a list of songs inspired by Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid campaigners


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