Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa and is remembered for leading anti-apartheid revolution against the oppressive white-only government in the country.
|Net Worth:||10 Million $|
|Born:||July 18, 1918|
|Country of Origin:||Mvezo, South Africa|
|Source Of Wealth:||Political leader, President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999|
|Spouse:||Graça Machel (m. 1998–2013), Winnie Mandela (m. 1958–1996), Evelyn Mase (m. 1944–1958)|
A lover of democracy, Mandela became active in politics in his mid-20s with the sole goal of ensuring equal treatment for both the white minority and black majority.
He had witnessed the ill-treatment of his fellow black men by the white colonialist.
Though he presided over national reconciliation and end of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela never declared himself a hero.
“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I, therefore, place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”
Mandela was a symbol of global peace and inspiration to proponents of racial justice earning him over 250 honors including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Upon arriving in Johannesburg in April 1941, Mandela got his first job at Crown Mines as a night watchman. He was later fired after the headman found out he had run away from home.
He proceeded to his cousin’s house in Gorge Goch Township who introduced him to Walter Sisulu, an ANC activist. Sisulu helped him to secure a job as an articled clerk at a law firm operated by Lazar Sidelsky; a liberal Jew and ANC sympathizer.
Mandela met and befriended Gaur Radebe, member of ANC and Communist party, and Nat Bregman, a Jewish communist who turned out to be his first white friend. He began attending Communist Party meetings and witnessed an impressive mixing of people of all races; Europeans, Africans, Indians & Coloreds. He didn’t join the party because he believed the African struggle was racially based.
Desiring to complete his BA degree after earning a suspension in another university, he signed up for correspondence studies at the University of South Africa. He passed his exams in early 1943 and returned to Johannesburg to pursue politics.
Mandela began studying law at the University of Witwatersrand as the only black African student where he faced racism firsthand. He surrounded himself with liberal and communist European, Jews and Indians.
In August 1943, Mandela engaged in a march to support successful bus boycott to reverse fare rises. He attracted an invitation to join ANC by Sisulu and Oliver Tambo who was the diehard activist in the party.
Mandela met ANC member Anton Lembede, an Africanist who opposed the participation of other races in black Africans’ struggle for political determination. In April 1944, Lembede founded ANC’s youth wing, ANC Youth League and became the president and Mandela, member of executive committee.
In July 1947, Mandela was appointed a secretary of ANCYL after the death of Lembede. Peter Mda became president and cooperated with communists and non-blacks, an act Mandela disliked.
Mandela’s election to ANC’s executive committee in Transvaal to serve under regional president C. S. Ramohanoe gave him the opportunity to eject his boss after discovering his support for Indians and communists.
Zeal For Fair Governance
In 1948 general elections, only whites could vote. The new president heightened acts of racial segregation institutionalizing racial discrimination and dominance of whites over other races.
This prompted for Mandela and members of ANC to begin advocating for boycotts and strikes against apartheid. President of ANC, Bitini Xuma didn’t support the idea and was removed from the presidency and replaced by James Moroka.
In March 1950, Mandela took Xuma’s place in ANC national executive and was later elected as national president of ANCYL.
In December 1951, Mandela changed his viewpoint in support of the multi-racial front against apartheid and began reading literature by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and embraced the Marxist philosophy.
While addressing 10,000 people on June 22, 1952, Mandela was arrested for initiating campaign protest and held briefly in prison.
This increased the fame of ANC, growing its membership from 20,000 to 100,000. The government conducted mass arrests and introduced penalties for those arrested.
In October 1952, Mandela was elected regional president of ANC after Transvaal’s ANC president was banned from making public appearances. He too got a 6-month ban from attending meetings or talking to more than 1 person at a time, making Transvaal ANC presidency. Despite the struggle, he insisted,
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere.”
Close To The Deal
Mandela and Tambo started their law firm in August 1953; the first black African owned firm in South Africa. They attracted aggrieved blacks with cases of police brutality angering the authorities. They were forced to move to a remote location after their office permit was revoked, affecting their clientele.
