Wednesday, July 18, 2022 was International Nelson Mandela day. The day, which is the birthday of the South African Idol, has been commemorated every year since 2015.
The day is set aside to remember his immense contributions towards negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa.
Mandela played a significant role of an international peacemaker during his tenure as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999, and his efforts cannot be undermined.
He helped end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule. The apartheid system is a policy of discrimination on grounds of race or colour. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 for his efforts. Here is all you need to know about him.
His birth and early life
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 at Mvezo in South Africa. Young Nelson was raised by Jongintaba Dalindyebo who was supreme chief of Thembu. Mandela was born into an aristocratic family in the rural Eastern Cape. He was the son of a chief. After his father’s death, he became the ward of the acting Thembu King Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Nelson Mandela lived at the homestead of Jongintaba from the age of nine till 16 and was raised together with Jongintaba's children. He grew and renounced his claim to the chieftainship to become a lawyer. He then attended South African Native College (later the University of Fort Hare), studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand and passed the qualification exam to become a lawyer.
In 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a Black-liberation group, and became a leader of its Youth League. He met and married Evelyn Ntoko Mase that same year. Mandela subsequently held other ANC leadership positions, through which he helped revitalise the organisation and oppose the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party at the time.
In 1952, in Johannesburg, with fellow ANC leader, Oliver Tambo, Mandela established South Africa’s first Black law practice, specialising in cases resulting from the post-1948 apartheid legislation.
Also that year, Mandela played an important role in launching a campaign of defiance against South Africa’s pass laws, which required non-whites to carry documents (pass books) authorising their presence in areas that the government deemed “restricted” specifically reserved for the white population.
He travelled throughout the country as part of the campaign, trying to build support for non-violent means of protest against the discriminatory laws. In 1955, he was involved in drafting the Freedom Charter, a document calling for non-racial social democracy in South Africa.
Mandela’s anti-apartheid activism made him a frequent target of the authorities. Starting in 1952, he was severely restricted in travel, association and speech.
In December 1956, he was arrested with more than 100 other people on grounds of treason designed to harass anti-apartheid activists.
Mandela went on trial that same year and eventually was acquitted in 1961.
After the massacre of unarmed Black South Africans by police forces at Sharpeville in 1960, and the subsequent banning of the ANC, Mandela abandoned his non-violent stance and began advocating acts of sabotage against the South African regime.
**** In 1962, he went to Algeria for training in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. He returned to South Africa later that year. On August 5, shortly after his return, Mandela was arrested at a road block in Natal and subsequently sent to prison.
Incarceration is the state of being confined in prison. Nelson Mandela was arrested on several occasions and stood trial four times. He spent over 27 years in prison. Some of his prison numbers were 466/64,11657/63, 19476/62. From 1964 to 1982, Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town.
He was subsequently kept at the maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison until 1988 when, after being treated for tuberculosis, he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison, near Paarl.
The South African government periodically made conditional offers of freedom to Mandela, most notably in 1976, on the condition that he should recognise the newly independent and highly controversial status of the Transkei (the Republic of Transkei was an unrecognised state in the southeastern region of South Africa) and Banstustan (a territory that the National Party administration of South Africa set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of its policy of apartheid) and agree to reside there.
An offer made in 1985 requiring that he should renounce the use of violence. Mandela refused both offers, the second on the premise that only free men were able to engage in such negotiations and, as a prisoner, he was not a free man.
Throughout his imprisonment, Mandela retained wide support among South Africa’s Black population, and his imprisonment became a cause for celebration among the international community that condemned apartheid.
As South Africa’s political situation deteriorated after 1983, and particularly after 1988, he was engaged by ministers of President P.W. Botha’s government in exploratory negotiations; he met with Botha’s successor, de Klerk, in December 1989.
On February 11, 1990, the South African government under President de Klerk released Mandela from prison. Shortly after his release, Mandela was made Deputy President of the ANC and became president of the party in July 1991.
In April 1994, the Mandela-led ANC won South Africa’s first elections by universal suffrage, and on May 10, Mandela was sworn in as President of the country’s first multi-ethnic government.
Mandela led the ANC in negotiations with de Klerk to end apartheid and bring about a peaceful transition to non-racial democracy in South Africa.
He was the first black President of South Africa to address the Special Committee Against Apartheid, convened in his honour at the UN General Assembly, on June 22, 1990, in New York City.
He established in 1995 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which investigated human rights violations under apartheid and he introduced housing, education and economic development initiatives designed to improve the living standards of the country’s black population.
In 1996 he oversaw the enactment of a new democratic constitution. Mandela resigned his post with the ANC in December 1997, transferring leadership of the party to his designated successor, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela did not seek a second term as South African president and was succeeded by Mbeki in 1999.
After leaving office, Mandela retired from active politics but maintained a strong international presence as an advocate of peace, reconciliation and social justice, often through the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, established in 1999.
He was a founder member of the Elders, a group of international leaders established in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem solving throughout the world.
In 2008, Mandela was celebrated in South Africa, Great Britain and other countries in honour of his 90th birthday.
He died on December 5, 2013.
Mandela Day was observed on his birthday to honour his legacy by promoting community service around the world. It was first observed on July 18, 2009, and was sponsored primarily by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the 466-64 initiative (the foundation’s HIV/AIDS global awareness and prevention campaign).