Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, fondly referred to as Madiba, became a legend in his lifetime. In a worldwide survey done some years ago in which photos of famous people in the world had to be named, Nelson’s photo was, by far, the most recognised, more so than photos of any other world leader or icon. He was considered to be one of the world’s greatest leaders despite having been incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island on charges of treason before being freed. His prison number, 46664, is known throughout the world and serves as a symbol and a reminder of a great man who unified South Africa. But who exactly was he?
Childhood and Education
18 July 1918: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is born near Umtata (in the Transkei) as the son of Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Henry Mgadla Mandela, a chief and chief councillor to the paramount chief of the Thembu and a member of the Madiba clan.
1927: Mandela’s father dies. His guardian is Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting chief of the Thembu tribe.
1938: Mandela matriculates at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School as part of a very small number of black pupils who matriculated in the country.
1939: While studying for a BA degree at Fort Hare Mandela becomes involved in a boycott against the university’s policies and is forced to leave. He goes back home where an arranged marriage is planned and flees to Johannesburg.
1942: After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Unisa, he begins studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. He does not complete this degree and starts studying again through the University of London after his imprisonment in 1962 but also does not complete that degree.
1943: Mandela becomes a member of the African National Congress (ANC).
1944: He helps form the ANC Youth League with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. He marries Evelyn Mase, Sisulu’s cousin. They have 4 children – one of whom dies as an infant.
1948: The National Party comes to power in South Africa and implements apartheid.
1952: Mandela leads the Defiance Campaign, encouraging people to break racial separation laws. He is convicted under Suppression of Communism Act and is banned from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg. With Tambo, he forms the first black law partnership in South Africa. While providing free or cheap legal aid to blacks, Mandela is actively involved in the ANC’s defiance campaign.
1955: Freedom Charter calling for equal rights is adopted at the Congress of the People.
1956: Mandela is one of 156 South Africans charged with treason for their support of the Freedom Charter calling for a non-racial democracy and a socialist-based economy.
All are acquitted in 1961.
1958: Mandela marries social worker Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela after divorcing Eveyln in 1957.
1960: 69 protesters are killed by police in Sharpeville. A state of emergency is declared, and the ANC is outlawed.
1961: Helps establish Umkhonto we Sizwe – “Spear of the Nation.”
16 August 1962: He is sentenced to five years’ hard labour after being charged with illegally leaving the country and incitement to strike. He goes on the run. The government declares Winnie Mandela a banned person and restricts her to Soweto.
12 June 1964: Mandela, now 46, is one of eight people found guilty of sabotage after police seized ANC documents that outlined a planned guerrilla campaign. Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment. He is taken to Robben Island.
1968: Mandela loses his eldest son in a car crash and his mother also dies. He is not permitted to attend either funeral.
16 June 1976: Police fire on a protest in Soweto against an edict requiring blacks to be taught in Afrikaans. Violence erupts across South Africa, leaving hundreds dead. The Soweto Uprising is the start of the anti-apartheid movement.
1985: South African President P.W. Botha offers to release Mandela if he will renounce violence. In a fiery statement read at a rally by his daughter Zindzi, Mandela says the burden falls on the government to dismantle apartheid and grant full rights to blacks.
1989: F.W. de Klerk becomes president and spearheads a series of reforms. He releases Sisulu and four other of Mandela’s co-defendants. Leading anti-apartheid groups accuse Winnie Mandela of complicity in the abduction and assault of a 14-year-old black activist.
While in the last months of his imprisonment, Mandela obtains his LLB degree through the University of South Africa. He graduates in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.
Madiba the Statesman
11 Feb 1990: Mandela is released after spending 27 years in prison.
6 Aug 1990: The ANC renounces violence in return for the government’s agreement to free political prisoners.
1991: Mandela is elected president of the ANC. The last major apartheid laws are repealed. The Olympic Games ban on South Africa is lifted.
1992: Winnie Mandela is convicted of kidnapping and as an accessory to assault. She and Nelson separate.
1993: A draft constitution is adopted, opening the way to South Africa’s first all-race election. Mandela and de Klerk receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in ending apartheid. Mandela divorces Winnie
10 May 1994: Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president.
24 June 1995: In a well-chosen gesture of forgiveness and unity, Mandela appears wearing South African colours at the Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg to congratulate the victorious home team, bringing the overwhelmingly white crowd of 63,000 to its feet chanting “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”
29 May 1996: Mandela is granted a divorce from Winnie Mandela. The couple had been separated since 1992.
18 July 1998: Weds Graca Machel, the widowed former first lady of neighbouring Mozambique, on his 80th birthday.
16 June 1999: Mandela retires after one term as president. He turns his attention to peacemaking in other parts of Africa and the world and to fighting AIDS.
2000: Mandela is appointed mediator in the civil war in Burundi.
2001: He is treated for prostate cancer.
2003: Mandela supports the 46664 AIDS fund-raising campaign. (46664 was his prison number)
2005: When his son, Makgatho, dies, Mandela says publicly that the cause was AIDS — a powerful show of openness in a country where the disease is largely kept a shameful secret.
