Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela (2008)
Nelson Mandela's signature

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela [ nelsɒn xoˈliɬaɬa manˈdeːla ] (* July 18, 1918 in Mvezo , Transkei ; † December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg ), often referred to in South Africa by the traditional clan name Madiba , often also called Tata ( isiXhosa for father), initiation name Dalibunga , was a leading South African activist and politician in the decades of opposition to apartheid and from 1994 to 1999 the first black president of his country.

From 1944 he was involved in the African National Congress (ANC). Because of his activities against apartheid politics in his homeland, Mandela had to spend a total of 27 years as a political prisoner from 1963 to 1990 .

Mandela is regarded as an outstanding representative in the freedom struggle against oppression and social injustice . He was the most important pioneer of the conciliatory transition from apartheid to an equality-oriented, democratic state in South Africa . In 1993 he was therefore awarded the Nobel Peace Prize . Already during his lifetime Mandela became a political and moral role model for many people around the world .

Childhood and youth

Parents and royal family of Thembu

Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo on the banks of the Mbashe River near Umtata , the capital of Transkei. His father, Gadla Henry Mandela, gave him the name Rolihlahla, which literally means “pulling on the branch of a tree” - meaning a “troublemaker”. His mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was Gadla's third wife. Mandela only received the British name Nelson on his first day of school. The young Rolihlahla, who had three sisters and three brothers, was shaped by his membership in the royal house of the Thembu , who belong to the Xhosa people . However, he belonged to a secondary line within the Thembu monarchy, so that his father was primarily responsible for keeping the royal court and advising the monarch, while the main line traditionally provided the king. Mandela had a relatively affluent childhood in contact with nature.

Mandela portrait on a Soviet postage stamp 1988 ("Fighters for the freedom of South Africa")

After a dispute with the white provincial government, his father lost office and property. Then the mother and her son moved to relatives a few valleys further in the village of Qunu , not far from Umtata. The boy was formed by " custom , ritual and taboo " of the Xhosa. When he was around five years old, he was herding animals, collecting food, learning to catch fish and fighting with sticks.

While his mother became a Christian in Qunu, his father remained faithful to the religious traditions of the Xhosa throughout his life. However, he had his son baptized Methodist in order to give him a formal education. Mandela remained a member of this church throughout her life.

School education

In 1925 his father sent him to the small Methodist school in Qunu, which he mastered with an overall good report. When the father died in 1927, Mandela was nine years old. After his father's death, he was adopted as an orphan by the Tembu chief and appointed electoral district leader. At 16 he was traditionally accepted into the ranks of the adults of his people, the Xhosa, with an initiation ritual. He was given the name Dalibunga, German about "founder of the council". He then attended the Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo , a boarding school for Thembu, where he received his Junior Certificate .

As a child he learned, as he reports in his autobiography, to "conquer his opponents without dishonoring them" and later the method of consensual decision-making: In the tribal meetings - under the direction of his adoptive father - every man, whether poor or rich, could openly present his concerns, including criticism of the regent. The leader initially listened without comment and then tried to find a consensus.


In 1937, at the age of 19, he joined the Healdtown Weslean College Methodist Mission School near Fort Beaufort, about 150 miles from Umtata . The college was British. There he had friendly relations with a non-Xhosa for the first time and slowly began to develop an awareness as an African, independent of traditional tribal awareness . Here he bought his Matric .

In 1939, at the age of 21, Mandela enrolled in University College at Fort Hare in Alice , an Anglican- directed higher education institution . Despite her only 150 students, she was of great importance to African scholars from South, Central and East Africa. Here Mandela met his long-time political companion Oliver Tambo , who later became President of the African National Congress (ANC). Fort Hare as well as Healdtown were centers of opposition to the political supremacy of whites in South Africa. In addition to Mandela and Tambo, many other Africans received their academic training here, who years later would play a leading role in the political resistance. By studying English, anthropology , politics , “native administration” and Roman-Dutch law , Mandela now strived for an interpreting or civil service career for the government ministry for “native affairs” , deviating from the planned career at Thembu-Hof .

