The life story of Nelson Mandela – freedom fighter

Nelson Mandela is a South African leader who spent years in prison for opposing apartheid, the policy by which the races were separated and whites were given power over blacks in South Africa. Upon his release from prison, Mandela became the first president of a black-majority-ruled South Africa in which apartheid was officially ended. A symbol of hope for many, Mandela is also a former winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the following text, I will describe the life story of Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter!

Youth and education

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a small village in the southeastern region of South Africa called the Transkei, on July 18, 1918. His father, Henry Mphakanyiswa, was chief of the village and a member of the royal family of the Thembu tribe, which spoke the Xhosa language. As a boy, Mandela grew up in the company of tribal elders and chiefs, which gave him a rich sense of African self-government and heritage, despite the cruel treatment of blacks in white governed South Africa.

Mandela was also deeply influenced by his early education in Methodist church schools. The instruction he received there set Mandela on a path leading away from some African tribal traditions, such as an arranged marriage set up by a tribal elder, which he refused. After being expelled from Fort Hare University College in 1940 for leading a student strike, Mandela obtained a degree from Witwatersrand University. In 1942, he received a degree in law from the University of South Africa.

Joining the ANC

In 1944 Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a South African political party. Since its founding, the ANC’s main goal had been to work to improve conditions and rights for people of color in South Africa. However, its fairly conservative stance had led some members to call for less timid measures. Mandela became one of the ANC’s younger and more radical leaders as a member of the ANC’s Youth League. He became president of the league in 1951.

The years between 1951 and 1960 were troubled times, both for South Africa and for the ANC. Younger anti apartheid activists (protesters), including Mandela, were coming to the view that nonviolent demonstrations against apartheid did not work, because they allowed the South African government to respond with violence against Africans. Although Mandela was ready to try every possible technique to destroy apartheid peacefully, he began to feel that nonviolent resistance would not change conditions in the end.

In 1952 Mandela’s leadership of ANC protest activities led to a nine-month jail sentence. Later, in 1956, he was arrested with other ANC leaders for promoting resistance to South Africa’s “pass laws” that prevented blacks from moving freely in the country. Mandela was charged with treason (a crime committed against one’s country), but the charges against him and others collapsed in 1961. By this time, however, the South African government had outlawed the ANC. This move followed events at Sharpeville in 1960, when police fired on a crowd of unarmed protesters.

Sharpeville had made it clear that the days of nonviolent resistance were over. In 1961 anti apartheid leaders created a semi-underground (operating illegally) movement called the All-African National Action Council. Mandela was appointed its honorary secretary and later became head of Umkhonto weSizwe (the Spear of the Nation), a militant ANC organization which used sabotage (destruction of property and other tactics used to undermine the government) in its fight against apartheid.

Political prisoner In 1962 Mandela was again arrested, this time for leaving South Africa illegally and for inciting strikes. He was sentenced to five years in jail. The following year he was tried with other leaders of Umkhonto weSizwe on a charge of high treason, following a government raid of the group’s secret headquarters. Mandela was given a life sentence, which he began serving in the maximum security prison on South Africa’s Robben Island.

During the twenty-seven years that Mandela spent in prison, his example of quiet suffering was just one of many pressures on South Africa’s apartheid government. Public discussion of Mandela was illegal, and he was allowed few visitors. But as the years dragged on, he was increasingly viewed as a martyr (one who suffers for a cause) in South Africa and around the world, making him a symbol of international protests against apartheid.

In 1988 Mandela was hospitalized with an illness, and after his recovery he was returned to prison under somewhat less harsh conditions. By this time, the situation within South Africa was becoming desperate for the ruling white powers. Protest had spread, and international pressures for the end of apartheid were increasing. More and more, South Africa was isolated as a racist state. It was against this backdrop that F. W. de Klerk (1936–), the president of South Africa, finally responded to the calls from around the world to release Mandela.

Freedom On February 11, 1990, Mandela walked out of prison. He received joyful welcomes wherever he went around the world. In 1991, he assumed the presidency of the ANC, which had been given legal status again by the government.

