Nelson Mandela personifies struggle.
He is still leading the fight against apartheid with extraordinary
vigour and resilience after spending nearly three decades of his
life behind bars. He has sacrificed his private life and his youth
for his people, and remains South Africa's best known and loved
- Mandela has held numerous positions in the ANC:
ANCYL secretary (1948); ANCYL president (1950); ANC Transvaal
president (1952); deputy national president (1952) and ANC president
- He was born at Qunu, near Umtata on 18 July 1918.
- His father, Henry Mgadla Mandela, was chief councillor to Thembuland's
acting paramount chief David Dalindyebo. When his father died,
Mandela became the chief's ward and was groomed for the chieftainship.
- Mandela matriculated at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School
and then started a BA degree at Fort Hare. As an SRC member he
participated in a student strike and was expelled, along with
the late Oliver Tambo, in 1940. He completed his degree by correspondence
from Johannesburg, did articles of clerkship and enrolled for
an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand.
- In 1944 he helped found the ANC Youth League, whose Programme
of Action was adopted by the ANC in 1949.
- Mandela was elected national volunteer-in-chief of the 1952
Defiance Campaign. He travelled the country organising resistance
to discriminatory legislation.
- He was given a suspended sentence for
his part in the campaign. Shortly afterwards a banning order
confined him to Johannesburg
for six months. During this period he formulated the "M
Plan", in terms of which ANC branches were broken down into
1952 Mandela and Tambo had opened the first black legal firm
in the country, and Mandela was both Transvaal president of the
ANC and deputy national president.
- A petition by the Transvaal Law Society to strike Mandela off
the roll of attorneys was refused by the Supreme Court.
- In the 'fifties, after being forced through constant bannings
to resign officially from the ANC, Mandela analysed the Bantustan
policy as a political swindle. He predicted mass removals, political
persecutions and police terror.
- For the second half of the 'fifties, he was one of the accused
in the Treason Trial. With Duma Nokwe, he conducted the defence.
- When the ANC was banned after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960,
he was detained until 1961 when he went underground to lead a
campaign for a new national convention.
- Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, was born
the same year. Under his leadership it launched a campaign of
sabotage against government and economic installations.
- In 1962 Mandela left the country for military training in Algeria
and to arrange training for other MK members.
- On his return he was arrested for leaving the country illegally
and for incitement to strike. He conducted his own defence. He
was convicted and jailed for five years in November 1962. While
serving his sentence, he was charged, in the Rivonia trial, with
sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.
- A decade before being imprisoned, Mandela
had spoken out against the introduction of Bantu Education,
recommending that community
activists "make every home, every shack or rickety structure
a centre of learning".
- Robben Island, where he was imprisoned, became a centre for
learning, and Mandela was a central figure in the organised political
- In prison Mandela never compromised his political principles
and was always a source of strength for the other prisoners.
- During the 'seventies he refused the offer of a remission
of sentence if he recognised Transkei and settled there.
- In the 'eighties he again rejected PW Botha's offer of freedom
if he renounced violence.
- It is significant that shortly after his release on Sunday
11 February 1990, Mandela and his delegation agreed to the suspension
of armed struggle.
- Mandela has honorary degrees from more than 50 international
universities and is chancellor of the University of the North.
- He was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State
President of South Africa on 10 May 1994 - June 1999
- Nelson Mandela retired from Public life in June 1999. He currently
resides in his birth place - Qunu, Transkei.
up in his cell during daylight hours, deprived of music, both these
simple pleasures were denied him for decades. With his fellow prisoners,
concerts were organised when possible, particularly at Christmas
time, where they would sing. Nelson Mandela finds music very uplifting,
and takes a keen interest not only in European classical music
but also in African choral music and the many talents in South
African music. But one voice stands out above all - that of Paul
Robeson, whom he describes as our hero.
The years in jail reinforced habits that were already entrenched:
the disciplined eating regime of an athlete began in the 1940s,
as did the early morning exercise. Still today Nelson Mandela is
up by 4.30am, irrespective of how late he has worked the previous
evening. By 5am he has begun his exercise routine that lasts at
least an hour. Breakfast is by 6.30, when the days newspapers are
read. The day s work has begun.
With a standard working day of at least 12 hours, time management
is critical and Nelson Mandela is extremely impatient with unpunctuality,
regarding it as insulting to those you are dealing with.
