Early life and education
Although the life and times of Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela is loaded with struggle, his early life was full of fun. He was born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. His father died when he was a child and has to work as a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni. There he was privileged to listen to stories about his ancestor’s valour during the wars of resistance against colonisation of the continent and thought of making his own contribution to the struggle for freedom.
He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom of giving all school children Christian names. He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and headed to Wesleyan Secondary School, Healdtown.
Nelson Mandela began his studies for Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University College of Fort Hare, but was expelled for taking part in a student protest. He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.
Mandela fled with his cousin to Johannesburg when he had altercation with the king at the Great Place at Mkhekezweni for failing to complete his education at Fort Hare. In Johannesburg, he worked as a mine security officer. He met Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, who introduced him to Lazar Sidelsky. He began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand but he was not an excellent student in academics. He admitted that he was a poor student. He left the university in 1948 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London which he also failed to complete.
In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa and graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town. He later obtained a postgraduate diploma with which he began to practice. In August 1952 Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.
Mandela was a dominant figure in the South African liberation movement because of apartheid practice that characterised the twentieth century in South Africa. Apartheid had similarities to segregation in the American South, but was much worse. Besides not being able to vote and separation from the whites in public businesses, blacks who made up to seventy percent of the population, were forced to live in a small area of the country, and could not leave without a “pass,” which very few people had and very hard to get.
Apartheid laws were explicitly stated laws, not just ‘de facto’ rules that society followed, which South African blacks were forced to follow for nearly fifty years. Nelson Mandela rose up as leader of the African National Congress and major speaker against the evils of Apartheid and he became the voice of the movement to end apartheid.
The use of passes came into effect when Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, developed the policy of separate development, in which the nine African groups that lived in South Africa were moved from the urban areas into the country areas. If the Africans wanted to travel anywhere, or work, they needed a pass to show that they were allowed out of their designated section. But if found without their passes, or travelling outside of the regulated boundaries, they were arrested and put in jail for a minimum of 30 days. These passes were used to keep the Africans in check, to regulate their ability to move and their freedom and to the people of South Africa, the passes represented lost freedom.
This led Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and some other people to declare war against apartheid policy. His contribution and dedication to South Africa’s struggle in achieving freedom and equal rights for every South African led to his popularity and respect in South Africa.
In the 1950s, Mandela began working on ending the apartheid. In 1964, he was arrested and imprisoned for trying to overthrow the government, but continued his fight even from his prison cell. During Mandela’s 27 years in prison at Robben Island, Pollsmore Prison, and then Victor Verster Prison, his determination never faltered, and his confidence in the future for majority rule in South Africa continued to grow.
After his release in 1990, Mandela travelled throughout the world trying to earn money to support the anti-apartheid movement. He continued to advocate equality for all South Africans regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. In 1993, Mandela earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in improving human rights. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black South African to be elected the President of South Africa. His presidency was characterized by the successful negotiation of a new constitution for South Africa, but his main focus was the restructuring of South Africa after the damage done by the apartheid.
Nelson Mandela presented the people of South Africa with a leader in their struggle, providing the inspiration needed for a drastic change. He planted the idea in the people that there was something they could do about their situation.
He believed that it may be possible to oppress a group of people, but it is impossible to oppress the spread of ideas because once the idea of freedom is sparked, it can spread like wildfire.
The African National Congress ANC was formed in 1912, and it happens to be the oldest national civil rights organization in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was involved in the activities of ANC through a friend, Walter Sisulu, whom he met in 1941 when he was looking for a job after he had fled his town and relocated to Johannesburg, to escape from an arranged marriage. ANC was the major anti-apartheid liberation movement.
He was excited about the activities of ANC and as at 1942, he developed interest in it and started attending their meeting. Mandela and his colleagues Tambo and Sisulu, led by Anton Lembede, changed the polite entreating strategies adopted by the leadership of the ANC to the government because it was unsuitable to achieve the national self-determination they wanted.
The youth League of ANC was formed by Mandela and others and got support from the ANC because of its membership and hard work. ANC applied the racial division policies known as apartheid and won the all-white elections in 1945. ANCYL policies of strike, boycott, and civil disobedience were adopted by the ANC in 1949.
