Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xo?lia?a man?de?la]; born 18 July 1918) is a South African anti-apartheid activist, revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first to be elected in a fully representative, multiracial election. His administration focused on dismantling apartheid's legacy, and cutting racism, poverty and inequality. Politically a democratic socialist, he served as president of the African National Congress (ANC) political party from 1990 to 1999.
A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, studying law. Living in Johannesburg townships and becoming involved in anti-colonial politics, he joined the ANC, becoming a founding member of its Youth League. When the National Party government implemented apartheid in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, being elected president of the Transvaal ANC branch and overseeing the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and with the ANC leadership stood on the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, being sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mandela served in Robben Island and then Pollsmoor Prison, while an international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted after 27 years in 1990. Becoming ANC president, Mandela wrote his autobiography, and led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multi-racial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to a landslide victory. As president, he created a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies aimed at land reform, combating poverty and expanding healthcare. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw a military intervention in Lesotho. Refusing to run for a second term and succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki, Mandela became an elder statesman focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Mandela has received international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, having received over 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect within South Africa as the "Father of the Nation", where he is often known under his Xhosa clan name of Madiba.Childhood: 1918–1936
Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtatu, a part of South Africa's Eastern Cape. Given the forename Rolihlahla, a Xhosa term colloquialy meaning "troublemaker", in later years he became kno
n by his clan name, Madiba. A member of the Thembu royal family which ruled the Transkei region, he belonged to the Left-Hand House of the Ixhiba clan, a cadet branch who provided court councillors to the Thembu king. His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a local chief and councillor to the monarch; he had been appointed to the position in 1915, after his predecessor was accused of corruption by a governing white magistrate. In 1926, Gadla too was sacked for corruption, but Nelson would be told that he had lost his job for standing up to the magistrate's unreasonable demands. A devotee of the god Qamata, Gadla was a polygamist, having four wives, four sons and nine daughters, who lived in different villages. Nelson's mother was Gadla's third wife, Nosekeni Fanny, who was daughter of Nkedama of the Right Hand House and a member of the amaMpemvu clan of Xhosa.
"No one in my family had ever attended school [...] On the first day of school my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education. That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why this particular name I have no idea."
— Mandela, 1994.
Later stating that his early life was dominated by "custom, ritual and taboo", Mandela grew up with two sisters in his mother's kraal in the village of Qunu, where he tended herds as a cattle-boy, spending much time outside with other boys. Both his parents were illiterate, but being a devout Christian, his mother sent him to a local Methodist school when he was about seven. Baptised a Methodist, Mandela was given the English forename of "Nelson" by his teacher. When Mandela was about nine, his father came to stay at Qufu, where he died of an undiagnosed ailment which Mandela believed to be lung disease. Feeling "cut adrift", he later asserted that he inherited his father's "proud rebelliousness" and "stubborn sense of fairness".
His mother took Mandela to the "Great Place" palace at Mqhekezweni, where he was entrusted under the guardianship of Thembu regent, Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Raised by Jongintaba and his wife Noengland alongside their son Justice and daughter Nomafu, Mandela felt that they treated him as their son, but would not see his mother for many years. As Mandela attended church services every Sunday with his guardians, Christianity became a significant part of his life. He attended a Methodist mission school located next to the palace, studying English, Xhosa, history and geography. He developed a love of African history, listening to the tales told by elderly visitors to the palace, and becoming influenced by the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Chief Joyi; he nevertheless considered the European colonialists as benefactors, not oppressors. Aged 16, he, Justice and several other boys traveled to Tyhalarha to undergo the circumcision ritual that symbolically marked their transition from boys to men; the rite over, he was given the name "Dalibunga".