18 July 2009: His 91st birthday is declared international Mandela Day by the United Nations General Assembly. This is a worldwide annual event devoted to a day of community service.
11 July 2010: Mandela waves to the crowd at the Soccer City stadium at the World Cup, whose staging in South Africa allowed the country to shine internationally. It is his last public appearance.
5 Dec 2013: Nelson Mandela dies at the age of 95 after battling a recurring lung infection.
Madiba through Zelda’s eyes
Zelda la Grange was Nelson Mandela’s assistant and honorary “white granddaughter” for 16 years, during his presidency and when he retired. She organised his working week and travelled extensively with him on foreign tours and only left him when he retired from public life.
Zelda’s name became Zeldina after a state visit to Russia after Mandela learned that President Boris Yeltsin’s wife’s name was Yeltsina. After that 1999 visit, the name Zeldina stuck.
Mandela knew what he wanted. He could be tough, on himself too, and was very straightforward. “You knew what was expected of you and, as long as you were doing that, it was very easy to work for him,” she said.
While he was president he would sometimes phone Zelda at 2am and think nothing of it. Mandela worked exceptionally hard and expected the same from those around him.
Afrikaans became their secret weapon overseas when he didn’t want people to know what he was saying. He had learnt to speak Afrikaans on Robben Island.
His favourite people included the then Presidents Bill Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, Jacques Chirac, Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was also failingly polite to people like Margaret Thatcher, even though she had referred to the ANC as a terrorist organisation.
He saw the humour in a number if situations, telling Gordon Brown “we’re very happy to see prime minister Brown and we’re here to remind [the British] that although they colonised us, we have now taken over.” That was his sense of humour. He also enjoyed some light-hearted moments with Queen Elizabeth.
Zelda had this to say about Mandela’s penchant for celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls. “I think he was amused and entertained by their fame; he was almost curious in a way, he wanted to see for himself why people were famous. It intrigued him. Naomi was like a granddaughter to him. The fact she offered her celebrity status to support his charitable work was very important and special to him.”
Madiba inspires artists
AS this year marks the 100th birthday celebration of the late former president Nelson Mandela, his life is being celebrated globally to show appreciation and recognition for all his self sacrifices.
BONUS spoke to visual artist, Frans Lucky Mohlala from Seshego, who was inspired by the struggle icon, about a mural he painted at the Polokwane Art Museum with the help of his colleagues and students from the Live Art Vibe organisation.
“I am a full-time conceptual realistic artist and I have a strong belief that my work represents something more than beauty as it captures the dreams, desires, frustrations and emotions in situations to communicate a message to people. This is how I expressed myself and my thoughts while growing up as I have always been an introvert,” he explained.
The Nelson Mandela mural is Frans and his colleagues’ way of showing appreciation and recognition for all the selfless sacrifices Mandela made for the country. The team worked tirelessly for days to bring Madiba to life in today’s age, which is why they decided to paint him taking a selfie. This, Frans explained, shows that if Madiba was still alive today he would still actively engage with the youth in their struggle and fight for better lives and living conditions.
“We work with the youth who aspire to be artists, educating them and teaching them the basics of the industry and profession. We show them how they can use art to express their thoughts and emotions as well as communicate their views and opinions about problems that are faced in the community. Murals are accessible to everyone and bring people together for a common purpose as well as serve as an effective tool to create dialogue within communities about important issues,” he explained. “They also promote belonging and demonstrate community identity and pride, opening up communication between socially and racially divided groups.”
Frans and his mentor, Malachia Mahopo, plan to develop the art sector in the province to encourage people to consider art as a profession.
They invite aspiring artists and the community at large to come and enjoy some live artwork at the Polokwane Live Art Vibe every Tuesday at the Library Gardens from 09:00 until 15:00. [email protected]
The Madiba Shirt
The Madiba shirt was designed by Desré Buirski and first worn by Mandela at the dress rehearsal of the opening of South Africa’s first democratic Parliament in May 1994. Mandela wore this style of shirt many times. A Madiba shirt is a batik silk shirt, usually adorned in a bright and colourful print.
DON A MADIBA SHIRT
THE late freedom stalwart and father of the nation, Nelson Mandela had in his lifetime become somewhat of a trendsetter with his bold printed shirts that came to be known as the Madiba shirts.
BONUS spoke to Mmotso Minnie Molebatsi of Emeraldstones designs about these stylish shirts and how the younger generation can make them still relevant today.
“The Mandela shirt stands out because of the art on the fabric. The colours and the patterns especially are what gives it that extra thing that makes it stand out. The details in the design of the shirt show that careful consideration was taken when the shirt was made. Check how the collar of the Madiba shirt is different from other collars. The special thing about the shirt is that it’s not the usual slim fit but it fit perfectly with his body and it looked elegant,” said Molebati.
For people who would like to rock the shirt, she explains that the patterns and print of the shirt are already busy, people can rock it with plain jeans or formal pants.
“The formal pants should be well fitting because the shirt is not form fitting. You can rock it with skinny jeans or regular jeans. But because Madiba is an icon, you should wear it with pride and in a way that you stand out in a crowd. Don’t make it boring, be stylish about it,” she added.
