Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, politician, philanthropist, and the first Black president in South Africa. The revolutionary leader suffered for nearly seven decades to liberate his people from colonialism. Nelson Mandela's biography unveils more about his life.
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Nelson Mandela was a visionary and democratic leader. He was humble and respected his associates and opponents. Mandela fought all forms of unfairness, discrimination, and injustice in South Africa. Nelson Mandela's bio will help you understand why he is considered one of the greatest people in history.
|Full name||Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela|
|Famous as||The first black president of South Africa|
|Autobiography||Long Walk to Freedom|
|Born||July 18, 1918|
|Birthplace||Mvezo, Eastern Cape, South Africa|
|Died||December 5, 2013|
|Age||95 years (at the date of death)|
|Place of death||His home in Johannesburg|
|Burial date||December 15, 2013|
|Place of burial||Qunu, Eastern Cape, South Africa|
|Junior high||Clarkebury Boarding School|
|High school||Wesleyan College|
|College||The University of South Africa, University of London, University College of Fort Hare, University of Witwatersrand|
|Degrees||Bachelor of Arts, Law degree|
|Occupation||Activist, politician, and philanthropist|
|Political party||African National Congress|
|Ancestry||Madiba clan in Qunu, South Africa|
|Father||Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela|
|Spouses||Evelyn Ntoko Mase (1944-1958), Winnie Madikizela (1962-1966), Graça Machel (1998-2013)|
|Daughters||Zindziswa Mandela, Zenani Mandela, Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah, Makaziwe Mandela|
|Sons||Madiba Thembekile Mandela, Makgatho Mandela|
|Great grandkids||Over 14|
The biography of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela grew up in a royal family but was not from a royal lineage. He was entrusted to Thembu Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo at age 12 after his father's death. The king of the Thembu community adopted and treated him as one of his sons.
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Where was Nelson Mandela born?
Mandela was born in the Thembu royal family in Mvezo, British South Africa, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni (mum) and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela (dad). Mphakanyiswa was a principal advisor to the acting king of the Thembu community. He died when Nelson was nine years old.
Rolihlahla attended a primary school in Qunu. His teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the English male name ‘Nelson.' Afterwards, Mandela earned his junior certification at Clarkebury Boarding School within two years instead of three.
He went to Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort and later joined the University College of Fort Hare to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. The school expelled Mandela before completion because he spearheaded a student protest.
King Mqhekezweni was disappointed in him when he returned home. He wanted to make Mandela and his cousin Justice marry if he did not return to Fort Hare. The two fled and arrived in Johannesburg in 1941.
Nelson worked as a mine security officer and completed his degree at the University of South Africa, then attended his graduation at Fort Hare in 1943. Rolihlahla enrolled for a law degree at the University of Witwatersrand, but his involvement with ANC interrupted his studies.
He established the first black legal firm in South Africa with his friend, Oliver Tambo, to provide free and cheap consultations to black clients. Nelson Mandela re-enrolled for a law degree at the University of London and graduated in absentia in 1989 through the University of South Africa.
Nelson Mandela's achievements and struggles (political history)
Mandela’s involvement in politics dates back to 1942. He created and used ANCYL to build his political career. Nelson officially joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and committed himself to overthrowing the White government and its apartheid system.
He was appointed as the president of ANC's Transvaal office and participated in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. The White government arrested Nelson severally.
He was prosecuted for treason in 1956 (the Treason Trial) and acquitted in March 1961. Afterwards, Mandela secretly joined the outlawed South African Communist Party (SACP).
Nelson left the country for military training and to garner support for the ANC in 1962. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for inciting people against the government and leaving the country without a passport.
They sent him to Robben Island in May 1963 and returned him to Pretoria Local Prison in June. In October, he appeared in court for the first time for the Rivonia Trial with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Denis Goldberg, Raymond Mhlaba, Lionel 'Rusty' Bernstein, James Kantor, and Andrew Mlangeni.
All of them, except Rusty Bernstein, was convicted and sentenced to life in 1964 and sent to Robben Island. Nelson Mandela was released in 1990. Afterwards, he was elected ANC's deputy president.
Nelson Mandela's apartheid activism saw him serve 27 years between Robben Island, Victor Vester, and Pollsmoor penitentiaries. Mandela received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. He was elected and inaugurated as president of the Republic of South Africa 1994 and took over from President FW de Klerk.
Nelson led the reconciliation of the nation’s racial groups and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe past human rights mistreatments. He also established the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund in 1995.
Mandela combined socialist beliefs and his predecessor's liberal framework in his leadership. He also mediated in the Pan-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
He stepped down in 1999 after one term of presidency, and his deputy Thabo Mbeki succeeded him as the state's leader. Mandela moved back to his home town, Qunu, to focus on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through charity and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Nelson established the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in 2003, stepped down from public life in 2004, and attended the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma in May 2009.
Nelson Mandela's family
Nelson married thrice and had six children. He spent little time with his kids because of politics and fighting for the nation's liberation. Additionally, Nelson was stern but loving towards his grandchildren. He had around 17 grandchildren and about 14 great-grandchildren at the time of death.
Who was Nelson Mandela's wife?
Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944. She was born on May 18, 1922, and died on April 30. Mase was Walter Sisulu's cousin. The couple had two sons, Madiba 'Thembi' Thembekile (1946-1969) and Makgatho Mandela (1950-2005), and two daughters.
Both daughters were named Makaziwe Mandela because the first one died nine months after birth, and the second one. Hence, the second one was named in honour of the first one. Mandela divorced Mase in 1958 because she wanted him to choose between her and his involvement in ANC.
