168 Facts About Nelson Mandela


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.


Nelson Mandela was the country's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.


Nelson Mandela's government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by fostering racial reconciliation.


Nelson Mandela was appointed president of the ANC's Transvaal branch, rising to prominence for his involvement in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People.


Nelson Mandela was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason Trial.


Nelson Mandela was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and, following the Rivonia Trial, was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state.


Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison, split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.


Internationally, Nelson Mandela acted as mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and served as secretary-general of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.


Nelson Mandela declined a second presidential term and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.


Nelson Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life.


Nelson Mandela is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Thembu clan name, Madiba, and described as the "Father of the Nation".


Nelson Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, then part of South Africa's Cape Province.


Nelson Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela, was a local chief and councillor to the monarch; he was appointed to the position in 1915, after his predecessor was accused of corruption by a governing white magistrate.


In 1926, Gadla was sacked for corruption, but Nelson Mandela was told that his father had lost his job for standing up to the magistrate's unreasonable demands.


Nelson Mandela's mother was Gadla's third wife, Nosekeni Fanny, daughter of Nkedama of the Right Hand House and a member of the amaMpemvu clan of the Xhosa.


Nelson Mandela later stated that his early life was dominated by traditional Xhosa custom and taboo.


Nelson Mandela grew up with two sisters in his mother's kraal in the village of Qunu, where he tended herds as a cattle-boy and spent much time outside with other boys.


When Nelson Mandela was about nine, his father came to stay at Qunu, where he died of an undiagnosed ailment that Nelson Mandela believed to be lung disease.


Nelson Mandela's mother took him to the "Great Place" palace at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted to the guardianship of the Thembu regent, Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo.


Nelson Mandela attended a Methodist mission school located next to the palace, where he studied English, Xhosa, history and geography.


Nelson Mandela developed a love of African history, listening to the tales told by elderly visitors to the palace, and was influenced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of a visiting chief, Joyi.


Nelson Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in two years, and in 1937 he moved to Healdtown, the Methodist college in Fort Beaufort attended by most Thembu royalty, including Justice.


The headmaster emphasised the superiority of European culture and government, but Nelson Mandela became increasingly interested in native African culture, making his first non-Xhosa friend, a speaker of Sotho, and coming under the influence of one of his favourite teachers, a Xhosa who broke taboo by marrying a Sotho.


Nelson Mandela spent much of his spare time at Healdtown as a long-distance runner and boxer, and in his second year he became a prefect.


In 1939, with Jongintaba's backing, Nelson Mandela began work on a BA degree at the University of Fort Hare, an elite black institution of approximately 150 students in Alice, Eastern Cape.


Nelson Mandela studied English, anthropology, politics, "native administration", and Roman Dutch law in his first year, desiring to become an interpreter or clerk in the Native Affairs Department.


Nelson Mandela took up ballroom dancing, performed in a drama society play about Abraham Lincoln, and gave Bible classes in the local community as part of the Student Christian Association.


Nelson Mandela helped establish a first-year students' house committee which challenged the dominance of the second-years, and at the end of his first year became involved in a students' representative council boycott against the quality of food, for which he was suspended from the university; he never returned to complete his degree.


Nelson Mandela found work as a night watchman at Crown Mines, his "first sight of South African capitalism in action", but was fired when the induna discovered that he was a runaway.


Nelson Mandela stayed with a cousin in George Goch Township, who introduced Mandela to realtor and ANC activist Walter Sisulu.


Nelson Mandela attended Communist Party gatherings, where he was impressed that Europeans, Africans, Indians, and Coloureds mixed as equals.


Nelson Mandela later stated that he did not join the party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith, and because he saw the South African struggle as being racially based rather than as class warfare.


In 1943, Nelson Mandela met Anton Lembede, an ANC member affiliated with the "Africanist" branch of African nationalism, which was virulently opposed to a racially united front against colonialism and imperialism or to an alliance with the communists.


At Sisulu's house, Nelson Mandela met Evelyn Mase, a trainee nurse and ANC activist from Engcobo, Transkei.


Nelson Mandela enjoyed home life, welcoming his mother and his sister, Leabie, to stay with him.


In July 1947, Nelson Mandela rushed Lembede, who was ill, to hospital, where he died; he was succeeded as ANCYL president by the more moderate Peter Mda, who agreed to co-operate with communists and non-blacks, appointing Nelson Mandela ANCYL secretary.


