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Biography of Bharat Ratna “Nelson  Mandela” complete biography for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Nelson  Mandela

(1918- 2013 )

Free at last from 27 years imprisonment on February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela, an African Nationalist leader of black protest against the while-minority government of South Africa and its policy of racial segregation called apartheid. Apartheid prohibits blacks mixing with whites in many spheres of life in South Africa.

Mandela was born in Umitata, Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. His father, Chief Henry, was a polygamist with four wives. He was a tribal chief. Neither of Nelson’s parents ever went to school. Nelson’s father died in 1930, after which David Dalindyebo, then acting Paramount Chief of the tribe, became his guardian. Mandela was related to both Sabata Dalindyebo, then Paramount Chief of Tembuland, and to Kaizer Matanzima, then Chief Minister for the Transkei. Both were, according to Tembu custom, his nephews.

Mandela, who was to become spokesman for his people in a period of turbulent confrontation with the state, had a traditional pastoral childhood as a member of the Tembu ruling family in the Transkei—herding sheep and helping with the ploughing and, when he listened to his cousin the Paramount Chief trying cases in the tribal court, dreaming of becoming a lawyer; dreaming too of black heroes of the past. From a Methodist school he went on to Fort Hare College to study for a B.A. degree but in his third year he was suspended—with other students for helping to organise a boycott of the Students’ Representative Council after it had been deprived of its powers by the authorities. He returned home and might then have been drawn back into tribal duties and politics in the Transkei but for the fact that he wished to complete his studies, and because of the threat of an arranged marriage, both of which drove him to Johannesburg. There he met Walter Sisulu, several years older than himself, who had worked as a miner, a servant and a factory worker, and who had educated himself and had become a fighter against injustice. It was the beginning of a remarkable friendship. Sisulu arranged for Mandela to study law. Meanwhile, in the city and the teeming black locations of the wartime industrial boom, Mandela learned the facts of life for urban Africans under the colour bar: poverty, exclusion from skilled work, overcrowded slums and constant harassment by police, under the pass laws.

Nelson joined the African National Congress in 1944, and, together with other companions, helped to form its Youth League. He was elected General Secretary. The Youth Leaguers were fired by determination to rid their people of a sense of inferiority after years of oppression.

The Second World War opened up huge industrial expansion in South Africa, attracting increasing foreign investment. Then in 1948 the African Nationalist government came to power with its policy of apartheid, under which increasingly drastic laws were introduced to separate and subjugate the black population.

It was during those years and under those conditions that Mandela and his companions were politically educated. By 1949 they had persuaded the ANC to adopt a more militant programme of new forms of mass action by strikes, boycotts and civil disobedience against repressive legislation. But before such action could be organised, the police killing of demonstrators on May Day 1950 precipitated a national day of protest on 26 June 1950. This was the first time in the history of the ANC that a national work stoppage had been called. Two years later in 1952, the Youth League’s demands bore fruit. The ANC, working with the Indian Congress and other allies, organised the Defiance Campaign. This was to be directed against specific unjust laws of apartheid. Mandela was appointed national Volunteer-in-Chief. In a great surge of protest against selected unjust laws, all over the country men and women courted imprisonment. Mandela was one of the leaders who were charged and convicted at the end of 1952 for organising the Defiance Campaign. He was given a nine-month suspended sentence. His contribution had been so impressive that he was elected President of the ANC (Transvaal Province) in the same year, and in response to his rising popularity the government issued him on 11 December 1952 with a banning order, prohibiting him from attending gatherings and confining him to Johannesburg. In September 1953 the ban was renewed for two years with extra provision that he resigned from the ANC. Meanwhile, he and Oliver Tambo had set up legal practice in Johannesburg. Even there they were harassed. They were ordered to move their office to the black location where they lived.

In 1955, the Congress of the People organised a countrywide campaign through which the ANC and its allies enabled people —workers, housewives, students, clerks, peasants, trade unionists —to express their demands. These were embraced in the Freedom Charter. On 26 June 1955, at Kliptown, three thousand people adopted the Freedom Charter as the policy of the Congress movement — which eventually incorporated the ANC, the SA Indian Congress, the Coloured People’s Congress, the (white) Congress of Democrats and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). For the first time the movement set out the simple objectives for a future South Africa. The Charter begins: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.’

Over the years, Mandela attacked the steadily intensifying racial oppression in a number of articles. He attacked such measures, as Bantu Education and the segregated universities. Twenty years on, Mandela’s writings are remarkable for the continuing relevance of their analysis and the accuracy of their predictions.

In the mid-1950s Mandela oversaw attempts to implement the so-called `M-Plan’, named after himself, a scheme to build a mass Congress membership that would be organised into cells at the grassroots level and, through a hierarchy of leaders at intermediate levels, would be responsive to direction without the necessity of public meetings. This was a most successful method of decentralising and strengthening ANC organisation.