In employing the programme of action, older leaders of the ANC were replaced by the younger men. Walter Sisulu was elected Secretary General and Mandela was elected to the NEC in 1950. In the same year, Mandela became the ANCYL president.
During the Second World war, a group of sixty young members of the ANC decided to change the party policy. Their plan was to transform the ANC into a mass movement and get its power and motivation from the unlettered millions of working South African people who are in urban and rural areas.
Through the fifties Mandela stood for his country’s rights and suffered all forms of repression. He condemned closing the open universities against black students, and against the passage of laws, which controlled the movements of the coloured in the country.
Initially, Mandela opposed working with other racial groups, but he changed this attitude in 1952 during the course of the Defiance Campaign, a campaign launched by the ANC against the unjust laws.
In 1961, the ANC decided to move from nonviolent to violent means of opposing the apartheid regime . The movement’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), made Mandela the commander-in-chief. Due to government repression, Mandela went underground, he became a master of disguise and managing to evade arrest .
In 1962, after travelling abroad, and being on the run for 17 months, Mandela was arrested near Howick in Natal and imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. He was charged for unlawfully exiting the country and for incitement to strike.
On Octobe r 25, 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years on Robben Island. While in prison, police arrested prominent ANC leaders at their hide-out. In 1963 Mandela and his arrested ANC comrades were charged with sabotage and other crimes in the Rivonia Trial.
Mandela was granted unconditional release from Prison in February 1990 and became the deputy National leader of the legalised ANC. He started the process for and worked towards non-racial democracy in South Africa. Apartheid regime ended in South Africa in 1994 and Mandela became the first black president of the country on the platform of ANC from 1994 to 1999.
His prison experience
The ANC was banned by the government in 1960, following the Sharpeville massacre, Mandela was forced underground “adopting a number of disguises—sometimes a labourer, other times a chauffeur,” writes PBS. “The press dubbed him ‘the Black Pimpernel’ because of his ability to evade police.”
In 1961, believing that non-violent measures would not be successful, Mandela and other ANC leaders formed Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a militant wing of the ANC. Beginning on Dec. 16, 1961, MK, with Mandela as its commander in chief, launched bombing attacks on government targets and made plans for guerrilla warfare.
Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962, and sentenced to five years in prison for inciting a workers’ strike in 1961. A year later, in July 1963, the government launched a raid on the Lille leaf farm in Rivonia, which had been used as an ANC hideout. It arrested 19 ANC leaders and discovered documents describing MK’s plans for attacks and guerilla warfare.
The government charged 11 ANC leaders, including Mandela, with crimes under the 1962 Sabotage Act. At the Rivonia Trial, Mandela chose not to take the witness stand, instead making a long statement from the dock on April 20, 1964. In it, he explained the history and motives on the ANC and MK, admitting to many of the charges against him and defending his use of violence.
He concluded: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela was found guilty on four charges of sabotage on June 11. The following day, he and seven of his co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, avoiding the death sentence. Mandela and the other six non-white defendants were sent to the prison on Robben Island, a former leper colony located off the coast of Cape Town.
On the notorious Robben Island, Mandela lived in a tiny cell, received meagre rations and performed hard labour in a lime quarry. “But Robben Island became the crucible which transformed him,” writes PBS. “Through his intelligence, charm and dignified defiance, Mandela eventually bent even the most brutal prison officials to his will, assumed leadership over his jailed comrades and became the master of his own prison.”
His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom. Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990.
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist, lawyer and former political prisoner, was elected to the presidency in 1994, following which he served one term in office. He was the first non-white head of state in South African history, as well as the first to take office following the dismantling of apartheid and the introduction of multiracial democracy; he was also the oldest head of state in South Africa’s history, taking office at the age of 75.
South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won 62 per cent of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country’s first black President, with the National Party’s F.W. de Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second in the Government of National Unity.
He began his term on 10 May 1994; Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.
He established in 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which investigated human rights violations under apartheid, and he introduced housing, education, and economic development initiatives designed to improve the living standards of the country’s black population. In 1996 he oversaw the enactment of a new democratic constitution. Mandela resigned his post with the ANC in December 1997, transferring leadership of the party to his designated successor, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela had divorced in 1996, and in 1998 Mandela married Graca Machel, the widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and leader of Frelimo.