He married Winnie Madikizela, the first black social worker in Johannesburg, in 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani (1958) and Zind-ziswa (1960). Mandela was detained at Robben Island in 1962 and divorced Winnie in 1996.
His third spouse was Samora Moisés Machel’s widow, Graça Machel. They married in 1998 on his 80th birthday. Graca Machel and Nelson Mandela did not have children. Graça had two kids, Josina Z. Machel and Malengani Machel, from her previous marriage. Her ex-husband was the first president of Mozambique.
Nelson Mandela's death and burial
Mandela was in hospital in 2013, from January to September, due to a respiratory infection. He spent his 95th birthday in the hospital, was discharged in September, and died on December 5, 2013, in his home in Johannesburg. He was buried on December 15, 2013, in Qunu, South Africa, a few hundred metres from his residence.
Nelson Mandela's honours, awards, and recognitions
The media and his critics painted him as a controversial figure and communist terrorist before SA attained independence. Regardless, Mandela continued to fight for the rights of the Black South Africans.
He received over 250 accolades, including the much coveted Nobel Peace Prize, and was deemed the icon of democracy and social justice worldwide. Here are some of his awards:
|1984||Star of People's Friendship||Germany|
|1984||Order of Playa Girón||Cuba|
|1990||Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic||Nigeria|
|1990||Order of the Uhuru Torch (Second Class)||Tanzania|
|1990||Order of Agostinho Neto||Angola|
|1993||Order of Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon||ROC|
|1994||National Order of the Legion of Honour (Grand Cross)||France|
|1995||Honorary member of the Order of Merit||Commonwealth|
|1996||Merit Medal in Bronze (MMB)||South Africa|
|1996||Knight of the Order of the Elephant||Denmark|
|1996||Merit Medal in Silver (MMS)||South Africa|
|1996||Grand Cross of the National Order of Mali||Mali|
|1996||Service Medal in Bronze||South Africa|
|1996||Decoration for Merit in Gold (DMG)||South Africa|
|1997||Knight of the Royal Order of the Seraphim||Sweden|
|1998||Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada||Canada|
|1998||Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav||Norway|
|1999||Knight Collar of the Order of Isabella of the Catholic||Spain|
|1999||Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau||Luxembourg|
|1999||First Class of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise||Ukraine|
|1999||Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia||Australia|
|2001||Order of Islamic Republic||Iran|
|2002||Presidential Medal of Freedom||USA|
|2002||Order of Mapungubwe – Platinum Category||South Africa|
|2008||First Class Order of the Balkan Mountains||Bulgaria|
|2010||Order of the Aztec Eagle||Mexico|
|2012||Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal||Canada|
What are 10 facts about Nelson Mandela?
Below are ten Nelson Mandela facts:
- Mandela wrote his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (1994), and two more books, Conversations with Myself (October 2010), Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations (2011).
- He was admitted to the Volks Hospital for prostate surgery in 1985.
- Mandela was diagnosed with tuberculosis at Tygerberg Hospital in 1988.
- He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001.
- Mandela announced on January 6, 2005, that his eldest son, Makgatho, had died of AIDS.
- He attended the inauguration of his grandson Mandla as chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council on April 13, 2007.
- Nelson attended the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani on June 17, 2010. She died in a car accident on June 11, 2010.
- He presented the FIFA World Cup trophy in 2010 before it went on tour across South Africa.
- Mandela made a surprise appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals in Soweto on July 11, 2010.
- Michelle Obama and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, visited his home on June 21, 2011.
Who is Nelson Mandela and why is he important?
Nelson Mandela is considered the father of Modern South Africa and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for ending the apartheid regime and establishing democracy.
Where is Nelson Mandela's house?
The Nelson Mandela National Museum is commonly referred to as Mandela House. It is on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, South Africa. Mandela lived here from 1946 to 1962.
What was Nelson Mandela's famous speech?
Can you visit Nelson Mandela's grave?
Nelson Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, agreed to make the gravesite a tourist site in 2017. It was previously only accessible to immediate family. The place was renovated before it was opened to the public.
Did Nelson Mandela meet the queen of England?
Mandela hosted Queen Elizabeth in South Africa and visited her in England. He was delighted to explore the Buckingham Palace.
What are some of Nelson Mandela's quotes?
Some of Mandela's famous quotes about education are:
- Education is a great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine, that the child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.
- No country can develop unless its citizens are educated.
- I will spend the rest of my days trying to secure a more educated and secure South Africa.
- Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
- Not a day goes by when I don’t read every newspaper I can lay my hands on, wherever I am.
- It is one of our significant tasks of reconstruction to build an education system that provides quality opportunities for all our people.
- It is fundamental that our children are prepared to compete with confidence in the international arena. We need to ensure that all our children have access to a world-class, quality education.
- There are certain precautions you should take to prepare yourself to a fruitful study career. You must brush up your knowledge through systematic reading of literature and newspapers.
- Our previous system emphasized the physical and other differences of South Africans with devastating effects. We are steadily but surely introducing education that enables our children to exploit their similarities and common goals while appreciating the strength in their diversity.
- A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something extraordinary.
Nelson Mandela's biography reveals his exemplary life. He accomplished many things because he was persistent and determined. You can take home many vital lessons from the life of Nelson Mandela. He proved that one is responsible for their life and destiny and that education is power.
Briefly.co.za posted Thabo Mbeki's biography. Thabo was Mandela's deputy president and the second president of democratic South Africa.
Mbeki is acknowledged for rallying students in London to protest against the unlawful detention of political activists in South Africa and championing the end of the apartheid regime.
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Source: Briefly News