In Fort Hare, Mandela first became politically active and was elected to the Student's Representative Council (SRC) in 1940 . When Mandela and other fellow students protested against the poor catering on campus, the college administration responded with an ultimatum: he could choose between giving in and temporarily suspending. Mandela left University College and the region after Regent Jongintaba, who had raised Mandela for many years, arranged for his son Justice and Mandelas to be married to two Thembu girls. The lobola, the bride price , was already organized for both of them, so that the marriage could no longer be reversed.

The two men therefore fled to Johannesburg , which they reached in April 1941. Initially, Mandela worked as a security guard in a gold mine on the Witwatersrand , where he learned about the practice of capitalism . He was released and took the same year under the mediation of Walter Sisulu at Lazar Sidelsky at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman an apprenticeship, where he friendly relations with a white man for the first time the Jewish Communists developed Nat Bregman. Mandela lived in the Alexandra district , where he lived in poor conditions. In Johannesburg, Mandela was also active as a heavyweight boxer. Mandela completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1943 by distance learning at the University of South Africa (UNISA) , after which he returned to the University College of Fort Hare for graduation . In Johannesburg, the ANC General Secretary Walter Sisulu encouraged him to study law at the Witwatersrand University . During this time Mandela met his future attorney, Joel Carlson . In 1949 he had to leave the university without a degree because he had failed the final exam several times because of his political career.

During the 1960s, Mandela took part in a distance learning program at the University of London . As part of this University of London International Program , he passed important intermediate exams ( London Intermediate exams ) in 1963 . But the authorities in South Africa responsible for the recognition of external university degrees prevented the successful completion of his law degree with the conditions they set up until the 1970s.

It was not until 1989, at the end of his prison term, that Mandela was able to complete this previously unfinished course at UNISA with a Bachelor of Law .

Political activity


As a young law student, Mandela was involved in the political opposition to the white minority regime with the aim of fighting for the same political, social and economic rights for the black majority of the country. In 1944 he joined the ANC and in the same year founded the ANC Youth League (about: "ANC Youth League ") together with Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others . The background was the dissatisfaction with the ineffective policies of the ANC leadership at the time under Alfred Bitini Xuma and the distrust of their cooperation with the Communist Party and representatives of the Indians. The national liberation of Africans of all tribes could only be achieved, according to the League, by Africans who were not dominated by foreign ideologies. Until about 1949 he tended, even more than other of his companions, to a consequent "African nationalism". He said that a common struggle was too influenced by the cultural background of whites and could not overcome black feelings of inferiority. The entire youth league was overruled with its then ideas in the ANC executive.

After the victory of the “ Afrikaaner ” -dominated National Party over the United Party under Jan Smuts in the 1948 elections , the election winners introduced the policy of apartheid. Mandela described this political upheaval in 1994 as follows: "Apartheid [...] was the codification of all laws and regulations that had kept blacks in a subordinate position to whites for centuries." "Africans, colored people and Indians" are secured "for all time". To this end, laws were passed according to which all South Africans should be classified according to “racial affiliation”, “mixed marriages” should be prohibited, the limited right to vote for non-whites should be abolished and strictly separate residential areas should be introduced. The skin color has thus become the only and most important criterion for evaluating the individual. This experience was not new to him or his colleagues. Even before the Malan government came to power in 1948, the previous government of Smuts was repressive and tyrannical. The increasing tightening of the previous policy resulted from a more legally protected tactic of retaliation against any opposition work, which also included the unbridled use of the death penalty . Even wearing ANC colors was declared a criminal offense.

Mandela was the organization's general secretary around 1950 under the then ANC chairman Albert Luthuli . Both impressed with their eloquence in public appearances and the ANC gained a high reputation as a result.

