Nelson Mandela, the anti-Apartheid activist and Africa’s freedom champion, who became South Africa’s first black president. Find out more about his life in Daily News Egypt’s short biography.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a chief of the Thembu people, a subdivision of the Xhosa nation.
He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson. In 1937 he began his studies in the University of Fort Hare, a black institution.
One year later he will be expelled for leading a student protest. In 1944 he co-founded the ANC Youth League (ANCYL); marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase – they have four children. Mandela was elected as the national secretary of the ANCYL in 1948 and president of ANCYL in 1951.
In 1948, the National Party took power in South Africa and sets out to construct apartheid, a system of strict racial segregation and white domination. His Defiance Campaign begins, Mandela was arrested and charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act in 1952 In the same year, Mandela and Oliver Tambo opened South Africa’s first black law firm.
In December 1956, he was arrested and later joined 155 others on trial for treason. In 1960, Sharpeville Massacre where the police opened fire on a demonstration, killing 69 people and wounding 181, afterwards in March 1961, Mandela and his co-defendants are acquitted of treason. Mandela went underground in December 1961 and formed a military wing for the ANC, called Umkhonto weSizwe.
On 11 January he left South Africa for military training and to garner support for the ANC. Mandela arrived in Cairo, Egypt on 12 February 1962, he checked in at the Continental Hotel on his clandestine trip to get support for the armed struggle.
On 23 July he returned to South Africa and was arrested in August, on 12 June 1964 Mandela and seven others are convicted and sentenced to life in prison. March 1982, Mandela and four other A.N.C. leaders are transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison.
In 1985 he rejected South African President PW Botha’s offer to release him if he renounces violence, saying the government must first dismantle apartheid. He was released on 11 February 1990 Mandela, aged 71, ending 27 and a half years of imprisonment. After his release he visited Cairo on 20 February, saying “the people of South Africa would never forget the support of the Egyptian Government and people.”
He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk on 10 December 1993 and was elected as the first president of a democratic South Africa in May 1994. During his visit to Cairo on 21 October 1997 he recalled Egypt’s assistance to black South Africans during their struggle against apartheid, Mandela decorated Mubarak with the “Order of Good Hope – the Grand Cross.” He stepped down in 1999 after one term as President and passed away at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.