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Nelson Mandela - Biography, Facts, Childhood to Death - In Pictures

Updated on December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela was not born with that name that made him an iconic figure worldwide. His real name is Rolihlahla Mandela. In the year 1918, on the banks of the River Mbashe, in the small village of Mvezo; he was born to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. His father was a counselor and acting king of Thembu people, under the guidance of their leader, Jongitaba Dalindyebo.

The Early Life of Nelson Mandela

Mandela was not to know his father for a long time, since the latter passed away when Mandela was a small child. Due to the loss of his father, Mandela became a ward of Jongitaba. Here, he came to hear about how his ancestors fought bravely in several wars to fight oppression. He too became encouraged to become like his ancestors and fight all forms of oppression. Before his death, Mandela was to see his father oppressed and stripped of his high ranking as a counselor. He was forced to move to a small village in Qunu where there were no roads. It is some of these injustices that put Mandela on the path to greatness.

Nelson Mandela loved to play a lot when he was a child. He would play with the boys, and then went through the rite of passage and became a young lad. His father allowed him to be baptized, and he became the first in his family to go to school. The British teacher had a hard time pronouncing his name, so he told him that he would be known as Nelson from that day forth.

However, after the death of his father, Jongitaba decided to take in Mandela as a favor to his father, who had earlier asked that Jongitaba is made chief of the Thembu people. He left Thembu an apprehensive young man, fearing that it was the last time he would see his home. However, after getting to Mqhekezweni, Mandela quickly adopted to the new lifestyle and surroundings. He was put on equal stature as the children of Jongitaba.

Whenever elders from far and wide came to see Jongitaba, Mandela would listen to their stories with rapt attention, and he became attached to African history. He went to school in a nearby class-room next to the palace and got to know more about Xhosa culture and history. He slowly got to understand that life was peaceful until the time the ‘white man’ arrived. He understood that the white man had pitted African brothers against each other in order to divide and rule them. He felt that this was not fair at all.

The rise of Mandela the "rebel”

When Mandela was only 16 years old, he underwent the rite of circumcision. The process did not just involve the surgical part, but it also involved elaborate schooling that would make him a man who would be allowed to marry and even inherit his father’s property. It was during this ritual that Mandela was disheartened by the situation in his land. One of the chiefs, who addressed him, alongside 25 other boys, was emphatic that he sympathized with the young men who would be enslaved in their own home. He said that the young men would never take control of their lands since the white man had taken everything. The words that were spoken by Chief Meligqili would later create his resolve to battle against the white man. Up returning from the rite, he was groomed to be a counselor of the chief of Thembu.

Mandela takes up his role.

The Chief, Jongitaba, gave Mandela royalty status. He therefore attended some of the best schools around. He went to Clarkebury Boarding Institute where he excelled academically and also in track and boxing. His classmates would call him a “country boy” but later they warmed to his charm, one of them included Mathona, his first girl friend. Mandela joined the University College of Fort Hare as it was the only school in which blacks were allowed to attend. The College had international students from all over Africa. At the time, it was considered that the best job that a black man could have was to become a clerk. This led Mandela to study Roman Dutch Law.

While still at college, Mandela was elected into the Student Representative Council, during his second year. The student body was angry that the SRC had no power over the quality of food that they ate. The students said that they would boycott the elections, and Mandela followed suite and resigned his position. This earned him his first expulsion as the administration sought to compel him to retake his position in the SRC.

Mandela breaks into politics

When Mandela returned home, the regent was not happy about the developments at the college. He saw that Mandela’s life was not well structured, so he planned to have Mandela marry a girl of his choice. He felt that tribal custom gave him the right to say who and when Mandela would marry. Feeling caged, Mandela ran away from home. He went to Johannesburg where he started doing menial jobs in order to survive. As he did so, he went ahead with his studies, via correspondence and finished his Bachelors Degree. The then went to University of Witwatersrand where he studied law.

