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Nelson Mandela Biography

Posted On July 10th, 2010 By Celebrity Biographies

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the most popular names in the world. He served as the South African president from 1994 to 1999. Before his act as a president, he led the armed wing of ANC (African National Congress) called the Umkhonto We Sizwe. Being arrested in 1962, he spent 27 years in prison (most of them on Robben Island), serving charges of sabotage. After his release on February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela involved himself into negotiations, finally leading to multi-racial democracy in the year 1994. He is also referred to as ‘Madiba’ in South Africa, which is an honorary title given to him by the other elderly members of his claim. During the span of four decades, he received more than 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Early Life

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18th July, 1918. He was born in a small village called Mvezo, located in the province of Umtata. Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, Mandela’s father was the chief of this town and as soon as he protested against the colonial authorities, the chief was deprived of his rights and the family was forced to migrate to Qunu.

Nelson Mandela’s father had four wives with a total of thirteen children, nine girls and four boys. Nelson was a child of his father’s third wife called Nosekeni Fanny. His middle name ‘Rolihlahla’ meant ‘pulling a branch of a tree’, but in this context it meant ‘troublemaker’. Mandela became the first and the only member of the family to attend school and his teacher ‘Miss Mdingane’ gave him his English name ‘Nelson’. At the age of 9, Mandela lost his father due to tuberculosis. Thereafter, regent Jongintaba took care of him as a guardian.

Nelson attended the Wesleyan Mission School, which was located next to the regent’s palace. According to the Thembu custom, he attended the Clarkebury Boarding School at the age of 16. Instead of the usual three years, Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in two years. At the age of 19, he was highly interested in running and boxing at school. He later enrolled himself at the Fort Hare University for a Bachelor of Arts program. During this course, he met his lifelong friend Oliver Tambo. By the end of first year in college, he was actively involved with the Student’s Representative Council. After consistent boycott against the university policies, he was asked to leave the university and he could return only if he agreed to accept the conditions of the university. During his term at the prison, he took an external program in Bachelor of Laws from the University of London.

On his return from the Fort Hare University, the regent arranged his marriage and in protest to the arrangement, he relocated to Johannesburg. As soon as he reached Johannesburg, he was employed as a guard at the local mine. He then worked at the Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman law firm in Johannesburg.

Political Career

Nelson Mandela actively involved himself into politics after the Afrikaner-dominated party won the elections in 1948. He fought for the anti-apartheid causes and led the Defiance campaign of ANC in 1952 as well as the Congress of People in 1955. During these years, Nelson Mandela along with his lawyer Oliver Tambo started a law firm that provided free counsel to loads of blacks who lacked lawyer representation. Nelson Mandela was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s approach towards truth and non-violence. He also attended the 100th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at a conference in New Delhi in the year 2007.

Mandela became the leader of the ANC wing in the year 1961. He became the coordinator for the sabotage campaigns against government and military targets. He also made plans for a guerrilla war in case if the sabotage failed. ANC members as well as Mandela were barred an entry from United States until July 2008. They required a special waiver from the Secretary of State in US since they were designated as terrorists due to their apartheid regime.

On June 12, 1964, Mandela was sentenced to imprisonment for life. He was imprisoned at the Robben Island, where he spent 18 years out of his total 27 years in prison. While in prison, he gained a lot of reputation as an important leader in South Africa. The prisoners were separated by race and the blacks received the fewest privileges. He was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in March 1982. President Botha offered freedom to Nelson Mandela in February 1985 on the condition that he and his party members must give up armed struggle.

Marriage and Family

Nelson Mandela has been married three times and he has fathered a total of six children. He has 20 grand-children and an increasing number of great grand kids. All of his children were educated in the United World College. He was first married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase and their marriage lasted for 13 years, before they decided to break up in 1957. His second marriage was to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who happened to the first black worker in Johannesburg. The marriage ended due to separation in 1992. Thereafter, he remarried to Graça Machel née Simbine on his 80th birthday. Mandela still stays at Qunu with his royal nephew.

Nelson Mandela was elected as the oldest president of South Africa and he resumed work at the age of 75 in the year 1994. He refused to stand for the second term and took retirement in 1999. He was then succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.


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