Mandela officially took over a function within the ANC youth organization for the first time in 1948. The then chairman Ashby Peter Solomzi Mda introduced him in a circular to the local group leaders as a Bachelor , active law student and new secretary of the organization and asked the regional officials to contact him. In the same year he was given the lead of a nationwide campaign of the ANC Youth League, which served to recruit new members and improve awareness. In the course of this, he quickly gained a reputation and was able to make many contacts. Already in 1951 Mandela was elected President of the ANC Youth League and took over the ANC chairmanship in the province of Transvaal because of the banishment of JB Marks in 1952 . During this time, its popularity continued to grow. Mandela was constantly traveling around the country as a “lead volunteer” to attract new members and raise money. He hardly saw the family anymore and even gave up his legal practice. Mandela wrote in the time-sensitive Guardian until this newspaper had to be closed due to political pressure. As a result, he turned to the magazines Liberation and Fighting Talk , the "white" press consistently ignored the ANC during this time.

Mandela now increasingly met politicians from the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the Communist Party of South Africa and opened up to Marxism and politics that did not differ according to skin color. In 1952 he led the ANC's national Defiance Campaign , which was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's methods of nonviolent resistance . The Defiance Campaign brought the ANC a huge increase in popularity. On July 30, 1952, he was arrested for his engagement under the Suppression of Communism Act and given a suspended sentence. In August of the same year he opened with Oliver Tambo in Johannesburg the first black-only law firm in South Africa under the name Mandela & Tambo Attorneys . A two-year, additional law diploma on the basis of his already acquired BA graduation allowed the practice of a full legal activity.

In 1952 he developed the Mandela Plan (M-Plan), a grassroots and education-oriented concept of resistance against apartheid. He was banned for six months in December 1952 , so that he was not allowed to leave Johannesburg or take part in political meetings. In September 1953 the ban was renewed for two years. In addition, he was ordered to leave the ANC. Nevertheless, he was significantly involved in the People's Congress (Congress of the People) of 1955, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter formed the basis of anti-apartheid activities. Among other things, it called for equal rights for all population groups in South Africa. On December 5, 1955, Mandela was arrested again and, along with 155 other activists, charged with treason in the Treason Trial in 1956 . The trial dragged on until 1961 and ended with the acquittal of all defendants. From February 1956, Mandela was banned again for five years.

After the ban of the ANC

Domestic activities

After his acquittal in the protracted high treason trial on March 29, 1961, Mandela did not go back to his family, but lived - officially announced for arrest - under a pseudonym in the underground, mostly disguised as a gardener or chauffeur. The media speculated for months about his camouflage and his work in the underground movement . For some time he lived as "Gardener David" in the house of the communist Arthur Goldreich on Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia . His nickname at the time, The black pimpernel , referred to the book The Scarlet Pimpernel (German title: Die scharlachrote Blume or Das Scharlachrote Siegel ), which is about a hero with a hidden identity.

Until the early 1960s, the ANC had fought against white supremacy exclusively through peaceful means such as meetings, demonstrations, boycotts, strike actions or targeted violations of the law. If members or groups did not adhere to this fundamental decision, they were called to order, as was the case with Mandela in mid-1953 when he called for the use of violence once during a protest meeting during the campaign against the forced resettlement of the residents of Sophiatown . In his autobiography he describes with approval how conflicts were dealt with in the organization. Open advocacy for controversial views was desired and possible, but once decision-making bodies had voted on a decision, it was binding for everyone, a maxim that Mandela always followed. He consistently emphasizes his unconditional loyalty to the ANC, even if he analyzes numerous errors from his point of view.

In contrast to Gandhi , Mandela saw the question of violence not fundamentally, but tactically:

“I did not see non-violence according to the Gandhian model as an inviolable principle, but as a tactic to be used depending on the situation. The principle was not so important that the strategy should be followed even if it were self-destructive, as Gandhi believed. "

After unarmed demonstrators were shot dead in the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960 and the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups were subsequently banned, Mandela and his colleagues supported the ANC's proclaimed need for a violent struggle against apartheid.

