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Nelson Mandela: a Prominent Survivor and His Story

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Living and survival go hand in hand, through living our daily lives, we are faced with survival every step of the way through personal experiences, experiences of friends or family, or stories from the media and internet. We hear of survival stories all through daily life and how dangerous and difficult the situation was. We also understand how people step up, and problem solve and overcome certain circumstances and all the qualities represented by the actions and thoughts of a survivor overcoming their situation. The qualities shown in these stories include courage, bravery, determination, hope, and others but also the negative thoughts and qualities shown through the survivors’ worst hours in a situation. These qualities can include: desperation, resentment, anger, and sadness, but these qualities are also great motivators for the survivor to overcome their situation. The term survival to me means to be presented a case or challenge that is dangerous or uncommon compared to normal life and overcome those challenges to walk away, to survive that situation. In saying that everyone has their own different and unique survival stories, qualities are shown in the situation, and how they overcame their particular situation to move on and do greater things in their life such as inspirational speaking, politics, and charity works. Within this essay, the term ‘survival’ will be broken down for a better understanding so we can further understand my chosen survivor and his story the person I have chosen spent 27 years in prison and was let out because of fears of death went on to serve as the first full elected President and also the first black head of state and his name is Nelson Mandela. Throughout this essay, I will offer insight on Nelson’s childhood, education, early adulthood and introduction to politics, why and how long he went to prison, his time elected as President and how he changed the world while elected and how still till this day how he changes the world after his sad passing.

Rolihlahla Mandela, who is also known as Nelson Mandela, was born on the 18th of July, 1918. Nelson was born into a royal family of the Xhosa-speaking Thembu tribe in a small South African village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, where his father served as chief. His mother’s name was Nonqaphi Nosekeni, and his father’s name was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa. In 1930, when Nelson was 12 years of age, his father died, and he became a ward of Jongintaba, at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni. Nelson died in his home in Johannesburg on the 5th of December 2013 at the age of 95 years old. (1918, 2013.)

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Nelson attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson; this is due to the custom of giving all schoolchildren “Christian” names. This is where the name “Nelson” originated. Nelson then went on to complete his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute. After this, he went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school. Nelson began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare. Nelson did not complete the degree there because he was expelled from the college as he joined in a student protest. When he returned his home, the King was furious and told Nelson if he did not return to his university in Fort Hare, he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. Instead of returning, they ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There Nelson worked as a mine security officer, and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, he was introduced to Lazer Sidelsky. Who got him into the University of South Africa, where he completed his BA, and after completing this he returned to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

Ever since Nelson was a child, he has always wanted to make a positive contribution to his people in his village who were suffering every day, he wanted to free that struggle, the struggle of his people. Due to this, Nelson became very interested and involved in politics. Nelson became increasingly politically involved in 1942. Nelson only joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 as he helped to form the Youth League of ANC ( the ANCYL).

In 1944 Nelson married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase. They had two sons, named Madiba Thembekile ‘Thembi’ and Makgatho, and the two daughters were both called Makaziwe. Nelson and his wife divorced in 1958. After the divorce, Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL very quickly. At this time the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, which was called the Programme of Action, in 1949. At this time Mandela also married his second wife, a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996. Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.

My event is about Nelson’s Mandela’s imprisonment, the charges laid on him, his life in prison, how and why he was released, and how he changed the world after the survived prison. In 1952 Nelson was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign. The campaign of civil disobedience went against six unjust laws, and it was a joint program between the ANC and also the South African Indian Congress. Due to this program, he and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and were sentenced to nine months of hard labor and were also suspended for two years.

On the 21st of March, in1960 police killed 69 unarmed people during a protest about the countries past laws in Sharpeville. Due to this event, it led to the country’s first state of emergency and because of this, it led to the banning of the ANC and also the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) on 8 April. Due to this banning, Nelson decided to go underground and he began planning a national strike for 29, 30, and 31 March for South Africa to become a Republic. On 11 January 1962, using the name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He traveled around Africa and then visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He gained military training in Morocco and Ethiopia then he returned to South Africa in July 1962. After he returned, he was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August. Nelson was charged with leaving the country without a permit and also was charged for inciting workers to strike. Nelson was convicted and then sentenced to five years imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined ten other people on trial for sabotage in what later became known as the Rivonia Trial. While he was facing the death penalty, Nelson’s words to the court at the end of his famous ‘Speech from the Dock’ on 20 April 1964 became immortalized.

On 11 June 1964 Nelson and seven other accused, were convicted and the next day was sentenced to life imprisonment. They were sent to Robben Island. On 12 August 1988, Nelson was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After he spent more than three months in a total of two hospitals, he was transferred back to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl on the 7th December, 1988where he would spend his last 14 months of imprisonment.

Nelson was released from the Victor Verster Prison gates on Sunday the 11th of February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC. Throughout Nelson’s imprisonment, he rejected three (or more) conditional offers of release. After his release, he began to immerse himself in the official talks to end the white minority rule. In 1991 Nelson was elected ANC President replacing his former friend, In 1993 Nelson and President FW de Klerk, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize, and then on 27 April 1994, Nelson finally voted for the first time in his life.

On 10 May 1994, Nelson became South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On Nelson’s 80th birthday in 1998, he married a woman named Graça Machel, his third wife. In 1999, true to his promise, Mandela stepped down after one term as President, but Nelson was far from done he continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995, and he also established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation at this time. These foundations provided the base for his charitable work to be undertaken; the foundations covered a wide range of endeavors: from building schools, HIV/AIDS work, from research into education in rural areas, and even to peace and reconciliation interventions.

Five years later after Nelson’s sad passing in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013. His foundations began their transition from a charitable organization into an organization that was focused on memory, dialogue, and legacy work. A refurbishment of the Foundation’s building provided it with a real home; it was called the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The Centre was opened on 18 November 2013, after three years to the day after Nelson last used the building as his office.

Nelson is a true survivor. He survived 29 years in prison he survived racism, inequality, disease, and sickness and went on to become the South Africa president changing the world and the world’s views on many topics. Even after his presidency, he went on to start the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which funded and created schools, healthcare buildings for more deprived communities to help aid the battle of HIV and Aids in South Africa. The Foundation also undertook many more notable projects to better more unfortunate people’s life and create equal opportunities like everyone having an education. Nelson gave opportunities to people in need even after all that happened to him he gave back to his country. ‘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’. (https://www.nelsonmandela.org/content/page/biography).

He is an example that no matter how many times you get knocked down in life you can still get up and achieve your goals, anyone can change the world no matter their social status, economic status, race, religion or beliefs all it takes is dedication, determination and how to learn from your mistakes and how you pick yourself up. Anyone can change the world.

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