Column: The Mandela story

Do you know what Nelson Mandela’s original first name was? According to the website of the Nelson Mandela Foundation,, he was born on July 18, 1918, and was given the first name Rolihlala. He received the name Nelson from a primary school teacher at the age of seven.carey

At 16, he attended a boarding school and, three years later, Weslyan College, followed two years after that by enrollment at a university college, from which he was expelled the following year.

In 1941, at 23, he became a night watchman in a mine while starting work at a law firm.

In 1942, Mandela completed a BA through the University of South Africa and, the same year, began attending African National Congress meetings. The next year, he enrolled for an LLB. In 1944, he co-founded the ANC Youth League and married his first wife.

In 1952, at age 34, Mandela was convicted under South Africa’s Suppression of Com-munism Act and received a suspended sentenced of nine months at hard labor. He then opened South Africa’s first black law firm. In 1953, he devised a plan for the ANC’s future underground operations. In 1956, he and others were acquitted of treason. In 1958, he divorced his first wife and remarried.

In 1960, came the Sharpeville Massacre, a turning point in South Africa’s race relations, followed by imposition of a state of emergency and the banning of the ANC. In 1961, Mandela went underground. The next year, he was out of the country for six months of military training. He was arrested on his return and sent briefly, in 1963, to Robben Island. Later in 1963, he appeared in court with a group of persons, pleading not guilty to sabotage.

In June 1964, Mandela and others were convicted and given life sentences. Twenty-one years later, he rejected a government offer of release if he would renounce violence. The same year, 1985, at age 67, he underwent prostate surgery. Three years later, in 1988, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and, spent time in two hospitals, but ended the year in Victor Verster Prison in Paarl.

In 1990, the African National Congress was unbanned and Mandela released. Three years later, he and the white Afrikaner leader F.W. de Klerk were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and, in 1994, Mandela voted for the first time in his life and was elected president by the Parliament.

In 1996, he divorced his second wife and remarried again two years later.

In 2001, at 83, Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer and, three years later, announced he was stepping down from public life. For the next dozen years, he was in and out of hospitals and even spent his 95th birthday in one on July 18, 2013. He was visited in 2011 by first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia.

Nelson Mandela’s funeral proceedings on UN Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, 2013, have seldom been matched in their outpouring of sorrow and the huge number of visitors in attendance from all around the world.