Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the most admired political leaders of the Twentieth and Twenty First Century for his vision to forgive and forge a new ‘rainbow’ nation. Nelson Mandela was a South African political activist who spent over 20 years in prison for his opposition to the apartheid regime. He was released in 1990 and, in 1994, was later elected the first leader of a democratic South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with F.W. de Klerk) in 1993 for his work in helping to end racial segregation in South Africa.


Quick facts

FULL NAME :  Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

FAMOUS AS : Anti-Apartheid Movement

NATIONALITY : South African

BORN ON : 18 July 1918

DIED AT AGE :  Died at age 95

PLACE OF BIRTH : Mvezo, Cape Province, South Africa

DIED ON : 5 December 2013

PLACE OF DEATH : Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

SPOUSE : Evelyn Ntoko Mase (m. 1944; div. 1958)
Winnie Madikizela (m. 1958; div. 1996)
Graça Machel (m. 1998)
CAUSE OF DEATH:  Respiratory tract infection

Early Life and Carrier

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. His father served as a local chief and Councillor to the monarch. Mandela grew up in the village of Qunu. Much of his early years were spent herding the cattle and playing with other boys of the district. Both of his parents were illiterate, they realized the importance of education and sent Mandela to a Methodist school when he was seven. Two years later, Mandela acquired the first name, Nelson, which was given to him by his teacher. He became a significant part of the Dalindyebo family, who treated young Mandela as their own child. He attended a mission school which was located near the palace. It was here that his interest in African history grew tremendously.When Mandela turned 16, he travelled to Tyhalarha to undergo the circumcision ritual that symbolically marked the transition from boys to men. After the rite was over, he was given the name ‘Dalibunga’. Mandela attained his secondary education from reputed institution, post which he enrolled at the Methodist college in Fort Beaufort in 1937. He then attended the University of Fort Hare to attain his graduation degree but due to his involvement in the Student Representative Council and his boycotting against the university policies, he was told to leave. Mandela moved to Johannesburg in 1941. While he completed his BA via a correspondence course during the night, most of the time during the day was dedicated to working for the African National Congress activist, Walter Sisulu.

Awards and Achievements


Nelson Mandela is the proud recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received along with de Klerk in 1993. He dedicated the award to Mahatma Gandhi, whom he was deeply influenced from.

In 2009, The United Nations General Assembly declared Mandela’s birthday as ‘Mandela Day’, as an effort to pay tribute and homage to his great work in the anti-apartheid movement.

Queen Elizabeth II decorated Mandela by bestowing upon him the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John and the Order of Merit.

Mandela became the only living person to be awarded with the honorary Canadian citizenship when he received the Order of Canada.

Major Works

Mandela was the founding member of the ANC Youth League. It was during his service at the ANCYL that he transformed the organization from its root level, trashing out all the old methods and employing fresh methods of boycotting, striking, civil disobedience and non-cooperation. His main aim was to kill racism, allow full citizenship to people, redistribute land, bestow trade union rights, and provide free and compulsory education for all children.

He rose to prominence for his Defiance Campaign in 1952 and Congress of the People in 1955. The campaign involved non-violent action of defiance against South African government and its racist policy.

He was the founder of the Umkhonto we Sizwe or ‘Spear of the Nation’, popularly known as MK. One of the cell of ANC, it was devoted to portraying violent action against the government.

Life Imprisonment

Upon his return to South Africa, Mandela was arrested for illegal exit from the country and sentenced to five years of imprisonment. The imprisonment protracted to become life-imprisonment for Mandela as he was convicted for crimes that had occurred while he was spearheading the ANC struggle.He was sent to Robben Island Prison, a maximum security prison on a small island near Cape Town, where he spent nearly 18 years of his 27 years sentence. After this, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and later to the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl from where he was eventually released. Though Mandela was offered freedom on a couple of occasions in exchange for compromising on his political position, he refused to accept the same. He stood by his opinion according to which personal freedom was of no use if the organization of the people remained banned



In February 2011, Mandela was briefly hospitalised with a respiratory infection, attracting international attention before being re-hospitalised for a lung infection and gallstone removal in December 2012. After a successful medical procedure in early March 2013, his lung infection recurred and he was briefly hospitalised in Pretoria. In June 2013, his lung infection worsened and he was rehospitalised in Pretoria in a serious condition. Mandela was discharged from hospital, although his condition remained unstable. After suffering from a prolonged respiratory infection, Mandela died on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95, at around 20:50 local time(UTC+2) at his home in Houghton, surrounded by his family.

5 best books by Nelson Mandela

1. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

2. Conversations with Myself

3. Favorite African Folktales

4. Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words

5. Long Walk to Freedom (adapted for children)

Quotes by Nelson Mandela

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Some Unknown Facts About Nelson Mandela

  • Nelson Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school.
  • He, along with Oliver Tambo, set up South Africa’s first law firm run by blacks in 1952.
  • Nelson’s Mandela’s favourite dish was tripe—the stomach lining of farm animals.
  • He was a great communicator and devised a way of passing secret notes to other
  • He was often referred to as “the Black Pimpernel” for his ability to disguise himself in order to evade arrest. He frequently adopted the disguises of a fieldworker, a chauffeur, or a chef.
  • prisoners while he was incarcerated on the infamous Robben Island.
  • He believed that sports were great means of bringing the racially divided country together.
  • A prehistoric woodpecker, Australopicus nelsonmandelai, is named after him.
  • Mandela was once on the U.S. terror watch list because of his militant fight against apartheid.
  • Mandela was the recipient of more than 250 awards, including honorary degrees from more than 50 universities worldwide.
  • Nelson Mandela appeared in a cameo as a school teacher in the 1992 movie ‘Malcolm X’

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