In Memory of Nelson Mandela:
(Dedicated to all of his children: Madiba Thembekile, Makgatho Mandela, Makaziwe Mandela (named after her older sister who died at nine months, Zenani, Zindzishwa)
“The First Politician to Ever Be Missed”
However no matter how amazing he was there are still some people who are none the wiser of what he achieved.
So I thought I would break it down for people out there.
The beginning? The Truth..
First off Mandela was born on the 18th July 1918 in the village of Mvezo. His real name was Rolihlahla (meaning troublemaker) Mandela and he was the son of Gadla the local chief.
So how did he get the name Nelson?
“No one in my family had ever attended school […] On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why this particular name I have no idea.”
— Mandela, 1994
Did he go to University? Did he work?
In 1937 Mandela studied a BA degree in English, Anthropology, politics, native administration and Roman Dutch Law, at the University of Fort Hare Mandela c. 1937. However when he found out that he had an arranged marriage heading his way he fled to Johannesberg in April 1941.
Here he became a clerk at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman. Here he first began his involvement with the ANC through his friend Gauer Redebe. He also made his first white friend, a Jewish communist, Nat Bregman.
The one thing that stood out to him about the ANC was the amount of communist talks encouraging Europeans, Africans, Indians and Coloureds to mix as equals.
He then began studying law studies at the University of Witwatersrand,
He created his own lawfirm in August 1953 alongside his friend Oliver Tambo. They were the only African-run law firm in the country, it was popular with aggrieved blacks, often dealing with cases of police brutality. Disliked by the authorities, the firm was forced to relocate to a remote location after their office permit was removed under the Group Areas Acts.
Who was Evelyn?
He met his first love Evelyn in 1944. She was an ANC activist as well as training to be a nurse. They married on the 5th October 1944. Their first child Madiba “Thembi” Thembekile was born in February 1945. They also had another daughter born in 1947 who died 9 months later from Meningitis.
Due to the amount of pressure Mandela was under within his own lawfirm his marriage to Evelyn started to become strained. Though a second daughter, Makaziwe Phumia, was born in May 1954.
His marriage broke down as Evelyn left Mandela, taking their children to live with her brother. Initiating divorce proceedings in May 1956, she claimed that Mandela had physically abused her; he denied the allegations, and fought for custody of their children. She withdrew her petition of separation in November, but Mandela filed for divorce in January 1958; the divorce was finalised in March, with the children placed in Evelyn’s care. During the divorce proceedings, he began courting and politicising a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, who he married in Bizana on 14 June 1958.
How many times did he get arrested?
The first time was on the 30th July 1952 under the Suppression of Communism Act-he was sentenced to nine months hard labour.
On 5 December 1956, Mandela was arrested alongside most of the ANC Executive for “high treason” against the state. Held in Johannesburg Prison amid mass protests, they underwent a preparatory examination in Drill Hall on 19 December, before being granted bail.
Disguising himself as a chauffeur, Mandela travelled the country incognito, organising the ANC’s new cell structure and a mass stay-at-home strike for 29 May. Referred to as the “Black Pimpernel” in the press – a reference to Emma Orczy‘s 1905 novel The Scarlet Pimpernel – the police put out a warrant for his arrest. Mandela held secret meetings with reporters.
On 5 August 1962, police captured Mandela along with Cecil Williams near Howick. Jailed in Johannesburg’s Marshall Square prison, he was charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission.
His hearing began on 15 October, but he disrupted proceedings by refusing to call any witnesses, and turning his plea of mitigation into a political speech.
Found guilty, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment only to be transferred after five years to Robben Island and remanining there for 18 years.
In April 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town along with senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba; they believed that they were being isolated to remove their influence on younger activists
What did he do in prison?
At night, he worked on his LLB degree, but newspapers were forbidden, and he was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for possessing smuggled news clippings
When did he leave prison?
He left prison on the 11th February holding Winnie’s hand in front of large crowds. He was then driven to Cape Town’s City Hall where he gave a speech declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the white minority as well as insisting that his main focus was to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in national and local elections
What happened to Winnie?
She later became involved in ANC activities, spending several weeks imprisoned. They divorced after he found out she had had an affair in 1995.
When was Mandela elected as the First Black President of South Africa?
In Pretoria on 10 May 1994, televised to a billion viewers globally. However instead of moving into the Presidential house he instead settled nearby in Westbrooke Valley near the Afrikaans. He also had a house built in his home village of Qunu, which he visited regularly, walking around the area, meeting with locals, and judging tribal disputes.
Mandela lived simply, donating a third of his 552,000 rand annual income to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which he had founded in 1995.
What did he do that changed people’s lives forever?
He introduced equality in grants for communities, including disability grants, child maintenance grants, and old-age pensions, which had previously been set at different levels for South Africa’s different racial groups.
In 1994, free healthcare was introduced for children under six and pregnant women, a provision extended to all those using primary level public sector health care services in 1996.
By the 1999 election, 3 million people were connected to telephone lines, 1.5 million children were brought into the education system, 500 clinics were upgraded or constructed, 2 million people were connected to the electricity grid, water access was extended to 3 million people, and 750,000 houses were constructed, housing nearly 3 million people.
The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act, 1913 to claim back their land, leading to the settlement of tens of thousands of land claims.
The Land Reform Act 3 of 1996 safeguarded the rights of labour tenants who live and grow crops or graze livestock on farms. This legislation ensured that such tenants could not be evicted without a court order or if they were over the age of sixty-five.
Did he ever find love again?
Yes in 1995 he met his third and final wife Graca Machel. She was a Mozambican political activist 27 years his junior, she was also the widow of former president Samora Machel.
They had first met in July 1990, when she was still in mourning, but their friendship grew into a partnership, with Machel accompanying him on many of his foreign visits.
She turned down Mandela’s first marriage proposal, wanting to retain some independence and dividing her time between Mozambique and Johannesburg. But accepted his second.
- President Nelson Madiba Mandela Memorial Service Program, Media Coverage And Official Obituary (theobamacrat.com)
- Mandela memorial: Snipers stand guard (cnn.com)
- Mandela lived for the people, not for the ANC (hindatalal.com)
- Nelson Mandela Memorial: World Leaders In SA (news.sky.com)
- Madiba-Nelson Mandela’s Homegoing (3chicspolitico.com)
- Margaret Thatcher branded ANC ‘terrorist’ while urging Nelson Mandela’s release (independent.co.uk)
- Nelson Mandelas’ Biography (wilberforcealwanga.wordpress.com)
- Historians say Western powers distorting the memory of Mandela (antiguaobserver.com)
- Politicians who opposed Nelson Mandela and supported Apartheid (rollingout.com)
- Watch Obama’s powerful eulogy for Nelson Mandela (trentonian.com)