The world is remembering the most revered global statesman Nelson Mandela on Thursday, to mark his 101st birthday. Designated by the UN as the International Nelson Mandela Day, July 18 also commemorates fight against racism and apartheid.
To honor, their great leader and his selfless contribution to humanity, South Africans on Thursday are observing the day, dedicating 67 minutes of their time, to volunteer for good causes.
Mandela became first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994. He led the country to usher in a multi-racial setup. He stepped down from office in 1999, after completing his term, refusing to stand for the second term.
Born in the Mvezo village of East Cape province, Mandela spent 27 years in prison, for opposing the apartheid regime. He joined African National Congress (ANC) at the age of 25, along with other stalwarts, such as Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. They also founded the ANC’s Youth league.
First black President
After graduating from Law school, Mandela started a law firm, with his friend Oliver Tambo. They became first black lawyers in South Africa.
Due to his opposition to white minority rule, he was sent to Robben Island Prison in Cape Town, where he spent 18 years. He was later shifted to Pollsmor prison. After his release in 1990, he was elected to become first black and democratically elected president in 1994.
What distinguished his personality was that he did not exercise bitterness, rancor or revenge against his tormentors. Instead, he choose reconciliation, forgiveness to unite all racial groups in South Africa. His leadership approach and ability to bring all together, won him global admiration and the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
After demitting office in 1999, Mandela joined global peace and health campaigns to benefit humanity. He campaigned against the HIV scourge, which had ravaged his country, even claiming life of one of his sons.
Man of peace
Mandela spearheaded peace negotiations in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and other countries in the world. He was also a known supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Mandela married his first wife Evelyn Ntoko, a South African nurse in 1944. They separated in 1958. She was mother of Mandela’s four children.
In 1958 Mandela married Winnie Madikizela who gave birth to two girls. Much of their married life was spent separately, as Mandela was in prison.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela, who died two years ago became a strong political figure herself. Mandela divorced her in 1994. He married third time to Graca Machel – a Mozambican politician and human rights activist — in 1998. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and was made an honorary British Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997 for her humanitarian work.