Nelson Mandela disagreed with Mda's approach, and in December 1947 supported an unsuccessful measure to expel communists from the ANCYL, considering their ideology un-African.


When Ramohanoe acted against the wishes of the committee by co-operating with Indians and communists, Nelson Mandela was one of those who forced his resignation.


Nelson Mandela took Xuma's place on the ANC national executive in March 1950, and that same year was elected national president of the ANCYL.


Thereafter, Nelson Mandela rejected Lembede's Africanism and embraced the idea of a multi-racial front against apartheid.


The campaign was designed to follow the path of nonviolent resistance influenced by Mahatma Gandhi; some supported this for ethical reasons, but Nelson Mandela instead considered it pragmatic.


Nelson Mandela obtained work as an attorney for the firm Terblanche and Briggish, before moving to the liberal-run Helman and Michel, passing qualification exams to become a full-fledged attorney.


Nelson Mandela's marriage broke down and Evelyn left him, taking their children to live with her brother.


Nelson Mandela 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.


Nelson Mandela later became involved in ANC activities, spending several weeks in prison.


In December 1956, Nelson Mandela was arrested alongside most of the ANC national executive, and accused of "high treason" against the state.


The incident brought international condemnation of the government and resulted in rioting throughout South Africa, with Nelson Mandela publicly burning his pass in solidarity.


Nelson Mandela held secret meetings with reporters, and after the government failed to prevent the strike, he warned them that many anti-apartheid activists would soon resort to violence through groups like the PAC's Poqo.


Nelson Mandela stated that they chose sabotage because it was the least harmful action, did not involve killing, and offered the best hope for racial reconciliation afterwards; he nevertheless acknowledged that should this have failed then guerrilla warfare might have been necessary.


Nelson Mandela proceeded to Morocco, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal, receiving funds from Liberian president William Tubman and Guinean president Ahmed Sekou Toure.


Nelson Mandela left Africa for London, England, where he met anti-apartheid activists, reporters and prominent politicians.


Isolated from non-political prisoners in Section B, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in a damp concrete cell measuring 8 feet by 7 feet, with a straw mat on which to sleep.


Nelson Mandela was initially forbidden to wear sunglasses, and the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight.


Nelson Mandela was initially classified as the lowest grade of prisoner, Class D, meaning that he was permitted one visit and one letter every six months, although all mail was heavily censored.


Nelson Mandela studied Afrikaans, hoping to build a mutual respect with the warders and convert them to his cause.


South African Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger visited in December 1974, but he and Nelson Mandela did not get along with each other.


Nelson Mandela's 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.


Nelson Mandela's wife was rarely able to see him, being regularly imprisoned for political activity, and his daughters first visited in December 1975.


In 1969, an escape plan for Nelson Mandela was developed by Gordon Bruce, but it was abandoned after the conspiracy was infiltrated by an agent of the South African Bureau of State Security, who hoped to see Nelson Mandela shot during the escape.


Nelson Mandela, seeing an increase in the physical and mental abuse of prisoners, complained to visiting judges, who had Badenhorst reassigned.


Nelson Mandela was replaced by Commander Willie Willemse, who developed a co-operative relationship with Mandela and was keen to improve prison standards.


Nelson Mandela corresponded with anti-apartheid activists like Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Desmond Tutu.


Nelson Mandela tried to build a relationship with these young radicals, although he was critical of their racialism and contempt for white anti-apartheid activists.


Nelson Mandela was awarded an honorary doctorate in Lesotho, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in India in 1979, and the Freedom of the City of Glasgow, Scotland in 1981.


Conditions at Pollsmoor were better than at Robben Island, although Nelson Mandela missed the camaraderie and scenery of the island.


In 1985, Nelson Mandela underwent surgery on an enlarged prostate gland before being given new solitary quarters on the ground floor.


Nelson Mandela requested talks with Botha but was denied, instead secretly meeting with Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee in 1987, and having a further 11 meetings over the next three years.


Nelson Mandela rejected these conditions, insisting that the ANC would end its armed activities only when the government renounced violence.


Nelson Mandela was housed in the relative comfort of a warder's house with a personal cook, and he used the time to complete his LLB degree.


Shortly thereafter, for the first time in 20 years, photographs of Nelson Mandela were allowed to be published in South Africa.


Nelson Mandela met President R Venkataraman in India, President Suharto in Indonesia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia, and Prime Minister Bob Hawke in Australia.