Despite the ban, Mandela headed the All-In African National Conference that took place on March 25 and 26, 1961 in Pietermaritzburg . Several prominent persons called for this meeting in December 1960 after the preparatory Consultative Conference of African Leaders in Johannesburg (Orlando), including Albert Luthuli (ANC), Barney William Ngakane ( LP ), Philemon Pearce Nokwe ( SACP ) and Nimrod Boyce Tantsi ( AME Church ) and Zachariah Keodirelang Matthews ( UFH , ANC). The preparatory meeting was attacked by the South African security police, who seized documents, then interrogated 12 participants and arrested them. Under the Suppression of Communism Act , they were tried in the Transvaal Supreme Court by Judge Trollip. In response, the African National Action Council was formed with Mandela as its secretary.

Around 1,400 delegates from numerous opposition groups took part in the conference, which was held in Pietermaritzburg anyway; Mandela demanded the creation of a national convention (German roughly: "National Gathering") of delegates from all population groups in order to have a new constitution drawn up. At the same time it was decided that if the demand was not met , a “Stay at Home” (general strike) organized by the African National Action Council would be carried out throughout the country from May 29 to 31, 1961 . These were the last unsuccessful attempts to induce the government to establish a non-racist republic with non-violent actions. The government rejected the request of the All-In African National Conference , so the strike was called. The mobilization of protesting blacks was moderate, on the other hand it was clearly stronger among Coloreds and Indians. The state responded by declaring the Citizen Force and commando units to be ready for action . Afterwards, Mandela clandestinely received local and international media representatives and informed them of the failure of these efforts. He recorded his words from that time in his autobiography:

“If the government's reaction is to crush our nonviolent struggle with naked force, we will have to rethink our tactics.” He declared the period of peaceful revolutionary attempts over.

In December 1961, Mandela became the leader of the armed wing of the ANC, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, "Spear of the Nation"), which initially decided to carry out acts of sabotage without endangering human lives. At the same time, Mandela and his colleagues grappled with the international guerrilla struggles for liberation from colonialism .

stay abroad

In January 1962, Mandela left South Africa via Bechuanaland without official permission and stayed with Oliver Tambo as an ANC representative in several African countries and for two weeks in Great Britain . His travel stages included visits to what is now Tanzania , Egypt and Tunisia , where he spoke to leaders of the liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola .

In Ethiopia and Morocco , not far from the Algerian border, he took part in short military training. During this program, Mandela met with followers of Ben Bella . At the invitation of the Pan African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) , he used his stay in Ethiopia in January 1962 to participate and speak at their conference in Addis Ababa . His journey continued via Mali , Guinea , Sierra Leone and Liberia to Senegal .

Its aim was to gain political support for the ANC and at the same time to obtain financial and military means for the MK. During his stay abroad, he met the first guerrilla fighters of his organization on the way to a military training camp in Ethiopia , where they were trained together with the guard of Emperor Haile Selassi and attended relevant lectures at the university. According to information from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz , which only became known after his death, Mossad representatives are said to have been among his instructors .

In July 1962, with reference to the General Law Amendment Act 1962 ( Act No. 76/1962 ) , the Department of Justice published a list of 102 personal names (52 white, 35 black, 9 colored and 6 Indians), whose speeches and essays are no longer in print or could otherwise be disseminated. In October, the authorities also put Nelson Mandela on that list.

Nelson Mandela returned to South Africa via Bechuanaland in July 1962.

Trials and detention

On August 5, 1962, he was arrested along with the activist Cecil Williams while driving near Howick in Natal on charges that he had evaded the authorities and continued to lead the banned ANC underground in the territory of South Africa. The arrest came after he had worked for almost a year and a half in freedom and in the political underground, interrupted by public appearances for the ANC abroad.

Finally, in October, a ban was issued prohibiting him from attending any gatherings, including distributing his writings. In the meantime, an action group called the Free Mandela Committee had been formed which, in addition to leaflet campaigns (“the fighting underground leader of the freedom struggle”), also planned a demonstration on the day the trial began. The start of the trial was set for October 15, 1962, but took place at short notice in Pretoria and not in Johannesburg as planned. Mandela's defense attorney Joe Slovo was banned from leaving Johannesburg. As a precaution, the Justice Minister also issued a ban on all assemblies in South Africa that had wanted to show solidarity with Nelson Mandela in the two days before the start of the trial.

