Nelson Mandela

In Prison

Early Life

On July 18th 1918 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a small village in the south eastern region of South Africa called the Transkei. His father was chief of the village and a member of the royal family of the Thembu tribe, which spoke the Xhosa language. As a boy, Mandela grew up in the company of tribal elders and chiefs, which gave him a rich sense of African self-government and heritage, despite the cruel treatment of blacks in white-governed South Africa.


Mandela was also deeply influenced by his early education in Methodist church schools. The instruction he received there set Mandela on a path leading away from some African tribal traditions, such as an arranged marriage set up by a tribal elder, which he refused. After being expelled from Fort Hare University College in 1940 for leading a student strike, Mandela obtained a degree from Witwatersrand University. In 1942 he received a degree in law from the University of South Africa.


Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944. The ANC is a South African political party. The ANC's main goal is to is to work to improve conditions and rights for people of colour in South Africa. Nelson Mandela became one of the more radical and younger leaders and became a member of the Youth League of the ANC. Soon after he became prsident of the ANC in 1951.

Between the years of 1951 and 1960 were troubled times, not for the ANC but also for south Africa. A group of protesters from the ANC including Mandela were coming to the veiw that peaceful protests against the govermnent were not working because it caused the South African government to respond with violence against Africans. But mandela was ready to try every posibile technique to destroy the government peacfully, he began to feel that nonviolent resistance would not change things in the end.

In 1952 Mandela was sentenced to a 9 months jail for leading the ANC protest activities. In 1956 he was arestered with other ANC leaders for promoting resistance to south africa's 'pass laws' that prevented from moving freely in the country. Mandela was charged with treason as well as many other ANC members, but by 1961 the charges collapsed, by this time the government had outlawed the ANC. Antiapatheid leaders created a semi underground called the All African National Action Council which was operating illegally. nelson Mandela was appointed its secrectary and later became head of Umkhonto weSizwe (the spear of the nation), a militant ANC organization which used sabotage in its fight against apartheid.

Jailed Again

In 1962 Mandela was again arrested, this time for leaving South Africa illegally and for inciting strikes. He was sentenced to five years in jail. The following year he was tried with other leaders of Umkhonto weSizwe on a charge of high treason, following a government raid of the group's secret headquarters. Mandela was given a life sentence, which he began serving in the maximum security prison on South Africa's Robben Island.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison. His example of quiet suffering was just one of many pressures on South Africa's apartheid government. Public discussion of Mandela was illegal, and he was allowed few visitors. But as the years dragged on, he was increasingly viewed as a martyr in South Africa and around the world, making him a symbol of international protests against apartheid.

He was hospitilisiezed in 1988 with an illness, after he recovered he was sent back to prison but with slightly less harsh conditions. by this time, South Africa was becoming desperate for the ruling white powers. Protest had spread, and international pressures for the end of apartheid were increasing. More and more, South Africa was isolated as a racist state. It was against this backdrop that F. W. de Klerk, the president of South Africa, finally responded to the calls from around the world to release Mandela.


Nelson Mandela walked out of prison on the 11th february 1990. He recieved joyful welcomes from all around the world when he decided to visit another country. In 1991 the ANC had been given legal status by the government and Mandela assumed presidency.

Mandela and deKlerk realized that only a compromise between the whites and blacks could prevent a civil war in South Africa. In late 1991, a multiparty Convention for a Democratic South Africa met to establish a new, democratic government that gave people of all colors rights to determine the country's future. Mandela and deKlerk led the negotiations, and their efforts gained them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. In September 1992, the two leaders signed a document that created a freely elected constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution and to act as a transition government. 1994 was the first year of free elections open to the citizens of South Africa, this was held on the 27th April 1994. The ANC got over 62% of the votes and with that Nelson Mandela was elected president.


After elected president, President mandela worked hard to ease the dangerous political differences in his country and to build a stable economy. With all his hard work he was successful not only building up a economy but also a democratic type of government as well. In an effort to help the country heal, he also backed the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which offered amnesty (exemption from criminal prosecution) to those who had committed crimes during the apartheid era. This action helped to promote discussion about the country's history.

In 1999 Mandela retired as President of South Africa. He was replaced by Thabo Mbeki who was originaly his Vice President. Mandela quickly took on the role of statesman

after leaving office, acting that year as a mediator in the peace process in Burundi, where a civil war had led to the killing of thousands.

In late 2001, Mandela joined the outcry against terrorism when he expressed his support for the American bombing of Afghanistan after terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. By January 2002, however, Mandela had modified his support somewhat after South African Muslims criticized him for appearing to be insensitive to the sufferings of the Afghan people. As quoted by the Associated Press, Mandela called his earlier remarks supporting the bombings an "overstatement" and urged caution against prematurely labeling Osama bin Laden, the man suspected of plotting the attacks, as a terrorist.