“Great nations are not great because of their natural resources but by the patriotism and intellectual power of their leaders”. The above statement cannot be more true in light of the great icon we all celebrate today-Nelson Madiba Mandela.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite”

Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician and Philanthropist who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was born on 18th July, 1918.  He was the first black south African to hold the office and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as president of the African National congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was secretary General of the Non-aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.
Mandela’s original name was Rolihlahla Mandela before a teacher at the primary Methodist school he attended gave him an English name Nelson in accoprdance with the custom to give all school children Christian names. He was nine years old then. Rolihlahla  is not a common name in South Africa. It is Xhosa, one of the 11 official languages in the country, spoken by about 18% of the population. It literally means “pulling the branch of a tree” but its colloquial meaning is “trouble maker”. However in South Africa, Mr. Mandela was often called by his clan name-madiba which South Africans used out of respect.
            A xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where be studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the south African National party came to power in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organizations Transvaal chapter and presided over the 1955 congress of the people. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (Mk) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party leading sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962, he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial.
Mandela served over 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor verster Prison. An international Campaign lobbied for his release. He was released on 11th February, 1990 during a time of escalating civil strife. Mr. Mandela studied law on and off for 50 years from 1939, failing half the courses he took. A two-year diploma in law on top of his university degree allowed him to practice and In August 1952, he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo in Johannesburg. He persevered to finally secure a law degree while in prison in 1989.  Mandela joined negotiations with president F. W. De Clark to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which held the ANC to victory and became South Africa first black president. He published his autobiography in 1995. During his tenure in the Government of National Unity he invited several other political parties to join the cabinet. As agreed to during the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa, he promulgated a new constitution. He also created the truth and reconciliation commission to investigate past human rights abuses. While continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration also introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand health-care services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela foundation.
Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Denounced as a Marxist terrorist by critics, he nevertheless gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honors including the 1993 Nobel peace prize, the US presidential Medal of Freedom, the soviet order of Lenin and Bharat Ratna. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba or as Tata (father) He is often described as the father of the nation