When speaking of the extensive travelling he has undertaken since
his release from prison, Nelson Mandela says: I was helped when
preparing for my release by the biography of Pandit
Nehru, who wrote of what happens when you leave jail. My daughter
Zinzi says that she grew up without a father, who, when he returned,
became a father of the nation. This has placed a great responsibility
of my shoulders. And wherever I travel, I immediately begin to
miss the familiar - the mine dumps, the colour and smell that is
uniquely South African, and, above all, the people. I do not like
to be away for any length of time. For me, there is no place like
Mandela accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as an accolade to all people
who have worked for peace and stood against racism. It was as much
an award to his person as it was to the ANC and all South Africa
s people. In particular, he regards it as a tribute to the people
of Norway who stood against apartheid while many in the world were
We know it was Norway that provided resources for farming; thereby
enabling us to grow food; resources for education and vocational
training and the provision of accommodation over the years in exile.
The reward for all this sacrifice will be the attainment of freedom
and democracy in South Africa, in an open society which respects
the rights of all individuals. That goal is now in sight, and we
have to thank the people and governments of Norway and Sweden for
the tremendous role they played.
Breakfast of plain porridge, with fresh fruit and fresh milk.
A favourite is the traditionally prepared meat of a freshly slaughtered sheep,
and the delicacy Amarhewu (fermented corn-meal).
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a village near Umtata in the Transkei
on the 18 July 1918. His father was the principal councillor to the Acting
Paramount Chief of Thembuland. After his father s death, the young Rolihlahla
became the Paramount Chief s ward to be groomed to assume high office. However,
influenced by the cases that came before the Chief's court, he determined
to become a lawyer. Hearing the elders stories of his ancestors valour during
the wars of resistance in defence of their fatherland, he dreamed also of making
his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.
After receiving a primary education at a local mission school,
Nelson Mandela was sent to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school
of some repute where he matriculated. He then enrolled at the University
College of Fort Hare for the Bachelor of Arts Degree where he was
elected onto the Student's Representative Council. He was suspended
from college for joining in a protest boycott. He went to Johannesburg
where he completed his BA by correspondence, took articles of clerkship
and commenced study for his LLB. He entered politics in earnest
while studying in Johannesburg by joining the African National
Congress in 1942.
At the height of the Second World War a small group of young Africans,
members of the African
Mandela's house in Soweto is visited by thousands of tourists
yearly as one of the stops on the very popular Soweto
that take place daily
National Congress, banded together under the leadership of Anton
Lembede. Among them were William Nkomo, Walter
Sisulu, Oliver R.
Tambo, Ashby P. Mda and Nelson Mandela. Starting out with 60 members,
all of whom were residing around the Witwatersrand, these young
people set themselves the formidable task of transforming the ANC
into a mass movement, deriving its strength and motivation from
the unlettered millions of working people in the towns and countryside,
the peasants in the rural areas and the professionals.
Their chief contention was that the political tactics of the old
guard' leadership of the ANC, reared in the tradition of constitutionalism
and polite petitioning of the government of the day, were proving
inadequate to the tasks of national emancipation. In opposition
to the old guard', Lembede and his colleagues espoused a radical
African Nationalism grounded in the principle of national self-determination.
In September 1944 they came together to found the African National
Congress Youth League (ANCYL).
Mandela soon impressed his peers by his disciplined work and consistent
effort and was elected to the Secretaryship of the Youth League
in 1947. By painstaking work, campaigning at the grassroots and
through its mouthpiece Inyaniso' (Truth) the ANCYL was able to
canvass support for its policies amongst the ANC membership. At
the 1945 annual conference of the ANC, two of the League s leaders,
Anton Lembede and Ashby Mda, were elected onto the National Executive
Committee (NEC). Two years later another Youth League leader, Oliver
R Tambo became a member of the NEC.
Spurred on by the victory of the National Party which won the
1948 all-White elections on the platform of Apartheid, at the 1949
annual conference, the Programme of Action, inspired by the Youth
League, which advocated the weapons of boycott, strike, civil disobedience
and non-co-operation was accepted as official ANC policy.
Programme of Action had been drawn up by a sub-committee of the
ANCYL composed of David Bopape, Ashby Mda, Nelson Mandela, James
Njongwe, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. To ensure its implementation
the membership replaced older leaders with a number of younger
men. Walter Sisulu, a founding member of the Youth League was elected
Secretary-General. The conservative Dr A.B. Xuma lost the presidency
to Dr J.S. Moroka, a man with a reputation for greater militancy.
