Check Email | My Account | Contact Us

Search for on the web shopping
Mon, 26 Sep, 2022
contact us
education frontpage
a-z of references
general knowledge
plants & animals

Top links
- Sudoku
- Collectibles
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Office: President of South Africa
first elected April 27, 1994
Term in office: 1994– 1999
Preceded by: Frederik Willem de Klerk
Succeeded by: Thabo Mbeki
Date of Birth: July 18, 1918
Party: ANC
Deputy President: Frederik Willem de Klerk
and Thabo Mbeki
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela IPA: [roli'ɬaɬa] (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 committed to non-violence, but later became involved in the planning of underground armed resistance activities. Mandela's 27-year imprisonment, much of which he spent in a tiny prison cell on Robben Island, became one of the most widely publicized examples of apartheid's injustices. Although the apartheid regime and nations sympathetic to it considered him and the ANC to be terrorist, Mandela's support of the armed struggle against apartheid is now generally regarded as justified. Moreover, the policy of reconciliation Mandela pursued upon his release in 1990 facilitated a peaceful transition to 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 known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.

Jump to Page Contents

Pay as you go
No monthly charges. Access for the price of a phone call Go>


Flat rate dialup access from only 4.99 a month Go>

Surf faster from just 13.99 a month Go>

Save Even More
Combine your phone and internet, and save on your phone calls
More Info>

This weeks hot offer
24: Series 5 24: Series 5

In association with 26.97


Early life
Political activity
Arrest and imprisonment
ANC presidency and presidency of South Africa
International diplomacy
Orders and decorations

Early life - Contents

A young Nelson Mandela
A young Nelson Mandela
Mandela was born to the Thembu Xhosa family in the small village of Mvezo in the Umtata district, capital of the Transkei. Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a counsel 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 favor by informally adopting Mandela upon Gadla's death. In total, Mandela's father had four wives, with whom he sired a total of thirteen children (4 boys and 9 girls). Mandela was born to Gadla's third wife ('third' by a complex Xhosa social hierarchy), Nosekeni Fanny in whose 'kraal' 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" by a Methodist teacher. His father died when he was nine, and the Regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian. Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school next door to the palace of the Regent. Following Xhosa 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.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.

Political activity - Contents

As a young student, Mandela became involved in political opposition to the white minority government's denial of political, social, and economic rights to South Africa's black majority. Joining the African National Congress in 1942, he joined its more dynamic Youth League founded by Anton Lembede, two years later, together with Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others.
At a South African Communist Party rally with Joe Slovo
At a South African Communist Party rally with Joe Slovo
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 and 150 others were arrested on 5 December 1956, and charged with treason. The marathon Treason Trial of 1956– 61 followed, and all were acquitted. From 1952-1959 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 Lutuli, 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 justifiably 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. Lutuli, 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, modelled on the Jewish guerrilla movement, Irgun, and commanded by Mandela with SACP Jewish activists Dennis Goldberg, Rusty Bernstein, and Harold Wolpe.Mandela then left the country secretly and met African leaders in Algeria and elswhere. 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.

Arrest and imprisonment - Contents

Mandela, one of Time Magazine's people of the century.
Mandela, one of Time Magazine's people of the century.
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 August 5, 1962, he was arrested after living on the run for seventeen months and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. William Blum, a former 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 October 25, 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. Two years later on June 11, 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 July 11, 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), Dennis Goldberg and Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein were charged with the capital crimes of sabotage and crimes equivalent to treason, but which were easier for the government to prove. 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 sabotage, which Mandela admitted to, and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa, which Mandela denied. Over the course of the next twenty-six years, Mandela became increasingly associated with opposition to apartheid to the point where the slogan "Free Nelson Mandela" became the rallying cry for all anti-apartheid campaigners around the world.While in prison, Mandela was able to send a statement to the ANC who in turn published it on 10 June 1980, reading in part:
Unite! Mobilise! Fight on! Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid! [1]
Refusing an offer of conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle in February 1985, Mandela remained in prison until February 1990, when sustained ANC campaigning and international pressure led to his release on February 11, when State President F.W. de Klerk ordered his release and the ending of the ban on the ANC. He and De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He became the third of only three persons of non-Indian origin ( Mother Teresa in 1980, a naturalised Indian citizen, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1987, a non-Indian, being the others) to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1990. Mandela had already been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1988.On the day of his release, February 11, 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: He also stated that his main focus was to give peace to the Black people and give them the right to vote in National and Provincal elections.
"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."

ANC presidency and presidency of South Africa - Contents

South Africa's first democratic elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on April 27, 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 FW de Klerk as his deputy president in the Government of National Unity.As President, (May 1994 – 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.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 - Contents

Nelson Mandela negotiated with Colonel Gaddafi to help bring about the Lockerbie trial
Nelson Mandela negotiated with Colonel Gaddafi to help bring about the Lockerbie trial
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 December 21, 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.
Mandela with Communist leader Fidel Castro
Mandela with Communist leader Fidel Castro
At the end of their nine-month trial, the verdict was announced on January 31, 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 June 10, 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.

Marriages - Contents

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 her reliance on the Jehovah's Witnesses movement, which maintained a neutral stance to political struggle.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.

Retirement - Contents

Former United States Vice President Al Gore meets with Mandela.
Former United States Vice President Al Gore meets with Mandela.
After his retirement as President in 1999, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organisations. 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 foreigner to be made an honourary Canadian citizen (the first, Raoul Wallenberg, was posthumously made a Canadian citizen). Although the government of Canada had hoped that the vote to make Mandela a citizen would be unanimous, this was not possible due to Reform MP Rob Anders who stood up in the Canadian House of Commons and claimed Mandela was a former "communist and a terrorist". [2] 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 2003, Mandela attacked the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration in a number of speeches, going so far as calling Bush a racist for not following the UN and its secretary-general Kofi Annan (who is African) 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. [3] 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 eldest 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 July 23, 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. [4]

Orders and decorations - Contents

  • Nobel Peace Prize (1993)
  • Honorary Companion of The Order of Canada
  • Order of St. John
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Lenin Peace Prize (1962)
  • Bharat Ratna (1990)
  • Order of Merit (1995)
  • Freedom of the City of Johannesburg (2004)
See also the List of awards bestowed on Nelson Mandela.

Trivia - Contents

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. 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 oppositionMandela made a cameo appearance in the 1992 film Malcolm X, playing a teacher. He also had a Johnny Clegg song dedicated to him, Asimbonanga (Mandela), in which fellow anti-apartheid activists Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett are also recognized. He has become a cultural icon of freedom and equality comparable with Mohandas Gandhi to many around the world.
Change Text Size:
[A] [default] [A]

go back print page email to a friend make us your home page

about | terms of use | contact us
© 2022