As a result of his imprisonment, he was sentenced on November 7, 1962 to a total of five years in prison for inciting public unrest (three years imprisonment) and traveling abroad without a passport (two years). He took over his own defense in this court hearing, as he was denied the presence of his defense counsel on the grounds that he had so far not presented any invalidating evidence and that he had merely declared himself innocent ("I am not guilty of any crime") .

According to a report in the New York Times from 1990, the CIA provided the South African authorities with the detailed and decisive information that led to his arrest .

After the verdict was pronounced, he was sent to the Robben Island prison island at the end of May 1963 , but was soon brought back to Pretoria after the rest of the MK's leadership was arrested on July 11. From October 7, 1963, Mandela stood in Pretoria in the Rivonia trial with ten co-defendants for "sabotage" and "planning armed struggle" in court. On April 20, 1964, the last day of the trial before the verdict was pronounced, Mandela in his four-hour, prepared speech explained in detail the need for armed struggle because the government did not respond to appeals or non-violent resistance from the non-white population in its quest for equal treatment and instead passed increasingly repressive laws. His contribution was published worldwide in the Rand Daily Mail and later under the title I am Prepared to Die . The title of the speech refers to the death penalty requested by the prosecutor. It was Mandela's last public speech until 1990. Amnesty International no longer classified Mandela as a prisoner of conscience due to his support for violence .

On June 12, 1964, after eight months of trial, Judge Quartus de Wet sentenced him and seven other fellow campaigners to life imprisonment for sabotage and planning armed struggle. He served the prison sentence - together with other ANC activists - mainly on Robben Island, which is in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town . From April 1982 he was imprisoned for another six years in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town - where he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis in 1988 - and from December 1988 onwards for more than a year in Victor Verster Prison in Paarl . During his imprisonment, he took correspondence courses for a Bachelor of Law at London University .

An example of global solidarity from Glasgow , Scotland
Mandela with de Klerk at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1992
Mandela with US President Bill Clinton (1993)

There have been repeated attempts to contact the South African government. From February 1985, Mandela refused several times the offer of a release, which was tied to the condition that the ANC renounced the armed struggle. The ANC stepped up its campaign for release. There were also numerous expressions of solidarity with Mandela internationally, such as the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert in 1988 in London. In the same year he received the United Nations Human Rights Award .

In contrast, Nelson Mandela, along with other representatives of the ANC, was put on a watch list by the US government under Ronald Reagan in 1988 as a " terrorist " and was only put on a watch list in 2008 under George W. Bush - who had previously given him two high decorations Deleted list. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also called him a "terrorist" in 1987.

It has been claimed several times that Mandela belongs to the Communist Party (SACP), which he and the ANC have always denied. Rather, they emphasized the good cooperation with the SACP. One day after his death, the SACP stated in an obituary that in 1962 he was not only a member of the party, but also of its governing body, the Central Committee . Repeated claims emerged that not only Nelson Mandela was a communist, but that the ANC he and others represented was actually a communist organization. Positions of this kind as well as the implementation of this point of view in other ideologically formed articulations originate and mostly came from Boer nationalist and ultra-conservative clerical circles, such as the Center for Reformation and Contemporary History Studies . However, the cooperation with, among others, communist partners in the course of the anti-apartheid movement is undisputed and obvious. In a published interview with Richard Stengel, Mandela said of himself that he was not a member of the Communist Party of South Africa and that as a young political activist in Johannesburg, although he attended events of this party because of its mixed ethnic participation and social issues, he was anti-communist at the time . Even later, in his view, the ANC and the SACP were completely different organizations despite their cooperation.

Release and the end of apartheid

Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. President Frederik de Klerk had given the order and a few days earlier lifted the ban on the ANC.

