Nelson Mandela, whose full name is Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, popularly known as Madiba, was born on July 18th, 1918, in Mvezo, South Africa. His primary school was a local missionary school where he became popularly known as Nelson. His father was Henry Mandela who was the chief of the Madiba clan of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people.
After his father died, Nelson was raised by Jongintaba, who was the ruler of the Tembu people. Nelson then renounced this to become a lawyer rather than to claim chieftainship.
He attended the South African Native College, which was later changed to the University of Fort Hare, and then he studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand; and became a qualified lawyer.
Later in 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC). It was a Black-liberation group, in which he later became a leader of the party’s Youth League.
After returning home as he parted ways through university, Mandela fled to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. During that same year he met and married Evelyn Ntoko Mase.
Mandela subsequently held other ANC leadership positions, through which he helped with new and improved activities in the organization and opposed the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party. Mandela’s marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase ended in divorce in the 1950s after she told him to choose between his career in the political field and her.
In 1952 in Johannesburg, with his fellow ANC leader Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, established the South Africa’s first Black law practice, specializing in cases which resulted from the post-1948 racial separation policies in the legislation.
Also, in that same year, Mandela played an important role in launching a campaign of bold resistance to the authorities against the South Africa’s pass laws, which required non-whites to carry documents which were known as passes, pass books, or reference books authorizing their presence in areas that the government made known as “restricted”. It was generally reserved for the white population.
He traveled throughout the country as part of the campaign, trying to build support for nonviolent means of protest against all the biased laws. In 1955, he was involved in drawing up the Freedom Charter, a document which called for nonracial social democracy in South Africa.
Mandela’s acting against the racial separation policy activism made him a frequent target of the authorities. Starting in 1952, he was severally banned and limited to travel, associate with other ANC members and make speeches. In December 1956, he was arrested with more than 100 other people on charges of treason that were designed to harass the activists. Mandela went on trial that same year and eventually was declared innocent in 1961.
During the extended court proceedings, he met and married Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela who is popularly known as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela after divorcing his first wife.
After the killings of unarmed Black South Africans by police forces at Sharpeville in 1960 and the subsequent prohibition of the ANC, Mandela gave up his nonviolent stance and began advocating acts of seizure against the South African regime.
He went underground and during that time he became known as the Black resourceful man who was who was brave in liberating victims of injustice for his ability to cleverly escape from capture and was one of the founders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), the military arm of the ANC. In 1962, he went to Algeria for training in guerrilla warfare returning to South Africa later that year. On August 5, shortly after his return, Mandela was arrested at a road block in Natal; he was then sentenced to five years in prison.
In October 1963 Mandela was imprisoned and several other men were tried for destruction, treason, and violently breaking the laws in the infamous Rivonia Trial, named after a fashionable shopping center of Johannesburg where hostile police had discovered quantities of arms and machines at the headquarters of the underground Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Nelson Mandela’s speech which he read from the slip in which he gave recognition to the truth of some of the charges made against him, was a classic defense of liberty and disregarding the authorities with absolute power. Mandela’s speech obtained international attention and compliments and was published later that year as “I Am Prepared to Die”. On June 12, 1964, he was convicted to life imprisonment. He narrowly escaped all the death sentences.
From 1964 to 1982 Mandela was locked away at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town for breaking the law. Nelson next, he was kept at the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison until 1988, after he was treated for tuberculosis, he was then moved to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. The South African government often made offers of freedom to Mandela with a condition attached, most noted in 1976. He was given the condition that he would accept the newly independent and highly contested status of the Transkei Bantustan and agree to reside there. An offer that was made in 1985 required that he surrender the use of violence. Mandela refused both offers, the second on the introduction that only free men were able to engage in such negotiations and, as a prisoner, he was not a free man.
Throughout those times he was locked away, Mandela kept wide support among South Africa’s Black population, and his imprisonment became a popular talk among the international community that condemned racial separation policy. As South Africa’s political situation diminished after 1983, he was engaged by ministers of Pres. P.W. Botha’s government in investigatory negotiations; he met with Botha’s successor, de Klerk, in December 1989.
On February 11, 1990, the South African government under President de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison. Shortly after he was released, Mandela was chosen as deputy president of the ANC; he then became president of the party in July 1991. Mandela led the ANC in negotiations with de Klerk to end racial separation policy and bring about a peaceful transition to non-racial democracy in South Africa.
In April 1994, Mandela led ANC won South Africa’s first elections by using their rights and chances to vote and on May 10 in that same year, Mandela was sworn in as president of the country’s first combined ethnic government.
He established in 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which investigated and interrogated human rights violations under racial separation policy, and he introduced housing, education, and economic development initiatives which were designed to improve the living standards of the country’s population. In 1996 he oversaw the passage of bills into laws into a new democratic constitution. Mandela then resigned his post with the ANC in December 1997, moving the leadership of the party to his appointed successor, Thabo Mbeki.
Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela got divorced in 1996, and in 1998 Mandela married Graca Machel, who was the widow of Samora Machel, the former president of Mozambique and leader of Frelimo.
Mandela did not petition for a second term as South African president and he was succeeded by Mbeki in 1999. After leaving office Mandela receded from active politics but kept a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, and social justice, often through the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, established in the year 1999.
He was a founding member of the Elders, a group of international leaders established in 2007 for promoting conflict resolution and solving problems throughout the world. In 2008 Mandela was honored with several celebrations in South Africa, Great Britain, and other countries in honour of his 90th birthday.
Mandela Day, was created to celebrate his legacy by promoting community service around the world.
It was first noted and observed on July 18, 2009, and was paid for primarily by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the 46664 initiative (the foundations HIV/AIDS global awareness and prevention campaign); later that year the United Nations declared that the day would be observed annually as Nelson Mandela International Day.
Sadly, he died on 5th December, 2013, aged 95.