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Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela OM, CC, AC, QC : (born July 18, 1918) was the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections. Before his presidency he was a prominent anti-apartheid activist who, while imprisoned for 27 years, was involved in the planning of underground armed resistance activities. The armed struggle was, for Mandela, a necessary last resort; he had remained steadfastly committed to non-violence.

Through his 27-year imprisonment, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely-known figure in the struggle against South African apartheid. Although the apartheid regime and nations sympathetic to it considered him and the ANC to be communists and terrorists, the armed struggle was an integral part of the overall campaign against apartheid. The switch in policy to that of reconciliation, which Mandela pursued upon his release in 1990, facilitated a peaceful transition to fully-representative democracy in South Africa.

Having received over a hundred awards over four decades, Mandela is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on topical issues. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela. Many South Africans also refer to him reverently as 'mkhulu' (grandfather).

Nelson Mandela Interview 1961

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Early life

Mandela was born to a Thembu family in the small village of Mvezo in the Mthatha district, capital of the Transkeian Territories of the Cape Province of the Union of South Africa. Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a councillor to the Thembu king (a position he was groomed for from his birth and which Mandela was also destined to inherit). Mandela's father was instrumental in the ascension to the Thembu throne of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who would later return this favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Gadla's death. In total, Mandela's father had four wives, with whom he fathered a total of thirteen children (four boys and nine girls). Mandela was born to Gadla's third wife ('third' by a complex royal ranking system), Nosekeni Fanny in whose umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood.

At seven years of age, Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend a school, where he was given the name "Nelson", after the British admiral Horatio Nelson, by a Methodist teacher. His father died of tuberculosis when Rolihlahla was nine, and the Regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian. Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school next door to the palace of the regent. Following Thembu custom, he was initiated at age sixteen, and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute, learning about Western culture. He completed his Junior Certificate in two years, instead of the usual three.

At age nineteen, in 1937, Mandela moved to Healdtown, the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort, which most Thembu royalty attended, and took an interest in boxing and running. After matriculating, he started to study for a B.A. at the Fort Hare University, where he met Oliver Tambo, and the two became lifelong friends and colleagues.

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At the end of his first year, he became involved in a boycott of the Students' Representative Council against the university policies, and was asked to leave Fort Hare. Shortly after this, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the Regent's own son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them. Both young men were displeased by this and rather than marry, they elected to flee the comforts of the Regent's estate to the only place they could: Johannesburg. Upon his arrival in Johannesburg, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine. However, this was quickly terminated after the employer learned that Mandela was the Regent's runaway adopted son. He then managed to find work as an articled clerk at a law firm thanks to connections with his friend and fellow lawyer Walter Sisulu. While working, he completed his degree at the University of South Africa (UNISA) via correspondence, after which he started with his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. During this time Mandela lived in a township called Alexandra.

Political activity

After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party with its apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela was prominent in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the fundamental program of the anti-apartheid cause. During this time, Mandela and fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo operated the law firm of Mandela and Tambo, providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many blacks who would otherwise have been without legal representation.

Initially committed to non-violent mass struggle, Mandela was arrested with 150 others on 5 December 1956, and charged with treason. The marathon Treason Trial of 1956–61 followed, and all were acquitted. From 1952–59 the ANC experienced disruption as a new class of Black activists (Africanists) emerged in the townships demanding more drastic steps against the National Party regime. The ANC leadership of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu felt not only that events were moving too fast, but also that their leadership was being challenged. They consequently bolstered their position by alliances with small White, Coloured and Indian political parties in an attempt to appear to have a wider appeal than the Africanists. The 1955 Freedom Charter Kliptown Conference was ridiculed by the Africanists for allowing the 100,000-strong ANC to be relegated to a single vote in a Congress alliance, in which four secretary-generals of the five participating parties were members of the secretly reconstituted South African Communist Party (SACP), the most slavish of all communist parties to the Moscow line.