Nelson Mandela visited Japan, but not the Soviet Union, a longtime ANC supporter.


In May 1990, Nelson Mandela led a multiracial ANC delegation into preliminary negotiations with a government delegation of 11 Afrikaner men.


Nelson Mandela impressed them with his discussions of Afrikaner history, and the negotiations led to the Groot Schuur Minute, in which the government lifted the state of emergency.


At the ANC's July 1991 national conference in Durban, Nelson Mandela admitted that the party had faults and announced his aim to build a "strong and well-oiled task force" for securing majority rule.


Nelson Mandela was given an office in the newly purchased ANC headquarters at Shell House, Johannesburg, and moved into Winnie's large Soweto home.


Nelson Mandela gained funding for her defence from the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa and from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but, in June 1991, she was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison, reduced to two on appeal.


On 13 April 1992, Nelson Mandela publicly announced his separation from Winnie.


The ANC forced her to step down from the national executive for misappropriating ANC funds; Nelson Mandela moved into the mostly white Johannesburg suburb of Houghton.


Nelson Mandela met with Inkatha leader Buthelezi, but the ANC prevented further negotiations on the issue.


CODESA 2 was held in May 1992, at which de Klerk insisted that post-apartheid South Africa must use a federal system with a rotating presidency to ensure the protection of ethnic minorities; Nelson Mandela opposed this, demanding a unitary system governed by majority rule.


Nelson Mandela agreed to do so on the conditions that all political prisoners be released, that Zulu traditional weapons be banned, and that Zulu hostels would be fenced off, the latter two measures intended to prevent further Inkatha attacks; de Klerk reluctantly agreed.


Nelson Mandela devoted much time to fundraising for the ANC, touring North America, Europe and Asia to meet wealthy donors, including former supporters of the apartheid regime.


Nelson Mandela urged a reduction in the voting age from 18 to 14; rejected by the ANC, this policy became the subject of ridicule.


Nelson Mandela voted at the Ohlange High School in Durban, and though the ANC's victory assured his election as president, he publicly accepted that the election had been marred by instances of fraud and sabotage.


Nelson Mandela's inauguration took place in Pretoria on 10 May 1994, televised to a billion viewers globally.


Nelson Mandela often entertained celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and the Spice Girls, and befriended ultra-rich businessmen, like Harry Oppenheimer of Anglo American.


Nelson Mandela met with Queen Elizabeth II on her March 1995 state visit to South Africa, which earned him strong criticism from ANC anti-capitalists.


In December 1994, Nelson Mandela published Long Walk to Freedom, an autobiography based around a manuscript he had written in prison, augmented by interviews conducted with American journalist Richard Stengel.


In late 1994, he attended the 49th conference of the ANC in Bloemfontein, at which a more militant national executive was elected, among them Winnie Mandela; although she expressed an interest in reconciling, Nelson initiated divorce proceedings in August 1995.


Nelson Mandela turned down Mandela's first marriage proposal, wanting to retain some independence and dividing her time between Mozambique and Johannesburg.


Gracious but steely, [Nelson Mandela] steered a country in turmoil toward a negotiated settlement: a country that days before its first democratic election remained violent, riven by divisive views and personalities.


Nelson Mandela endorsed national reconciliation, an idea he did not merely foster in the abstract, but performed with panache and conviction in reaching out to former adversaries.


Nelson Mandela initiated an era of hope that, while not long-lasting, was nevertheless decisive, and he garnered the highest international recognition and affection.


In January 1995, Nelson Mandela heavily chastised de Klerk for awarding amnesty to 3,500 police officers just before the election, and later criticised him for defending former Minister of Defence Magnus Malan when the latter was charged with murder.


Nelson Mandela personally met with senior figures of the apartheid regime, including lawyer Percy Yutar and Hendrik Verwoerd's widow, Betsie Schoombie, laying a wreath by the statue of Afrikaner hero Daniel Theron.


Nelson Mandela wore a Springbok shirt at the final against New Zealand, and after the Springboks won the match, Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner.


Nelson Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC, appointing Tutu as its chair.


Nelson Mandela praised the commission's work, stating that it "had helped us move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future".


Nelson Mandela's administration inherited a country with a huge disparity in wealth and services between white and black communities.


