35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela

Trista - April 7, 2019

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
D. F. Malan was leader of the National Party from 1934 until 1953. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

21. Meanwhile, Apartheid Was Becoming Worse

In 1948, with the election of the National Party, apartheid laws that had previously been informal became enforced by the state. The government officially recognized three types of people: whites (less than 20% of the population), blacks, and mixed race. Every kind of people had a specific set of laws that applied to them, along with particular rights and options for legal recourse. As you can probably imagine, black people got the short end of the stick.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela

Students of Johns Hopkins University fight against South African apartheid. Note the ‘trustee’ sign in the back. Afro American Newspapers / Gado / Archive Photos / Getty Images.

20. Mandela Traveled Across South Africa to Protest Apartheid

In 1950, Mandela became part of the executive board of the ANC and the national president of the ANC Youth League. In 1952, he took part in the ANC’s Defiance Campaign, which sought to emulate other peacemakers, such as Mahatma Gandhi of India. He spoke to thousands of people across the country, and as many as 100,000 new people joined the ANC. In response, the apartheid government enacted martial law.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
The Soweto Uprising. Daily Maverick.co.za.

19. The Government Began to Restrict Mandela’s Movement

Nelson Mandela was quickly rising to national prominence as a leader of the movement against apartheid. The government took notice of him and forbade him from leaving Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela was also not allowed to take part in any mass gatherings or rallies. He was effectively under house arrest and would face imprisonment if he broke the restrictions.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela represented blacks who had been subjected to police brutality. Aftruth.

18. Mandela Set Up a Law Firm to Serve South Africa’s Black Population

The revolutionary leader worked as an attorney for a couple of different law firms before attaining his own licensure. He and an ANC friend, Oliver Tambo, opened up the only black African-run law office in South Africa. They charged meager rates and were frequently used by blacks who had suffered from police brutality. Mandela became popular and respected by not only the black masses but also by the middle-class elite blacks of Johannesburg.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela and several others were arrested. South African History Online.

17. Mandela Was Arrested for Treason in 1956

Nelson Mandela frequently defied the travel restrictions that the apartheid government placed on him, and for a while, he had managed to evade arrest and trial. However, in 1956, he and most of the executives of the ANC were arrested and charged with high treason. The crime could be applied to anyone who worked to overturn the country’s apartheid law. Ultimately, though, he was found “not guilty” due to insufficient evidence.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela and his two young children.

16. Mandela’s Wife Divorced Him Due to the Stress of His Activism

Being one of the most important leaders in the anti-apartheid movement, Mandela was not as attentive to his wife and children as Evelyn believed he should have been. She also felt, perhaps with cause, that he had engaged in affairs with other members of the ANC while traveling. The couple divorced in 1958, and Evelyn gained custody of their children.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson and Winnie Mandela on their wedding day in 1958. Pinterest.

15. While Awaiting Trial, He Met His Second Wife, Winnie

Winnie was a social worker who was also active in the ANC. The two would have two children together remain married throughout his 27-year prison sentence on Robben Island. Because of her work to end apartheid and, along with her husband, help heal the racial divisions in South Africa, Winnie Mandela would become known as the “Mother of South Africa.”

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Winnie was also active in the ANC. CNN Edition / Newscom.

14. The ANC Was Outlawed in 1960

1960 was the same year as the Sharpeville Massacre, and together with the outlawing of the ANC, many members decided that they had to use more than peaceful resistance to achieve their goals. The right-wing paramilitary branch of the ANC was known as uMkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation. Following the illegalization of the ANC, it rose to prominence.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
An Ethiopian passport. National Archives of South Africa / Nelson Mandela.org.

13. Mandela Decided That Nonviolent Resistance Was Not Enough

The revolutionary disguised himself as a chauffeur so that he could travel the country undetected, with warrants issued for his arrest. He realized that without the peaceful engagement of the ANC, blacks were resorting to violent means to continue their anti-apartheid cause. He made the difficult decision of encouraging Spear of the Nation to support violent action as a means of diverting the guerrilla and terrorist tactics into a more meaningful direction.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s prison cell. BKP / Wikimedia.

12. Nelson Mandela Was Arrested and Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

After traveling secretly for years, in 1962, Mandela was finally arrested; years later, a CIA official in the United States revealed that he had tipped off the government because the CIA was concerned about his communist affiliations. He was charged with inciting strikes among black workers and leaving the country without permission.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
A “Free Mandela” protest in East Berlin in 1986. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1986-0920-016 / German Federal Archive / Wikimedia.

11. At Mandela’s Trial, He Refused to Defend Himself

Mandela knew that if he defended himself, he would only be legitimizing the charges that were brought against him. Instead, he wanted to use his trial as an opportunity to show the morality of the ANC’s cause. He did not call any witnesses and, instead of delivering his testimony, he gave a political speech about the injustice of apartheid and the vision of the ANC.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
The inside of Mandela’s prison cell as it was when he was imprisoned in 1964 and his open cell window facing the prison yard on Robben Island, now a national and World Heritage Site. Witstinkhout / Wikimedia.