On the day of his release, Mandela gave a speech from the balcony of the City Hall in Cape Town. A few days later, in a speech to an audience of 120,000 in the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, he publicly initiated his policy of reconciliation by asking “all people who have given up apartheid” to participate in a “non-racial, united and democratic South Africa with general, free elections and voting rights for all ”. He had already prepared this policy during his imprisonment through initially secret talks with individual representatives of the regime. In July 1991, Mandela was unanimously elected President of the ANC. In this position he led negotiations with the government on the elimination of the apartheid system and the creation of a new, provisional constitution . In February 1993 an agreement was reached on free elections and a five-year transitional government of national unity.

Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for this achievement . On April 27, 1994, the ANC won the first democratic election in South Africa with an absolute majority. On May 9th, Nelson Mandela was elected the country's first black president by the new parliament. From then on, he led a government in which ministers from the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party were also represented. His autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom (Original: Long Walk to Freedom ) was also published that year. There he writes:

“During those long, lonely years (imprisonment), my hunger for freedom for my own people turned into a hunger for freedom for all peoples, white and black. [...] A person who robs another's freedom is a prisoner of hatred. [...] The oppressed and the oppressor are equally deprived of their humanity. When I left prison, it was my job to free both the oppressor and the oppressed. ”But a long, even more difficult road still lies ahead. "Because in order to be free it is not enough just to throw off the chains, but one must live in such a way that one respects and promotes the freedom of the other."

President of South Africa

As head of state and president of the ANC (until December 1997), Mandela led the transformation of the state and society away from apartheid and minority rule. He gained international respect for advocating national and international reconciliation.

Mandela's appearance at the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup in South Africa, when he led the Springboks to the final on the pitch in their green jersey , had strong political symbolism . Rugby was seen as a sport for whites, and with his gesture Mandela showed that they too were part of the new South Africa. The event is the subject of the movie Invictus - Undefeated (USA 2009), in which Morgan Freeman plays the role of Mandela.

Numerous apartheid laws were revoked during his reign . The army and police were reorganized as the South African National Defense Force and South African Police Service . Free health care was available to children under six, pregnant and nursing mothers; In 1996 " primary health care " became free for all South Africans. In February 1996, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set up by Mandela began to come to terms with the crimes of apartheid under the leadership of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu . On May 22, 1996 he spoke in the German Bundestag. In the same year a new constitution was passed. The households of around two million people were connected to the power grid, three million received a water connection, and 750,000 new houses were built. With the land restitution Act of 1994 and the Land Reform Act 3 of 1996 steps were to land reform undertaken.

For more radical groups, the social improvements achieved during Mandela's tenure, particularly in relation to the AIDS crisis, did not go far enough. Critics complained that the crimes of the apartheid regime were not punishable by law.

Mandela called politicians like Fidel Castro and Muammar al-Gaddafi " comrades in arms" . Castro had campaigned for freedom movements in Angola and Namibia and thus weakened the apartheid regime in South Africa. On the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on December 4, 1997 in Pretoria, Mandela spoke out for the rights of the Palestinians with a greeting: "We know only too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians". In 1998, Mandela sent soldiers to Lesotho to quell an attempted coup against the democratically elected government of Pakalitha Mosisili . From 1998 to 1999 Mandela was President of the Non-Aligned Movement .

Mandela (he celebrated his 80th birthday in July 1998) never planned a second term; he gave his farewell speech on March 29, 1999 and then retired from active politics.

Engagement after the presidency

As indomitable as Mandela was in the fight against apartheid, he was persuasive and charismatic in advocating the policy of mutual reconciliation and forgiveness. His legacy is the pursuit of a world of free and equal people, free of racism, democratically governed and socially organized. In South Africa he had succeeded in ensuring the unity of the nation and in achieving the peaceful transition from a racist dictatorship to a democracy, secured by a free constitutional constitution. According to a 1997 survey, he was recognized by 80% of South Africans. In contrast to many others, he managed to withstand the temptations of power and money, but he gave up the political leadership and became the father ("tata") of the new nation through his work with integrity in captivity and after release.