Mandela’s ‘No Easy Walk to Freedom’ speech was read at a Transvaal ANC meeting in September 1953, calling for the division of the organization into the cell structure with centralized leadership. The authorities caught the wind and banned ANC.
In February 1955 Mandela proposed for violent protests after a nonviolent campaign proved ineffective to prevent the forced relocation of all black people from Sophiatown suburb of Johannesburg. He advised Sisulu to get weapons from China. On consultation, China declined to cite that anti-apartheid movement wasn’t ready for armed war.
Mandela received another ban on public appearances, restricting him to Johannesburg for five years starting May 1956 but didn’t adhere. In December 1956, he was arrested alongside 15 others and accused of ‘high treason’ against the state. They were granted bail, and the court cases started in January 1957; they were acquitted after denying changes in late- 1958.
In 1960, Police opened fire to ANC and PAC supporters’ who were protesting against carrying passes in Sharpville town and 69 people are killed. Riots spread across South Africa as Mandela burned his pass in public to show solidarity.
As the government declared the state of emergency and enforced martial law following the ban of ANC and PAC, Mandela and other activists were arrested and imprisoned for five months without charge in unhealthy conditions of Pretoria Local prison. Their lawyers were unable to reach them hence downing their tools in protest until the accused were freed from prison. The state of emergency was withdrawn in August 1960.
Fighting Fire With Fire
Mandela disguised as a chauffeur visited various parts of the country to organize ANC’s the cell structure he had previously proposed and encouraged people to observe the planned stay-at-home strike. Police failed to prevent the attack as Mandela went on to warn them of possible anti-apartheid violence. He also convinced various ANC leaders who weren’t given to violence as a way of ending the apartheid to join him.
Together with Sisulu and Slovo, Mandela co-founded ANC’s armed wing, ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe,’ Spear of the Nation or MK and compiled its constitution. MK’s mandate was to destroy the government’s property without harming civilians, bombing government’s military installations and disrupting transport, telephone and power plants. It announced its existence on December 16, 1961, with over 50 bombings and made more attacks on New Year’s Eve.
In February 1962, Mandela left South Africa through Botswana in secret to attending a meeting in Ethiopia after being sent by the ANC. He took the time to visit various African countries including Tanzania, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Liberia. During the trip, he gave speeches in some of the countries and received 5,000 Euro from Liberian and Guinean presidents. He also traveled to England and held meetings with anti-apartheid activists, politicians, and reporters.
He spent two months taking Guerrilla warfare course in Ethiopia but was called back home by ANC before he could complete the course.
Early in August 1962, Mandela was arrested, charged with inciting worker’s strikes and leaving South Africa without permission and later jailed in Marshall Square prison in Johannesburg. Mandela took the trial time to prove that his party morally opposed racism; outside the court, supporters held demonstrations against his arrest.
During the hearing of his case in October 1962, Mandela wore a cloak made of sheepskin and refused to have witnesses. He instead made a political speech as his plea and was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. His supporters sang ‘Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika,’ an Xhosa hymn composed by a Methodist clergyman in 1897 meaning ‘Lord Bless Africa.
Mandela was transferred to a prison in Pretoria where his wife could visit him. He also began studying Bachelor of Laws degree from University of London International Programmes by correspondence.
October 9, 1963, saw the beginning of the Rivonia Trial where Mandela and other activists were convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government through violent acts. Evidence had been gathered against them after police raided a farm where documented plans of MK’s activities were found in July 1963.
The judge threw out the case citing insufficient evidence but the chief prosecutor redevised the case calling 173 witnesses and showing new evidence against the accused.
On April 20, 1964, Mandela and his co-accused denied some charges but accepted having being involved in sabotage. During the proceedings, he gave a 3-hour speech in defense for his actions from the dock. The speech ended with the words, ‘it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’ hence earning its title, ‘I Am Prepared to Die.’
