Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s greatest leaders who played a noble role in promoting peace and reconciliation. Mandela guided the South Africans from the chains of apartheid to multi-racial democracy. Still, he wished to be remembered as an ordinary South African who, together with others, contributed humbly to the growth of South Africa.
On July 18, 1918, Nelson Mandela was born into a royal family in the South African village of Mvezo. Mandela’s birth name is Rolihlahla Mandela. In his language Xhosa, Rolihlahla means pulling the branches, but its literal translation is “troublemaker.”
Nelson Mandela was the first person in his family to receive formal education. His educational journey began when Mandela was baptized in the Methodist Church. Mandela’s teacher, probably due to the bias of the British Education system, gave him his first name Nelson. Mandela had an interest in learning English, geography, Xhosa and history. He was resilient enough to progress to the tertiary level, where he studied law at the University of Witwatersrand.
Nelson Mandela had a great interest in advocating for the well-being of people. He was mindful of the people that were facing racial discrimination. Thus, he signed essential relationships with whites and blacks, not knowing that he was laying a foundation for his political growth.
In 1944, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC). He joined efforts with other party members, such as Oliver Tambo, to create its youth league.
In 1948, Afrikaner-dominated National Party won the election and introduced racial segregation and classification in politics. In 1949, ANC attempted to counter the Afrikaner-dominated National Party’s efforts by pushing to achieve full citizenship for all South Africans. In 1952, Nelson Mandela led the ANC in the campaign for the defiance of unjust laws. In addition, Mandela and Tambo opened South Africa’s first black law firm in 1952. The firm offered free and sometimes low fee counsel to the victims of apartheid.
In December 1956, Mandela and 155 activists were arrested and went to trial for treason. However, tension escalated in ANC in 1959, leading to its splitting and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) formation.
In 1961, Nelson Mandela co-founded and became the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which launched a sabotage campaign against the government. Mandela’s motive to fight for the rights of the vulnerable landed him 18 years jail term. However, he endured suffering and became the first South African president on 10 May 1994.
Nobel Peace Prize
Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ending apartheid in 1993.
From 1994 to June 1999, President Mandela worked whole-heartedly to bring a transition from apartheid and minority rule to black majority rule. Mandela used sports as a pivot to reconcile whites and blacks. In 1995, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup, bringing respect to the nation. Mandela grew South Africa’s economy through his Reconstruction and Development Plan.
His regime created jobs and gave its citizens houses and better healthcare. Even after retiring in 1999, Mandela remained the champion for peace and social justice.
President Mandela died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95, in his house in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mandela succumbed to lung infection after being hospitalized briefly.