In 1942, Mandela went into politics by joining the African National Congress (AFC). Here he joined another group of young men, who formed the African National Congress Youth League. The youth league was given the responsibility of getting support for the ANC from the grassroots. They were to engage peasants and get them to arise. They believed that the polite petitioning of the ANC was not getting the desired results. It was in 1949, that the ANC finally let go of the polite tactics and started mass action, non-cooperation, boycotts, and other activities in order to affect the policies of the white government.

For 20 years, Mandela was involved with the ANC, and led non-violent protests against the policies of the South African government. He formed a law firm with Oliver Tambo, where they helped poor blacks get legal representation. In 1956, he and a group of 150 young men were arrested for treason but they were later released. Mandela was disillusioned with the slow progress of peaceful protests, and he embraced militant action in 1961. He founded Umkhonto We Sizwe, which was primarily supposed to perform acts of sabotage and guerrilla campaigns to end the white rule. He led a national workers strike that lasted for 3 days. After investigations by the police, Mandela was arrested the following year and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. In 1963, he was tried again, and this time was given a life sentence with 10 other young men. He was to spend the next 27 years in prison, 18 of which were spent at Robben Island. He contacted Tuberculosis while in prison, a fact that was to follow him for the rest of his life. Mandela’s fight did not go unnoticed and international pressure began to mount for his release.

The International community increased pressure for the release of Mandela. The government tried to negotiate with him but he turned them down since they were tying his release to his refusal to return to the ANC. Mandela stuck to his position, until President Botha was replaced by President de Klerk. After further negotiations with the government, Mandela was released and the ANC was unbanned.

Mandela takes up the presidency

When Mandel left prison, he asked the international community to maintain the pressure and push for constitutional reforms. Mandela said that he wanted peace between all South Africans irrespective of their race. This meant that the government had to give blacks the right to vote. Although Mandela wanted a peaceful sharing of power, the black majority clamored for a complete transfer. This made the negotiations very difficult. In 1991, Mandela became the president of the ANC. He continued negotiations with de Klerk, and this led to their joint award of the Nobel Peace Price in 1993. In the year 1994, South Africa went to the polls, and Mandela became the first black president. During his presidency, Mandela pushed through the building of peace in the country and also bolstered the growth of the economy.

Retirement of Nelson Mandela and life thereafter

Nelson Mandela retired from active politics but he still performed duties as a statesman. He raised money for the building of infrastructure in the rural homes. He also published several books. In the year 2001, Mandela was treated for prostate cancer and had to leave active life in 2004. In 2007, he asked a group of world leader to form a council of elders who would work effortlessly to promote peace around the globe. The group has done great work in Africa, Europe and the Middle East in promoting peace and equality. During the last world cup, Mandela made his last public appearance. He later fell ill, a complication that cam from his tuberculosis infection when he was in jail. Mandela passed away on December 6 and is survived by his wives, several children and grandchildren.

Nelson Mandela Pictures

Nelson Mandela apartheid racial discrimination
Nelson Mandela apartheid racial discrimination
Graca Machel - Nelson Mandela's wife
Graca Machel - Nelson Mandela's wife
Nelson Mandela's childhood home
Nelson Mandela's childhood home
Nelson Mandela's childhood picture
Nelson Mandela's childhood picture
Nelson Mandela's funeral site
Nelson Mandela's funeral site
Nelson Mandela receiving Nobel Prize
Nelson Mandela receiving Nobel Prize
Nelson Mandela at an old age
Nelson Mandela at an old age
Nelson Mandela's photo
Nelson Mandela's photo
Nelson Mandela in the prison Robin Island
Nelson Mandela in the prison Robin Island
Nelson Mandela - release from prison 1990
Nelson Mandela - release from prison 1990
Nelson Mandela's tomb
Nelson Mandela's tomb
Nelson Mandela with Winnie Mandela
Nelson Mandela with Winnie Mandela
Nelson Mandela - young picture
Nelson Mandela - young picture


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    • profile image

      Manav Kr 

      4 years ago

      Legends never die

    • charlie cheesman profile image

      charlie cheesman 

      4 years ago from England

      Great hub for a great man


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