Mandela and two of his co-accused were found guilty in a trial that attracted global attention. On June 12, 1964, the Rivonia Trial ended with the judge reducing the trio’s charges to life imprisonment at Palace of Justice in Pretoria instead of the death sentence as called for by the prosecution
Student of University of Robben Island
After a trial, Mandela and his co-accused were transferred to Robben Island where they lived in isolation from non-political prisoners. The living conditions were poor with African prisoners receiving terrible treatment including wearing shorts instead of trousers.
Mandela was rated a Class D prisoner earning one visit and one letter every six months. He lived in a tiny damp concrete cell, slept on a straw mat and was mistreated by several white prison wardens.
ANC Prisoners elected Mandela to represent all political prisoners on the island which led to his connections with outsiders enabling him to initiate ‘University of Robben Island’. With every prisoner being an expert in a certain area, they trained each other and debated on social-political topics.
As he continued to pursue his law degree, Mandela also studied Islam and Afrikaans enabling him to build a good relationship with the prison wardens. This led to being able to receive visitors like British Labor Party politician and South Africa’s Liberal Party representative. Despite the increased freedom, he was unable to see members of his family as often.
In 1969, a plan was hatched to help Mandela escape from prison but later abandoned after it was discovered that an agent conspired to have him the shot during the escape.
As different judges visited him, he complained of the physical and mental abuse of prisoners which led to a gradual improvement of the prison conditions. He was upgraded to Class A prisoner in 1975 earning more visits in prison and correspondence from various people. His daughter visited him in the same year for the first time his imprisonment.
Despite the upgrade, not everyone was keen to allow Mandela to enjoy the few privileges. His LLB studies were halted for four years when he was found in possession of pages of his autobiography. He had compiled the same and smuggled it out of prison to London where it remained unprinted for some time for security reasons. He took the time away from his studies gardening and reading various books until he was allowed to resume studies in 1980.
As he celebrated his 60th birthday in 1978, global interest in his case resumed, and he was conferred several honors by various organizations including an honorary doctorate in Lesotho.
The ‘Free Mandela!’ slogan was developed by a South African black journalist causing the international community to call for Mandela’s release in March 1980. The government while supported by Cold War allies refused to give in.
After spending 18 years on Robben Island, Mandela and other political prisoners were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town; a prison with better living conditions.
In 1985, President Botha offered to release Mandela on the grounds that he wouldn’t engage in violence as a political weapon. Mandela declined to say, “What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”
With increased anti-apartheid resistance and pressure from the international community, it became clear that Mandela’s imprisonment wasn’t a South African affair. Botha refused to meet Mandela for negotiations of his release, and in place, the Minister of Justice started negotiating with Mandela in 1987. They wanted ANC not to insist on majority rule, stop the violence and end its relationship with the Communist Party in exchange for its legalization and release of its political prisoners. Mandela refused to accept the conditions; he wanted the government to end apartheid first.
Meanwhile, the world celebrated Mandela’s 70th birthday in 1988 in style; a tribute concert was televised from Wembley Stadium in London and broadcasted in 67 countries. Over 600 million people saw him as a change maker.
In December 1988, Mandela was moved to a warden’s house in Victor Verster Prison in Western Cape and assigned a private cook after suffering from tuberculosis. He completed his Law degree and was able to see more visitors. Botha, who was recovering from a stroke, invited him for a cup of tea in July 1989 as a sign of seeking friendship. He was replaced as South Africa’s president by F. W. de Klerk who desired to end apartheid and began releasing some ANC prisoners.
President de Clerk organized for a friendly meeting with Mandela in December 1989, a move that many opposed in his government. He was determined to legalize ANC and set Mandela free.
In February 1990, he lifted the ban on all political parties and set Mandela free without any conditions allowing the publishing of his photos all over South Africa. Mandela left Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990, holding his wife’s hand in front of journalists as thousands of South Africans celebrated his release. The historic event was broadcast live and the whole world watched the release of the anti-apartheid hero who had suffered 27 years in three different prisons.
