Nelson Mandela | Biography, Life, Death, & Facts | Chammpion

The Biography of Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994 , a position he held until 1999.

Symbol of the construction of world peace , he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

The truth is that it is difficult to summarize everything Nelson Mandela did in his life (1918-2013), but I will try to make a brief summary of the history and life of the great activist.

In short Who was Nelson Mandela?

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 to December 5, 2013) was an anti-apartheid activist, politician and non-violent philanthropist who became the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

By actively participating in the anti-apartheid movement at age 20, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942.

For 20 years, he led a campaign of peaceful and non-violent challenge against the South African government and its racist policies.

As of 1962, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for political crimes. In 1993, Mandela and South African President FW de Klerk jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country's apartheid system.

For generations to come, Nelson Mandela will continue to be a source of inspiration for civil rights activists around the world.

Biography of the great activist Nelson Mandela

Now I explain in more detail the entire history and trajectory of Nelson Mandela. As you can see Mandela has done a bit of everything, but above all he fought for the rights of all the people in his country.

Below I share more details about the life, history and trajectory of Nelson Mandela. 

When and where was Nelson Mandela born?

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in the small town of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River in Transkei, South Africa.

"Rolihlahla" in the Xhosa language literally means "to pull a tree branch", but more commonly it is translated as "troublemaker".

Mandela's family and early life

Nelson Mandela's father, who was destined to be chief, served as an advisor to tribal chiefs for several years, but lost his title and fortune from a dispute with the local colonial magistrate.

Mandela was only a child at that time, and the loss of his father's status forced his mother to move his family to Qunu, an even smaller village north of Mvezo.

The town was nestled in a narrow valley of grass; there were no roads, only paths that joined the pastures where cattle grazed.

The family lived in shacks and ate a local crop of corn, sorghum, squash and beans, which was all they could afford.

The water came from springs and streams and the kitchen was done outdoors. Mandela played the games of young children, representing male right-of-way scenarios with toys he made with the available natural materials, including tree branches and clay.

At the suggestion of one of his father's friends, Mandela was baptized in the Methodist Church.

He became the first of his family to attend school. As was customary at the time, and probably due to the bias of the British education system in South Africa, Mandela's professor told him that his new name would be Nelson.

When Mandela was nine years old , his father died of lung disease, causing his life to change dramatically.

He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people - a gesture done as a favor to Mandela's father, who, years earlier, had recommended that Jongintaba be appointed chief.

Mandela left the carefree life he knew in Qunu, fearing he would not see his village again.

He traveled by car to Mqhekezweni, the provincial capital of Thembuland, to the royal residence of the chief.

Although he had not forgotten his beloved town of Qunu, he quickly adapted to the new and more sophisticated surroundings of Mqhekezweni.

Mandela was given the same status and responsibilities as the other two sons of the regent, his eldest son and son, Justice, and his daughter Nomafu.

Mandela took classes in a classroom school next to the palace, studying English, Xhosa, history and geography.

It was during this period that Mandela developed an interest in African history, from the chiefs who came to the Grand Palace on an official mission.

He learned how the African people had lived in relative peace until the arrival of the whites.

According to the elders, the children of South Africa had previously lived as brothers, but the white men had destroyed this community.

While black men shared their land, air and water with whites, white men took all these things for themselves.

When Mandela was 16 years old, it was time for him to participate in the traditional African circumcision ritual to mark his entry into adulthood.

The circumcision ceremony was not just a surgical procedure, but an elaborate ritual of preparation for virility.

In African tradition, an uncircumcised man cannot inherit his father's wealth, marry or officiate tribal rituals.

Mandela participated in the ceremony with 25 other children. He welcomed the opportunity to participate in the customs of his people and felt ready to make the transition from childhood to adulthood.

However, their mood changed during the ceremony, when Chief Meligqili, the main speaker of the ceremony, spoke sadly of the youth, explaining that they were enslaved in their own country.

Because their land was controlled by white men, they would never have the power to govern themselves, the chief said.

He continued to lament that the promise of young people would be wasted while struggling to make a living and perform meaningless tasks for white men.

Mandela would later say that, while the boss's words made no sense to him at the time, they would finally formulate his determination in favor of an independent South Africa.

What studies did Nelson Mandela have?

Under the tutelage of Regent Jongintaba , Mandela was prepared to assume high positions, not as chief, but as one's advisor.

As a Thembu royalty, Mandela attended a Wesleyan missionary school, the Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Wesleyan College, where, he said later, he achieved academic success through "hard work."

He also stood out in athletics and boxing. Mandela was initially ridiculed as a "country boy" by his Wesleyan classmates, but over time he became friends with several students, including Mathona, his first friend.

