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Transcript of Nelson Mandela
Mandela was the son of a chief of the Aba Thembu tribe, who have kept many of their traditions. Here they are performing a traditional mourning dance at Mandela's funeral.
18 July 1918 - 5 December 2013
At this time white and black South Africans were segregated. They couldn't use the same spaces and facilities, or intermarry, or live in the same areas. The black majority couldn't vote and mostly lived in slums, and were ruled and employed by the white minority. Mandela saw the terrible consequences of this system and became involved in the new African National Congress, which aimed to establish a multi-racial democracy in which blacks and whites would be equal.
One tradition is that of arranging marriages. The young Mandela ran away from home in order to escape a marriage arranged by his father. Much as he loved his family and tribe, Mandela wanted to get a modern education. He went to Johannesburg and enrolled in the University of Witwatersrand and read Law. Here is a picture of him as a young student. Many classmates remember that he was one of the best dressed young men in university!
He rose to prominence in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation's 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.
As a dashing young man he became an important leader in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, was appointed superintendent of the organisation's 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.
In 1958 Mandela married a beautiful young social worker, Winnie, whom he drew into the ANC where she became an important activist.
Winnie bore Mandela two children but Mandela had little time for family life as the ANC were illegal and were sabotaging public facilities in protest. He often hid in this hatched room at Liliesleaf Farm.
Finally, in 1962 Mandela and the other ANC leaders of the sabotage campaign were arrested and put on trial for treason, a crime for which there was the possibility of a death penalty. These are the police mug shots of them.
At the end of the trial, with the very real possibility that he would be sentenced to death, Mandela said to the judge and the court "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. He went to the Robben Island prison, which was impossible to escape from, where during the day he laboured in a mine, and at night he slept on the floor of a very small cell. This is the cell, which has been preserved.
Many white South Africans thought that Mandela was a terrorist , as did the the new Prime Minister of Britain, Thatcher, who in 1979 called him a terrorist. However, overtime more and more people across the world began to demonstrate for Mandela's release and the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Even with the ANC leadership in prison many people continued to resist white minority government, some violently. In 1973 a peaceful protest in the black township of Soweto was brutally put down by police who indiscriminately shot men, women and children. This picture is of a 12 year old boy who was killed.
These violent methods only made things worse for the white minority government long-term. Other governments imposed sanctions, so that the economy got very bad.
Also, within the country there were continual protests that brought the country to a halt, and also violent attacks on government officials and security personnel by groups which, unlike Mandela, advocated more violent means than sabotage,
In the meantime, Mandela had not only become a living symbol of the anti-Apartheid
system but someone the new white president, F. W. De Klerk, felt he could do business with. He was much better, De Klerk felt, than the new black leaders who advocated violence.
F. W. De Klerk
Finally, in order to keep the country together and to end economic sanctions, F. W. de Klerk's government released Mandela in 1992, after 27 years in prison and a few years of hard negotiations. Mandela demanded that there be free multiracial elections. This is a video of the famous moment when Mandela walked free out of prison surrounded by cheering crowds and the world's media.
As agreed, there was an election in 1994.
All black people could vote. Mandela and the ANC won a landslide.
This is a video of Mandela's inaugural address in 1994.
Mandela retired in 1999, and his ANC colleague Mbeki took over as president. He spent his remaining years doing charity work. To learn more about his work go to:
Mandela divorced Winnie in 1996. He remarried in 1998. His new wife, Grace Machel, had been the first lady of Mozambique and also did a lot fo charity work. Friends reported that Mandela was very happy with his new life.
Mandela had long had problems with his lungs due to the lung infections that afflicted him on Robben Island. On the 5th of December 2013 he died in his Johannesburg home surrounded by his family at the age of 95.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people and many world leaders attended his funeral, thankful for what he had done in overseeing
the transition from a racist state to a multiracial democracy. He is rembered in South Africa as "Tata" or father of the nation.