President Mandela took a particular interest in helping to resolve the long-running dispute between Gaddafi’s Libya, on the one hand, and the United States and Britain on the other, over bringing to trial the two Libyans who were indicted in November 1991 and accused of sabotaging Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed at the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988, with the loss of 270 lives As early as 1992, Mandela informally approached President George H.W. Bush with a proposal to have the two indicted Libyans tried in a third country. Bush reacted favourably to the proposal, as did President François Mitterrand of France and King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In November 1994 – six months after his election as president – Mandela formally proposed that South Africa should be the venue for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial.
Mandela did not seek a second term as South African president and was succeeded by Mbeki in 1999. After leaving office Mandela retired from active politics but maintained a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, and social justice, often through the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, established in 1999. He was a founding member of the Elders, a group of international leaders established in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem solving throughout the world. In 2008, Mandela was feted with several celebrations in South Africa, Great Britain, and other countries in honour of his 90th birthday.
Tedious marital life
Deprived of freedom for 27 years of his adult life in a lonely cell at Robben Island, Nelson Mandela’s marital life was no less turbulent having been in and out of love with several women in his life. Indeed, the late South African leader had his share of betrayal, infidelity and irreconcilable differences with some women in his life. It is on record that Mandela went through three legal marriages in his life time
His first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase took place on July 15, 1944 in a civil ceremony at the Native Commissioner’s Court in Johannesburg when Mandela was barely 25 years old. Evelyn, who was born in 1922 in Transkei, South Africa, was a nursing student living in Johannesburg at the time the marriage was consummated. The marriage, however, ended in 1957 due to irreconcilable differences between the young couples.
The dissolution of Mandela’s first marriage was not unconnected with his active involvement in politics, particularly as a radical member of African Nationalist Congress, ANC, a foremost anti-apartheid movement of the era. A bitter argument ensued between the two young lovers as Evelyn Mandela gave her husband an ultimatum to choose between his marriage and the ANC.
As a young woman, who felt she needed the warmth affection of her heartthrob, Evelyn became frustrated and particularly distressed about rumours that Mandela had relations with other women.
Towards the end of December of that year, in 1957, it became obvious that the marriage was heading for the rocks. Mandela was away from home for two weeks having been jailed by a South African Court, but upon his return, Evelyn had moved out of their home to the amazement of her husband who was just released on bail
At 77, Evelyn later remarried at the age of seventy-seven, She died in 2004 from a respiratory illness at the age of 82 and was buried in Johannesburg with Mandela, Winnie and Graca attending the funeral.
Evelyn Mase had four children for Mandela. They are: Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) Mandela born in 1946. Thembi died in July 1969 in a car crash, Makaziwe Mandela was born in 1947 and died after 9 months in 1948, Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, an attorney was born in 1950 and died of Aids in January 2005.Makaziwe Mandela II: Born in 1953.
Mandela’s second marriage with his now estranged wife, Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela could be best described as a love story turned sour as Winnie, who kept the flame of anti apartheid struggle alive during the years of her husband long incarceration suddenly lost the steam after Mandela’s release and things fell apart between them leading to final separation
Winnie, a social worker, and Mandela met during his treason trial and got married on June 14, 1958, in Bizana. Their wedding at a local church was attended by a few close friends and family, followed by a celebration later at the home of Winnie’s eldest brother.
Winnie and Nelson didn’t have a honeymoon. The couple separated in April 1992 and later divorced in March 1996. Their marriage was blessed with two children.
The late Mandela, however, stunned the world when he announced his undying love for Graca, the wife of his former friend and late Mozambique President, Samora Machel, who died in a plane crash on October 19, 1986
Nelson and Graça were married on July 18, 1998, on his eightieth birthday, in the presence of family, sixteen friends, and one photographer.
