Nelson Mandela

A long walk to freedom

Biographical Details

Nelson Mandela was born on the 18th of July, 1918 into the Xhosa Tribe. He died on the 5th of December, 2013 of a respiratory infection. Mandela was a freedom fighter who believed that even if we are of different ethnicities, we deserve to be equal. He dedicated his life to ending the apartheid and racial discrimination.

Early Life

Nelson Mandela was originally given the name Rolihlahla when he was younger, but was later given the name Nelson by his primary teacher. Mandela later stated his childhood had been dominated by 'custom, ritual and taboo' until he decided to leave for The University of Fort Hare to work on his Bachelor of Arts degree.

Important Events

1. Charged With Sabotage

On 11th July, 1963, police raided a farm where all the paperwork documenting the activities of Umkhonto we Sizwe (an armed wing of the ANC co-founded by Nelson Mandela) were found. Therefore, Mandela and his four comrades were charged with four counts of sabotage and conspiracy, and condemned to life imprisonment. Mandela spent eighteen years in Robben Island Prison and transferred to Pollsmoor Prison for six years. He was transferred again to Victor Verster Prison for two years until his release in 1990.

2. Robben Island

During his eighteen years’ time in Robben Island Prison, Nelson Mandela worked on his degree OF law. He was imprisoned in a 2.4m by 2.1m concrete cell, and was forced to sleep on small straw mats. Mandela spent his days breaking rocks into gravel, until he was reassigned to work in a lime quarry. His eyesight was permanently damaged from the glare of the lime. Mandela was always verbally and also physically harassed by some of the other white prisoners.


In 1988, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Sakharov Prize. In 1990, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. In 1993, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to fight the apartheid and ending racial segregation in South Africa. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly officially announced that 18th July, Mandela’s birthday, would be called ‘Mandela Day’, to mark his contribution fighting the apartheid.

4. Elected President

Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa on the 27th of April, 1994 and began his term on 10th May, 1994. He stepped down after one term in office. Mandela promised democracy to all, and if any racial segregation problems arose, he would try stop it immediately. However, even though the ANC’s victory assured his election as President, Mandela had publicly accepted that some of the votes had been marred by fraud and sabotage.

5. National Reconciliation

During Nelson Mandela’s presidency, he saw national reconciliation as his primary task after the apartheid. Emphasising national forgiveness and reconciliation, he encouraged all to let go of the past and bring peace to the country by forgiving. “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” This quote was spoken by Nelson Mandela, and truly supports his goodness and forgiveness. Even if the whites treated the blacks unfairly, Mandela still took it into his stride, fought the apartheid and forgave them.

The Freedom Fighter

Even if Nelson Mandela passed away on the 5th of December, 2013, in our eyes, he will always be the brave freedom fighter who dedicated his life to end racial discrimination. I hope many others will have strong determination like him and learn to be such a dedicated person to what you believe.