In 1939, Mandela enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare, the only residential center for higher education for blacks in South Africa at that time.

Fort Hare was considered the African equivalent of Oxford University or Harvard University, attracting academics from all over sub-Saharan Africa.

In his first year at the university, Mandela took the required courses, but focused on Dutch Roman law to prepare for a career in public service as an interpreter or employee, considered the best profession a black man could obtain at that time. .

In his second year at Fort Hare, Mandela was elected to the Student Representatives Council.

For some time, the students had been dissatisfied with the food and the lack of power that the SRC had.

During this election, most students voted in favor of the boycott unless their demands were met.

Aligning with most of the students, Mandela resigned from his position. Seeing this as an act of insubordination, Dr. Kerr from the university expelled Mandela for the rest of the year and gave him an ultimatum: he could return to school if he agreed to serve at the SRC.

When Mandela returned home, the regent was furious, telling him unequivocally that he would have to retract his decision and return to school in the fall.

A few weeks after Mandela returned home, Regent Jongintaba announced that he had arranged a marriage for his adopted son.

The regent wanted to make sure that Mandela's life was well planned, and the arrangement was within his right, as dictated by tribal custom.

Shocked by the news, feeling trapped and believing he had no choice but to follow this recent order, Mandela fled his home.

He settled in Johannesburg, where he worked in a variety of jobs, including as a guard and office worker, while completing his bachelor's degree through correspondence courses.

He then enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law.

Mandela's romantic and family life

Mandela married three times and had six children. He married his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, in 1944.

The couple had four children together: Madiba Thembekile (d. 1964), Makgatho (d. 2005), Makaziwe (d. 1948 at nine months) and Maki. The couple divorced in 1957.

In 1958, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela; The couple had two daughters together, Zenani (South African Ambassador of Argentina) and Zindziswa (South African Ambassador to Denmark), before separating in 1996.

Two years later, in 1998, Mandela married Graca Machel, Mozambique's Prime Minister of Education, with whom he remained until his death in 2013.

Their participation in the movement against apartheid and civil disobedience

Mandela became actively involved in the movement against apartheid , joining the African National Congress in 1942 .

Within the ANC, a small group of young Africans joined together, calling themselves the Youth League of the African National Congress.

Its objective was to transform the ANC into a popular mass movement, with the force of millions of peasants and rural workers who had no voice under the current regime. Specifically, the group believed that the ANC's old tactics of making polite requests were ineffective.

In 1949, the ANC officially adopted the methods of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and lack of cooperation of the Youth League, with political objectives of full citizenship, redistribution of land, union rights and free and compulsory education for all children .

For 20 years, Mandela led peaceful and non-violent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies, including the 1952 Challenge Campaign and the 1955 People's Congress.

He founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo, in association with Oliver Tambo, a brilliant student he met while attending Fort Hare.

The law firm provided free and low-cost legal advice to blacks not represented.

In 1956, Mandela and 150 other people were arrested and charged with treason for their political defense (they were finally acquitted).

Meanwhile, the ANC was being challenged by the Africanists, a new breed of black activists who believed that the ANC's pacifist method was ineffective.

The Africanists soon separated to form the Pan-Africanist Congress, which negatively affected the ANC; by 1959, the movement had lost much of its militant support.

Mandela prison time

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, from November 1962 until February 1990.

Previously committed to nonviolent protest, he began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change.

In 1961, Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, also known as MK, an armed branch of the ANC dedicated to sabotage and the use of guerrilla warfare tactics to end apartheid.

In 1961, Mandela organized a three-day national workers' strike. He was arrested for leading the strike the following year and sentenced to five years in prison.

In 1963, Mandela was tried again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political crimes , including sabotage.

Nelson Mandela was jailed on Robben Island during 18 of his 27 years in prison.

During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment by prison workers.

However, while incarcerated, Mandela was able to obtain a law degree through a correspondence program from the University of London.

A 1981 memo from South African intelligence agent Gordon Winter described a plot by the South African government to organize Mandela's escape and shoot him during the recapture; The plot was thwarted by British intelligence.

Mandela remained such a powerful symbol of the black resistance that a coordinated international campaign for his release was launched, and this international wave of support exemplified the power and esteem that Mandela had in the world political community.

In 1982, Mandela and other ANC leaders were transferred to Pollsmoor prison, allegedly to allow contact between them and the South African government.

In 1985, President PW Botha offered the release of Mandela in exchange for giving up the armed struggle; the prisoner flatly rejected the offer.

With the increasing local and international pressure for his release , the government participated in several conversations with Mandela in the following years, but no agreement was reached.

It was not until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela's release was finally announced on February 11, 1990 .