10. Nelson Mandela Received a Lifetime Sentence on Robben Island

Following police raids on Spear of the Nation headquarters, documents that mentioned Mandela were used to initiate new charges of sabotage and sedition. For these charges, he was given a life sentence on Robben Island, a remote prison off the coast of South Africa. It was a notoriously harsh prison; white guards frequently harassed the prisoners, and he had to spend his days splitting rocks with a pickaxe.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela revisited his cell on Robben Island in 1994. Jurgen Schadeberg / Amnesty.org.

9. While in Prison, He Became a Galvanizing Symbol for the Anti-Apartheid Movement

The government had expected that once Mandela was in prison, anti-apartheid activists would quickly forget about him and, without a central leader, would soon disband. However, the opposite happened. He gained worldwide attention as an anti-apartheid activist who was now a political prisoner under an unjust regime. Meanwhile, though, Mandela had minimal contact with the outside world, including with his wife.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie Mandela, in 1990. REUTERS / Paul Velasco / Slate.

8. In 1990, the Government Legalized the ANC

International pressure on South Africa, primarily inspired by Mandela’s imprisonment, led the government to begin taking steps that would dismantle the institution of apartheid. It officially legalized the African National Congress and other organizations; the ANC would soon be able to participate in national elections. A 1992 referendum among white voters enabled a further dismantling of the apartheid.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
The whole world celebrated his release in 1990. Liverpool Echo.co.uk.

7. Mandela Was Released From Prison

With the legalization of the ANC, Mandela was released from prison in 1990. He had served a total of 27 years and was now 70 years old. Media outlets from all over the world broadcast footage of his release, with him holding Winnie’s hand as they stood in front of large crowds of people and were driven throughout the city of Cape Town. He gave a speech about the ongoing cause of the ANC in ending apartheid.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
President George W. Bush and former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa met in the Oval Office Tuesday on May 17, 2005. Eric Draper, White House Photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

6. Mandela Was Nearly Blind Because of His Time on Robben Island

Nelson Mandela had been forced for years to split rocks that reflected the sunlight so strongly that it severely damaged his eyes. He developed what is commonly referred to as “snow blindness” and frequently wore sunglasses because of how much light hurt his eyes.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Luthuli House in Johannesburg, which became the ANC headquarters in 1991. Garyvdm / Wikimedia.

5. Mandela Became Head of the ANC

While in prison, Mandela had learned to speak Afrikaans, the language of whites in South Africa, and had studied history and law. When he became the head of the ANC, he made it a multiracial institution and engineered a ceasefire, known as the Pretoria Minute, for the violence with which the ANC was engaging. He wanted to transform the party into something that could be a viable force in post-apartheid politics.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid President, Frederik de Klerk, display their Nobel Peace Prizes in Oslo, Norway, in December 1993. AFP / Gerard Julien / ABC.net.au.

4. Nelson Mandela Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993

Few people expected that apartheid in South Africa would fall, but when it did, many credited Nelson Mandela. As the leader of the ANC, he continued to work to secure black rights in South Africa and end the violence on both sides of the apartheid lines by encouraging reconciliation. For his efforts, in 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1993. White House Photograph Office, Clinton Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

3. In 1994, Mandela Was Elected President

In 1994, apartheid in South Africa officially ended when, for the first time in over 300 years, black South Africans were allowed to participate in their government. When the first-ever democratic elections were held, the ANC became the dominant party in the new parliament. Nelson Mandela was elected president, and he won with a landslide victory . He was 75 years old.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela saluting in front of the flag. Wild Earth.

2. Mandela Helped Mediate the Civil War in Burundi

The entire continent of Africa has faced immense challenges resulting from colonization and the transition to national governments within newly-formed states. Burundi had been engaged in an ethnic conflict since 1993; wanting South Africa to be a model for the rest of the continent, he helped broker a peace settlement between the warring Hutus and Tutsis.

35 Powerful Facts About Worldwide Peacemaker, Nelson Mandela
Flowers left at the Nelson Mandela’s statue in London’s Parliament Square. John Pannell – Flickr: Nelson Mandela tributes in Parliament Square / Wikimedia Commons.

1. He Worked for Human Rights Across Africa

Today, Nelson Mandela is more than a hero for South Africans. He represents an entire movement of peacebuilding and reconciliation for African countries struggling to find their way in a postcolonial war. Mandela used soft diplomacy to address human rights violations by military juntas and tried to mediate an agreement to end the ongoing conflict in the Congo. Though much remains to be done, he set an example that the rest of the continent, and the world, should follow.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are our Sources:

“Nelson Mandela.” Wikipedia.

“African National Congress.” Wikipedia.

“South Africa.” Wikipedia.

“Nelson Mandela – Civil Rights Activist & President Of South Africa” (documentary). Biography.com.

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