Inspiring Purpose

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born in Umtata, the son of a local chief in Transkei. He practised as a lawyer in Johannesburg, establishing the country's first black legal practice. In 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC), and for the next 20 years he directed a campaign of defiance against the South African government and its policy of apartheid or 'separate development'. The ANC was banned in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre; the following year Mandela organized a three-day national strike, and in 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for political offences that included sabotage and treason. From his prison cell, Mandela became a symbol of black resistance to apartheid, acquiring a charisma that was enhanced by his refusal to enter into any kind of deal with the authorities. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mandela grew into an international figure and the focus of an increasingly powerful international campaign for his release, in which his second wife Winnie Mandela (married to him in 1958) played a leading part. In 1988 his seventieth birthday provided the opportunity for further intensifying demands for his release, and international alarm at reports of his declining health led to his being moved to a more comfortable confinement. The liberalizing measures of F W de Klerk (President from 1989) began the process of dismantling apartheid; within months of his election, de Klerk visited Mandela in prison, and finally ordered his release in February 1990, after lifting the ban on the ANC, removing restrictions on political groups, and calling a halt to the executions. In 1991 Mandela was elected President of the ANC (his friend Oliver Tambo was elected chairman), and entered into talks with de Klerk about the country's future. He travelled extensively to win support for continued international pressure to abolish apartheid completely. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with de Klerk for their work in the process of reform. On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated as South Africa's first black President. Nelson Mandela's marriage to Winnie came under increasing strain as a result of her controversial activities and associations, and they were separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. His term as President ended in 1999. This was not the end of Nelson Mandela's career. He has continued to work for peace and reconciliation into the 21st century. What more can you discover?

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Inspiring Purpose is a program developed by Character Education Scotland www.character-scotland.org.uk
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