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
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
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
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
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,