He made it clear that ANC wouldn’t give up armed struggle as long as apartheid existed; it would be applied in defense. He wanted to ensure that blacks were able to participate in all elections and that they would reconcile with the white minority. In his bid to unite South Africa as one nation, Mandela spoke to multitudes in Johannesburg, “We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace.”
Mandela visited several countries in Africa including Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Algeria before heading to Sweden to meet his longtime friend and fellow prison mate, Tambo. He met Pope John Paul II, President George H. W. Bush and President Castro, his hero among many other leaders around the world.
Back home in May 1990, Mandela spent time with the Afrikaner government leaders and members of the ANC. He offered a ceasefire drawing disagreements within the MK.
In July 1991, he was elected ANC President to lead a 50-member mixed gender, the mixed racial, national executive team taking over from Tambo who was unwell.
Seeing the increase in black-on-black violence between supporters of Inkatha and ANC parties, Mandela suspected presence of an unseen third party, de Klerk, whom he no longer trusted. Amidst continuing violence, Mandela, de Klerk, and Inkatha’s leader, Buthelezi signed a peace treaty.
Mandela desired to see South Africa governed by majority rule, a move that de Klerk detested calling for rotating presidency to protect the minorities. The state of uncertainty in governance affected foreign investors and the country’s relationship with the rest of the world.
The First Black President
Campaigning under the slogan, ‘a better life for all,’ ANC promised to build a million houses in 5 years, offer free education and increase access to water and electricity as Mandela fundraised for the party around the world.
He encouraged leaders of opposing parties to enter the election instead of helping conflict amongst South Africans.
On April 27, 1994, the first all-inclusive election saw ANC scoop 63% of the votes as Mandela voted at the Ohlange High School, Durban. The party’s victory reflected in 7 out of 9 provinces, where the two opposing parties shared the remaining two.
May 10, 1994, saw the inauguration of Mandela as the first black president of South Africa in a widely televised affair attracting over a billion viewers around the globe and top world leaders in attendance.
He was deputized by both de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki, who had served as ANC’s chairman since 1993. Mbeki was entrusted to shape the country’s policy details by the new president.
Viewed as chief by the residents of his home village, Mandela made regular visits, spent time with the people and presided over tribal disputes as expected.
Mandela published the autobiography he wrote while in prison, Long Walk to Freedom in December 1994. It focused on his early life, growing up, education, time in prison and his political ascension amidst continued struggle against apartheid.
Healing The New Nation
With the aid of a multiracial government, Mandela worked towards reconciling the white minorities and black majorities. Though ANC dominated the government, he made sure to include members of other parties in his government. He also met senior figures of the apartheid administration with the aim of emphasizing reconciliation. His belief, “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
During the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South Africa, Mandela appeared at the final match wearing a Springbok shirt in support of the national rugby team. He won the hearts of millions of white rugby fans when he presented the team’s captain with a trophy after their victory against New Zealand. Many blacks disliked the gesture claiming he concentrated on appeasing the whites instead of helping them.
Leading a nation ailed with inequality in wealth and services between whites and blacks, Mandela favored an environment where growth, employment, and redistribution of wealth was key. He pursued free medical assistance for pregnant women and children under the age of 6.
Millions of South Africans were able to access electricity, water and telecommunication and their children, the education system. He encouraged tourism within the recovering nation resulting in increased growth of its economy.
Though apartheid toned down, South Africa ailed from high crime rates, increased corruption, enforcement of blacks in employment and increased cases of HIV/AIDS, tainting Mandela’s administration. Whites migrated to other countries with favorable conditions in thousands as illegal immigrants from poorer African countries flooded the nation resulting to the scarcity of employment for South African blacks.
Even though South Africa’s constitution provided for Mandela to rule for 2 consecutive five-year terms, he decided not to stay in office for a second term. He left office on June 14, 1999, with 80% of the nation in favor of his performance as president.
