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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (IPA pronunciation: /roli’ɬaɬa/) (born July 18, 1918) was the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections.
Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), and was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage after he went underground and began the ANC’s armed struggle. He saw his wife only three times over the next 27 years.

Mandela belongs to a cadet branch of the Thembu dynasty, which reigns in the Transkeian Territories of South Africa’s Cape Province. He was born in Mvezo, a small village located in the district of Umtata, the Transkei capital. His patrilineal great-grandfather Ngubengcuka (who died in 1832), ruled as the Inkosi Enkhulu, or king, of the Thembu people. One of the king’s sons, named Mandela, became Nelson’s grandfather and the source of his surname. However, because he was 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.

Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, served as chief of the town of Mvezo. However, upon alienating the colonial authorities, they deprived Mphakanyiswa of his position, and moved his family to Qunu. Despite this, Mphakanyiswa remained a member of the Inkosi’s Privy Council, and served an instrumental role in Jongintaba Dalindyebo’s ascension to the Thembu throne. Dalindyebo would later return the favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Mphakanyiswa’s death. Mandela’s father had four wives, with whom he fathered a total of thirteen children (four boys and nine girls). Mandela was born to his third wife (‘third’ by a complex royal ranking system), Nosekeni Fanny. Fanny was a daughter of Nkedama of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan, the dynastic Right Hand House, in whose umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood.[8] His given name Rolihlahla means “to pull a branch of a tree”, or more colloquially, “troublemaker”.

Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend a school, where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the English name “Nelson”. When Mandela was nine, his father died of tuberculosis, and the regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian. Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school located next to the palace of the regent. Following Thembu custom, he was initiated at age sixteen, and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute. Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in two years, instead of the usual three. Designated 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. At nineteen, he took an interest in boxing and running at the school.

After enrolling, Mandela began to study for a Bachelor of Arts at the Fort Hare University, where he met Oliver Tambo. Tambo and Mandela became lifelong friends and colleagues. Mandela also became close friends with his kinsman, Kaiser (“K.D.”) Matanzima who, as royal scion of the Thembu Right Hand House, was in line for the throne of Transkei, a role that would later lead him to embrace Bantustan policies. His support of these policies would place him and Mandela on opposing political sides. At the end of Nelson’s first year, he became involved in a Students’ Representative Council boycott against university policies, and was told to leave Fort Hare and not return unless he accepted election to the SRC. Later in his life, while in prison, Mandela studied for a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London External Programme.

Shortly after leaving Fort Hare, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the regent’s son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them. The young men, displeased by the arrangement, elected to relocate to Johannesburg. Upon his arrival, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine. However, the employer quickly terminated Mandela after learning that he was the Regent’s runaway ward. Mandela later started work as an articled clerk at a Johannesburg law firm, Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, through connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu. While working at Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, Mandela completed his B.A. degree at the University of South Africa via correspondence, after which he began law studies at the University of Witwatersrand, where he first befriended fellow students and future anti-apartheid political activists Joe Slovo, Harry Schwarz and Ruth First. Slovo would eventually become Mandela’s Minister of Housing, while Schwarz would become his Ambassador to Washington. During this time, Mandela lived in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg.

Through his 27 years in prison, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known figure in the struggle against apartheid. Among opponents of apartheid in South Africa and internationally, he became a cultural icon of freedom and equality comparable with Mahatma Gandhi who influenced Mandela as noted by professors of history Bhana and Vahed in their 2005 text, The Making of a Political Reformer: Gandhi in South Africa, 1893-1914.

In the section of the conclusion to the text, “Gandhi’s Legacy to South Africa,” they note that “Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. This legacy connects him to Nelson Mandela […] in a sense Mandela completed what Gandhi started.” Indeed, Mandela took part in the 29 January – 30 January 2007 conference in New Delhi which marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s introduction of satyagraha in South Africa. Unlike Gandhi, however, Mandela did (at times) advocate the use of violence to achieve political change.

The apartheid government and nations sympathetic to it condemned him and the ANC as communists and terrorists, and he became a figure of hatred among many South African whites, supporters of apartheid, and opponents of the ANC.

Following his release from prison in 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even among white South Africans and former opponents.

Mandela has received more than one hundred awards over four decades, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He 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.

In the section of the conclusion to the text, “Gandhi’s Legacy to South Africa,” they note that “Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. This legacy connects him to Nelson Mandela […] in a sense Mandela completed what Gandhi started.” Indeed, Mandela took part in the 29 January – 30 January 2007 conference in New Delhi which marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s introduction of satyagraha in South Africa. Unlike Gandhi, however, Mandela did (at times) advocate the use of violence to achieve political change.

The apartheid government and nations sympathetic to it condemned him and the ANC as communists and terrorists, and he became a figure of hatred among many South African whites, supporters of apartheid, and opponents of the ANC.

Following his release from prison in 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even among white South Africans and former opponents.

South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country’s first black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second 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. 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. This is is the theme of the 2009 film Invictus.) After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar’s own number 6 on the back. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.

After assuming the presidency, one of Mandela’s trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as “Madiba shirts”, even on formal occasions. In South Africa’s first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government. Commentators and critics including AIDS activists such as Edwin Cameron have criticised Mandela for his government’s ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis. After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Mandela has since spoken out on several occasions against the AIDS epidemic.

Retirement
Mandela became the oldest elected President of South Africa when he took office at the age of 75 in 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term and retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.
After his retirement as President, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organisations. He has expressed his support for the international Make Poverty History movement of which the ONE Campaign is a part.

The Nelson Mandela Invitational charity golf tournament, hosted by Gary Player, has raised over twenty million rand for children’s charities since its inception in 2000.This annual special event has become South Africa’s most successful charitable sports gathering and benefits both the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Gary Player Foundation equally for various children’s causes around the world.
Mandela is a vocal supporter of SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest organisation dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children. Mandela appeared in a televised advertisement for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and was quoted for the International Olympic Committee’s Celebrate Humanity campaign:

For seventeen days, they are roommates. For seventeen days, they are soulmates. And for twenty-two seconds, they are competitors. Seventeen days as equals. Twenty-two seconds as adversaries. What a wonderful world that would be. That’s the hope I see in the Olympic Games.

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