In 1959, the ANC lost its most militant support when most of the Africanists, with financial support from Ghana and significant political support from the Transvaal-based Basotho, broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) under Robert Sobukwe and Potlako Leballo. Following the massacre of PAC supporters at Sharpeville, in March 1960, and the subsequent banning of PAC and ANC, the ANC/SACP followed the African Resistance Movement (renegade liberals) and PAC into armed resistance. Luthuli, criticised for inertia, was peripheralised, and the ANC/SACP used the All-In African Conference of 1961, where all parties met to decide a joint strategy, for Mandela to issue a dramatic call to arms, announcing the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, modeled on the Jewish guerrilla movement, Irgun, and commanded by Mandela with SACP Jewish activists Denis Goldberg, Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein, and Harold Wolpe.

Mandela then left the country secretly and met African leaders in Algeria and elsewhere. Startled to discover the depth of support for the PAC and the widespread belief that the ANC was a small Xhosa tribal association manipulated by White communists, Mandela returned to South Africa determined to reassert the African nationalist element in the Congress Alliance. It is widely suspected that a heated discussion with the communist leaders over this issue led to his subsequent betrayal and arrest near Howick. Mandela glossed over these events in his autobiography but at least one prominent SACP activist associated with him at that time was cold-shouldered on his return to South Africa

View of Robben Island and Cape Town, South Africa


View of Cape Town and Robben Island from Table Mountain where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned

Arrest and imprisonment

In 1961, he became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated as Spear of the Nation, also abbreviated MK), which he co-founded. He co-ordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets, and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid. A few decades later, MK did indeed wage a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s. Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad, and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.

On 5 August 1962, he was arrested after living on the run for seventeen months and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. William Blum, a former U.S. State Department employee, says that the CIA tipped off the police as to Mandela's whereabouts. Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance. On 25 October 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. Two years later on 11 June 1964, a verdict had been reached concerning his previous engagement in the African National Congress (ANC).

While Mandela was in prison, police arrested prominent ANC leaders on 11 July 1963, at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, north of Johannesburg. Mandela was brought in, and at the Rivonia Trial, Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Walter Mkwayi (who escaped during trial), Arthur Goldreich (who escaped from prison before trial), Denis Goldberg and Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein were charged by Percy Yutar with the capital crimes of sabotage and crimes equivalent to treason, but which were easier for the government to prove.

In his statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the trial on 20 April 1964 at Pretoria Supreme Court, Mandela laid out the clarity of reasoning in the ANC's choice to use violence as a tactic. His statement revealed how the ANC had used peaceful means to resist apartheid for years until the Sharpeville Massacre. That event coupled with the referendum establishing the Republic of South Africa and the declaration of a state of emergency along with the banning of the ANC made it clear that their only choice was to resist through acts of sabotage. Doing otherwise would have been tantamount to unconditional surrender. Mandela went on to explain how they developed the Manifesto of Umkhonto on 16 December 1961 intent on exposing the failure of the National Party's policies after the economy would be threatened by foreigners' unwillingness to risk investing in the country. He closed his statement with these words:

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the 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. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.[1]

Bram Fischer, Vernon Berrange, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos were part of the defence team that represented the accused. Harold Hanson was brought in at the end of the case to plead mitigation. All except Rusty Bernstein were found guilty, but they escaped the gallows and were sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. Charges included involvement in planning armed action, in particular four charges of sabotage, which Mandela admitted to, and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa, which Mandela denied.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he was destined to remain for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. It was there he wrote the bulk of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. However, Mandela did not reveal anything about the alleged complicity of Frederik de Klerk in the violence of the eighties and nineties, or the role of his ex-wife Winnie Mandela in that bloodshed. However, he later co-operated with his friend the journalist Anthony Sampson who discussed those issues in Mandela: The Authorised Biography. While in prison, Mandela was able to maintain contact with the ANC, which published a statement from him on 10 June 1980, reading in part:

Unite! Mobilize! Fight on! Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid![2]

Refusing an offer of conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle in February 1985, Mandela remained in prison until sustained ANC and international campaigning with the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela! culminated in his release in February 1990. State President Frederik de Klerk simultaneously ordered Mandela's release, and the ending of the ban on the ANC.

On the day of his release, 11 February 1990, Mandela made a speech to the nation. While declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country's white minority, he made it clear that the ANC's armed struggle was not yet over:

"Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle."

But he also said his main focus was to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.

ANC presidency and presidency of South Africa

South Africa's first democratic elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won the majority in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated as the country's first black State President, with the National party's de Klerk as his deputy president in the Government of National Unity.

