Nelson Mandela Essay, Research Paper
Mandela, Nelson Rolihlahla, South Africa’s first black president. Mandela was widely revered by blacks throughout Africa as a symbol of black liberation. He gained almost legendary status through the 1980s as South Africa’s leading antiapartheid figure, assuming the forefront of the black struggle after his release from prison.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918 near Umtata in Transkei, in the Eastern Cape, into the royal family of the Tembu, a Xhosa-speaking tribe.
He was educated at a British missionary boarding school and at Fort Hare University, from which he was expelled in 1940 for leading a strike with Oliver Tambo. He returned home, but ran away to Soweto in Transvaal province, giving up his hereditary chieftanship to avoid an arranged marriage. He eventually obtained a law degree from the University of South Africa. Helped by Walter Sisulu, Mandela and Tambo set up South Africa’s first black law firm. In 1944, the three men formed the African National Congress Youth League, which came to dominate the ANC in 1948. He became president of the league in 1950.
Meanwhile Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko, with whom he had three children. The couple later were divorced.
Mandela was arrested in 1955 and was acquitted of treason in 1961. After the trial, Mandela took up armed insurrection, traveling abroad for military training. Upon his return to South Africa, he went underground and formed the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The press dubbed him the “Black Pimpernel” because of the disguises he used to avoid police for 18 months.
He was arrested again on August 5, 1962 and charged with inciting people to strike and with leaving South Africa without a passport. He was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government. While he was in prison, police raided an ANC safe house in Rivonia, a suburb of Johannesburg, as a result of which Mandela and a number of comrades were tried for treason. After first being acquitted in 1963, they were retried in the celebrated Rivonia trial, and in 1964 Mandela and seven comrades were convicted of sabotage and treason and sentenced to life in prison.
Mandela spent the next 27 years in prison, living until 1982 amid the harsh conditions of the maximum security prison on Robben Island. After several years of secret talks that had begun in 1986 with government ministers, Mandela met with Preisident P.W. Botha in July 1989 and with his successor, President F. W. de Klerk, in December of that year. As a result of those talks, he was freed on February 11, 1990.
Following his release, Mandela was appointed deputy president of the ANC. He launched a world tour in June 1990 to persuade Western leaders to maintain economic sanctions against South Africa and to raise funds to help the ANC function as an above-ground political party. Negotiations with the ruling National Party led to the ANC’s August 1990 decision to suspend its armed struggle after nearly 30 years. On July 7, 1991, Mandela became president of the ANC.
In December 1991, Mandela joined with the government and other political parties to negotiate South Africa’s postapartheid future. Negotiations continued sporadically until February 1993, when the ANC and the National Party reached agreements on an interim unity government in which both parties would be partners for five years.
Further talks in 1993 led to the establishment of a majority-rule constitution. In December of that year, Mandela and de Klerk accepted their respective Nobel Peace Prizes for their efforts in promoting a democratic South Africa. Mandela in January 1994 launched his presidential campaign; in April, the ANC won a majority in the country’s first all-race elections; and in May, the national assembly chose Mandela as president.
Mandela had two children by his second wife, Winnie. The couple split in 1992 and formally divorced in March 1996. Winnie Mandela had been dogged by allegations that she was involved in the murder of one of four youths who had been kidnapped and assaulted in 1988. She increasingly been seen by a sizable faction in the ANC as a stain on Nelson Mandela’s prestige.
Mandela consistently urged that the new South Africa be a forum for reconciliation in which consensus could ultimately be achieved. Despite his long struggle to achieve liberation from a white community that rejected black participation, he sought to include whites in the new government. His efforts at reconciliation culminated in May 1995 with the approval of a new South African constiution that barred discrimination against the country’s minorities, including whites.
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