The government reacted against the growing unity and militancy of the people. Mandela was among the 156 people arrested on 5 December 1956 and charged with treason. It was a testing time for the thirty men and women who remained after charges against the others had been dropped. Among these was Mandela.

In the Treason Trial four and a half years were spent trying to prove : the Programme of Action of 1949 and the Freedom Charter of 1955 were key documents.

When it came to judgement, all the remaining accused were acquitted.

His first marriage having broken up, Mandela in 1958 married Winifred Nomzamo Madikizela, commonly known as Winnie, who had come from the Transkei to Johannesburg to qualify as a social worker and who from the start had to accept his enforced absences from their small block house in Orland D. Both husband and wife were to make an exceptional contribution to the South African liberation struggle, inspiring others with the style and spirit of their endurance. Winnie was the daughter of Columbus Madikizela, the then Minister of Agriculture in the Transkei. Mandela has five children, three by a former wife and two by Winnie.

The United Nations proclaimed 1960 Africa Year, indicating universal acceptance of the principle of African independence. In South Africa it was the year of Sharpeville, when police fired at a crowd of protesting men, women and children, killing 69 and wounding 176. As outrage spread through the world, massive demonstrations shook South Africa. The government declared a state of emergency; police and army rounded up twenty thousand people. Mandela, inevitably, was among those imprisoned. The government outlawed the ANC and the breakaway Pan Africanist Congress. Over the following months those detained were gradually released. Among them was Mandela, whose bans had coincidentally expired — and not been renewed — early in 1961. He was discharged in March 1961. For the first time in nine years Mandela was free to speak and organise openly South Africa was about to become a republic — a white Boer Republic, said the Africans. From all over the, “country African delegates came together to attend the specially -convened All-in

African Conference at Pietermaritzburg. Mandela appeared to deliver the main speech. The effect of Mandela’s voice was so an electric one that the delegates elected him to lead their protests and the demand for a truly representative National Convention to establish not a white republic but a new union of all South Africans. In the failure of the government not responding to these demands it was decided to call a general strike by the newly-formed National Action Council, with Mandela as Secretary.

The government’s reaction was to instigate a fresh round of arrests. Early in April 1961, Mandela went underground to organise the May Strike. He gave an interview to a journalist who reported that ‘he is not anti-White!’ As Mandela continued to evade the police he became known as the ‘Black Pimpernel’.

Mandela’s continued survival underground had an immensely exhilarating effect on his people as the wide-flung police net still failed to capture him. Then, early in 1962, he made a surprise appearance at a Pan-African Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In 1962, he toured Africa, visiting Tanganyika, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. He also visited England. In all these countries he met the Heads of State or other senior government officials. In England he was received by Hugh Gaitskell, then leader of the Labour Party, and by Jo Grimond, leader of the Liberal Party. In Algeria, he took a course in military training.

He returned secretly to South Africa. On 5 August 1962, seventeen months from the time that he had gone underground, he was captured in Natal.

Taken to court and charged with inciting Africans to strike in 1961 and with leaving the country without valid travel documents, Mandela was sentenced in November to five years’ hard labour.

In July 1963 Sisulu and other underground leaders were arrested at Lilies leaf Farm in Rivonia. When the ‘Rivonia Trial’ opened in Pretoria on 9 October 1963, Nelson Mandela was brought from prison to be with them: Accused Number 1. The defence attorney, Joel Joffe, described him during their first consultation imprison, the day before the trial opened, as: ‘After a year in jail, physically a very different Mandela from the man I’d met the year before when his youthful vigour made him look much younger 100 than forty-five. Very tall, heavily built, he’d been an amateur boxer of some ability. Now, after living on the diet prescribed for African prisoners, he looked miserably underweight—he had withered, his face was hollow-checked, the skin a sickly yellowish colour. But in spirit he was undefeated, his manner was the same, friendly, easy-‘ going, confident, and his laughter had not changed.’ Joffee came to know him well in the months that followed: ‘He emerged quite naturally as the leader. He had all the attributes: a strong I personality, stature, and calm, tact, conviction. It was part of Nelson’s strength that he never dictated; he would always discuss, argue with and be guided by the opinion of his colleagues.’

Five months from the commencement of the trial, on Monday, 20 April 1964, the courtroom of the Palace of Justice was packed for the opening of the defence case.

A week in mid-June 1964. The judgement was due on the Thursday. On the Monday and Tuesday Mandela, in prison in Pretoria, wrote his final papers for the London University law degree he was taking (he was to pass). On the Thursday he and all but one of the accused were found guilty. To an exchange of traditional salutes: ‘Amanda!’ (Power!) ‘Ngawethu!’ (to the People!), between the prisoners and the great crowd in the streets outside, and the singing of the anthem ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ Africa, they were driven back to jail. Their lawyers came to discuss the next day’s proceedings when sentence would be passed.

The only matter they wanted to discuss was how they should behave in court if the death sentence was passed. Life imprisonment was the sentence on all eight convicted.