Nelson Mandela received criticism for failing to sufficiently combat crime; South Africa had one of the world's highest crime rates, and the activities of international crime syndicates in the country grew significantly throughout the decade.


Nelson Mandela's administration was perceived as having failed to deal with the problem of corruption.


Nelson Mandela expressed the view that "South Africa's future foreign relations [should] be based on our belief that human rights should be the core of international relations".


In September 1998, Nelson Mandela was appointed secretary-general of the Non-Aligned Movement, who held their annual conference in Durban.


Nelson Mandela extended diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China, who were growing as an economic force, and initially to Taiwan, who were already longstanding investors in the South African economy.


Nelson Mandela attracted controversy for his close relationship with Indonesian president Suharto, whose regime was responsible for mass human rights abuses, although on a July 1997 visit to Indonesia he privately urged Suharto to withdraw from the occupation of East Timor.


Nelson Mandela faced similar criticism from the West for his government's trade links to Syria, Cuba and Libya and for his personal friendships with Castro and Gaddafi.


Castro visited South Africa in 1998 to widespread popular acclaim, and Nelson Mandela met Gaddafi in Libya to award him the Order of Good Hope.


Nelson Mandela proposed that they be tried in a third country, which was agreed to by all parties; governed by Scots law, the trial was held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in April 1999, and found one of the two men guilty.


Nelson Mandela echoed Mbeki's calls for an "African Renaissance", and he was greatly concerned with issues on the continent.


Nelson Mandela took a soft diplomatic approach to removing Sani Abacha's military junta in Nigeria but later became a leading figure in calling for sanctions when Abacha's regime increased human rights violations.


Nelson Mandela played a key role as a mediator in the ethnic conflict between Tutsi and Hutu political groups in the Burundian Civil War, helping to initiate a settlement which brought increased stability to the country but did not end the ethnic violence.


Nelson Mandela stepped down as ANC President at the party's December 1997 conference.


Nelson Mandela hoped that Ramaphosa would succeed him, believing Mbeki to be too inflexible and intolerant of criticism, but the ANC elected Mbeki regardless.


Nelson Mandela gave his farewell speech to Parliament on 29 March 1999 when it adjourned prior to the 1999 general elections, after which he retired.


Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela was successfully treated for prostate cancer in July 2001.


Nelson Mandela publicised AIDS as the cause of his son Makgatho's death in January 2005, to defy the stigma about discussing the disease.


Nelson Mandela strongly opposed the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo and called it an attempt by the world's powerful nations to police the entire world.


Nelson Mandela attacked the United States more generally, asserting that "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America", citing the atomic bombing of Japan; this attracted international controversy, although he later improved his relationship with Bush.


Nelson Mandela spoke with US senator Hillary Clinton and President George W Bush and first met the then-senator Barack Obama.


Nelson Mandela encouraged Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to resign over growing human rights abuses in the country.


Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, in a speech delivered on his 89th birthday.


Mandela was more at ease with Mbeki's successor, Zuma, although the Nelson Mandela Foundation was upset when his grandson, Mandla Mandela, flew him out to the Eastern Cape to attend a pro-Zuma rally in the midst of a storm in 2009.


In 2004, Nelson Mandela successfully campaigned for South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, declaring that there would be "few better gifts for us" in the year marking a decade since the fall of apartheid.


In February 2011, Nelson Mandela was briefly hospitalised with a respiratory infection, attracting international attention, before being re-admitted for a lung infection and gallstone removal in December 2012.


In September 2013, Nelson Mandela was discharged from hospital, although his condition remained unstable.


The media was awash with tributes and reminiscences, while images of tributes to Nelson Mandela proliferated across social media.


Nelson Mandela identified as both an African nationalist, an ideological position he held since joining the ANC, and as a socialist.


Nelson Mandela was a practical politician, rather than an intellectual scholar or political theorist.


Nelson Mandela sought to target symbols of white supremacy and racist oppression rather than white people as individuals, and was anxious not to inaugurate a race war in South Africa.


Nelson Mandela had exhibited a commitment to the values of democracy and human rights since at least the 1960s.


Nelson Mandela held a conviction that "inclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech" were the fundamentals of democracy, and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.


Nelson Mandela nevertheless expressed admiration for what he deemed to be indigenous forms of democracy, describing Xhosa traditional society's mode of governance as "democracy in its purest form".


Nelson Mandela advocated the ultimate establishment of a classless society, with Sampson describing him as being "openly opposed to capitalism, private land-ownership and the power of big money".


