Nelson Mandela – Ethical South African Leader

nelson mandela

Full NameNelson Rolihlahla Mandela
DoBJuly 18, 1918
NationalitySouth African
DemiseDecember 5, 2013
WorkSocial rights activist, politician and philanthropist

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela(Nelson Mandela) , by name Madiba, (born July 18, 1918, Mvezo, South Africa-died December 5, 2013, Johannesburg), Black nationalist and the first Black president of South Africa (1994-1999). His negotiations in the early 1990s with South African Pres. F.W. de Klerk helped end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 for their efforts.

Nelson Mandela was a civil rights hero and arguably one of the greatest African leaders in history. He led a resistance movement, spent years behind bars unjustly and served as the president of South Africa. His life’s work was instrumental in abolishing apartheid and improving race relations. Not only was he a champion for justice and peace in his own country but also around the world.

In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18th “International Nelson Mandela Day.” An examination of Nelson Mandela’s childhood contextualizes his legacy, both honoring and humanizing the man who contributed to the development of democracy and human rights around the globe. His young years are fascinating and enlightening as he exhibited leadership skills and spirit from an early age in his unique circumstances.

Early life

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n July 18th, 1918, Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Thembu tribe in the small South African village of Mvezo, Transkei. Nelson’s birth name, Rolihlahla, is translated to mean “pulling branches off a tree.” His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, served as chief of the tribe. His mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was Mphakanyiswa’s third of four wives. Collectively, the wives bore Mphankanyiswa nine daughters and four sons.

Nelson Mandela was born into a powerful family that was devoted to serving and leading his community. He grew up listening to stories of his ancestors’ bravery in wars of resistance, planting the seeds of courage within him to continue the struggle of bringing his people into freedom.

When colonial authorities denied Mphakanyswa of his chief status, he moved his family to Qunu. When Mphakanyswa died from tuberculosis in 1928, Nelson Mandela was only nine years old. He was then put under the guardianship of a Thembu Regent, who raised him as his own son.

Nelson Mandela was the first in his family to attend school. He excelled in his learning, and the schools he attended had a fundamental impact on Nelson Mandela’s childhood. At his primary school in Qunu, Rolihlahla’s teacher told him that he would be called “Nelson” from now on. This followed the tradition of giving schoolchildren “Christian names”.

This given name would be adopted by Rolihlahla, becoming his lifelong moniker. He continued his education at a Methodist secondary school called the Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Healdtown. Throughout his time there, he performed well in boxing, running and academics.

In 1939, Nelson Mandela advanced to the prestigious University of Fort Hare. At the time, it was the sole Western-style higher learning institute for South African black people. The next year, Mandela, along with his fellow peers, was expelled for joining a student boycott against university policies. His lifelong advocacy for peaceful protests began here.

Nelson Mandela returned home after being expelled from college and his guardian, Jongintaba, was furious. He threatened that if Mandela did not return to Fort Hare he would arrange a marriage for him. In response, Mandela decided to escape. He fled to Johannesburg and arrived in 1941. He first worked as a mine security officer, then as a law clerk and finally finished his bachelor’s degree through the University of South Africa.

As he furthered his studies, he also started attending African National Congress (ANC) meetings against the advice of his employers. In 1943, he returned to Fort Hare to graduate. He furthered his education and expanded his worldview by studying law at the University of Witwatersrand and it was here that his interest in politics was heavily influenced. He met black and white activists and got involved with the movement against racial discrimination that he would continue for the rest of his life.

Mandela Entering Politics

Nelson Mandela 1994

Nelson Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a Black-liberation group, and became a leader of its Youth League. That same year he met and married Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Mandela subsequently held other ANC leadership positions, through which he helped revitalize the organization and oppose the apartheid policies of the ruling National Party.

As Nelson Mandela’s commitment to politics and the ANC grew stronger, he participated in boycotts, strikes and other nonviolent forms of protest to oppose discriminatory policies. He opened South Africa’s first black law firm, which specialized in legal counsel to those harmed by apartheid legislation. He offered his legal counsel from a low cost to no cost at all.

A long struggle was ahead of Mandela to achieve full citizenship, democracy, and liberty for his people. His journey began in his early years as Thembu royalty and in his academic work.

In 1952 he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labour, suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practise law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black-owned law firm in the 1950s, Mandela & Tambo.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

Treason trial

Nelson Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1956, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial that were designed to harass antiapartheid activists, held in Johannesburg Prison amid mass protests, they underwent a preparatory examination before being granted bail, the trial lasted 6 years. The main trial lasted until 1961, when all of the defendants were found not guilty.

On 29 March 1961, six years after the Treason Trial began, the judges produced a verdict of not guilty, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to convict the accused of “high treason”, since they had advocated neither communism nor violent revolution; the outcome embarrassed the government.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic.

After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.

In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. 

On 11 June 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Charged with sabotage, treason, and violent conspiracy, Mandela admitted to many of the charges against him and eloquently defended his militant activities during the trial. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island prison.