There aren’t any specific rules about wearing this shirt apart from not drowning by wearing loose fitting trousers, but one thing she recommends is that because of who Madiba was, people should respect the shirt and live according to the ways of the man himself and adhere to his principles in his honour.
Opinion – Elvis Masoga
President Mandela is an epitome of iconic greatness
THE thawing glaciers of a grinding age are a prophetic precursor to a new tide of evolutionary history.
Human greatness is distilled and tested in times of epochal adversity.
Nelson Mandela’s life resembles the finest kaleidoscope of sheer tenacity and colossal resilience. In spite of deadly travails and dangers lurking around him, Mandela never retreated into the hollows of trepidation. Affectionately embraced as Madiba, his love for humanity was as precious as a golden crystal. He was a graciously humble human being who walked a path of extreme adversity. He was hunted, vilified, persecuted and chained for 27 years for asking for freedom and equality. But the Apartheid regime perfectly failed to break Mandela’s revolutionary spirit. Against all odds and in the face of deadly monstrosities, Madiba persistently soldiered on and stayed true to his moral principles.
Mandela always knew that someday the flames of freedom will brighten our horizons. In manifold ways, Mandela is the bravest bearer of the tribulations, adversities and scars of our horrible history. On his overburdened shoulders, Madiba ferried the sorrows and weeps of an oppressed nation during colonial times. In divine ways, he was a godly saint that anointed our dreams and perfected our ideals. Mandela brought solace to our tormented hearts, healing to our infected wounds and salvation to our crippled past. He was a shining megastar that brightened the universality of our shared humanity.
When the ghostly hand of death abducted Madiba from earth in 2013, then US President, Barack Obama, recalled in great admiration: “Through his fierce dignity and unbending willpower to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved the whole world. His journey from prisoner to president embodied the promise that all countries can change for the better”.
As the world of humanity, we feel amazingly blessed to have lived in the greatest times of Tata Mandela. We shall always cherish his godly humanity and saintly heart.
Become part of Madiba Day
Mandela Day is celebrated on 18 July and is a worldwide initiative to make the world a better place. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage people to make every day a Mandela Day
Mandela Day is about changing the world for the better through positive change in your own life and in your community. Take action against poverty. Mandela said, “It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all.”
Become part of the global movement for good.
Become involved this Mandela Day. Be the change you want to see.
Nelson Mandela fathered six children with three wives and had 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren at the time of his death.
Mandela had four children—two sons and two daughters—with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, who he married in October 1944. The couple’s first child was Madiba “Thembi” Thembekile,born in 1945. Then, in 1948 Makaziwe Mandela was born. Maki, as she was called, died at nine months of age. In 1950, Makgatho Mandela,a son, and in 1954, their second daughter was born. She was named Makaziwe Mandela in honour of their first baby girl.
Three of Mandela’s six children are still living. Makaziwe is the only surviving child from his first marriage. (Madiba Thembekile died in 1969, and Makgatho died in 2005.)
After his divorce from Evelyn, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela and they had two daughters: Zenani, or Zeni, in 1959 and Zindziswa (Zindizi) in 1960.
Did you know?
• Streets all over the world are named after Mandela. That’s a given. But did you know a prehistoric woodpecker was named after him? Scientists named the find Australopicus nelsonmandelai. In 1973, the physics institute at Leeds University also named a nuclear particle the ‘Mandela particle.’
• Mandela had a cameo role in Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic Malcolm X. He played a teacher reciting Malcolm X’s famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. He refused to say the words “by any means necessary” so Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.
Sarel lives the dream
WHEN it comes to following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, someone like Sarel Nong took up this call literally.
Not only has he been supporting several of the charities in the name of Nelson Mandela but he has also gone to the house of the legend who would have been celebrating his 100th birthday this year.
“I have done a lot of things with the Nelson Mandela Foundation when I was the President of the Sapa Yopa Motorcycle Club and it is something close to my heart. This also led me to adopt an orphanage in Nobody seven to eight years ago with the foundation,” Nong says.
The bikers with the foundation also sponsored some wendy houses, a fence for the orphanage among other things.
“Nelson Mandela self is my hero as he helped us here in South Africa to find freedom. I got a chance to meet him once. I remember that I was very surprised to see that he in fact was a very tall man. I have also gone to his house in Umtata where his museum is. It is amazing to be able to be where the man himself lived,” Nong says.
He says that one of the passions he now has is to spread the word about who Nelson Mandela is and that he does this through teaching his own and other children.
Recently when Nong went to the Everest expedition for the young girls there was a lot of opportunities to talk about Nelson Mandela.
“It is a great thing that when you say that you come from South Africa everyone wants to talk about Nelson Mandela and they all have their own stories of him and how he changed their lives,” he explains.
Later this year with the 100 year celebration he will be traveling to Kilimanjaro again for the executive climb.
“I believe that we all can still learn from the man that Nelson Mandela was and keep his dream of a united South Africa alive in everything that we do every day,” Nong said.
Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela | Conversations with Myself: Nelson Mandela | Nelson Mandela in his own Words: A compilation of his speeches | Good Morning, Mr Mandela: Zelda la Grange | Google search and various internet sites