Chief Albert Lutuli, President of the ANC, issued a statement on 12 June 1964 in which he recalled the contribution of Mandela and his comrades to the struggle for freedom. Mandela along with his comrades were flown to South Africa’s maximum security prison for black male prisoners.

Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years imprisonment on February 11, 1990. Thousand of supporters gathered to give him a hero welcome on the day of his release. People, in huge number, gathered both at the gates of Victor Verster prison and outside. Nelson Mandela’s home to celebrate his release. Mass rallies were arranged at many places to celebrate the occasion. Nelson addressed a ‘Welcome Home Rally’ in Soweto on 13 February 1990.

Dr. Mandela was specially invited by the Indian Government for a visit to India and in response Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, and his wife, Winnie Mandela arrived in New Delhi on October 15, 1990 on a five-day official visit, to further strengthening India’s age-old ties with the African people.

Dr. Mandela was given a ceremonial reception in the Fort Court of Rashtrapati Bhavan. Later, he was accorded a warm welcome in the ornate Ashoka Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

India endorsed the black nationalist leader, Dr. Nelson Mandela’s position on international sanctions against the white minority government of South Africa and called upon the international community to exert pressure on the regime till apartheid was dismantled.

The legendary African leader who arrived in the morning to a warm welcome was assured of India’s continuing support for the struggle of the South African people.

Dr. Mandela had a 40-minute meeting with the President R Venkataraman. He sought India’s assistance to “walk the last mile together” in the common struggle to uproot the apartheid system.

“We have not got there yet but victory day is not far off”, Dr. Mandela said at a banquet hosted in his honour by President Venkataraman.

The President in his speech told Dr. Mandela that the whole world was watching with great interest and concern the progress of the on-going dialogue between the representatives of the people and the Pretoria regime.

Venkataraman saw the attributes of Mahatma Gandhi in Mandela and described him as “an emblem of the world’s struggle for human dignity”.

Mandela said India was the single-largest source of inspiration to the movement in South Africa. He expressed the hope that in the tasks ahead, India would live up to the image of South Africa’s best friend.

In the morning of October 16, Dr. Mandela was conferred India’s highest civilian honour, the Barat Ratna, by the President R. Venkataraman at a glittering function in the Durbar hall of the Rashtrapathi Bavan.

Dr. Mandela is the second  foreigner to have received Bharat Ratna. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan,  the Fronter Gandhi  was the other recipient.

Dr. Mandela visited places in the Capital associated with Mahatma Gandhi and paid his tributes. Dr. Mandela went around an exhibition of the Mahatma at the Gandhi Samriti and later went to Rajghat where he laid a wreath at the Samadhi and planted a sapling in the park area around the Samadhi.

Addressing a press conference at New Delhi, Dr. Mandela stated that the basic issue in South Africa was the extent  of vote to all and any solution less than one-man-vote would not be acceptable.

He said the fight would continue so long as his demand was not conceded. He said the removal of any measure of apartheid would be a step forward but they would remain peripheral if there was no solution to the issue  of vote for all.

Dr. Mandela pleaded that he should not be misunderstood for visiting India late. Soon after his release he had to report to Lusaka where the national executive of his party was located. This necessitated visits to other countries in Africa and later to the US and the UK. He said his visits first to those countries did not mean that he was not “ sufficiently grateful’ to India which  he acknowledged had been in the fore-front of nations supporting the black nationalist cause in South Africa.

Mandela descried his visit to India as “wonderful” and the welcome given to him by the Indian leaders and public as “fantastic”.

Talking to reporters at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, where he was given a ceremonial send off after his three-day stay in the Capital, 

Dr Mandela said, “we have received everything we asked for —love, affection and material support.”

On the second leg of his five-day visit to India, Dr. Mandela left for Agra on October 17, from where he went to Varanasi and then to Calcutta. He enplaned for Brunei on October 19.

During the five days he spent in India, Mandela was able to vividly convey to India that the struggle for freedom and dignity cannot abate; that to wage the struggle with the weapons he has wielded is to extinguish the fear and the sense of inadequacy that numb the reflexes in each one of us.

During a conversation with Dileep Padgaonkar, Dr. Mandela said, I must confess that I was very familiar with almost all the writings of Nehru — The Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History. I had the opportunity of reading, the Autobiography of Pandit Nehru when I was in prison. I therefore had a deeper insight into the history of the struggle in India especially of the living conditions in jail and the conditions of the masses of the people. The leaders — Nehru and Gandhi — were kept separate from other prisoners. Still they described the living conditions in jail in great detail. These descriptions were very similar to the conditions under which we lived in prison, especially during the latter days of our imprisonment. I appreciated the description of the approaches of various political parties, to the African and Indian Congress, on the one hand, and the liberal parties on the other. As for Mahatma Gandhi, his ideas on Satyagraha which he developed in South Africa have never failed to impress me.


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