Nelson Mandela was influenced by Marxism, and during the revolution he advocated scientific socialism.


Nelson Mandela said that "I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism".


Nelson Mandela further says that he was "stimulated" by The Communist Manifesto and attracted to dialectical materialism.


Ellis found evidence that Nelson Mandela had been an active member of the South African Communist Party during the late 1950s and early 1960s, something that was confirmed after his death by both the ANC and the SACP, the latter of which claimed that he was not only a member of the party, but served on its Central Committee.


Nelson Mandela's membership had been hidden by the ANC, aware that knowledge of Mandela's former SACP involvement might have been detrimental to his attempts to attract support from Western countries.


The 1955 Freedom Charter, which Nelson Mandela had helped create, called for the nationalisation of banks, gold mines and land, to ensure equal distribution of wealth.


Nelson Mandela was widely considered a charismatic leader, described by biographer Mary Benson as "a born mass leader who could not help magnetizing people".


Nelson Mandela was highly image conscious and throughout his life always sought out fine quality clothes, with many commentators believing that he carried himself in a regal manner.


Nelson Mandela was known to change his clothes several times a day, and he became so associated with highly coloured Batik shirts after assuming the presidency that they came to be known as "Madiba shirts".


For political scientists Betty Glad and Robert Blanton, Nelson Mandela was an "exceptionally intelligent, shrewd, and loyal leader".


Nelson Mandela's official biographer, Anthony Sampson, commented that he was a "master of imagery and performance", excelling at presenting himself well in press photographs and producing sound bites.


Nelson Mandela typically spoke slowly, and carefully chose his words.


Nelson Mandela was a private person who often concealed his emotions and confided in very few people.


Nelson Mandela was typically friendly and welcoming, and appeared relaxed in conversation with everyone, including his opponents.


Nelson Mandela was known for his ability to find common ground with very different communities.


Nelson Mandela was fond of Indian cuisine, and had a lifelong interest in archaeology and boxing.


The significance of Nelson Mandela can be considered in two related ways.


Nelson Mandela was raised in the Methodist denomination of Christianity; the Methodist Church of Southern Africa claimed that he retained his allegiance to them throughout his life.


Nelson Mandela was very self-conscious about being a man and regularly made references to manhood.


Nelson Mandela was heterosexual, and biographer Fatima Meer said that he was "easily tempted" by women.


Nelson Mandela was married three times, fathered six children, and had seventeen grandchildren and at least seventeen great-grandchildren.


Nelson Mandela could be stern and demanding of his children, although he was more affectionate with his grandchildren.


Nelson Mandela's first marriage was to Evelyn Ntoko Mase in October 1944; they divorced in March 1958 under the multiple strains of his adultery and constant absences, devotion to revolutionary agitation, and the fact that she was a Jehovah's Witness, a religion requiring political neutrality.


Nelson Mandela married his third wife, Graca Machel, on his 80th birthday in July 1998.


In 1986, Nelson Mandela's biographer characterised him as "the embodiment of the struggle for liberation" in South Africa.


Nelson Mandela's name was often invoked by those criticising his successors like Mbeki and Zuma.


Across the world, Nelson Mandela earned international acclaim for his activism in overcoming apartheid and fostering racial reconciliation, coming to be viewed as "a moral authority" with a great "concern for truth".


Nelson Mandela generated controversy throughout his career as an activist and politician, having detractors on both the right and the radical left.


The US government's State and Defense departments officially designated the ANC as a terrorist organisation, resulting in Nelson Mandela remaining on their terrorism watch-list until 2008.


Nelson Mandela was given the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding by the Fulbright Association in 1993.


Nelson Mandela was appointed to the Order of Isabella the Catholic and the Order of Canada, and was the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen.


The first biography of Nelson Mandela was authored by Mary Benson, based on brief interviews with him that she had conducted in the 1960s.


Since the late 1980s, Nelson Mandela's image began to appear on a proliferation of items, among them "photographs, paintings, drawings, statues, public murals, buttons, t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, and more", items that have been characterised as "Nelson Mandela kitsch".


Some of these, such as the 2013 feature film Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the 2017 miniseries Madiba and the 1996 documentary Nelson Mandela, have focused on covering his adult life in entirety or until his inaugural as president others, such as the 2009 feature film Invictus and the 2010 documentary The 16th Man, have focused on specific events in his life.