Nelson Mandela has spent most of his life committed to and fighting for democracy, equality and freedom in his native South Africa. As such, he is held in high esteem not only in his country but around the world, by both influential and average citizens alike. Today, at 94 years old, ‘Madiba’ (his Xhosa clan name) is on life support in a Pretoria hospital and his countrymen face the very real possibility of losing their hero. Hundreds have gathered outside the hospital in a vigil, while many more worldwide pray for his recovery from a recurring lung infection.
Jamaica has a special connection with Mandela, who travelled here to meet then Prime Minister Michael Manley in July 1991. Jamaica was the second country to ban all trade with apartheid South Africa in 1957. In his address in Parliament, Mandela gave thanks that he was able to put a face to the Manley name he had heard associated with the international struggle against Apartheid.
Mandela Park in Half Way Tree in St Andrew and Mandela Highway, which links St Catherine and St Andrew, were named in his honour.
This Fact Friday, we share some information on this important freedom fighter, role model and global hero.
- He was born Rolihlahla Mandela into the Madiba clan in Transkei on July 18, 1918. His father was the principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people. He was given the ‘Christian’ name Nelson in primary school.
- Mandela was expelled from the University College of Fort Hare in South Africa for participating in a student protest. He later completed his BA through the University of South Africa. In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the same university and graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.
- He was arrested in August 1962 and sentenced in November that year to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country without a passport. He spent the next 27 years in prison and was eventually released on February 11, 1990.
- Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1993, along with then President FW de Klerk. The men were awarded for their work to end apartheid.
- He joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped form the ANC Youth League. He was elected ANC President in 1991 and on May 10, 1994, he was inaugurated South Africa’s first democratically elected president.
Bonus fact: Since 2008, July 18 has been observed as Mandela Day. The objective is simple - Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity, so people are encouraged to give 67 minutes of their time in service to a chosen charity or serving their communities.
To find out more about Mandela’s life and work, visit the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.