As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

However, his administration attracted some criticism, particularly when South Africa invaded Lesotho in September 1998 while he was still President.

Nelson Mandela encouraged non-white South Africans to get behind the previously hated South African national rugby union team as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Nelson Mandela wearing a Springbok shirt presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.

Certain interest groups were also disappointed with the social achievements of his term of office, particularly the government's ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis.

After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He has taken many opportunities since to highlight this South African tragedy.

International diplomacy

President Mandela took a particular interest in helping to resolve the long-running dispute between Libya on the one hand, and the United States and Britain on the other, over bringing to trial the two Libyans who were accused of sabotaging Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988 with the loss of 270 lives. In November 1994, Mandela offered South Africa as a neutral venue for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial but the offer was rejected by British Prime Minister John Major. A further three years elapsed until Mandela's offer was repeated to Major's successor, Tony Blair, when the president visited London in July 1997. Later the same year, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Edinburgh in October 1997, Mandela warned: "No one nation should be complainant, prosecutor and judge." A compromise solution was then agreed for a trial to be held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, governed by Scots law, and President Mandela began negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi for the handover of the two accused (Megrahi and Fhimah) in April 1999.

At the end of their nine-month trial, the verdict was announced on 31 January 2001. Fhimah was acquitted but Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in a Scottish jail. Megrahi's appeal was turned down in March 2002, and former president Mandela went to visit him in Barlinnie prison on 10 June 2002. "Megrahi is all alone," Mandela told a packed press conference in the prison's visitors room. "He has nobody he can talk to. It is psychological persecution that a man must stay for the length of his long sentence all alone." Mandela added: "It would be fair if he were transferred to a Muslim country — and there are Muslim countries which are trusted by the west. It will make it easier for his family to visit him if he is in a place like the kingdom of Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt." Megrahi was subsequently moved to Greenock jail and is no longer in solitary confinement. His case is currently being reviewed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is expected to rule that Megrahi's case should be referred back to the Scottish High Court of Justiciary for a fresh appeal.


Mandela has been married three times. His first marriage was to Evelyn Ntoko Mase who, like Mandela, was also from what later became the Transkei area of South Africa; although they actually met in Johannesburg. The couple had three children, educated at the Waterford Kamhlaba but they broke up in 1957 after 13 years, divorcing under the multiple strains of his constant absences, devotion to revolutionary agitation, and the fact she was a Jehovah's Witness, so she pursued a purely neutral position to political struggle and politics generally in reliance on her faith (viz., Jehovah's Witnesses believe their sole political loyalty is owed to God and His Kingdom yet to come, so they are pacificists and non-participants in all kinds of political affairs).

Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, also came from the Transkei area, although they, too, met in Johannesburg, where she was the city's first black social worker. Later, Winnie would be deeply torn by family discord which mirrored the country's political strife: while her husband was serving a life sentence on the Robben Island prison for terrorism and treason, her father became the agriculture minister in the Transkei. The marriage ended in separation (April 1992) and divorce (March 1996), fuelled by political estrangement.

On his 80th birthday, he married Graça Machel, widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and ANC ally killed in an air crash 12 years earlier.


After his retirement as President in 1999, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organizations. He received many foreign honours, including the Order of Merit and the Order of St. John from Queen Elizabeth II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush.

As an example of his popular acclaim, in his tour of Canada in 1998, he included a speaking engagement in SkyDome in the city of Toronto where he spoke to 45,000 school children who greeted him with intense adulation. In 2001, he was the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen (the only previous recipient, Raoul Wallenberg, was awarded honorary citizenship posthumously). Although the government of Canada had hoped that the vote to make Mandela a citizen would be unanimous, this was not possible due to Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders who stood up in the Canadian House of Commons and claimed Mandela was a former "communist and a terrorist". [3] While in Canada, he was also made an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada, one of the few foreigners to receive Canada's highest honour.

In summer 2001, Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. He was treated with a seven week course of radiation treatment.[4]

In 2003, Mandela attacked the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration in a number of speeches, insinuating President Bush may have been motivated by racism in not following the UN and its secretary-general Kofi Annan on the issue of the War in Iraq. "Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals were white," Mandela said.[5] The comments caused a rare moment of controversy and criticism for Mandela, even among some supporters.

