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Nelson Mandela (SAR)

Nobel Peace Prize 1993 Laureate, the prize was awarded for his work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela

«No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite».

(Nelson Mandela)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a little village Mvezo (Mthatha’s suburb, South African Republic) on July 18, 1918. He belonged to one of the branches of the royal Thembu family.

At the age of seven, Mandela became the first member of his family, who attended school, where he was given the name Nelson in honour of the English admiral Horatio Nelson by a Methodist teacher, who had trouble pronouncing Mandela’s own original name. The father of the future politician died of tuberculosis, when Nelson turned nine years old. The boy was placed in a regent’s palace, after which he began to attend a nearby Methodist school. In keeping with the traditions of his tribe, upon reaching the age of sixteen, Nelson Mandela was brought through the ritual of initiation, and after this he entered Clarkebury Methodist High School. It is worthwhile to mention, that Nelson completed his education there in two years instead of three.

Nelson Mandela in his youth

Nelson Mandela in his youth

In 1937, Nelson became a student of the Methodist college Fort Beaufort. After graduating from college, being a freshman of the University of Fort Hare, he participated in organizing the boycott against the administration of Fort Hare. Because of this, the young man had to leave the university. Together with his cousin, Nelson Mandela ran away to Johannesburg, where he was hired to work at a gold mine. After the administration of the mine found out that Mandela ran away from his regent-custodian Jongintaba, Nelson was fired. Despite this fact, he stayed in Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela during the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony

Nelson Mandela during the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony

After he settled down in a suburb, the young man got a job of a clerk at a law firm. In 1943, Mandela entered the University of the Witwatersrand to study the fundamentals of the law.

That same year, Nelson for the first time took part in the mass protest actions, caused by the increase of the public transport fares. At the same time, Mandela found himself in a group of young intellectuals, which met at the initiative of the African National Congress.

One year later, Nelson obtained membership in ANC and decided to create a new organization – ANC Youth League.

After the National Party of Africaners won the elections of 1948 in South African Republic, Mandela got involved with the politics even more.

Nelson Mandela and John Paul II

Nelson Mandela and John Paul II

As the national president of the Youth League, Nelson called for the Defiance Campaign in 1952, developing a plan of ANC’s underground activities under the conditions of a possible ban.

In December of 1956, Nelson and 150 of his followers were arrested and accused of high treason against the state. The court trial lasted for 4 years, and eventually all of those under arrest were found not guilty.

Nelson Mandela during his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II

Nelson Mandela during his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II

In the summer of 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested again. The government of South African Republic accused him of leaving the country illegally and organizing workers’ strikes. After a few months, he was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison, but in 1963, Nelson was charged with additional accusations of preparing to blow up the objects of power supply in SAR, and developing a plan to bring in a foreign army into South Africa.

The penalty for such crimes in the country was that of death, but for Mandela this sentence was changed for life imprisonment.

Out of twenty seven years in confinement, Nelson spent the first eighteen years in an isolation cell, in the prison on Robben Island. While being confined, he also studied in the University of London and received his Bachelor of Law degree. After eighteen years of confinement, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. Three years later, South African president Peter Botha came up with a proposal for Nelson – to reject violence in the political struggle in exchange for freedom. Mandela did not accept these conditions.

Nelson Mandela and Hillary Clinton

Nelson Mandela and Hillary Clinton

During 27 years of his imprisonment, most of which he spent in a solitary confinement on the Robben Island near the Cape of Good Hope, Mandela became the most well known figure in the struggle against apartheid. Among the opponents of apartheid in South Africa and around the world, he became a cult portrait of freedom and equality. The apartheid government and nations that sympathized with it, condemned him and ANC as communists and terrorists, and he became a loathsome figure among many South African whites, supporters of apartheid, and antagonists of ANC.

Being in prison, Mandela studied in London University through a correspondence course, and later received his LLB degree. In 1981, he was nominated for the position of the honorary dean of the University, but lost to Princess Anne.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu

In March of 1982, together with other leaders  of ANC, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. Presumably, the main reason for these actions of the authorities was their desire to guard the new generation of black activists, serving their sentence on Robben Island, from the influence of these leaders. Nevertheless, according to the chairman of the National Party Kobie Coetsee, the move was to enable discreet contact between them and the South African government.

In February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle. Coetzee and other ministers had advised Botha against this, saying that Mandela would never commit his organisation to giving up the armed struggle in exchange for personal freedom. Mandela indeed spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

Nelson Mandela's autograph. From my private collection

Nelson Mandela’s autograph. From my private collection

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was being treated for prostate surgery. Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.

In 1988, Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison, where he remained until his release. At this time many restrains were lifted off, and as the result, many of Mandela’s friends, including Harry Schwarz, who defended the interests of Mandela and his followers during the Rivonia trial, were allowed to meet with him.

Throughout Mandela’s imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela! In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem de Klerk.

In the winter of 1990, F.W. de Klerk (South Africa’s president) signed a law legalizing the ANC, and immediately after this Mandela was released from prison. Later, he became the head of the ANC again. After a number of negotiations, which lasted for four years, the decision was made to have the first all-racial elections in the country.

In 1993, together with F.W. de Klerk, Nelson Mandela became the laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” He became a world-wide known state leader, who offered his opinion on the most pending issues. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba – an honoured name, which is accepted by the senior members of the Mandela clan.

In April of 1994, the first all-racial Parliamentary elections took place in South Africa, where Mandela received over sixty percents of the votes. Soon after this, Mandela took the office of the head of the country.

After leaving the office of the president in 1999, Mandela began making active efforts  to fight down HIV and AIDS on the territory of South Africa. Later he became an Ambassador of the International Delfic Council, and often read lectures in different schools.

In summer, 2013, Mandela was taken into a hospital with a respiratory infection. Soon his condition rapidly deteriorated, and he was put on artificial lung ventilation. In September, the ex-president was released and sent home to continue the treatment, where all the necessary arrangements were made. All through the autumn, the public was told that Mandela remained in stable critical condition.

Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013, at the age of 95, at his home in Johannesburg’s suburb Houghton Estate, surrounded by his family. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma publicly announced his death. Zuma said, “He peacefully passed away around 20:50 on December 5, surrounded by his relatives, Our nation has lost its greatest son.”

From the first two wives Nelson had five children. At the age of eighty, Mandela entered into his third marriage with the widow of the president of Mozambique, Samora Machel.

In June of 2014, the delegates of the General Assembly of the United Nations established Nelson Mandela Prize, which is to be given to certain individuals for their contribution to the realization of the goals and principles of the United Nations, informs the press-service of the organization.  ”The General Assembly decides to establish the United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize, which will be honorary in nature, as a tribute to the outstanding achievements and contributions of individuals to the purposes and principles of the United Nations,” — says the resolution adopted by the General Assembly of UN. The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the resolution a historic one, emphasizing that it will help to maintain and develop Mandela’s heritage, who “endured great hardships and great pain in his struggle for the cause of democracy and equality.”

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