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NELSON MANDELA - COURTESY OF http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (IPA ) (born July 18, 1918) was the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections. Before his presidency he was a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress. He was tried and imprisoned on Robben Island for his involvement in underground armed resistance activities.

The armed struggle was a last resort; he had remained steadfastly committed to non-violence.[1] Through his 27-year imprisonment, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known figure in the struggle against South African apartheid. Although the apartheid regime and nations sympathetic to it considered him and the ANC to be communists and terrorists, the armed struggle was an integral part of the overall campaign against apartheid. The switch in policy to that of reconciliation, which Mandela pursued upon his release in 1990, facilitated a peaceful transition to fully-representative democracy in South Africa.

Having received over a hundred awards over four decades, Mandela is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on topical issues. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela. Many South Africans also refer to him reverently as 'mkhulu' (grandfather).

Nelson Mandela

A young Nelson Mandela

Mandela belongs to a cadet branch of the Thembu dynasty which (nominally) reigns in the Transkeian Territories of the Union of South Africa's Cape Province. He was born in the small village of Qunu in the the district of Mthatha, the Transkei capital. His great-grandfather was Ngubbengcuka (died 1830), the Inkosi Enkhulu or King of the Thembu people, who were eventually subjected to British colonial rule. One of the king's sons, named Mandela, became Nelson's grandfather and the source of his surname. However, being only the Inkosi's child by a wife of the Ixhiba clan (the so-called "Left-Hand House"), the descendants of his branch of the royal family were not eligible to succeed to the Thembu throne.[2] His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (1880-1928), was nonetheless designated chief of the village of Mvezo. Upon alienating the colonial authorities however, he was deprived of his position, and moved his family to Qunu.[3] Gadla remained, however, a member of the Inkosi's Privy Council, and was instrumental in the ascension to the Thembu throne of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who would later return this favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Gadla's death. In total, Mandela's father had four wives, with whom he fathered a total of thirteen children (four boys and nine girls). Mandela was born to Gadla's third wife ('third' by a complex royal ranking system), Nosekeni Fanny, daughter of Nkedama of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan, in whose umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood. His given name Rolihlahla means one who brings trouble upon himself.

At seven years of age, Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend a school, where he was given the name "Nelson", after the British admiral Horatio Nelson, by a Methodist teacher. His father died of tuberculosis when Rolihlahla was nine, and the Regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian. Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school next door to the palace of the Regent. Following Thembu custom, he was initiated at age sixteen, and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute, learning about Western culture. He completed his Junior Certificate in two years, instead of the usual three.

Destined to inherit his father's position as a privy councillor, in 1937 Mandela moved to Healdtown, the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort which most Thembu royalty attended. Aged nineteen, he took an interest in boxing and running. After matriculating, he started to study for a B.A. at the Fort Hare University, where he met Oliver Tambo, and the two became lifelong friends and colleagues.

At the end of his first year, he became involved in a boycott by the Students' Representative Council against the university policies, and was asked to leave Fort Hare. Shortly after this, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the Regent's own son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them. Both young men were displeased by this and rather than marry, they elected to flee the comforts of the Regent's estate to the only place they could: Johannesburg. Upon his arrival in Johannesburg, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine. However, this was quickly terminated after the employer learned that Mandela was the Regent's runaway adopted son. He then managed to find work as an articled clerk at a law firm thanks to connections with his friend and fellow lawyer Walter Sisulu. While working, he completed his degree at the University of South Africa (UNISA) via correspondence, after which he started with his law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. During this time Mandela lived in a township called Alexandra.

In 1961, Mandela became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated as Spear of the Nation, also abbreviated as MK), which he co-founded. He co-ordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets, and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid. A few decades later, MK did indeed wage a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s, in which many civilians were killed. Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad, and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.

On 5 August 1962, he was arrested after living on the run for seventeen months and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. According to William Blum, a former U.S. State Department employee, the CIA tipped off the police as to Mandela's whereabouts. Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance. On 25 October 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison. Two years later on 11 June 1964, a verdict had been reached concerning his previous engagement in the African National Congress (ANC).

While Mandela was in prison, police arrested prominent ANC leaders on 11 July 1963, at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, north of Johannesburg. Mandela was brought in, and at the Rivonia Trial, Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Walter Mkwayi (who escaped during trial), Arthur Goldreich (who escaped from prison before trial), Denis Goldberg and Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein were charged by Percy Yutar with the capital crimes of sabotage and crimes which were equivalent to treason, but easier for the government to prove.

In his statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the trial on 20 April 1964 at Pretoria Supreme Court, Mandela laid out the clarity of reasoning in the ANC's choice to use violence as a tactic. His statement revealed how the ANC had used peaceful means to resist apartheid for years until the Sharpeville Massacre.

elson Mandela and Al Gore

That event coupled with the referendum establishing the Republic of South Africa and the declaration of a state of emergency along with the banning of the ANC made it clear that their only choice was to resist through acts of sabotage. Doing otherwise would have been tantamount to unconditional surrender. Mandela went on to explain how they developed the Manifesto of Umkhonto on 16 December 1961 intent on exposing the failure of the National Party's policies after the economy would be threatened by foreigners' unwillingness to risk investing in the country. He closed his statement with these words:

“ During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. 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.[1] ”

Bram Fischer, Vernon Berrange, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos were part of the defence team that represented the accused. Harold Hanson was brought in at the end of the case to plead mitigation. All except Rusty Bernstein were found guilty, but they escaped the gallows and were sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. Charges included involvement in planning armed action, in particular four charges of sabotage, which Mandela admitted to, and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa, which Mandela denied.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he was destined to remain for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. It was there he wrote the bulk of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. In that book Mandela did not reveal anything about the alleged complicity of Frederik de Klerk in the violence of the eighties and nineties, or the role of his ex-wife Winnie Mandela in that bloodshed. However, he later co-operated with his friend the journalist Anthony Sampson who discussed those issues in Mandela: The Authorised Biography. Another detail that Mandela omitted was the allegedly fraudulent book, Goodbye Bafana. Its author, Robben Island warder James Gregory, claimed to have been Mandela's confidante in prison and published details of the prisoner's family affairs in Goodbye Bafana. Sampson maintained that Mandela had not known Gregory well, but that Gregory censored the letters sent to the future president and thus discovered the details of Mandela's personal life. Sampson also averred that other warders suspected Gregory of spying for the government and that Mandela considered suing Gregory. [4]

While in prison, Mandela was able to maintain contact with the ANC, which published a statement from him on 10 June 1980, reading in part:

“ Unite! Mobilize! Fight on! Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid![1] ”

Refusing an offer of conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle in February 1985, Mandela remained in prison until sustained ANC and international campaigning with the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela! culminated in his release in February 1990. State President Frederik de Klerk simultaneously ordered Mandela's release, and the ending of the ban on the ANC.

On the day of his release, 11 February 1990, Mandela made a speech to the nation. While declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country's white minority, he made it clear that the ANC's armed struggle was not yet over:

“ Our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle. ”

But he also said his main focus was to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.

South Africa's first democratic elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won the majority in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated as the country's first black State President, with the National party's de Klerk as his deputy president in the Government of National Unity.

As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Nelson Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Nelson Mandela wearing a Springbok shirt presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.

It was also during his administration that South Africa entered the space age with the launch of the SUNSAT satellite in February 1999. It was was designed by students of University of Stellenbosch and was used primarily for photographing land in South Africa related to vegetation and forestry concerns.

 

 
 

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