After the end of his presidency, Mandela - now a political and moral example recognized in South Africa and worldwide - worked for a number of social and human rights organizations and appeared as a " philanthropist , peacemaker and advocate for AIDS sufferers" (Bierling). On August 19, 1999, he founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation , which is dedicated to the ideal continuation of his life's work and the history of the anti-apartheid movement. There he personally organized the AIDS service in South Africa, supported by his assistant Zelda La Grange, set up a scholarship program for black students and raised money for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. Mandela toured large parts of the world and met with political, religious, economic and cultural representatives and, often surprisingly, ordinary people.

In 2002 the Mandela Rhodes Foundation was established with its headquarters in Cape Town. It serves to promote young African leaders in southern Africa. The founding initiative was a ceremony with his participation and presence of Bill Clinton , himself a Rhodes Scholar , and Tony Blair in Westminster Hall completed.

Mandela spoke out against military intervention in Iraq several times . In early 2003 he gave speeches in which he heavily criticized George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for their Iraq policy.

In 2007, together with Desmond Tutu , he founded the group The Elders , in which around ten older, respected people from different continents are represented, including Mandela's wife Graça Machel . Mandela was an honorary member of the Elders.


Mandela married three times. There are six children from two of these marriages. His first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, an ANC activist from Engcobo and cousin Walter Sisulus, divorced in 1958. Evelyn Ntoko Mase died in 2004. They had two boys and two girls together. The son Madiba Thembekile was born in 1945 and died in a car accident in 1969. Their daughter Makaziwe was born in 1947 and died after nine months. Son Makgatho Lewanika was born in 1950. He was a lawyer and businessman and died on January 6, 2005 at the age of 54 in Johannesburg from complications from the immunodeficiency disease AIDS . The daughter born in 1954 (1953 according to other information) was called Pumla Makaziwe. She studied sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst , where she earned a Ph.D. in anthropology . She later held various management positions.

In 1958, Mandela married Winnie Madikizela , Johannesburg's first black social worker, who had supported him during the Treason Trial . She was the daughter of a former Transkei Agriculture Minister . They rarely saw each other during Nelson Mandela's detention. After political stress, Mandela separated from Winnie Madikizela in April 1992 and was divorced on March 19, 1996, after 38 years of marriage. With her he had two daughters, Zenani ("Zeni", * 1959) and Zindziswa ("Zindzi", 1960–2020).

On his 80th birthday, on July 18, 1998, he married the politician and human rights activist Graça Machel , Samora Machel's widow . Machel had been President of Mozambique from 1975 until his death in 1986 in a plane crash and supported the ANC.

Mandela wanted to take part in the opening ceremony of the 2010 Soccer World Cup on June 11, 2010 in Johannesburg. He was instrumental in ensuring that this tournament takes place in South Africa. However, his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela died of the effects of a car accident the previous evening; therefore he canceled his participation at short notice. Nelson Mandela was then briefly present at the closing ceremony on July 11, 2010. It was his last public appearance.

In July 2011, Mandela left his home in Johannesburg's Houghton Estate and returned to his home village of Qunu. In the following years he had to be hospitalized in Pretoria several times. Finally, in June 2013, he became life-threatening. Numerous high-ranking politicians and the Anglican Archbishop visited him at the bedside. Hundreds of people, including school classes, gathered in front of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital every day to express recovery wishes, to pray and to sing. Released to his home in Johannesburg at the beginning of September, Nelson Mandela died there on December 5, 2013 with his family of complications from pneumonia. President Zuma said goodbye to his predecessor: "Our nation has lost its greatest son."

Farewell and memorial services after Mandela's death

His death was received in the media worldwide; many of them published obituaries . Barack Obama , then US President (and the first African American in office as the 44th President ), gave an official obituary speech and had the US flags hoisted at half mast. In July 2018, Obama gave a speech in Johannesburg on the 100th anniversary of Mandela's birthday.