Nelson Mandela mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

Many people are unaware that Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island twice. The first time was a brief period in 1963, about six months after he had been sentenced to five years in prison for leaving the country illegally and inciting a strike. Initially held at Pretoria Local Prison, Mr Mandela was sent to Robben Island in May 1963 and then, on 13 June 1963, he was inexplicably returned to Pretoria.

This story about Nelson Mandela’s first imprisonment on Robben Island strongly demonstrates his iron will and indelible sense of dignity that helped him to survive 27 years in prison. He shows, on the one hand, that from day one, the prison warders were determined to treat the prisoners as nothing more than cattle as they tried aggressively to bring them under their control.

It was not to be. Mr Mandela immediately took charge and showed how one can turn the tables even in the more dire circumstances. It was this dignity and strength demonstrated by Nelson Mandela and that of his colleagues later that marked their imprisonment and subsequent demeanour.

Remembering the coldest experience in prison: “We drew strength and sustence from the knowledge that we were part of a greater humanity than our jailers could claim.”

After he had been there for about a month, his colleagues were arrested and they stood trial together for sabotage in the Rivonia Trial. Mr Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. He remained on Robben Island until the end of March 1982 after which he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland. Then, after a few months in hospitals, he was sent to Victor Verster Prison in December 1988 from where he was freed on 11 February 1990.

Nelson Mandela 27 years in prison

During the 1950s and early 1960s Nelson Mandela frequently found himself in police station cells, court holding cells and prison cells for short periods of time, as his political work made him a target for the apartheid regime. After the banning of the African National Congress in 1960, he went underground in 1961 and became the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the Congress.

In 1962 he was captured, and sentenced to five years in prison for leaving the country illegally and inciting a strike. In 1963 he joined other MK leaders in the Rivonia Trial, at the end of which he was sentenced to life for sabotage. He was finally released from prison in 1990 after over 27 years of unbroken incarceration. Eighteen of those years were spent on Robben Island.

Release from prison

On 12 August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment.

Nelson Mandela was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Nelson Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life.

Mandela Presidency

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The presidency of Nelson Mandela began  on 10 May 1994 when he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. He was the first black head of state in South African history, as well as the first to take office following the dismantling of the apartheid system and the introduction of full, multiracial democracy. Nelson Mandela was also the oldest head of state in South Africa’s history, taking office at the age of seventy-five.

In 1991, Nelson Mandela was elected the president of the African National Congress (ANC), and his friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, was elected the ANC’s national chairperson. Nelson Mandela continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country’s first non-racial elections. The first plenary session of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA I) began on December 21 1991, at the World Trade Centre in Johannesburg.

White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. The negotiations were tense. Violence across South African townships erupted, followed by the assassination of ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani on 10 April 1993. National Mandela was under pressure and he had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations in the midst of the demonstrations.

In 1993, Nelson Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work towards abolishing apartheid. Negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed. On 27 April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections. The ANC won the election with 62.65 % of the vote. The National Party (NP) received 20.39 %, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54 %, Freedom Front (FF) 2.2 %, Democratic Party (DP) 1.7 %, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2 % and the African Christian Democratic Party 0.5 %.

On 10 May 1994, Nelson Mandela, at the age of 77, was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president and F W de Klerk became Mandela’s first deputy. Although the ANC gained a majority vote, they formed the Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by Mandela.

In 1994,Nelson Mandela published an autobiography titled “Long Walk to Freedom” which he secretly wrote while in prison. He also published a number of books on his life and struggles, among them “No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: the Struggle is my Life” and “Nelson Mandela’s Favourite African Folktales”.In 1995, he was awarded the Order of Merit by FIFA for bringing South Africa back in international football.

During his presidency, Nelson Mandela also worked to protect South Africa’s economy from collapse. There was also a serious need to address the economic legacy of apartheid: poverty, inequalities, unequal access to social services and infrastructure, and an economy that had been in crisis for nearly two decades.

In 1994, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was introduced. The RDP was a South African socio-economic policy framework implemented by the ANC government of Mandela. The ANC’s main aim in developing and implementing the RDP, was to address the immense socio-economic problems brought about by Apartheid. Specifically, it set its sights on alleviating poverty and addressing the massive shortfalls in social services across South Africa. Through its RDP, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care.

Also, as part of his mission for peace, nation-building and reconciliation, Nelson Mandela used the nation’s enthusiasm for sports as an important point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated all-white national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic of South Africa.

The Rugby World Cup was won by South Africa and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country. The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid. It was also the first World Cup in which South Africa was allowed to participate.

In 1996, Nelson Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing both the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, was approved by the Constitutional Court (CC) on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997.

The Constitution was founded on the following values: (a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. (b) Non-racialism and non-sexism. (c) Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.

In June 1996, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic policy was introduced. The policy proposed a set of medium-term policies aimed at the rapid liberalization of the South African economy. These policies included a relaxation of exchange controls, privatisation of state assets, trade liberalization, “regulated” flexibility in labour markets, strict deficit reduction targets, and monetary policies aimed at stabilizing the rand through market interest rates.

The Gear policy aimed at strengthening the South African economic development, increasing employment, and redistribution of income and socio-economic opportunities to in favour of the poor people. The key goals of Gear policy were: economic growth of 6% by the year 2000, employment growth above the increase in the economically active population, inflation less than 10 per cent, a ratio of gross domestic savings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 12.5 per cent in the year 2000, relaxation of exchange controls and reduction of the budget deficit to below 4 per cent of GDP.

