Nelson Mandela is one of the great
political leaders of South Africa who is
remembered in History for opposing and bringing
an end to apartheid, a policy in South Africa by
which the black and white people were separated
and whites were given power and privileges over
the blacks. He was believed to be South Africa's
first black chief executive and also the first
nominated in a fully representative democratic
election. Mandela was also called Madiba.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918, at Qunu, near Umtata. His father was the chief of the village and also chief councillor to David Dalindyebo, Thembuland's acting chief. Even though he grew up in the company of tribal chiefs and elders, Mandela was greatly inspired by his early education in Methodist church schools. Education in the Methodist church schools helped Mandela to look beyond his tribal world and be aware of the unfair nature of South African Society.
To his parents' disappointment, Nelson Mandela joined politics, and along with Oliver Tambo, comrade and his good friend, was expelled from Fort Hare in 1940 for staging a student strike. However, he managed to secure a degree from Witwatersrand University. Further, he obtained a degree in law from the University of South Africa in 1942.
Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a South African political party in 1944 with an aim to improve the rights and conditions of the black people in South Africa. He was also an active and radical member of the ANC's Youth League. In 1951 he was elected the president of the league.
Mandela was jailed several times for protesting against the government's racial discrimination acts. He was arrested in 1963 on charges of treason and was condemned to life imprisonment in the infamous Robben Island prison. As a result of international pressure and isolation, the South African government released Nelson Mandela on February 11, 1990.
Mandela was elected as the first democratically elected State President of South Africa on 10 May 1994. He held his office till June 1999. After his retirement from politics, he continued to associate himself with different educational, health and charity programmes. Mandela died at the age of 95 years on December 5, 2013.
Mandela has been honoured with several prestigious awards for his contributions to anti-apartheid struggles and selfless work. Mandela was the first recipient of the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, the first individual to be made an honorary Canadian citizen and the last recipient of the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with F.W. De Klerk, the Bharat Ratna in 1990, Pakistan's Nishan-e-Pakistan in 1992, and Turkey's Atatürk Peace Award in 1999. He was allotted as a Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John and was granted the membership in the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II.
The United Nations General Assembly in November 2009, declared 18 July, the birthday of Nelson Mandela, as "Mandela Day", in honour of his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.