Mr NR (Nelson) Mandela
President Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected president. The story of his struggle against apartheid is widely known and documented, as is the exemplary leadership role he plays in South Africa and across the African continent. President Mandela is a unique and special person who is able to stand above other men yet take a delight in mixing with children
He was born at Qunu, near Umtata on 18 July 1918. After matriculating, he started a BA degree at Fort Hare University. As a result of his participation in a student strike he, along with the late Oliver Tambo, was expelled in 1940. He completed his degree by correspondence and enrolled for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1944 he helped found the ANC Youth League.
By 1952 Mandela and Tambo had opened the first black legal firm in the country, and Mandela was both Transvaal president of the ANC and deputy national president. In the late 50’s he was forced to officially resign from the ANC because of constant bannings. When the ANC was banned in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre, he was detained until 1961 after which he went underground. The military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), was started the same year. Under his leadership it launched a campaign of sabotage against government and economic installations.
In 1962 Mandela left the country for military training in Algeria and to arrange training for other MK members. On his return he was arrested for leaving the country illegally and for incitement to strike. He was convicted and jailed for five years. While serving his sentence, he was charged, in the Rivonia trial, with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was imprisoned on Robben Island, where he became a central figure in the organised political education classes.
During the seventies he was offered a remission of sentence if he would recognise the Transkei and settle there. He refused. In the eighties he once again rejected an offer of freedom, this time from PW Botha. The condition this time was that he should renounce violence. He was released on Sunday 11 February 1990 Shortly after this the armed struggle was suspended.
Mandela has honorary degrees from more than 50 international universities and is chancellor of the University of the North.
He was inaugurated as State President of South Africa on 10 May 1994