Biography: Nelson Mandela - The First Black President in South Africa

Nelson Mandela's Education

Rolihlahla Madera was born on July 18, 198 in Madiba clan in Mvenzo, Transkei, South Africa. His father, Henry Mphakanyiswa of the Thembu tribe was an advisor (principal counsellor) to the acting king of Thembu’s royal family, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

His father died while he was nine-years old. Nelson was adopted by Jongintaba.

Mandela attended primary school in Quni where he was given the name Nelson by his teacher, Miss Mdingane. He was baptized in the United Methodist Church. After completing his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute, he joined Wesleyan Secondary School in Healdtown.

Mandera studied at University College of Fort Hare (Bachelor of Arts Degree) but did not complete studies as he was expelled for joining in a student protest. However, he completed his BA at University of South Africa and graduated in 1943 at Forte Hare. Also, he studied at University of Witwatersand for an LLB but by his own admission he was a poor student. Therefore, he left the university without graduating in 1948. Additionally, he never completed the degree he was studying at the University of London.

Mandela obtained LLB through the University of South Africa in the last months of his imprisonment.

Nelson Mandela - A symbolic Icon

Nelson Mandela is a symbolic icon standing for freedom from oppression especially the disadvantaged and vulnerable people of the world.

This is attested by the fact that 18th July - Mandela’s birthday – of every year is Nelson Mandela International Day. This was declared in November 2009 by United Nations General Assembly. Nelson Mandera becomes the only figure in the world for a day to be dedicated to a person.

As noted by SAHO, “Mandela’s fame rests on his role as a revolutionary leader who spent nearly seven decades of his life in the struggle against white minority rule and for a free and democratic non-racial society. His greatness lies in the fact that he is a visionary, a democrat and international political leader who exercises his influence and leadership with humility and respect for his colleagues and opponents alike.”

As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison. | Source

Nelson Mandela's Involvement in Politics - Fight Against Equality

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944. ANC, a multi-racial nationalist movement was involved in resistance against National Party. The National Party which came to power in 1948 implemented apartheid policies or forced segregation against the South African blacks. The resistance staged by ANC against the ruling National Party was passive – not involving violence.

In 1952, Mandela was elected as one of ANC’s deputy presidents. However, as the government’s discrimination against blacks increased, ANC’s strategy changed from passive to active resistance. In 1956, Mandela was tried for treason but after five years for which the court case lasted, he was acquitted.

In the year 1960, ANC was banned as a result of 69 black anti-apartheid demonstrators were killed by the police in March, 1960.

Mandela’s proposal on the use of active resistance was accepted on June, 1961. He helped establish the ANC’s military wing ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’ which translated in English is ‘The Spear of the Nation.’ He was appointed commander-in-chief of ANC’s military wing. In order to receive military training and find support for the ANC, he travelled abroad. This, he did by adopting a name, David Motsamayi, thereby allowing him to leave the country secretly. He travelled to Englad seeking for support and received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia.

However, on his return in 1962, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison with hard labour. He was charged with inciting workers to strike and leaving the country illegally. He began serving his sentence in Pretoria Local Prison. On May 27, 1963, he was transferred to Robben Island and was returned to Pretoria on June 12 of the same year. A month later, police raided a secret hide-out used by his colleagues of ANC, and Communist Party activists. When his colleagues were arrested, they were brought to stand for trial for plotting to overthrow the government by use of violence. Mandela with nine of the accused (fellow ANC leaders) were sentenced to life imprisonment on June 2, 1964. He was held at Robben Island prison and later at Pollsmour prison.

Mandela’s reputation grew steadily while in prison. He was released on February 11, 1990 due to national and international pressure for the government to release Mandela. Also, ANC ban was lifted and in 1991, Mandela became the ANC leader.

In 1993, Mandela was awarded Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994, he was elected as the first black president. In 1997, he stepped down as ANC leader and in 1999 he stepped down as South Africa’s president. In 2004 he retired from public work, and on August 29, 2007 a statue of his was erected in parliament square, London.

Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013.

Statue of Nelson Mandela, Parliament Square
Statue of Nelson Mandela, Parliament Square | Source

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