After his retirement, Mandela continued to support ANC and on several occasions campaigned for some of its members. He held meetings with a number of leaders around the world, availing himself for interviews as often as he could. In 2004, he crusaded for the hosting of 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with massive success.
After his 85th birthday, he withdrew from the public eye to focus on his failing health. He believed,
“What counts 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.”
After ascending to the presidency, Mandela observed a simple life living on two-thirds of his annual salary, while donating a third to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which he founded in 1995.
Guided by a belief that “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it an act of justice,” Mandela’s desire to eliminate hunger and wipe out poverty was key to his existence. He promoted local artists, enabling them to make a living from their gifts.
Finding it difficult to assume a quiet life, Mandela committed his time working with a foundation he founded in 1999, Nelson Mandela Foundation, focusing on rural development, combating HIV/AIDS and construction of schools.
With his family warring over his wealth, Mandela placed most of it in some trust funds cooling off the developing hate amongst them.
Mandela drew a massive portion of his wealth from book royalties derived from Long Walk to Freedom, his best-selling autobiography. Though he had practiced in various professions, at the time of his death, Mandela net worth was estimated at $10 million.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, Eastern Cape to the Thembu royal family in the Xhosa speaking community. In his later life, he was recognized by his clan name and title of respect, Madiba. His father, Gadla Henry Mandela held a chieftain position for 11 years before being sacked for undermining a magistrate. His mother, Nosekeni Fanny was the third wife of his father.
Despite being raised by illiterate parents in a village where he spent most of his time herding cattle, they enrolled him in a local Methodist school when he was about seven years old. His father came to live in his village, Qunu when he was about 9 and died of an unknown disease.
With his mother’s permission, Mandela was adopted by a wealthy chief, Jongintaba Dalindyebo where he was treated like one of the chief’s children. He didn’t reconnect with his mother until he was an adult.
Under the supervision of the new parents, Mandela continued learning in a Methodist mission school and attended church services with the chief’s children. He appreciated Christianity and viewed European colonialists as benefactors to his community, unlike elderly guests of the chief who insisted, they were oppressors.
He joined Clarkebury Methodist High School, Eastern Cape in 1933 developing his love for sports and gardening besides academics. At 16, Mandela went through traditional circumcision according to his Xhosa customs and was named Dalibunga.
In 1939, he joined University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape to pursue BA degree while embracing ballroom dancing and drama. While in his first year, Mandela led students to boycott the school’s low-quality food and was suspended. He had been involved in several mischievous acts at school earlier on.
Upon returning home in December 1940, he discovered that Jongintaba planned for him to marry if he didn’t want to return to school. He ran away to Johannesburg in search of employment.
Here’s His Top Rules!
Mandela met Evelyn Mase, a trainee nurse, and ANC supporter while visiting his friend and struck a relationship with her. He married her in October 1944 and lived with her relatives before moving into a rented house two years later. Together they had three children, but one died of meningitis at nine months.
Spending a lot of time in politics left Mase unhappy; she accused Mandela of adultery. His mother who had moved in with his family left for the village in disgust of her son’s behavior. Mandela filed for divorce and upon being finalized in 1958; he let Mase keep the children.
During the divorce proceedings, Mandela met Winnie Madikizela and married her in June 1958. They had two children born in 1959 and 1960.
While in prison, Mandela suffered an enlarged prostate gland and underwent surgery. The case recurred later in his life as prostate cancer and was treated with success.
Mandela made public his separation from Madikizela on April 13, 1992. He began divorce proceedings in August 1995 despite her plea for reconciliation. He started dating Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel. The two first met in July 1990 after her husband died and retained strong friendship, accompanying him on several trips to countries around the world.
In February 1998, Mandela admitted being in love with Machel and married her during his 80th birthday; she was 27 years his junior.
He died on December 5, 2013, at his Johannesburg home after ailing from the lung infection.
Main story: https://www.morningsidecenter.org/teachable-moment/lessons/nelson-mandela-fight-against-apartheid,