Nelson Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela Day

Nelson Mandela Day

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Nelson Mandela

Former South African president and civil rights advocate, Nelson Mandela, dedicated his life to fighting for equality-and ultimately helped topple South Africa's racist system of Apartheid.

Nelson Mandela was born in what was known as the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire. Being an African country, the majority of the inhabitants were Black but were still dominated by the minority White. The White population controlled the land, wealth and governance with the Black population denied even voting rights. This discriminatory social structure was called Apartheid.

Though, by skin colour, Mandela was relegated to the lowest social order in segregated South Africa, his royal blood gave him access to the country's only university for Black people, the University of Fort Hare. He was expelled from there for protesting the student government's lack of power. He then moved to Soweto, South Africa's largest Black city. There he studied law as a part-time student at Wits University and began the country's first Black law firm.

Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). In 1952, he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign. This was a campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws.

Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1956, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. He was acquitted in 1961. On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for an armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August. He was convicted in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mandela's mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

In 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals, he was transferred to a house at Victor Verster Prison where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released on 11 February 1990.

Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991, was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo. In 1993, President FW de Klerk and he jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life and on 10 May 1994, he was inaugurated as South Africa's first democratically elected President.

True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation. He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation. His accomplishments are now celebrated each year on his birthday, July 18, as Nelson Mandela International Day. Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact.

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