Life and Times of Nelson MandelaDecember 6, 2013 - Decoded, International, Miscellaneous - Tagged: life of Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela
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Today Nelson Mandela left this world, who was one of the worlds most revered statesmen, who led the
struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy.
Jailed for 27 years, he emerged in 1990 to become the countrys first black president four years later
and to play a leading role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict He fought against apartheid, a
system where non-white citizens were segregated from whites and did not have equal rights. He served a
good portion of his life in prison for his protests, but became a symbol for his people. Later he would
become president of South Africa. . He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
His charisma, self-deprecating sense of humour and lack of bitterness over his harsh treatment, as well as
his amazing life story, partly explain his extraordinary global appeal.
In prison, you come face to face with time. There is nothing more terrifying
Nelson MandelaSince stepping down as president in 1999, Mr Mandela has become South Africas
highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his countrys right to
host the 2010 football World Cup.
Mr Mandela who has had a series of health problems in recent years was also involved in peace
negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
In 2004, at the age of 85, Mr Mandela retired from public life to spend more time with his family and
friends and engage in quiet reflection.
Dont call me, Ill call you, he warned anyone thinking of inviting him to future engagements.
The former president has made few public appearances since largely retiring from public life. In
November 2010, his office released photos of a meeting he had held with members of the US and South
African football teams. He has been treated in hospital several times in the past two years. In late January
2011 he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for specialised tests with the South African
presidency reminding a concerned nation that Mr Mandela has had previous respiratory infections.
While in jail on Robben Island in the 1980s, the former president contracted tuberculosis. In early 2012
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he was treated for what the presidents office said was a long-standing abdominal complaint. But in
recent months he has been troubled repeatedly by a lung infection.
Raised by royalty
He was born in 1918 into the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people in a small village in the eastern Cape of
South Africa. In South Africa, he is often called by his clan name Madiba.
Born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga, he was given his English name, Nelson, by a teacher at his school. His
father, a counsellor to the Thembu royal family, died when Nelson Mandela was nine, and he was placed
in the care of the acting regent of the Thembu people, chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1941, aged 23, he
ran away from an arranged marriage and went to Johannesburg.
Two years later, he enrolled for a law degree at the mainly white Witswaterand University, where he met
people from all races and backgrounds. He was exposed to liberal, radical and Africanist thought, as
well as racism and discrimination, which fuelled his passion for politics. The same year, he joined the
African National Congress (ANC) and later co-founded the ANC Youth League. He married his first
wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. They were divorced in 1958 after having four children. Mr Mandela
qualified as a lawyer and in 1952 opened a law practice in Johannesburg with his partner, Oliver Tambo.
Mandelas key dates
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1944 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness
2007 Forms The Elders group
2010 Appears at closing ceremony of World Cup
Together, Mr Mandela and Mr Tambo campaigned against apartheid, the system devised by the all-
white National Party which oppressed the black majority. In 1956, Mr Mandela was charged with high
treason, along with 155 other activists, but the charges against him were dropped after a four-year trial.
Resistance to apartheid grew, mainly against the new Pass Laws, which dictated where black people
were allowed to live and work. In 1958, Mr Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, who was later to take
an active role in the campaign to free her husband from prison.
The ANC was outlawed in 1960 and Mr Mandela went underground. Tension with the apartheid regime
grew, and soared to new heights in 1960 when 69 black people were shot dead by police in the
This marked the end of peaceful resistance and Mr Mandela, already national vice-president of the
ANC, launched a campaign of economic sabotage.
Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts
He was eventually arrested and charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the
government. Speaking from the dock in the Rivonia court room, Mr Mandela used the stand to convey
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his beliefs about democracy, freedom and equality.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony
and with equal opportunities, he said.
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.
In the winter of 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison. In the space of 12 months between 1968 and
1969, Mr Mandelas mother died and his eldest son was killed in a car crash but he was not allowed to
attend the funerals.
Huge crowds greeted Nelson Mandelas release. He remained in prison on Robben Island for 18 years
before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland in 1982. As Mr Mandela and other ANC
leaders languished in prison or lived in exile, the youths of South Africas black townships did their best
to fight white minority rule.
Hundreds were killed and thousands were injured before the schoolchildrens uprising was crushed. In
1980, the ANC led by the exiled Mr Tambo, launched an international campaign against apartheid but
ingeniously decided to focus it on one cause and one person the demand to release Mr Mandela. This
culminated in the 1988 concert at Wembley stadium in London when some 72,000 people and millions
more watching on TV around the world sang Free Nelson Mandela. Popular pressure led world
leaders to tighten the sanctions first imposed on South Africa in 1967 against the apartheid regime.
The pressure produced results, and in 1990, President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC. Mr
Mandela was released from prison and talks on forming a new multi-racial democracy for South Africa
In 1992 Mr Mandela separated from his wife, Winnie, on the grounds of her adultery. She had also been
convicted on charges of kidnapping and accessory to assault. In December 1993, Mr Mandela and Mr
de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Five months later, for the first time in South Africas
history, all races voted in democratic elections and Mr Mandela was overwhelmingly elected president.
Mr Mandelas greatest problem as president was the housing shortage for the poor, and slum townships
continued to blight major cities.