Relationship to music

Throughout his political career, Mandela maintained a close relationship with traditional African music . After his release from prison, he occasionally danced on stage at concerts.

Many musicians supported Mandela during his imprisonment. They wrote songs in his honor or discussed his engagement, his imprisonment and his vision of a reconciled and united South Africa. One of the most famous solidarity songs for Mandela is Free Nelson Mandela , composed by Jerry Dammers . Dammers sang it for the first time in 1984 with his band The Special AKA The song has often been covered, including in 2008 by Amy Winehouse . Youssou N'Dour from Senegal organized a concert for the release of Mandela in 1985 with his then backing band "Super Étoile de Dakar" and sang the song Nelson Mandela. The South African Johnny Clegg wrote the song Asimbonanga ("We did not see him") in 1987 to demand Mandela's release. The song became an international anthem and played worldwide. Another anthem for Nelson Mandela's release is Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) by Hugh Masekela from 1987.

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, a solidarity concert for Nelson Mandela took place in London on June 11, 1988 in front of 72,000 spectators, where - initiated by Jerry Dammers - well-known musicians from Africa, the USA and Europe performed. The Simple Minds played the song Mandela Day there. The American Tracy Chapman , who became known worldwide through this concert, dedicated the piece Freedom Now to Mandela on her 1989 album Crossroads.

Shortly after his release, the song The People Want Mandela was composed and interpreted in the style of We Are the World in 1990 by numerous South African musicians such as Jennifer Ferguson , Ray Phiri and Victor Ntoni . Nelson Mandela also inspired numerous musicians in the following years, including the South African Brenda Fassie ( Black President ), Lucky Dube ( House of Exile ), Yvonne Chaka-Chaka ( Freedom ), Koos Kombuis ( Madiba Bay ) and the singer Nomfusi with her accompanying band The Lucky Charms. In 2009 they released the song Iqalapha (German roughly: "Here it begins"). The Malian singer Salif Keita released the song Mandela in 1995 . Eric Bibb from New York recorded the album Brothers in Bamako with Habib Koité from Mali in 2012 with the song Nelson Mandela Is Free . Zahara and Mzwakhe Mbuli from South Africa published the piece Mandela. For the death of Nelson Mandela, the Nigerian reggae musician Duncan Mighty wrote the song Madiba Mandela.


Nelson Mandela statue by Ian Walters in London in Parliament Square
Bronze figures of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, The Long March to Freedom at Maropeng

Nelson Mandela has received numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, honors from the United Nations, the Grand Cross of the Bailli, the highest award of the Order of St. John , the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then US President George W. Bush . He has also received over 50 international honorary doctorates .

See also


As an author

As editor


Films about Mandela


  • Freedom for Nelson Mandela. Documentation, Germany, South Africa, 1986, 43 minutes, written and directed by Ebbo Demant
  • Mandela . Documentary, South Africa / USA, 1996, 118 minutes, directors: Angus Gibson and Jo Menell
  • Nelson Mandela - The Reconciler. Documentary, USA, 1999, 112 minutes, director: Clifford Bestall
  • Accused: Nelson Mandela. The Rivonia Trial . Documentation, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, South Africa, 2004, 52 minutes, script and direction: Pascale Lamche, production: ZDF , summary by arte
  • Nelson Mandela. A legend turns 90. Documentation, Germany, South Africa, 2008, script and director: Richard Klug, production: Phoenix , first broadcast: July 13, 2008, Frankfurter Rundschau
  • Nelson Mandela's speech on May 22, 1996 in the German Bundestag.
  • Madiba - The Legacy of Nelson Mandela. Documentary, Germany, South Africa, 2013, 85 min., Script and director: Khalo Matabane, production: Born Free Media, gebrueder beetz filmproduktion, ZDF , BBC , arte , first broadcast: April 23, 2014 on arte, summary by ARD .

Feature films


Web links

Commons : Nelson Mandela  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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