De Klerk also lifted the ANC ban, removed restrictions on political groups and suspended executions.

Upon leaving prison, Nelson Mandela immediately urged foreign powers not to reduce the pressure they put on the South African government to carry out a constitutional reform.

Although he declared that he was committed to working for peace, he declared that the armed struggle of the ANC would continue until the black majority received the right to vote.

In 1991 , Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress , with his lifelong friend and colleague Oliver Tambo as national president.

Nobel Peace Prize

In 1993, Nelson Mandela and the President of Klerk jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to dismantle apartheid in South Africa.

After the release of Mandela, he negotiated with the President of Klerk the holding of the first multiracial elections in the country.

White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power.

Negotiations were often tense, and news of violent eruptions, including the murder of ANC leader Chris Hani, continued throughout the country.

Mandela had to maintain a delicate balance between political pressure and intense negotiations amid demonstrations and armed resistance.


Due in large part to the work of Mandela and the President of Klerk, negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed: On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections.

Nelson Mandela was declared the first black president of the country on May 10, 1994, at the age of 77, with De Klerk as his first deputy.

From 1994 to June 1999, President Mandela worked to achieve the transition from the domain of minorities and apartheid to the domain of the black majority.

He used the nation's enthusiasm for sport as a starting point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the hated national rugby team.

In 1995, South Africa arrived on the world stage with the celebration of the Rugby World Cup, which gave the young republic greater recognition and prestige.

That year Mandela also received the Order of Merit .

During his presidency Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse .

Through its Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government financed the creation of jobs, housing and basic medical care.

In 1996 , Mandela promulgated a new constitution for the nation , establishing a strong central government based on the majority government and guaranteeing both minority rights and freedom of expression.

Retirement and Later Career

For the general elections of 1999, Mandela decided to withdraw from politics.

However, he continued to maintain a busy schedule, raising funds to build schools and clinics in the rural heart of South Africa through its foundation , and serving as a mediator in the civil war in Burundi.

Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2001.

In June 2004, at the age of 85 , he announced his official retirement from public life and returned to his hometown of Qunu.

On July 18, 2007, Mandela and his wife Graca Machel were co-founders of The Elders , a group of world leaders whose goal is to work both publicly and privately to find solutions to some of the most difficult problems in the world.

The group included Desmond Tutu , Kofi Annan , Ela Bhatt , Gro Harlem Brundtland , Jimmy Carter , Li Zhaoxing , Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus .

The impact of The Elders has encompassed Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and its actions have included the promotion of women's peace and equality, the demand for an end to atrocities and support for initiatives to address crises humanitarian and promote democracy.

In addition to advocating for peace and equality at the national and global levels, in recent years, Mandela remained committed to the fight against AIDS .

His son Makgatho died of the disease in 2005.

Movies and Books

In 1994, Mandela published his autobiography , Long Walk to Freedom, much of which he had written in secret while in prison.

The book inspired the 2013 film Mandela: Long Road to Freedom . He also published several books about his life and his struggles, including No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: The Struggle Is My Life; and Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela.

Mandela Day

In 2009, Mandela's birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day , an international day to promote world peace and celebrate the legacy of the South African leader .

According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the annual event aims to encourage citizens around the world to return what Mandela has returned throughout his life.

A statement on the Nelson Mandela Foundation website says: “Mr. Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of mankind. All we ask is that each of us give 67 minutes of his time, either to support the charity you choose or to serve your local community. ”

Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela made his last public appearance in the last World Cup match in South Africa 2010 .

In his last years he remained largely out of focus, choosing to spend much of his time in his childhood community in Qunu, south of Johannesburg.

However, he visited the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, during her trip to South Africa in 2011.

When did Nelson Mandela die?

Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 , at the age of 95, at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

After suffering a lung infection in January 2011, Mandela was briefly hospitalized in Johannesburg to undergo surgery for a stomach disease in early 2012.

He was released within a few days, and later returned to Qunu. Mandela would be hospitalized many times in the coming years - in December 2012, March 2013 and June 2013 - to undergo additional medical tests and treatments related to his recurrent lung infection.

After her visit to the hospital in June 2013, Mandela's wife, Graca Machel , canceled a scheduled appearance in London to remain beside her husband, and her daughter, Zenani Dlamini , returned from Argentina to South Africa to be with her father. .

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, issued a statement in response to public concern over the Mandela scare of March 2013, asking for prayer support: “We call on the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our darling Madiba and her family and for them to consider, ”said Zuma.

On the day of Mandela's death, Zuma issued a statement in which he spoke of Mandela's legacy: “Wherever we are in the country, wherever we are in the world, we reaffirm his vision of a society in which no one is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another, ”he said.

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