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Nelson Mandela


South African Statesman & President

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - A Stan Klos Company

 President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Source: Office of the President, August 1998, South Africa

Nelson Mandela was born on 18 of July 1918 at Mvezo, near Qunu, the son of Nonqaphi Nosekeni and
Henry Mgadla Mandela, chief councillor to the paramount chief of the Tembu. He spent his early
childhood in the Transkei, being groomed to become a chief. In 1930, when his father died, Mandela was
placed under the care of his guardian and cousin, David Dalindyebo, the acting paramount chief of the

Mandela matriculated at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School, and after matriculating there attended
Fort Hare University College where he met Oliver Tambo. At Fort Hare he became involved in student
politics and was expelled in 1940 as a result of participating in a student protest.

Mandela left the Transkei, partly to avoid an arranged marriage, and moved to Johannesburg where he
was employed as a mine policeman. Shortly after, he met Walter Sisulu who assisted him in obtaining
articles with a legal firm. Completing a BA degree by correspondence in 1941, he then began studying
for a law degree which he did not complete. In December 1952, Mandela and Oliver Tambo opened the
first African legal partnership in the country.

Together with Sisulu and Tambo, Mandela participated in the founding of the African National Congress
Youth League in 1944; in 1948 he served as its national secretary and in 1950 became its national

He became one of four Deputy Presidents of the ANC in October 1952 by virtue of his being President of
one of the Provinces, namely Transvaal.

In December 1952 Mandela and a 19 others were arrested and charged under the Suppression of
Communism Act for their participation in the Defiance Campaign. They were sentenced to nine months
imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years. He was later served with a banning order
prohibiting him from attending meetings for six months, or from leaving the Johannesburg magisterial
district. For the following nine years his banning orders were continually renewed.

In December 1956 Mandela was one of the 156 political activists arrested and charged with high treason
for the campaign leading to the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955. The trial lasted four and a half
years, during which time charges against many of the accused were dropped, and it ended on 25 March
1961, when Mandela and 29 others were found not guilty. As well as being accused, Mandela played a
legal role in the trial after the original defence lawyers withdrew during the 1960 state of emergency.

In 1958 he married Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela. They have two daughters; Zenani and Zindzi. They
divorced in 1996.

Mandela has a son, Makgatho, and a daughter, Makaziwe, from his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko, a
nurse. Their third child, Thembi, was killed in a car accident while Mandela was in prison.

Mandela was instrumental in a number of protest actions and campaigns, including the anti-pass law
campaigns. He addressed international audiences and travelled widely to gain support for the struggle
against apartheid.

He returned to South Africa in July 1962, and on 5 August was captured near Howick, Natal. He was
tried and sentenced to five years imprisonment for incitement to strike and illegally leaving the country.

While Mandela was in prison, police raided the underground headquarters of the African National
Congress at Lilliesleaf Farm, Rivonia and arrested central ANC leaders.

Police found documents relating to the manufacture of explosives, Mandela’s diary of and copies of a
draft memorandum - Operation Mayibuye - which outlined a possible strategy for guerrilla struggle.

The Rivonia trial commenced in October 1963 and Mandela joined the other accused being tried for
sabotage, conspiracy to overthrow the government by revolution.

Mandela’s statement from the dock received worldwide publicity. On 12 June 1964, all eight of the
accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Over these years, the ANC in exile campaigned name to draw attention to the repressive actions of the
apartheid government. On Robben Island itself, Mandela, who was kept in isolation cells along with other
senior leaders, continued to exercise leadership in the education of fellow prisoners and attending to
political questions facing the organisation. Contact was maintained with the leadership of the ANC in

In 1988, Mandela was transferred to a house in the grounds of the Victor Verster Prison, near Paarl,
when it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis.

From July 1986 onwards, Mandela initiated contact with government representatives, which eventually led
to his meeting with State President PW Botha in July 1989 at Tuynhuys. In December 1989 he met the
new State President, FW de Klerk.

On 2 February 1990, the ANC, the South African Communist Party, the PAC and other anti-apartheid
organisations were unbanned. Mandela was released from jail on Sunday, 11 February 1990. Upon his
release, Mandela resumed his leadership role in the ANC. The National Executive Committee appointed
him Deputy President. He undertook a tour of the country, addressing the biggest rallies ever seen in the
country’s history, and helped re-establish the ANC as a legal organisation.

He led the ANC in negotiations with the South African government which culminated in the adoption of
the interim constitution in November 1993.

Mandela led the ANC campaign in the 1994 elections, in which the ANC won with a 62% majority. On
Monday, 9 May 1994, Mandela was elected President of the Republic of South Africa by the National
Assembly in Cape Town and sworn in the following day, 10 May 1994, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The inauguration brought together the largest number of Heads of State since the funeral of former US
President John Kennedy, in 1963.

President Mandela has been awarded numerous honours and many honorary degrees. He is a recipient
of the Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Executive Deputy President Frederick W de Klerk, who
was State President when the award was given.

In June 1994, President Mandela undertook to donate one-third of his annual salary, R150 000,00 to The
Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which was established to address the needs of marginalised youth.

On July 18, 1998 President Mandela married Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambique President,
Samora Machel.


Important Dates in the Life of President Nelson Mandela


1918, July 18 - Date of Birth
1941 - Graduated with BA and went on to begin study for LLB at Wits after which he established the first Black Law firm in Johannesburg in partnership with the Late Oliver Tambo.
1944 - Was among young ANC militants who founded the ANC Youth League.
1948 - Elected National Secretary of the ANC Youth League.
1949 - Elected into the National Executive Committee of the ANC.
1950 - Elected national President of the ANC Youth League.
1952 - Appointed National Volunteer-in Chief of the Defiance Campaign organised to openly defy selected unjust laws. The Campaign started on 26 June 1952. Mandela was subsequently charged and convicted and sentenced to nine months hard labour suspended for two years.
1956 - Charged with 156 other leaders for High Treason.
1958 - Married to Winnie Madikizela. They have two daughters.
1960, March 21 - Sharpeville Massacre
1960, April 08 - ANC and the PAC banned (Unlawful Organisations Act).
1961, March 25 - Treason Trial ended and all accused acquitted. After the trial Mandela went underground
1961, Jan 11 - Mandela left South Africa illegally to visit a number of African countries like Ethiopia, Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria as well as Britain to canvas support for Umkhonto WeSizwe.
1962, July - Returned secretly to South Africa.
1962, Aug 05 - Arrested
1962, Nov 07 - Sentenced to five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike in May 1961.
1963, July 11 - Walter Sisulu and others arrested at Rivonia. Mandela brought back from prison to stand trial.
1964, June 12 - Sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island.
1986 - While still in prison started political negotiations with the National Party Government.
1987, Nov 05 - Govan Mbeki released.
1989, Oct 15 - Sisulu and other leaders (except Mandela) released.
1990, Feb 02 - ANC and other organisations unbanned.
1990, Feb 11 - Mandela released and subsequently elected Deputy President of the ANC.
1990, May - First official talks between the Government and the ANC in Cape Town. Mandela led ANC delegation.
1991, July - Mandela elected ANC President.
1991, Dec - Mandela led ANC delegation to the first All Party Talks (CODESA) at the World Trade Centre
1994, April 27 - First democratic elections in South Africa.
1994, May 09   to 1999, June 17- Mandela elected President by the National Assembly.
1994, May 10 - Mandela inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically-elected President.
1994, June 16 - Established the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and pledged to donate R150 000 per year.
1998, July 18 - Marries Graca Machel

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