Nelson Mandela: The International Mass Leader

Nelson Mandela: The International Mass Leader

Nelson Mandela


Introduction and Family Background:

The present status of South Africa that one gets to see is mostly because of a person called Nelson Mandela. Not only he fought against all types of injustice and racial discrepancies in Sounth Africa, rather his fight remains to be an exemplary everywhere in the world against injustice and repression of the  backward people.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18th July, 1918 in Mvezo. This place was part of Eastern Cape Province. Mandela belonged to Madiba clan by birth. His father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, and his mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni. Nelson’s paternal forefather, Ngubengcuka, was once the King of Thembu Kingdom in modern South Africa’s Eastern Cape region. One descendant of the King was Mandela, from him Nelson and his family got the surname of Mandela. Nelson’s mother belonged to AmaMpemvu clan of Xhosa region. Nkosi Gadla had four sons and nine daughters of four different wives living in different places.

Early Life of Nelson Mandela:

The early life of Nelson Mandela was mostly influenced by the custom of Xhosa community. Mandela, along with his two sisters, grew up in Qunu village. Nelson was the first one in his family to attend a school. He was sent to a Methodist school by his mother, at the age of seven. There he was baptized by Methodist convention he was renamed as ‘Nelson’ by his teacher on the first day of his school life. When Nelson was only Nine years old, his father came to Qunu. In 1930 his father died of unknown illness. His mother took him to the palace of Mqhekezweni and he was handed over to Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the Chief of Thembu regent. There, Nelson grew up along with the son of Jongintaba and his wife Noengland, Justice and their daughter Nomafu.  As he became a frequent visitor of the nearby Church there, Christianity became an important part of his life. The study of History, Xhosa, Geography and English, initiated a patriotic feeling within him. The ritual of ulwaluko circumcision marked the beginning of manhood in his life, for which he had to travel to Tyhalarha.

Secondary and Higher Education:

Nelson Mandela’s secondary education began in 1933 when he got admission in Clarkebury Methodist High School. There he learned many things alongside conventional education; his love for gardening and sports developed there. In 1935 he completed his Junior Certificate Course and moved to Fort Beaufort Methodist College for higher education. His affinity towards country land deepened in spite of studying European culture and administration.

In 1939 he started pursuing B.A degree from University of Fort Hare. Though he restrained himself from joining  African National Congress, got involved in student movement against the hypocricies of University authorities. Hence, he was suspended and rusticated from the institution and he never completed his Bachelor degree.

Johannesburg Episode:

Mandela fled to Johannesburg in 1941 to evade his arranged marriage. There he was exposed to the African National Congress as well as Communist party activists. He started attending different meetings by local Communist party and also resumed his study, the Bachelor degree, from University of South Africa in correspondence mode. He got to experience the then situation of South Africa and the life of native Africans. In 1942, Jongintaba died and Mandela attended the funeral in Thembuland. But once again he came back to Johannesburg immediately and completed his Bachelor degree in 1943.

Beginning of his Political Career:

Mandela joined African National Congress in the year 1944 and immediately became Youth League leader. At the same time he studied law from the University of Witwatersand. Gradually his political activities grew up and got involved in anti-apartheid movement. he came into limelight protesting against the ruling National Party. The same year, in the month of October, he married Evelyn Mase.

The 1948 South African General Election widened the social rifts by reinstating and reforcing apartheid customs in the country. This suppression on the South African Blacks compelled ANC and its leaders to start radical movement in South  Africa to eradicate the social injustices. Mandela’s growing political activities once again stopped him from attaining his bachelor degree.

In the year 1950, Mandela was elected as the President of African National Congress Youth League. Eventually he got attracted towards communism and studied a lot of Marxist philosophy.

Reaching the Peak of Political Career:

In 1952 Mandela was elected the National Chief of Volunteers as his party started Defiance Campaign. As a result, he was imprisoned for the first time in his life. With the dream of removing discriminatory laws from South Africa, Nelson travelled a lot for following few years. In 1955, he initiated a violent revolution against the minority white rulers, but in vain. He was once again arrested in 1956 along with numbers of ANC activists. Though the allegation of high treason was framed against Mandela and his company, they were acquitted in 1961 due to absence of valid and clinching proof. This trial is widely known as ‘Treason Trial of Pretoria’. During this period, Mandela gained huge popularity among his countrymen. He was trained in guerrilla warfare and travelled to Algeria for the same. In the year 1962, South African police arrested him and he was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Instead of getting de-motivated, Mandela admitted their attempt of violent movement, sabotage in defiance of faulty rules. This event drew life imprisonment for him starting from 1964.

Prison Life:

Nelson Mandela was kept in Robben Island Prison from 1964 to 1982. There he protested several times against the brutal atrocity of the rulers and inhuman condition in the prison numerous times. He also complained to the Judge and once was successful in removing a rude jailor. Though he had planned to escape the prison, it was thwarted due to timely interception of the jail authority. He seldom got the opportunity to meet his family members during this period. Among immense sufferings he was at least successful to improve the life of imprisoned Africans and built up good rapport with few officials.

In 1982 he was shifted to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. The prison life of Mandela was a bit better here. He was allowed to write fifty two letters a year during his stay in Pollsmoor. He also studied numerous books during the decade. During these days he got associated with United Democratic Front. The issue of Apartheid and Mandela’s movement against it drew international attention. Even the then African King sent  delegation to meet Nelson. Unfortunately his health deteriorated and had to undergo prostate surgery. After his recovery, he came back to the prison. Shortly after, he suffered from tuberculosis for which he got admitted to hospital and was shifted to Victor Verster Prison.

As the President:

As the voice to free Mandela was strengthened globally, he was finally released on 11th February 1990. The ANC and PAC were already unbanned by that time. The following year, 1991, brought a good luck for Mandela, he was elected as the President of ANC. After much fight to remove apartheid from Africa and to establish democracy, abolishing monarchy in the country, in 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected South African President. Under his able leadership, South Africa has progressed a lot, especially in the field of human rights and infrastructure. After leading his country phenomenally for almost twenty years, he died on 5th December, 2013 at his Johannesberg residence.


Mandela will be remembered forever not only as an exceptional revolutionary, but also as an International mass leader gaining global support, with perseverance, for a noble cause.  He not only liberated the coloured African only, but the dreams of all coloured people across the globe. He has worked extensively for World peace too. Keeping his valuable contributions in the society and International Polity, the UN has announced his birthday, 18th July, to be observed as Nelson Mandella International Day.

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