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black Chief executive on 10th May 1994.
            Moving into the presidential office at Tuynhuys in Cape Town, Mandela allowed de Clerk to retain the presidential residence in the Groote Schuur estate, instead settling into the nearby Westbrook manor which he renamed “Genadendal” meaning “Valley of Mercy” in Afrikaans.
`           Despite his opulent surroundings, Mandela lived simply, donating a third of his 552,000 rand annual income to the Nelson Mandela children’s fund which he had founded in 1995. His lifestyle is aptly captured in the following quote. “I am fundamentally an optimist whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death” 
 Presiding over the Transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy, Mandela saw national reconciliation as the primary task of his presidency. Having seen other post colonial African economies damaged by the departure of white elites, Mandela worked to reassure South Africa’s white population that they were protected and represented in the “the Rainbow Nation”.
Mandela attempted to create the broadest possible coalition in his cabinet, with De Clerk as first Deputy President. Other national party officials became ministers for Agriculture, Energy and Buthelezi was named Minister for Home Affairs. The other cabinet positions were taken by ANC members. All these he did in order to promote National peace and to instill a sense of belonging even in the hearts of his opposition.
Mandela personally met with senior figures of the apartheid regime including Hendrik Verwoerds widow Betsie Schoombie and the lawyer percy Yutar; emphasizing personal forgiveness and reconciliation. He announced that courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.
More controversially, Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC, appointing Desmond Tutu as its chair. To prevent the creation of Martyrs, the commission granted individual amnesties in exchange for testimony of crimes committed during the apartheid era. Dedicated in February 1996, it held two years of hearings detailing rapes, torture, bombings and assassinations before issuing its final report in October 1998.
Mandela’s administration inherited a country with a huge disparity in wealth and services between white and black communities. Of a population of 40 million, around 23 million lacked electricity or adequate sanitation, 12 million lacked electricity or adequate sanitation, 12 million lacked clean water supplies with 2 million children not in school and a third of the population illiterates. There was 33% unemployment and just under half of the population lived below the poverty line. Government financial reserves were nearly depleted with a fifth of the national budget being spent on debt repayment, meaning that the extent of the promised Reconstruction and Development programme (RDP) was scaled back, with none of the proposed nationalization or job creation. Instead, the government adopted liberal economic politics designed to promote foreign investment.
Under Mandela’s presidency, welfare spending increased by 13% in 1996/97, 13% in 1997/98, and 7% in 1998/99. The government introduced parity in grants for communities, including disability grants, child maintenance grants and old age pensions which had previously been set at different levels for South Africa’s different racial groups. In 1994, free healthcare was introduced for children under six and pregnant women, a provision extended to all those using primary level public sector healthcare services in 1996. By the 1999 election, the ANC could boast that due to their policies, 3 million people were connected to telephone lines, 1.5 million children were brought into the education system, 500 clinics were upgraded or constructed, 2 million people were connected to electricity grid, water access was extended to 3 million people and 750,000 houses were constructed, housing nearly 3 million people.
The land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act, 1913 to claim back their land, leading to the settlement of tens of thousands of land claims. The land reform Act 3 of 1996 safeguarded the nights of labour tenants who live and grown crops or graze livestock on farms. This legislation ensured that such tenants could not be evicted without a court order or If they were over the age of sixty-five. The skills Development Act of 1998 provided for the establishment of mechanisms to finance and promote skills development at the workplace. The Labour Relations Act of 1995 promoted workplace democracy, orderly collective bargaining and the effective resolution of labour disputes. The basic conditions of Employment Act of 1997 improved enforcement mechanisms while extending a floor of rights to all workers. The Employment Equity Act of 1998 was passed to put an end to unfair discrimination and ensure the implementation of affirmative action in the workplace.
Following the South African example, Mandela encouraged other nations to resolve conflicts through diplomacy and reconciliation. He took a soft diplomatic approach to removing Sani Abacha’s Military Junta in Nigeria but later became a leading figure in calling for sanctions when Abacha’s regime increased human rights violations. In 1996, he was appointed chairman of the southern African Development community (SADC) and initiated unsuccessful negotiations to end the first Congo war in Zaire. In south Africa’s first  post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili after a disputed election prompted opposition uprisings.
In September 1998, Mandela was appointed Secretary-General of the Non aligned movement who held their annual conference in Durban. He used the event to criticize the narrow, chauvinistic interest of the Israeli government in stalling negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged India and Pakistan to negotiate to end the Kashmir conflict, for which he was criticized by both Israel and India. Inspired by the region’s economic boom, Mandela sought greater economic relations with East Asia, in particular Malaysia.
The 1996 constitution limited the president to two consecutive five-year terms. Mandela did not attempt to amend the document to remove the two-term limit; Indeed, he had never planned on standing for second term In office. He gave his farewell speech on 29 March 1999 after which he retired.
Mandela reverted to a busy public life with a daily programme of tasks, meeting with world leaders and celebrities and when in Johannesburg worked with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, founded in 1999 to focus on combating HIV/AIDS, rural development and school construction. Although he had been heavily criticized for failing to do enough to fight the pandemic during his presidency, he devoted much of his time to the issue following his retirement, describing it as “a war” that had killed more than “all previous wars” and urged Mbeki’s government to ensure that HIV positive south Africans had access to retrovirals.
In 2000, the Nelson Mandela Invitational charity golf tournament was founded, hosted by Gary Player. Mandela was successfully treated for prostrate cancer in July 2001.
In 2002, Mandela Inaugurated the Nelson Mandela annual lecture and in 2003 the Mandela Rhodes foundation was created at Rhodes House, university of Oxford to provide postgraduate scholarships to African students. These projects were followed by the Nelson Mandela centre of Memory and the 46664 Campaign against HIV/AIDS. He gave the closing address at the XIII International Aids Conference in Durban in 2000, and in 2004, spoke at the XV international Ads conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Publicly, Mandela became more vocal criticizing Western powers. He strongly opposed the 1999 NATO Intervention in Kosovo and called it an attempt by the world’s powerful nations to police the entire world. In 2003, he spoke out against the plans for the US and UK to launch the war in Iraq describing it as a “tragedy”. Mandela also encouraged Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to resign over growing human rights abuses in the country. When this proved ineffective, he spoke out publicly against Mugabe in 2007 asking him to step down “with residual respect and a modicum of dignity.”

 That year, Mandela, Michael and Demand Tutu convened a group of World leaders in Johnnesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to some of the world’s toughest problems. Mandela announced the formation of this new group, the “Elders” in a speech delivered on his 89th birthday. In a speech marking his 90th birthday, Mandela called for the rich to help the poor across the world.
In 2004, Mandela had successfully companied for south Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World cup, declaring that there would be “few better gifts for us in the year” marking a decade since the fall of apartheid. Mandela emotionally raised the FIFA world cup trophy after South Africa was awarded host status.
In describing his life, Mandela stated that “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extra ordinary circumstances”.

By the time of his death, Mandela had come to be widely considered “the father of the nation” within South African, and “the founding father of democracy”, being seen as “the national liberator, the saviour, its Washington and Lincoln rolled into one”. Mandela’s biographer Anthony Sampson commented that even during his life, a myth had developed around him that turned him into “a secular saint” and which was “so powerful that it blurs the realities”. Within a decade after the end of his presidency, Mandela’s era was being widely thought of as “a golden age of hope and harmony” Across the world, Mandela earned international acclaim for his activism in overcoming apartheid and fostering racial reconciliation, coming to be viewed as a “moral authority with a great concern for truth”.
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