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Apartheid

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was born on 18 July 1918, to Chief Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, of Thembu royalty, and Noselkeni Fanny in the Eastern Cape village of Mveso, Transkei. After his father's death when Mandela was nine, the acting tribal chief, Jongintaba, assumed Mandela's guardianship. Mandela had access to the best education a black youth could have, attending Clarkesbury Boarding Institute, Healdtown College, and University College of Fort Hare. He eventually left Transkei to avoid an arranged marriage and moved to Johannesburg.

Mandela became politicized while living in Alexandra Township by attending African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) meetings. After receiving his B.A. in 1942, he entered law school at the University of Witwatersrand. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, includes many names famous in the antiapartheid struggle—Walter Sisulu, A. B. Xuma, George Bizos, Bram Fischer, Robert Sobukwe, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Oliver Tambo, and Z. K. Matthews.

Viewing the ANC leadership as too conservative, Mandela in 1943 became a founding member of the ANC Youth League, which sought to motivate the leadership to action. Shocked by the National Party victory in 1948, he and other leaders of the ANC organized a "defiance campaign," employing a variety of passive-resistance tactics against apartheid legislation. Because of these activities, ANC activists were put under government surveillance, and Mandela was eventually served with a two-year banning order (1953–1955). A banning order restricted an individual to a magisterial district. He or she was expected to report regularly to the police and was under constant police surveillance. A banned individual could not be quoted in the press, could not work, and could not meet with more than one person at a time.

Mandela and 155 other ANC leaders were arrested during the defiance campaign. In 1956 ninety-one people were accused, and sixty-one charges were dropped due to lack of evidence (Saunders; Davenport). Thirty people were tried for treason, and all but one were acquitted, including Mandela, in 1961.

After the treason trial and the banning of the ANC and PAC, Mandela went underground in the newly formed military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), as chair of the high command. This office planned sabotage, guerrilla warfare, and open revolution. Mandela based his underground operations at a farm in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia. Upon his return from the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa meeting in Ethiopia, he was arrested near Pietermaritzburg and charged with inciting a strike and leaving the country without a passport. He received a three-year prison sentence for the former charge and a two-year sentence for the latter. While in prison, he discovered that many members of the ANC high command were arrested in Rivonia in July 1963. They were charged under the Sabotage Act of 1962, with the onus being on the accused to prove their innocence. The state had requested the death penalty. The accused were given life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. International pressure had a great impact on sparing their lives. The nine-month trial ended in June 1963 with Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island, off Cape Town, for nearly three decades. In his autobiography he wrote of this experience, remarking about the degree to which apartheid permeated every aspect of life in South Africa, even for those in prison, where clothing and food were differentiated according to a prisoner's race.

There were a number of attempts to free Mandela, including a major campaign in 1980. He was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982 and to Victor Vester Prison in Paarl in 1988. During this time he was allowed increasing contact with his wife, Winnie Mandela, and their two daughters. Mandela began negotiations with the South African government for his freedom and the end of apartheid while at Pollsmoor. That continued in earnest at Victor Vester Prison in May 1988. Government representatives preferred to negotiate with Mandela alone and vetoed his request to discuss the first meeting with his ANC comrades. Mandela outlined the negotiated issues as "the armed struggle, the ANC's alliance with the Communist Party, the goal of majority rule, and the idea of racial reconciliation." The government representatives were concerned that the ANC might attempt "blanket nationalization of the South African economy" as stated in the ANC's Freedom Charter. The secret talks occurred against the backdrop of internal protests by the United Democratic Alliance and the Mass Democratic Movement, a state of emergency, and international economic sanctions.

The ANC, PAC, and SACP were legalized on 2 February 1990, and Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Vester Prison on 11 February 1990. When elected president in 1994, Mandela sought to create a "Rainbow Nation," and the ANC collaborated with other political parties to form a "Government of National Unity."

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidApartheid - Historical Background, Rise Of Afrikaner Nationalism, Black Resistance, Apartheid Legislation, Gender Issues, Nelson Mandela