Later that same year, he lent his support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign, named after his prison number.

In June 2004, at age 85, Mandela announced that he would be retiring from public life. His health had been declining, and he wanted to enjoy more time with his family. He has made an exception, however, for his commitment to the fight against AIDS. In July 2004, he flew to Bangkok to speak at the XV International AIDS Conference. His son, Makgatho Mandela, died of AIDS on 6 January 2005.

Mandela has also expressed his support for the international Make Poverty History movement of which the ONE Campaign is a part.

On 23 July 2004, the city of Johannesburg bestowed its highest honour on Mandela by granting him the freedom of the city at a ceremony in Orlando, Soweto.

Today, Mandela remains a key figure to strong educational organisations that hold his ideals strongly of international understanding and peace, like the United World Colleges and the Round Square. For the IOC Celebrate Humanity Campaign for 2006 Winter Olympics Mandela appears in a spot.[6]

Orders and decorations

  • Nobel Peace Prize (1993)
  • Honorary Companion of The Order of Canada
  • Order of St. John
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Lenin Peace Prize (1990)
  • Bharat Ratna (1990)
  • Order of Merit (1995)
  • Freedom of the City of Johannesburg (2004)
  • Isithwalandwe (1992)


  • In the final scene of the 1992 American film Malcolm X, Mandela -- recently released after 27 years of political imprisonment -- appears as a schoolteacher in a classroom in Soweto. He recites a portion of one of Malcolm X's most famous speeches, including the following sentence: "We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence . . . ." The final phrase of that sentence is "by any means necessary." Mandela informed director Spike Lee that he could not utter this phrase on camera, stating that the apartheid government would somehow use it against him if he did. Lee understandingly obliged, and the final seconds of the film feature black-and-white footage of the real Malcolm X speaking the words "by any means necessary".
  • Queen and Paul Rodgers performed a song titled "Say It's Not True" in their concert Return Of The Champions, which was written for Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign. It was written by Roger Taylor, the Queen drummer.
  • The Famous Ska band The Specials, best known for their Two-Tone records promoting racial unity in England recorded a song "Free Nelson Mandela."
  • Mandela is known for his fondness of Batik textiles. He is often seen wearing Batik, even on formal occasions. Shirts in this style are fondly known as "Madiba shirts" in South Africa.
  • In 2003, Mandela's death was incorrectly announced by CNN when his pre-written obituary (along with those of several other famous figures) was inadvertently published on CNN's web site due to a lapse in password protection.
  • The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, wants a statue of Nelson Mandela installed on the north terrace of Trafalgar Square, although thus far he has run into opposition.
  • Johnny Clegg dedicated a song to Mandela entitled Asimbonanga (Mandela), in which fellow anti-apartheid activists Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett are also recognised.
  • Mandela has become a cultural icon of freedom and equality comparable with Mohandas Gandhi to many around the world.
  • Goodbye Bafana, a feature film that focuses on Mandela's life, is in production. It is due to be released in 2006.
  • As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dick Cheney voted against a congressional resolution calling for Mandela's release from prison. Years later, Mandela would call Cheney a "dinosaur."
  • Mandela spoke in the Olympics "Celebrate Humanity" campaign with the words:

For seventeen days, they are roommates. For seventeen days, they are soulmates. And for twenty-two seconds, they are competitors. Seventeen days as equals. Twenty-two seconds as adversaries. What a wonderful world that would be. That's the hope I see in the Olympic Games.

  • Mandela was made an honorary member of Manchester United as the club toured South Africa in the Summer of 2006.

References and Notes

Wiki Source

President of South Africa


he is not only a cultural icon for south Africans, he is one for any group suppressed by another group, white, black, Chinese, Vietnamese, Jew, native American, Indian, Irish, you name it.
well it wasn't fair and it was excellent seeing mr mandela happy.
he is a lovely person and he should not of got put in prison for saying that
my hero always i salute da father of our black nation, our pride and joy. hands down, true love 4 our black nation.
This is a very comprehensive compilation that must be read at least once in a lifetime, as it is full of educative, moral boosting and dedication that is worthy of emulation by anyone for posterity

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