Born in July 18, 1918 into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, Transkei, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first black head president of South Africa and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He was an anti-apartheid revolutionary politician and philanthropist who served as the first man of the country from the year 1994 to 1999. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, the principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jogintaba Dalindyebo. Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people. He studied law at the Fort Hare University and the University of the Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. Ideoligically he served as the President of the African Nationalist Congress (ANC) part from 1991-1997. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tacking institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation.
He got involve with politics from 1942, and joined the ANC in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).
In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile “Thembi” and MAkgatho, and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. He and his divorced in 1958.
Mndela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.
In the year 1952 the black head politician was chosen as the National-in Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labor, suspended for two years.
The two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practise law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo.
At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.
The Treason Trial
Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.
On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.
During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.
Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.
In the face of massive mobilization of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.
On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.
He was charged for leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, in a secret hide-out in Rivonia used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.
On 9 October 1963 Mandela assisted 10 others on trial for sabotage in what came to be known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20th April 1964 became went viral: He said “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of 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 it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
On 12th of August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7th of December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near paarl where he spent his 14 months of imprisonment. He was freed from the prison gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivona comrades. Throughout the imprisonment he rejected at least three offers of release.
Mandela talked officially to end up the white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC president and replaced, Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graca Machel, his third wife.
Credit goes to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.