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Name: Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


Details: South African leader, Revolutionary and Statesman
Date: 1918 -

Thesis: Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, South African leader, revolutionary


and statesman is heralded as the first democratically elected President
of South Africa. After twenty seven years of incarceration for his non-
violent struggle against South African apartheid, he was the catalyst
that helped bring about a peaceful transition to a fully-representative
democracy in South Africa.

Outline:

I. Early Life: At an early age, young Rolihlahla Mandela was


groomed as the Paramount Chief’s ward to assume high office.

II. Education: He attended the University College of Fort Hare


and Witwatersrand where he was elected onto the Student's
Representative Council and qualified in law in 1942.

III. Early Work: Mandela entered politics in earnest while studying


in Johannesburg by joining the African National Congress in
1942.

IV. Influences: Along with Oliver R. Tambo, who died in 1993 as


National Chairman of the ANC, Mandela opened the first black
legal firm in the South Africa.

V. Obstacles: For his struggle against apartheid, Mandela


endured a long and hard incarceration, which lasted a total of
27 years.

VI. Later Work: Mandela launched a campaign in November 2002,


using his prison number 46664 to help raise funds for his
foundation’s fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

VII. Legacy: His life has inspired the oppressed and deprived;
those opposed to oppression and deprivation and truly
symbolizes the triumph of the human spirit over man’s
inhumanity to man.
Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, South African leader, revolutionary

and statesman is heralded as the first democratically elected President

of South Africa. After twenty seven years of incarceration for his non-

violent struggle against South African apartheid, he was the catalyst

that helped bring about a peaceful transition to a fully-representative

democracy in South Africa.

Rolihlahla Mandela, whose first name means ‘troublemaker,’ was

born to Chief Henry Mphakanyiswa of the royal house of Thembu. Chief

Mphakanyiswa was the principal councilor to the Acting Paramount

Chief of Thembu. After his father’s death, young Rolihlahla became the

Paramount Chief’s ward to be groomed for high office. He enjoyed the

benefits of royalty and was influenced by the cases at the Chief’s

court. At this point in his life, according to the African National

Congress Website, ANC Today, he “determined to become a lawyer […

and] dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom

struggle of his people.” While in the Chief’s court, he was privy to the

traditions and discussions of the elders. This insight developed in

Mandela a keen admiration and knowledge of the combating spirit of

his people to rid themselves of the shackles of oppression. It appeared

that an indelible impression had been made on his young mind to

uphold the legacy of his forbears.

Though no one in his family had received formal education,

Rolihlahla Mandela attended primary school at a local mission where

he was taught British traditions, Christian doctrine and received the


English name by which he would be known. In Mandela: The Authorized

Portrait, Clinton and Tutu question the overbearing influence of the

British in the educational scheme: “He was given the name Nelson by

his teacher […quite arbitrarily] although at the time mission educated

children were often named after British imperial heroes. That an

English name was necessary at all had as much to do with the English

bias in the educational system” (13). At nineteen, Mandela proceeded

to Healdtown – a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute where the

English bias was further reinforced. Martin Meredith describes

Mandela’s opinion of the nature of tutoring at Healdtown, “We were

taught and believed that the best ideas were English ideas, the best

government was English government and the best men were

Englishmen” (18). He went on to the University College of Fort Hare

where he met Oliver Tambo, a comrade with whom he would later set-

up the first black legal practice in South Africa. He also attended the

University of Witwatersrand where he was elected onto the Student's

Representative Council and qualified in law in 1942. On Time

magazine’s website, Brink Andre writes in the article Leaders and

Revolutionaries: Nelson Mandela, “It was only after he left the

missionary College of Fort Hare, where he had become involved in

student protests against the white colonial rule of the institution, that

he set out on the long walk toward personal and national liberation.”

From this point, Mandela seemed destined for difficulties in the pursuit

of his childhood dreams of liberation for his people.


He became active in politics while studying in Johannesburg

where he joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942. In 1944,

Mandela and other young members of the ANC established the African

National Congress Youth League. The members, led by Anton Lembede,

included William Nkomo, Walter Sisulu, Oliver R. Tambo, and Ashby P.

Mda. In 1947, Mandela was elected Secretary of the League. After the

incumbent National Party won the 1948 all-White elections on the

platform of Apartheid, the Programme of Action, inspired by the ANCYL,

which advocated the weapons of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and

non-co-operation was accepted as official ANC policy. Mandela made

reference to his philosophy of confrontation without resort to violence

in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of

Nelson Mandela, “Like the people of the East, Africans have a highly

developed sense of dignity, or what the Chinese call "face" […] I

learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an

unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents

without dishonoring them” (10). In 1950, in appreciation of this radical

style of leadership, Mandela was again elected to the National

Executive Committee of the ANCYL at the national conference.