Mandela’s third marriage to Graca, who was born in October 17, 1945, was significant in the world history particularly to Graca Machel who made history as the first African woman to become a British dame and also the only woman to hold the title of “First Lady” to two presidents from two different countries. They were married by a Methodist Bishop, Myume Dandala ably assisted by Desmond Tutu while the wedding reception for the couple was combined with Nelson’s birthday party at the Gallagher Convention Centre. There were 2000 guests including Michael Jackson, Danny Glover, and Stevie Wonder.
His politics and diplomacy
When in 1962 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sentenced to a five years’ imprisonment for organising the military wing of the then outlawed African National Congress (ANC) to take up arm against the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa, and consequently to life imprisonment in 1964 even whilst still in detention, charged with treason, many keen watchers in development in the apartheid enclave thought he was finished.
At that trial, Mandela gave a memorable four-and-a-half hour speech criticizing apartheid, he told the court, “I want at once to make it clear that I am not a racialist and do not support any racialism of any kind, because to me racialism is a barbaric thing whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
During the 27 years that Mandela spent in prison, hidden from the eyes of the world while he quarried limestome and harvested seaweed, his example of quiet suffering was just one of numerous pressures on the apartheid government.
As the years dragged on, he assumed the mantle of a martyr. His ordeal attracted so much local and international condemnation, leading to sanctions from many countries across the world, as world leaders brought the issue of Mandela to the front burner of international discourse.
The release of Mandela in February 1990 unconditionally brought so much joy and celebration both at home and abroad.
On his release Mandela immediately worked his way to the top of political activities in the country, becoming deputy president of the now legalized ANC leaving the ailing Oliver Tambo to hold the presidency for a short time longer, before being elected president of the party in July 1991.
Displaying a quite extraordinary lack of rancour towards whites he began to work towards the establishment of a non-racial democracy in South Africa to replace the totally discredited apartheid system.
Both Mandela and Frederick de Klerk realized that only a compromise between whites and blacks could avert a disastrous civil war in South Africa. In late 1991 a multiparty Convention for a Democratic South Africa convened to establish a Democratic government.
Mandela and de Klerk led the negotiations, and their efforts later won them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In September 1992, the two leaders signed a Record of Understanding that created a freely elected constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution and act as a transition government.
On April 27, 1994, the first free elections open to all South African citizens were held. The ANC won over 62 percent of the popular vote and Mandela was elected president.
Mandela had two key agendas as president, one defusing the still dangerous political differences and secondly building up the South African economy. The former he attempted to achieve by forming a coalition cabinet with representatives of different groups included. The latter he attempted to attain by inviting new investment from abroad, setting aside some government contracts for black entrepreneurs, and initiating action to return to blacks land seized in 1913.
Mandela’s presidency for the most part was successful to a remarkable degree. Mandela’s skill as a consensus builder, plus his enormous personal authority, helped him lead the transition to a majority democracy and what promised to be a peaceful future. He backed the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which offered amnesty to those who had committed crimes during the apartheid era in the interests of clearing up the historical record
The elderly statesman even gave rise to a new style of dress in South Africa known as “Madiba smart.” “Madiba” was Mandela’s Xhosa clan title, by which he was informally known.
Mandela without question was both the leading political prisoner of the late 20th century and one of Africa’s most important reformers.
Before becoming president, Mandela was much criticized for embracing and expressing his support for such notorious international figures as the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Yasir Arafat, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Libya’s Muamar Qaddafi. According to the New York Times Biographical Service, Mandela retorted to his detractors on this issue, “What concerns me is the foreign policy of those countries, especially in so far as it relates to us (South Africa). Those countries who are committed to assisting the anti-apartheid forces in our country are our friends.”
In keeping with that criteria, Mandela’s cabinet passed a provisional approval of arms sales to Syria, prompting to the Clinton administration, in 1997, to threaten suspending U.S. aid to South Africa, but he was able to wriggle his way out of that potential crisis.
Mandela did not ease into a quiet retirement after leaving office. He instead proved himself an influential statesman by acting as mediator in peace talks in Burundi in 1999, and in negotiations in 2000 between Libya and Western powers over the 1988 Lockerbie, Scotland, bombing, resulting in an end to a seven-year stalemate.
The influence of Mandela in local and world politics has remained significant even while he remained on his sick bed and until death and afterwards.