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Biography of Nelson MANDELA

South Africa > Politics : Nelson MANDELA

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Born on 18/07/1918 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Nelson  Rolihlahla Mandela (b. July 18,1918), was the first black president of South African,and resistance leader who after years of imprisonment for opposing apattheid emerged to become the first president of a black majority- ruled South Africa and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Chief among African leaders, Nelson Mandela is one of few statesmen to have achieved almost universal respect around the world and across the political spectrum.
His role in fighting apartheid, his imprisonment on Robben Island - where he came to symbolise the struggle of oppressed people around the world - and his ability to steer South Africa through the crisis of its rebirth have earned him the international reputation of benevolent negotiator and quintessential peacemaker.
Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time, an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country.

Nelson Mandela was born July 18,1918  into the Thembu (Xhosa) ruling family Mandela studied at Fort Hare University but was expelled for leading a student strike. He subsequently qualified as a lawyer through correspondence courses and in 1952, with Oliver Tambo, he established the country's first black law firm. In 1944 he was a founder member of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC). During the 1940s and 1950s he rose rapidly through the ANC hierarchy but was frequently subject to police harassment, detention, and banning. When the ANC was outlawed in 1960 he went underground and organized its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). In 1962 he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. In 1964, whilst still in detention, he was charged with treason and, after giving a memorable four-and-a-half hour speech criticizing apartheid, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In total Mandela spent twenty-seven consecutive years in detention. From 1964 to 1982 he was held on Robben Island, from 1982 to 1988 in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town, and from 1988 to 1990 in Victor Verster Prison, Paarl. From 1985 on he rejected several offers of "conditional" release which would have imposed severe limits on his political activities. In many ways his imprisonment increased his, already considerable, political status and resulted in a worldwide campaign for his release. In February 1990 he was unconditionally released to scenes of joyous celebration at home and abroad.

On his release he became deputy president of the now legalized ANC leaving the ailing Oliver Tambo to hold the presidency for a short time longer, before being elected president of the party in July 1991. Displaying a quite extraordinary lack of rancour towards whites he began to work towards the establishment of a non-racial democracy in South Africa to replace the totally discredited apartheid system. To this end he participated in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), which began work in early 1992 to negotiate the future constitutional arrangements for the country but collapsed in 1992 and was replaced by a new forum at Kempton Park in 1993. In 1993 he and F. W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Although the negotiations were not without setbacks and delays they eventually produced an interim constitution which led to the first ever non-racial election in April 1994. In recognition of Mandela's huge personal popularity the ANC campaign for the National Assembly elections came close to being a presidential-style campaign with great emphasis put on the leader. With the ANC gaining just under two-thirds of votes cast, Mandela, as leader of the largest party in parliament, was installed as national President.

On coming to power he formed a coalition government of "national unity" following the requirements of the interim constitution, which included de Klerk as Deputy Vice-President but in which the ANC held the majority of portfolios. Under Mandela's leadership the government embarked on the twin paths of reconciliation and reconstruction in a society which had been badly divided by over a century of racial segregation and apartheid.

Helped by a combination of acute intelligence, total moral integrity, and an approach to politics which combined idealism and pragmatism, Mandela has been the key pivotal figure in a political transformation which few believed was possible.

Nelson Mandela has spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of black South Africans, enduring trial and incarceration for his principles. A political prisoner in his native South Africa for more than 25 years, the eloquent and statesman-like Mandela became the human embodiment of the struggle against government-mandated discrimination. His courage and determination through decades of imprisonment galvanized not only South African blacks, but also concerned citizens on every continent.


"Leadership comes with responsibility. It is important for you as leaders to harness those responsibilities and ensure that you also empower those around you who scale the mountains with you."

"And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

"I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses".

"If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness."

"Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement."

"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. "

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

During the 2010 world cup the public played the Vuvuzela, the Vuvuzela orchestra played a tribute to Nelson Mandela at the 2007 Mandela Challenge - watch

Last update : 07/18/2010

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