Both Mandela and deKlerk realized that only a compromise between whites and blacks could prevent civil war in South Africa. As a result, in late 1991, a multiparty Convention for a Democratic South Africa met to establish a new, democratic government that gave people of all colors rights to determine the country’s future. Mandela and deKlerk led the negotiations, and their efforts gained them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In September 1992, the two leaders signed a document that created a freely elected constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution and to act as a transition government (a government that functions temporarily while a new government is being formed). On April 27, 1994, the first free elections open to all South African citizens were held. The ANC won over sixty-two percent of the popular vote, and Mandela was elected president.

Presidency and retirement

As president, Mandela worked to ease the dangerous political differences in his country and to build up the South African economy. To a remarkable degree he was successful in his aims. Mandela’s skill at building compromise and his enormous personal authority helped him lead the transition to democracy. In an effort to help the country heal, he also backed the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which offered amnesty (exemption from criminal prosecution) to those who had committed crimes during the apartheid era. This action helped to promote discussion about the country’s history.

Mandela retired in June 1999, choosing not to challenge Thabo Mbeki, his vice president, in elections. Mbeki won the election for the ANC and was inaugurated as president on June 16, 1999. Mandela quickly took on the role of statesman after leaving office, acting that year as a mediator in the peace process in Burundi, where a civil war had led to the killing of thousands.

Though fraught with tension and conducted against a backdrop of political instability, the talks earned Mandela and de Klerk the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1993. On April 26, 1994, more than 22 million South Africans turned out to cast ballots in the country’s first multiracial parliamentary elections in history. An overwhelming majority chose the ANC to lead the country, and on May 10 Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa, with de Klerk serving as his first deputy.

As president, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights and political violations committed by both supporters and opponents of apartheid between 1960 and 1994. He also introduced numerous social and economic programs designed to improve the living standards of South Africa’s black population. In 1996 Mandela presided over the enactment of a new South African constitution, which established a strong central government based on majority rule and prohibited discrimination against minorities, including whites.

Improving race relations, discouraging blacks from retaliating against the white minority and building a new international image of a united South Africa were central to President Mandela’s agenda. To these ends, he formed a multiracial “Government of National Unity” and proclaimed the country a “rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.” In a gesture seen as a major step toward reconciliation, he encouraged blacks and whites alike to rally around the predominantly Afrikaner national rugby team when South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

On his 80th birthday in 1998, Mandela wed the politician and humanitarian Graça Machel, widow of the former president of Mozambique. (His marriage to Winnie had ended in divorce in 1992.) The following year, he retired from politics at the end of his first term as president and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki of the ANC.

Nelson Mandela’s later years and legacy

After leaving office, Nelson Mandela remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own country and around the world. He established a number of organizations, including the influential Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Elders, an independent group of public figures committed to addressing global problems and easing human suffering. In 2002, Mandela became a vocal advocate of AIDS awareness and treatment programs in a culture where the epidemic had been cloaked in stigma and ignorance. The disease later claimed the life of his son Makgatho (1950-2005) and is believed to affect more people in South Africa than in any other country.

At the founding assembly of The Laureus World Sports Awards, May 25, 2000, the keynote address was given by Nelson Mandela! Nelson Mandela was the first Patron of Laureus. At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, President Mandela said:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

This has become the philosophy of Laureus Sport for Good and the driving force behind its work.

Treated for prostate cancer in 2001 and weakened by other health issues, Mandela grew increasingly frail in his later years and scaled back his schedule of public appearances. In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18 “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the South African leader’s contributions to democracy, freedom, peace and human rights around the world. Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013, from a recurring lung infection.

Fourteen inspiring Nelson Mandela quotes

 

On democracy: “It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division among st us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”

On legacy: “A blind pursuit of cheap popularity has nothing to do with revolution.”

On strength: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times that I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

On language: “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

On facing challenges: “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

On education: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

On parenting: “Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children.”

On determination: “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

On freedom: “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. 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. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”

On life: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

On morality: “Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.”

On humor: “You sharpen your ideas by reducing yourself to the level of the people you are with and a sense of humor and a complete relaxation, even when you’re discussing serious things, does help to mobilize friends around you. And I love that.”

On giving back: “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreams of.”

On death: “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”.

 


I hope you liked Nelson Mendela’s biography?

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