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His Excellency
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday in Johannesburg, South Africa, in May 2008.
Mandela in May 2008
1st President of South Africa
In office
May 10, 1994 – June 14, 1999
Deputy Thabo Mbeki
F. W. de Klerk
Preceded by F. W. de Klerk
Succeeded by Thabo Mbeki
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
In office
September 2, 1998 – June 14, 1999
Preceded by Andrés Pastrana Arango
Succeeded by Thabo Mbeki
Personal details
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

(1918-07-18)July 18, 1918
Mvezo, Umtata (now Mthatha), South Africa
Died December 5, 2013(2013-12-05) (aged 95)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Political party African National Congress
Spouses Evelyn Ntoko Mase (1944–1957)
Winnie Madikizela (1957–1996)
Graça Machel (1998–2013)
Children Madiba Thembekile
Makgatho Lewanika
Residences Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, South Africa
Alma mater University of Fort Hare
University of London External System
University of South Africa
University of the Witwatersrand
Signature Signature of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013) was a South African politician and activist. On April 27, 1994, he was made the first President of South Africa, elected in an election in which everyone was allowed to vote. Mandela was also the first black President of South Africa.

Early life

Young Mandela
Mandela during his younger years, c. 1937

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, South Africa, to a Thembu royal family. He had thirteen siblings by the same father and two mothers. His given name was Rolihlahla, a Xhosa name meaning pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker.

His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, died when Nelson was twelve. Mandela was sent to live with a local regent, who sent him to school. Mandela was the first member of his family to go to school. His teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson.

Later, he was expelled from Fort Hare University in 1941, because he led a group of students on political strike. After he was expelled, Nelson found a job as a night watchman.

Anti-apartheid activity

In 1944, Mandela helped start the African National Congress Youth League, a part of the African National Congress (ANC) for younger people. He was soon a high-ranked leader of the group.

Mandela's goal was to end apartheid. At first, Mandela tried to bring equality peacefully, but in 1961, he began an armed branch of the ANC called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) with Walter Sisulu and other people in the African National Congress whom he admired. He hid from the South African government and planned to bomb buildings. The South American government found him and sentenced him to life in prison. He was sent to Robben Island and later transferred to other prisons.

In 1990, South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk ordered Mandela's release from prison. In 1991, Mandela became president of the ANC and worked with de Klerk to end apartheid more peacefully.


Mandela moved into the Presidential Office of Tuynhuys, Cape Town.

In 1994, all races were allowed to vote in the general election. Mandela became the first South African President elected in a completely democratic election. His government focused on working to end racism, poverty, and inequality in South Africa.

Mandela became known for his use of Batik shirts, known as Madiba shirts, even during normal events. He lived simply, donating a third of his $552,000 wealth to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which he had founded in 1995. In that same year, Mandela published his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

Mandela had never planned on serving a second term in office. He gave his farewell speech on March 29, 1999, announcing his retirement. Mandela's term ended on June 14, 1999. Thabo Mbeki succeeded him as President of South Africa.

Public retirement

In June 2004, Mandela announced his retirement from public life. Mandela said, "Don't call me, I will call you." He no longer went to public events and did very few interviews.

Illness and death

Mandela ceremony 2013, Cape Town 4
A crowd gathering at the old Cape Town City Hall the day after Mandela's death

Mandela was ill for several years during his retirement. He was hospitalized in the late summer of 2013 from a continuous lung infection. Mandela died on December 5, 2013, in Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, from a respiratory tract infection. He was 95 years old.

Mandela's body lay in state from December 11 to 13 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. A state funeral was held on Sunday, December 15, 2013, in Qunu in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where Mandela grew up. David Cameron, Barack Obama, Raul Castro, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey were there. Mandela was buried in the village of Qunu.

Queen Elizabeth II honored Mandela with a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey in early 2014. This made Mandela the first non-British person to be honored at Westminster Abbey.

Personal life

Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase in October 1944. They had four children. Mandela remained married to Evelyn until they divorced in 1957. He then married Winnie Madikizela in 1958. They had two daughters. The couple filed for separation in 1992. They divorced in 1996. He then married Graça Machel in 1998. They remained married until Mandela died in 2013.


1988 CPA 5971
A postage stamp of Nelson Mandela was published in the Soviet Union to honor his 70th birthday

Mandela received more than 250 honors, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata ("Father"). Mandela was described as a hero, and his actions gave thousands of people hope. The following is a list of some of his honors:


Mandela has been portrayed in movies and television. In the 1997 movie, Mandela and de Klerk, Sidney Poitier plays Mandela. Dennis Haysbert plays Mandela in Goodbye Bafana (2007). In the 2009 BBC television movie, Mrs Mandela, Nelson Mandela is played by David Harewood. In 2009, Morgan Freeman plays Mandela in Invictus (2009). Terrence Howard also plays Mandela in the 2011 movie Winnie Mandela. Mandela appeared as himself in the 1992 movie Malcolm X. In Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom he was played by Idris Elba.


By the time of his death, many people considered Mandela as "the father of the nation" within South Africa.

Throughout his life, Mandela had also faced criticism. Margaret Thatcher described the ANC as "a typical terrorist organization" in 1987. Mandela has also been criticized for his friendship with political leaders such as Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Suharto.

Nelson Mandela quotes

  • "It always seems impossible until it's done."
  • "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
  • "Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
  • "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

Interesting facts about Nelson Mandela

  • Mandela received military training in Ethiopia in 1962.
  • July 18th is Nelson Mandela day. People are asked to devote 67 minutes to helping others. The 67 minutes represents the 67 years Mandela spent serving his country.
  • Nelson was arrested for treason – the crime of betraying your country’s government – several times.
  • In order to leave the country (which he was banned from doing), he used the name David Motsamayi to get out of South Africa in secret.
  • In Robben Island, Mandela’s prison number was 46664. He was the 466th prisoner in 1964.
  • He used his time in prison to learn new things, including Afrikaans.
  • Mandela enrolled in the University of London’s correspondence program and received a Bachelor of Law degree, also while he was in prison.
  • Mandela loved sports and believed that it “has the power to change the world… it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."
  • Mandela was an honorary citizen of many countries, including Canada, the United States, and Brazil.

Related pages

Abdullah Abdurahman

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Nelson Mandela para niños

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