Nelson Mandela Biography: Early life, Education, Work, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Presidency, Awards and Honours, and more
Nelson Mandela Biography: In 2009, United Nations officially declared to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18 through a resolution in the General Assembly. The day celebrates the life and works of Nelson Mandela via volunteering and community service.
Nelson Mandela's full name is Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He was a Black nationalist and the first Black president of South Africa. In 1993, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
In the early 1990s, his negotiations with South African President F.W. de Klerk helped end the apartheid system of racial segregation in the country and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule.
Full Name: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Born: July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa
Died: December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Office: President of South Africa (1994-1999)
Political Affiliation: African National Congress Umkhonto we Sizwe
Awards and Honours: Nobel Prize (1993)
Nelson Mandela: Early Life and Work
He was born on July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, then part of South Africa's Cape Province. He was the son of Chief Henry Mandela of the Madiba clan of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people.
After the death of his father, he was raised by Jongintaba, the regent of the Tembu. To become a lawyer, he renounced his claim to the chieftainship.
He took admission to South African Native College (Later The University of Fort Hare). He studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand and later passed the qualification exam to become a lawyer.
He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 which was a Black-liberation group. He became a leader of its Youth League. In the same year, he married Evelyn Ntoko Mase.
He got another leadership position in ANC with which he helped to revitalize the organisation and oppose the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party.
With ANC leader Oliver Tambo, he established South Africa’s first Black law practice in 1952 which was specialising in cases resulting from the post-1948 apartheid legislation.
In the same year, he also played a significant role in launching a campaign of defiance against South Africa's pass laws. It required nonwhites to carry documents which were known as passes that authorised their presence in areas that the government deemed "restricted" mainly reserved for the white population.
He travelled across the country and tried to build support for nonviolent means of protest against the discriminatory laws.
He was also involved in drafting the Freedom Charter in 1955. It was a document calling for nonracial social democracy in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela: Antiapartheid activism and Trial
His antiapartheid activism made him a frequent target of the authorities. In the starting of 1952, he was intermittently banned that is he was restricted in travel, association, and speech. He was arrested in December 1956 with more than a hundred other people on charges of treason that were designed to harass antiapartheid activists.
In the same year, he went on trial and eventually was acquitted in 1961. During the extended court proceedings, he divorced his first wife and married Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela (Winnie Madikizela-Mandela).
Nelson Mandela: The Rivonia Trial and Underground activity
In 1960, after the massacre of unarmed Black South Africans by police forces at Sharpeville and also the banning of the ANC, Nelson Mandela abandoned his nonviolent method and started advocating acts of sabotage against the South African regime.
He went underground and was one of the founders of the military wing of the ANC named Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”).
Then, he went to Algeria in 1962 for training purposes in guerrilla warfare and sabotage, and later that year, he returned to South Africa. Shortly after his return, he was arrested at a roadblock in Natal on August 5 and was sentenced to five years in prison.
The imprisoned Mandela and various other men were tried to sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy in the infamous Rivonia Trial in October 1963. It was named after a fashionable suburb of Johannesburg where police raid and discovered quantities of arms and equipment at the headquarters of the underground Umkhonto we Sizwe.
He admitted the truth of some of the charges in the speech given from the doc and this was made against him. It was a classic defense of liberty and defiance of tyranny. His speech got attention at the international level and was published later that year as I Am Prepared to Die.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 12, 1964 narrowly escaping the death penalty.
Nelson Mandela: Incarceration
He was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town from 1964 to 1982. He was kept at maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison until 1988. Then, after being treated for tuberculosis, he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.
During his incarceration period, he received wide support from South Africa's Black population and his imprisonment became a cause celebre among the international community that condemned apartheid.
After 1983, the political situation in South Africa's deteriorated, and particularly after 1988, he was engaged by ministers of Pres. P.W Botha's government in exploratory negotiations. In December 1989, he met with Botha's successor, de Klerk.
The South African government released Mandela from prison under President de Klerk on February 11, 1990. Shortly after the release, he was chosen deputy president of the ANC.
In July 1991, he became the president of the party. He led the ANC in negotiations with de Klerk to end apartheid and bring a peaceful transition to nonracial democracy in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela: Presidency
The Nelson Mandela-led ANC won South Africa's first election in April 1994 by universal suffrage and he was sworn in as the country's first multiethnic government president on May 10.
In 1995, he established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which investigated human rights violations under apartheid. He also introduced several initiatives including housing, education, and economic development to improve the living standards of the country's Black population.
He oversaw the enactment of a new democratic constitution in 1996. In December 1997, he resigned from the post and transferred the leadership of his party to his designated successor, Thabo Mbeki.
In 1996, he had a divorce from Madikizela-Mandela. He again married Graca Machel in 1998. She was the widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and leader of Frelimo.
Nelson Mandela: Retirement
He did not seek a second term as South African president and in 1999 was succeeded by Mbeki. After leaving the office, he retired from active politics.
He maintained a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, and social justice through the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation which was established in 1999.
He was also the founding member of the Elders. It is a group of international leaders that was established in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem-solving throughout the world.
Mandela Day or Nelson Mandela International Day
The day is observed on the birthday of Nelson Mandela. It was created to honour his legacy by promoting community service around the world. The first time, it was observed on July 18, 2009 and was sponsored primarily by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the 46664 initiative. Later that year, the United Nations declared that the day would be observed every year as Nelson Mandela International Day.
Nelson Mandela: Writings, Speeches and Autiobraghy
His writings and speeches were collected in I Am Prepared to Die, No Easy Walk to Freedom, The Struggle is My Life and In His Own Words.
In 1994, the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom which shows his early life and years in prison was published. Also, an unfinished draft of his second volume of memoirs which was then completed by Mandla Langa was released posthumously as Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years (2017).
He died on December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.