In 1998, the South African government, under Nelson Mandela, announced that it intended to purchase 28 BAE/SAAB JAS 39 Gripen-fighter aircraft from Sweden at a cost of R10.875 billion, i.e. R388 million (about US$65 million) per plane. The South African Department of Defence’s Strategic Defence Acquisition aimed to modernise its defence equipment, which included the purchase of corvettes, submarines, light utility helicopters, lead-in fighter trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft. However, The Arms Deal, as it subsequently came to be known, was accused of corruption.

In 2011, sitting President Jacob Zuma announced a commission of enquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages. The Commission was chaired by Judge Seriti, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and became known as the Seriti Commission.

In 1999, Nelson Mandela retired from active politics. He was called on to help broker peace agreements in Burundi in central Africa serving as a mediator. The Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation for Burundi was signed on 28 August 2000, with the support of the Regional Peace Initiative (RPI) and the international community.

Subsequently, the peace processes were consolidated with the signing of two ceasefire agreements. The first of these agreements was signed on 7 October 2002 between the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGoB) and the Burundi Armed Political Parties and Movements (APPMs). The second agreement on 2 December 2002 was between the TGoB and the CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza.

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela pursued money-raising drives for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He would do this by, among other things, inviting business leaders to join him on visits to settlements of poor people, where he would have them pledge donations, particularly for schools and classrooms. Such facilities have become known as the products of “Madiba magic”.


Mandela Glynn Griffiths

As a leader, South African President Nelson Mandela demonstrated remarkable leadership qualities, including advocacy for peace, powerful presence that disarmed enemies with his smile, high level of forgiveness, positive thinking, ability to see the big picture, focus on goals and missions beyond himself, remarkable endurance, grit and determination, humility, hopefulness and patience.

Well, these and other perspectives, like politics, religion, economics, society, morale and ethics, play a vital role in the process of opinions and thoughts required to become a great leader who can change and lead people to a better future. Mandela and other revolutionary leaders, as well as their leadership styles, motivate and inspire the public with action.

Becoming a great leader is not about making public appearances and memorizing speeches. It is about leaving a mark on the world by displaying important qualities and giving followers a better path in life. Likewise, Nelson Mandela qualities and life achievements have indeed changed the heart of many not only in his country, but also around the world. With his presence, a new and better world was created.

Nelson Mandela was a private person who often concealed his emotions and confided in very few people. Privately, he lived an austere life, refusing to drink alcohol or smoke, and even as president made his own bed. Renowned for his mischievous sense of humour, he was known for being both stubborn and loyal, and at times exhibited a quick temper. He was typically friendly and welcoming, and appeared relaxed in conversation with everyone, including his opponents.

 A self-described, Nelson Mandela claimed to have lived by the “trappings of British style and manners”. Constantly polite and courteous, he was attentive to all, irrespective of their age or status, and often talked to children or servants. He was known for his ability to find common ground with very different communities. In later life, he always looked for the best in people, even defending political opponents to his allies, who sometimes thought him too trusting of others. He was fond of, and had a lifelong interest in archaeology and boxing.

Illness and death

In February 2011, Nelson Mandela was momentarily hospitalized with a breathing and lung related contamination, drawing in worldwide consideration, prior to being re-conceded for a lung disease and seriously upsetstone evacuation in December 2012. After a fruitful operation toward the beginning of March 2013,his lung contamination reoccurred and he was momentarily hospitalized in Pretoria. In June 2013, his lung contamination declined and he was readmitted to a Pretoria clinic in difficult condition.

The High-positioning church official of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba visited Nelson Mandela at the clinic and asked with Machel, while Zuma dropped an excursion to Mozambique to visit him the following day. In September 2013, Mandela was released from emergency clinic, despite the fact that his condition stayed unsound.

In the wake of experiencing an extended breathing and lung related contamination, Mandela kicked the bucket on 5 December 2013 at 95 years old, at around 20:50 nearby time at his home in Houghton, encompassed by his family. Zuma freely declared his demise on TV, reporting ten days of public affliction (in pity), a commemoration administration held at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on 10 December 2013, and 8 December as a public day of supplication and reflection.

Nelson Mandela body lay in state from 11 to 13 December at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and a state memorial service was hung on 15 December in Qunu. Around 90 agents of unfamiliar states ventured out to South Africa to go to remembrance occasions.

It was subsequently showed/told with regards to that 300 million rand ( around 20 million dollars) (from the start/before different things occurred) put away for human aiding improvement projects had been diverted to fund the funeral. Newspapers, sites, and TV was loaded with messages of thanks and memories, while pictures of messages of gratitude to Mandela developed and spread across online media. His US$4.1 million bequest was passed on to his widow, other relatives, staff, and educational institutions.

Nelson Mandela Inspirational Quotes

  1. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
  2. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
  3. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  4. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
  5. “No one is born hating another person because of the color 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.”
  6. “It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.”
  7. “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
  8. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”