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'Troublemaker' prepared to die for his beliefs

By unknown | Jul 18, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Rolihlahla (literally "troublemaker") Nelson Mandela was born on July 18 1918 in Mvezo, Eastern Cape, son of a chieftain of the Tembu clan of the Xhosa nation.

Rolihlahla (literally "troublemaker") Nelson Mandela was born on July 18 1918 in Mvezo, Eastern Cape, son of a chieftain of the Tembu clan of the Xhosa nation.

After his father was stripped of his chieftainship over a dispute with a magistrate, he moved with his mother to her village of Qunu.

In 1939, he enrolled at the only black university in South Africa, Fort Hare, where he met Oliver Tambo. In 1940 he was expelled for refusing to take up a position on the student council following a student boycott. He moved to Johannesburg, where he threw himself into politics and his legal studies.

In 1943 he joined the ANC. A year later, Mandela, his political mentor, Walter Sisulu, Tambo, and Anton Lembede founded the militant ANC Youth League.

In 1944, Mandela married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. The couple had three children together. In 1952, Mandela and Tambo opened South Africa's first black law practice. Mandela was also a key organiser of that year's mass Defiance Campaign of civil disobedience, for which he received a suspended sentence.

In 1956, he was one of 156 people charged with treason relating to the ANC Freedom Charter signed in Kliptown, Soweto, the previous year. At the end of the marathon trial in 1961, all were acquitted.

In 1958, he divorced Evelyn and married Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela. Two years later the ANC was banned and Mandela went into hiding. The escapades of the "Black Pimpernel" garnered much media attention.

In 1961, after much internal wrangling, the ANC launched its armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), with Mandela as commander-in-chief. The group carried out its first act of sabotage.

In 1962, on returning from military training overseas, Mandela was arrested and convicted of incitement and leaving the country illegally. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

In 1964, he and seven other ANC members were convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison following the landmark Rivonia Trial.

Accused Number One, Mandela, defended his struggle in a four-hour speech from the dock, famously declaring that ending black domination was an ideal "for which I am prepared to die".

Mandela was sent to Robben Island, where he spent 18 of a total 27 years in prison, including eight years' hard labour. In 1982, he was moved to Pollsmoor prison, and in 1988, after surgery for an enlarged prostate, to Victor Verster prison.

In 1985, as the Free Mandela campaign was in full swing internationally, Mandela began talks with the government on ending minority white rule. This led to the unbanning of the ANC and his release in February 1990. In 1991 multi-party negotiations began.

In 1993, Mandela and FW de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994 the ANC won a resounding majority in the country's first democratic elections and Mandela was sworn in as president. - Sapa-DPA


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