The following year, 1950, Mandela himself was elected to the NEC
at national conference.
The ANCYL programme aimed at the attainment of full citizenship,
direct parliamentary representation for all South Africans. In
policy documents of which Mandela was an important co-author, the
ANCYL paid special attention to the redistribution of the land,
trade union rights, education and culture. The ANCYL aspired to
free and compulsory education for all children, as well as mass
education for adults.
When the ANC launched its Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust
Laws in 1952, Mandela was elected National Volunteer-in-Chief.
The Defiance Campaign was conceived as a mass civil disobedience
campaign that would snowball from a core of selected volunteers
to involved more and more ordinary people, culminating in mass
defiance. Fulfilling his responsibility as Volunteer-in-Chief,
Mandela travelled the country organising resistance to discriminatory
legislation. Charged and brought to trial for his role in the campaign,
the court found that Mandela and his co-accused had consistently
advised their followers to adopt a peaceful course of action and
to avoid all violence.
For his part in the Defiance Campaign, Mandela was convicted of
contravening the Suppression of Communism Act and given a suspended
prison sentence. Shortly after the campaign ended, he was also
prohibited from attending gatherings and confined to Johannesburg
for six months.
During this period of restrictions, Mandela wrote the attorneys
admission examination and was admitted to the profession. He opened
a practice in Johannesburg, in partnership with Oliver Tambo. In
recognition of his outstanding contribution during the Defiance
Campaign Mandela had been elected to the presidency of both the
Youth League and the Transvaal region of the ANC at the end of
1952, he thus became a deputy president of the ANC itself.
Of their law practice, Oliver Tambo, ANC National Chairman at
the time of his death in April 1993, has written:
To reach our desks each morning Nelson and I ran the gauntlet
of patient queues of people overflowing from the chairs in the
waiting room into the corridors... To be landless (in South Africa)
can be a crime, and weekly we interviewed the delegations of peasants
who came to tell us how many generations their families had worked
a little piece of land from which they were now being ejected...
To live in the wrong area can be a crime... Our buff office files
carried thousands of these stories and if, when we started our
law partnership, we had not been rebels against apartheid, our
experiences in our offices would have remedied the deficiency.
We had risen to professional status in our community, but every
case in court, every visit to the prisons to interview clients,
reminded us of the humiliation and suffering burning into our people.
Nor did their professional status earn Mandela and Tambo any personal
immunity from the brutal apartheid laws. They fell foul of the
land segregation legislation, and the authorities demanded that
they move their practice from the city to the back of beyond, as
Mandela later put it, miles away from where clients could reach
us during working hours. This was tantamount to asking us to abandon
our legal practice, to give up the legal service of our people...
No attorney worth his salt would easily agree to do that, said
Mandela and the partnership resolved to defy the law.
Nor was the government alone in trying to frustrate Mandela s
legal practice. On the grounds of his conviction under the Suppression
of Communism Act, the Transvaal Law Society petitioned the Supreme
Court to strike him off the roll of attorneys. The petition was
refused with Mr Justice Ramsbottom finding that Mandela had been
moved by a desire to serve his black fellow citizens and nothing
he had done showed him to be unworthy to remain in the ranks of
an honourable profession.
In 1952 Nelson Mandela was given the responsibility to prepare
an organisational plan that would enable the leadership of the
movement to maintain dynamic contact with its membership without
recourse to public meetings. The objective was to prepare for the
contingency of proscription by building up powerful local and regional
branches to whom power could be devolved. This was the M-Plan,
named after him.
During the early fifties Mandela played an important part in leading
the resistance to the Western Areas removals and to the introduction
of Bantu Education. He also played a significant role in popularising
the Freedom Charter, adopted by the Congress of the People in 1955.
In the late fifties, Mandela s attention turned to the struggles
against the exploitation of labour, the pass laws, the nascent
Bantustan policy, and the segregation of the open universities.
Mandela arrived at the conclusion very early on that the Bantustan
policy was a political swindle and an economic absurdity. He predicted,
with dismal prescience, that ahead there lay a grim programme of
mass evictions, political persecutions, and police terror. On the
segregation of the universities, Mandela observed that the friendship
and inter-racial harmony that is forged through the admixture and
association of various racial groups at the mixed universities
constitute a direct threat to the policy of apartheid and baasskap,
and that it was to remove that threat that the open universities
were being closed to black students.
