|Nelson Mandella • 1918 - 2013|
Mandela is famous not only for serving 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities but for later ending the country's notorious apartheid regime, becoming President and then leading his continent into a new era of peace, unity and prosperity.
The great leader was born Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18th 1918 in Transkei in South Africa
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare, an elite black institution in Alice, Eastern Cape with around 150 students.
Mandela then returned to Mqhekezweni in December 1940, but found found that he was to be subjected to an arranged marriage. Dismayed, he fled to Johannesburg via Queenstown, arriving in April 1941.
While staying with a cousin in George Goch Township Mandela was introduced to the realtor and African National Congress (ANC) activist Walter Sisulu, who secured him a job as an articled clerk at law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman. While there Mandela began to meet members of the ANC, the Communist Party and attend communist talks and parties. Mandela was impressed that Europeans, Africans, Indians and Coloureds were mixing as equals.
In the South African general election, 1948, in which only whites were permitted to vote, the Afrikaner-dominated Herenigde Nasionale Party under Daniel François Malan took power, soon uniting with the Afrikaner Party to form the National Party.
Openly racialist, the party codified and expanded racial segregation with the new apartheid legislation.
Mandela later related that "We had now guided the ANC to a more radical and revolutionary path.".
On 30 July 1952, Mandela was arrested under the Suppression of Communism Act and stood trial as a part of the 21 accused in Johannesburg. Found guilty of "statutory communism", their sentence of nine months' hard labor was suspended for two years.
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 that would put him and 155 other activists on trial for treason. The case, known as the 1956 Treason Trial, dragged on until the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on March 29, 1961.
In May 1960 during an anti-pass campaign (Africans were legally obliged to carry "passes" designed to segregate the population) Africans burned the passes that they were legally obliged to carry. During the demonstrations protestors were fired upon by police, resulting in the deaths of 69 protesters in the Sharpeville Massacre. In solidarity, Mandela publicly burned his pass as rioting broke out across South Africa. Mandela and other activists were arrested on 30 March, imprisoned without charge in the unsanitary conditions of the Pretoria Local prison.
On 29 March 1961, after a six-year trial, the judges produced a verdict of not guilty, embarrassing the government.
Rising through the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC), initially by way of the organization’s youth wing, which he helped establish in 1944, Mandela was ultimately asked to lead the armed struggle and help form Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation" abbreviated MK. Inspired by Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement in the Cuban Revolution, in 1961.
Mandela himself denied ever being a Communist Party member,
On Jan. 11, 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela left South Africa secretly. He traveled the continent and abroad to gain support for the armed struggle. Before returning to South Africa in July 1962, Mandela also received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia.
On 11 July 1963, While still in prison, police raided Liliesleaf Farm, arresting those they found there and uncovering paperwork documenting Mandela's group, "Spear Of the Nation's" (MK) activities, some of which mentioned Mandela. This led to a new set of charges and a new trial.
In 1964, alongside eight members of the ANC and its armed wing, Mandela stood trial for plotting to overthrow the government by way of violent acts. Deeming Mandela to be violent communist agitators, South Africa's government ignored all calls for clemency, and on 12 June 1964 de Wet found Mandela and two of his co-accused guilty on all four charges, sentencing them to life imprisonment
The would-be South African president spent 18 of his 27 prison years on Robben Island confined to a small cell with the floor for a bed and a bucket for a toilet. During his imprisonment, Mandela was forced to do hard labor in a quarry and was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes.
Due to Mandella's growing influence and growing attention to his cause of anti-apartheid various official visitors met with Mandela while in prison. most significant was the liberal parliamentary representative Helen Suzman of the Progressive Party, who championed Mandela's cause outside prison. In September 1970 he met British Labour Party MP Dennis Healey. South African Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger visited in December 1974, but he and Mandela did not get on. His mother visited in 1968, dying shortly after, and his firstborn son Thembi died in a car accident the following year; Mandela was forbidden from attending either funeral. His wife was rarely able to visit, being regularly imprisoned for political activity,
Free Mandela!" was developed by journalist Percy Qoboza, sparking an international campaign that led the UN Security Council to call for his release. Despite increasing foreign pressure, the government refused, relying on powerful foreign Cold War allies in US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Thatcher considered Mandela a communist and a terrorist and supported the suppression of the ANC.
November 1989 state president F. W. de Klerk called his cabinet together to debate legalizing the ANC and freeing Mandela. Although some were deeply opposed to his plans, de Klerk met with Mandela in December to discuss the situation, a meeting both men considered friendly, before releasing Mandela unconditionally and legalizing all formerly banned political parties on February 1990.
Mandella left prison for good on on 11 February 1990
In 1993 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.
The years in prison would prove to be transformative, leading Mandela to become the most significant black leader in South Africa. In 1994, Having taken 62% of the national vote, Nelson Mandella became the country's first black president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election in South Africa.
In addition to his continued fight for the civil rights of his people -- including the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like restorative justice arm of Mandela’s democratically elected government and a new constitution, which he signed into law in 1996, establishing a central government based on majority rule that would guarantee the rights of minorities -- Mandela worked to protect South Africa's economy throughout his presidency. In 1994, he established the Reconstruction and Development Plan through which the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic healthcare.
After his health began to fail -- he was hospitalized in February 2012 for a long-standing stomach ailment -- Mandela returned to the rural community where he was born.
Mandela’s death comes months after his 95th birthday on July 18
Nelson Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and three daughters Pumla Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela.