28 Days Of Black History Day #11 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (/mænˈdɛlə/; Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla]; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the South African National Party came to power in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation’s Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) and sat on its Central Committee. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962, he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.
Mandela served over 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release. He was released in 1990, during a time of escalating civil strife. Mandela joined negotiations with President F. W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory and became South Africa’s first black president. He published his autobiography in 1995. During his tenure in the Government of National Unity he invited several other political parties to join the cabinet. As agreed to during the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa, he promulgated a new constitution. He also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. While continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Denounced as a communist terrorist by critics, he nevertheless gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin and the Bharat Ratna. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”); he is often described as “the father of the nation”.
Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, then a part of South Africa’s Cape Province. Given the forename Rolihlahla, a Xhosa term colloquially meaning “troublemaker”, in later years he became known by his clan name, Madiba. His patrilineal great-grandfather, Ngubengcuka, was ruler of the Thembu people in the Transkeian Territories of South Africa’s modern Eastern Cape province. One of this king’s sons, named Mandela, became Nelson’s grandfather and the source of his surname. Because Mandela was only the king’s child by a wife of the Ixhiba clan, a so-called “Left-Hand House”, the descendants of his cadet branch of the royal family were morganatic, ineligible to inherit the throne but recognised as hereditary royal councillors. His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a local chief and councillor to the monarch; he had been appointed to the position in 1915, after his predecessor was accused of corruption by a governing white magistrate. In 1926, Gadla, too, was sacked for corruption, but Nelson was told that he had lost his job for standing up to the magistrate’s unreasonable demands. A devotee of the god Qamata, Gadla was a polygamist, having four wives, four sons and nine daughters, who lived in different villages. Nelson’s mother was Gadla’s third wife, Nosekeni Fanny, who was daughter of Nkedama of the Right Hand House and a member of the amaMpemvu clan of Xhosa.
Later stating that his early life was dominated by “custom, ritual and taboo”, Mandela grew up with two sisters in his mother’s kraal in the village of Qunu, where he tended herds as a cattle-boy, spending much time outside with other boys. Both his parents were illiterate, but being a devout Christian, his mother sent him to a local Methodist school when he was about seven. Baptised a Methodist, Mandela was given the English forename of “Nelson” by his teacher. When Mandela was about nine, his father came to stay at Qunu, where he died of an undiagnosed ailment which Mandela believed to be lung disease. Feeling “cut adrift”, he later said that he inherited his father’s “proud rebelliousness” and “stubborn sense of fairness”.
His mother took Mandela to the “Great Place” palace at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted under the guardianship of Thembu regent, Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Although he did not see his mother again for many years, Mandela felt that Jongintaba and his wife Noengland treated him as their own child, raising him alongside their son Justice and daughter Nomafu. As Mandela attended church services every Sunday with his guardians, Christianity became a significant part of his life. He attended a Methodist mission school located next to the palace, studying English, Xhosa, history and geography. He developed a love of African history, listening to the tales told by elderly visitors to the palace, and became influenced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Chief Joyi. At the time he nevertheless considered the European colonialists as benefactors, not oppressors. Aged 16, he, Justice and several other boys travelled to Tyhalarha to undergo the circumcision ritual that symbolically marked their transition from boys to men; the rite over, he was given the name Dalibunga.[
The newly elected National Assembly’s first act was to formally elect Mandela as South Africa’s first black chief executive. His inauguration took place in Pretoria on 10 May 1994, televised to a billion viewers globally. The event was attended by 4000 guests, including world leaders from disparate backgrounds. Mandela headed a Government of National Unity dominated by the ANC – which alone had no experience of governance – but containing representatives from the National Party and Inkatha. Under the Interim Constitution, Inkatha and the NP were entitled to seats in the government by virtue of winning at least 20 seats. In keeping with earlier agreements, de Klerk became first Deputy President, and Thabo Mbeki was selected as second. Although Mbeki had not been his first choice for the job, Mandela grew to rely heavily on him throughout his presidency, allowing him to organise policy details. Moving into the presidential office at Tuynhuys in Cape Town, Mandela allowed de Klerk to retain the presidential residence in the Groote Schuur estate, instead settling into the nearby Westbrooke manor, which he renamed “Genadendal”, meaning “Valley of Mercy” in Afrikaans. Retaining his Houghton home, he also had a house built in his home village of Qunu, which he visited regularly, walking around the area, meeting with locals, and judging tribal disputes.
Aged 76, he faced various ailments, and although exhibiting continued energy, he felt isolated and lonely. He often entertained celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, and the Spice Girls, and befriended ultra-rich businessmen, like Harry Oppenheimer of Anglo-American, as well as Queen Elizabeth II on her March 1995 state visit to South Africa, resulting in strong criticism from ANC anti-capitalists. Despite his opulent surroundings, Mandela lived simply, donating a third of his 552,000 rand annual income to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, which he had founded in 1995. Although speaking out in favour of freedom of the press and befriending many journalists, Mandela was critical of much of the country’s media, noting that it was overwhelmingly owned and run by middle-class whites and believing that it focused too much on scaremongering around crime. Changing clothes several times a day, after assuming the presidency, one of Mandela’s trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as “Madiba shirts”, even on formal occasions.
In December 1994, Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published. 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. By 1995 he had entered into a relationship with Graça Machel, a Mozambican political activist 27 years his junior who was the widow of former president Samora Machel. They had first met in July 1990, when she was still in mourning, but their friendship grew into a partnership, with Machel accompanying him on many of his foreign visits. She turned down Mandela’s first marriage proposal, wanting to retain some independence and dividing her time between Mozambique and Johannesburg