During the whole of the fifties, Mandela was the victim of various
forms of repression. He was banned, arrested and imprisoned. For
much of the latter half of the decade, he was one of the accused
in the mammoth Treason Trial, at great cost to his legal practice
and his political work. After the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960,
the ANC was outlawed, and Mandela, still on trial, was detained.
The Treason Trial collapsed in 1961 as South Africa was being
steered towards the adoption of the republic constitution. With
the ANC now illegal the leadership picked up the threads from its
underground headquarters. Nelson Mandela emerged at this time as
the leading figure in this new phase of struggle. Under the ANC's
inspiration, 1,400 delegates came together at an All-in African
Conference in Pietermaritzburg during March 1961. Mandela was the
keynote speaker. In an electrifying address he challenged the apartheid
regime to convene a national convention, representative of all
South Africans to thrash out a new constitution based on democratic
principles. Failure to comply, he warned, would compel the majority
(Blacks) to observe the forthcoming inauguration of the Republic
with a mass general strike. He immediately went underground to
lead the campaign. Although fewer answered the call than Mandela
had hoped, it attracted considerable support throughout the country.
The government responded with the largest military mobilisation
since the war, and the Republic was born in an atmosphere of fear
Forced to live apart from his family, moving
from place to place to evade detection by the government s ubiquitous
police spies, Mandela had to adopt a number of disguises. Sometimes
dressed as a common labourer, at other times as a chauffeur, his
successful evasion of the police earned him the title of the Black
Pimpernel. It was during this time that he, together with other
leaders of the ANC constituted a new specialised section of the
liberation movement, Umkhonto we Sizwe, as an armed nucleus with
a view to preparing for armed struggle. At the Rivonia trial, Mandela
explained : "At the beginning of June 1961, after long and
anxious assessment of the South African situation, I and some colleagues
came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable,
it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue
preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government
met our peaceful demands with force.
It was only when all else had failed, when
all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that
the decision was made to embark
on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we
Sizwe...the Government had left us no other choice."
In 1961 Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed, with Mandela as its commander-in-chief.
In 1962 Mandela left the country unlawfully and travelled abroad
for several months. In Ethiopia he addressed the Conference of
the Pan African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa, and
was warmly received by senior political leaders in several countries.
During this trip Mandela, anticipating an intensification of the
armed struggle, began to arrange guerrilla training for members
of Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Not long after his return to South Africa Mandela was arrested
and charged with illegal exit from the country, and incitement
Since he considered the prosecution a trial of the aspirations
of the African people, Mandela decided to conduct his own defence.
He applied for the recusal of the magistrate, on the ground that
in such a prosecution a judiciary controlled entirely by whites
was an interested party and therefore could not be impartial, and
on the ground that he owed no duty to obey the laws of a white
parliament, in which he was not represented.
Mandela prefaced this challenge with the affirmation: I detest
racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it
comes from a black man or a white man.
Mandela was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
While serving his sentence he was charged, in the Rivonia Trial,
with sabotage. Mandela s statements in court during these trials
are classics in the history of the resistance to apartheid, and
they have been an inspiration to all who have opposed it. His statement
from the dock in the Rivonia Trial ends with these words:
I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against
black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and
free society in which all persons live together in harmony and
with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for
and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am
prepared to die.
was sentenced to life imprisonment and started his prison years
in the notorious Robben Island Prison, a maximum security prison
on a small island 7Km off the coast near Cape
Town. In April 1984
he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and in December
1988 he was moved the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl from where
he was eventually released. While in prison, Mandela flatly rejected
offers made by his jailers for remission of sentence in exchange
for accepting the bantustan policy by recognising the independence
of the Transkei and agreeing to settle there. Again in the 'eighties
Mandela rejected an offer of release on condition that he renounce
violence. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Only free men
can negotiate, he said.
Released on 11 February 1990, Mandela plunged wholeheartedly into
his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had
set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national
conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after being banned
for decades, Nelson Mandela was elected President of the ANC while
his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation's
Nelson Mandela has never wavered in his devotion to democracy,
equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never
answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration,
in South Africa and throughout the world, to all who are oppressed
and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.
In a life that symbolises the triumph of the human spirit over
man s inhumanity to man, Nelson Mandela accepted the 1993 Nobel
Peace Prize on behalf of all South Africans who suffered and sacrificed
so much to bring peace to our land.
information above is from the official site of the African
National Congress --------------