Anti Apartheid leader and Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was born on 18th July 1918 in a small village of Mvezo which was then a part of South Africa’s Cape Town province. He was given the forename Rolihlahla which basically means ‘troublemaker’. Mandela’s name was going to have a huge effect on him in the future as he would go onto create enormous trouble for the ruling racist regime in South Africa.
No one in Nelson Mandela’s family had ever attended school. He was the first one to avail of this luxury as he was sent to a Methodist school to study when he was seven. At that point in time, there was a custom among Africans that they would generally be given English names while attending school. On the first day of his school, Mandela was given the name Nelson by his teacher Miss Mdingane.
At a tender age of nine, Nelson Mandela lost his father to an undiagnosed ailment. Mandela inherited several aspects of his father’s personality. In his own words, he inherited his father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness”.
Coming of age:
At the age of 16, Mandela underwent the ritual of circumcision which basically marked ones evolution from being a boy to a man. After observance of the said ritual, Mandela was given the name “Dalibunga”.
During his initial days, Mandela avoided any revolutionary activity. Instead he was supportive of Great Britain during the days of the Second World War. This was principally because he saw European colonialists of the time as benefactors and not oppressors.
Politics & Personal Life:
In the year 1944, Mandela married his first wife Evelyn Mase who was a serving nurse. The couple gave birth to two kids one of whom died early due to a childhood ailment. In the same year he founded the African National Congress to stage protests against the racist regime.
Nelson Mandela’s political career went on the ascendance when he was elected National President of the ANCYL in 1950. During these years Mandela was heavily influenced by Communist ideologues like Karl Marx. Alongside Indian and Communist groups, Mandela chalked out a non violent resistance to the apartheid regime.
Mandela was arrested in 1952 and booked under the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1953, at an ANC meeting, Mandela’s supporters read out his historic speech ‘No easy walk to freedom’ whose title was inspired by a famous quotation of India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
After getting divorced from his first wife in 1957, Mandela got married for the second time to Winnie Madikizela in 1958. Their wedlock lasted for more than three decades until the couple finally separated ways in 1992 and filed for divorce in 1996.
Struggle and Imprisonment:
In 1962, after getting frustrated with the slow movement of his anti-apartheid campaign, Mandela left the country to receive military training in neighbouring countries like Morocco and Ethiopia. On his return to his native home, Mandela was nabbed by security forces and taken into custody. On June 12th, 1964 Mandela along with seven others was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
February 1990 saw a dramatic turn of events as South Africa’s last White President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on ANC and other revolutionary movements which had sprung up. On February 11th of the same year, the unthinkable happened as Mandela walked out of prison.
Nobel Prize, General Elections and Presidency:
In 1993, both Mandela and Klerk were awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts towards forging a country free from racial bias. South Africa held a historic general election in the year 1994 in which Nelson Mandela and the ANC took active part. Mandela spent bulk of his time campaigning and raising funds for the party. ANC grabbed over 60% of the national vote count and stormed to power.
Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s President in Pretoria on 10th May. He laid down excessive stress on national reconciliation and annihilating racism. He was also deeply concerned about the problems of hunger and poverty which were intrinsically associated with the African continent. In May 1996, a new Constitution of South Africa was formally agreed upon by the South African Parliament.
3rd Marriage and Retirement:
On his 80th birthday, in the beginning of the twilight years of his life, Nelson Mandela married Gracy Machel on the insistence of his colleague and fellow South African icon Desmond Tutu. The two have had a fairly successful relationship ever since their marriage fifteen years ago.
Mandela retired from active political life in 1999 but he carried on with his social activism. He held regular meetings with world leaders and was busy deliberating on how to combat diseases like HIVAIDS and propel rural development. In the former half of the first decade of the 21st century, Mandela vociferously criticized the Western powers for their military interventions.
In June 2004, Mandela announced that he was “retiring from retirement” and urged people not to call him but instead he would call them. From here onwards, Mandela made limited public appearances and was seen in public as an icon whose time had come to pass.
The second decade of the 21st century brought about serious health problems for Nelson Mandela as he was rushed to hospital multiple times because of various ailments. On 8th June 2013, his condition worsened and he was rushed to a hospital in Pretoria. Government officials and doctors have since described his condition as “critical but stable”.