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A look back at the life of Nelson Mandela

Posted by admin On December - 7 - 2013 0 Comment

To those who observed him closely, Nelson Mandela always carried himself as one who was born to lead . As his former cellmate and long time friend, Ahmed Kathrada, said recently: “He was born into a royal house and there was always that sense about him of someone who knew the meaning of leadership.”

The Mandela who led the African National Congress into government displayed a conspicuous sense of his own dignity and a self-belief that nothing in 27 years of imprisonment had been capable of destroying.

Although Mr Mandela frequently described himself as simply part of the ANC’s leadership, there was never any doubt that he was the most potent political figure of his generation in South Africa.

To the wider world he represented many things, not least an icon of freedom but also the most vivid example in modern times of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Back in the early 1990s, I remember then President, FW De Klerk, telling me he how he found Mandela’s lack of bitterness “astonishing”.

His fundamental creed was best expressed in his address to the sabotage trial in 1964. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Born in 1918, Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela was raised in the village of Mvezo in the Transkei in the Eastern Cape. He was one of 13 children from a family with close links to the royal house of the Thembu people.

Mr Mandela often recalled his boyhood in the green hills of the Transkei with fondness. This was a remote landscape of beehive-shaped huts and livestock grazing on poor land.

He was only nine when his father died of tuberculosis. Always closer emotionally to his mother, Mr Mandela described his father as a stern disciplinarian. But he credited his father with instilling the instincts that would help carry him to greatness.

Nelson Mandela with Oliver Tambo in Addis Ababa, in 1962 Mandela met future ANC leader Oliver Tambo at university

Years later Mr Mandela would write that “my father possessed a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness…” His death changed the course of the boy’s life.

The young Mandela was sent from his home village to live as a ward of the Thembu royal house, where he would be groomed for a leadership role.

This meant he must have a proper education. He was sent to a Methodist school, where he was given the name Nelson. He was a diligent student and in 1939 went to Fort Hare University, then a burgeoning centre of African nationalism.

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