Likewise, when the ANC launched its Campaign for the Defiance

of Unjust Laws in 1952, Mandela was voted National Volunteer-in-Chief.

In addition, Mandela’s outstanding contribution during the Defiance

Campaign was noted and he was elected deputy president of the ANC

itself. During the early fifties, he played an important part in leading


the resistance to the Western Areas removals and to the introduction of

Bantu Education. He also played a significant role in popularizing the

Freedom Charter, adopted by the Congress of the People in 1955. In a

botched trial, which took place after Mandela was arrested on trumped

up treason charges in 1956, the government accused him and his

comrades of communist intentions and plotting a coup d'etat. In

Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography, Mandela declared, “The verdict

was an embarrassment to the government, both at home and abroad.

Yet the lesson they took away was not that we had legitimate

grievances but that they needed to be far more ruthless” (84). After

the trial, Mandela anticipated the government’s next move. According

to Ken Oliobi, in his article Mandela on the Nuclear Age Peace

Foundation Website, “In 1961, Mandela went underground […]. He

helped organize the military wing of the ANC, Umkonto we Sizwe (the

Spear of the Nation), later simply abbreviated to MK. In 1962, Mandela

left the country to receive military training in Algeria and to arrange

training for other members of the MK.” Mandela realized that the

trouble ahead must be successfully negotiated and survived and

decided to prepare himself and his comrades for what seemed

imminent.

As he had anticipated, because of his unrelenting defiance and

constant struggle against sanctions and the oppression of the

apartheid government, Mandela was doomed to spend the next

twenty-seven years of his life in incarceration. Reggie Finlayson in


Nelson Mandela: Biography writes in reference to Mandela’s eventual

release from prison, “He […came] out unbowed and prepared to

continue the struggle. At a point in life when most men retire, Nelson

Mandela took the helm of a new nation. He had traveled a long way –

and crossed many famous rivers” (9). The apartheid government, by

subjecting Mandela to this long and hard prison sentence sought to

break his fighting spirit and diminish his popularity. Ironically, Nelson

Mandela emerged from prison stronger in spirit, more popular and

determined to fulfill his mission. Days before his well publicized release

from prison, the new state president, F.W. de Klerk announced the

lifting of various oppressive sanctions. The ban on the ANC was also

lifted and numerous political prisoners where freed. This landmark

move paved way for the beginning of emancipation in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically

elected President of South Africa in May 1994. In November 2002,

Mandela launched a campaign using his prison number – 46664 – to

help raise funds for his foundation set-up to help fight against HIV/AIDS

in South Africa. His commitment to his life’s work of equality and

freedom for his countrymen black and white and all people of the world

at large earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now a year short of his 90th birthday, Nelson Mandela has never

wavered in his devotion to democracy and dignity for all people black

or white. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered violence

with violence. On the website of Time magazine, Gordon Brown writes,


“[Mandela] tells us that man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden

but never extinguished. With Mandela, and because of Mandela, no

noble cause is unachievable.” Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is an icon

whose sacrifice and perseverance has undoubtedly brought about

freedom and true democracy, not only for the peoples of South Africa,

but also for citizens worldwide.

Works Cited

1. Brink, Andre. “Leaders and Revolutionaries: Nelson Mandela”

TIME - The

TIME 100: The Most Important People Of The Century. 13

April 1998. 28 November 2006.

<http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/mande

la.html

2. Brown, Gordon. “Rebels and Leaders: Nelson Mandela” TIME – 60

years

of Heroes 13 November 2006; Vol.168, No. 21. 28

November 2006
<http://www.time.com/time/europe/hero2006/mandela.htm

l>

3. Clinton, Bill and Tutu, Desmond. Mandela: The Authorized

Portrait.

Missouri: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2006

4. Finlayson, Reggie. Nelson Mandela: Biography. Minnesota: Lerner

Publications Company, 1999.

5. Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of

Nelson Mandela. Boston: Back Bay Books, 1995.

6. Mandela, Nelson. Mandela: An Illustrated Autobiography. Boston:

Little,

Brown, 1996.

7. Meredith, Martin. Nelson Mandela: A Biography. New York: St.

Martin’s

Press, 1997.

8 Oliobi, Ken. “Nelson Mandela.” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

December 2006. 28 November 2006.

<http://www.wagingpeace.org/menu/programs/youth-

outreach/

peace-heroes/mandela-nelson.htm>

9. “Profile of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Biographical Details.” ANC

TODAY-

Online Voice of the African National Congress Vol. 6, No. 46.


24-30 November 2006. 28 November 2006.

<http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela.html>

© Tayo Banjo | Fall, 2006 | media5live.com