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Nelson Mandela: A Timeline Of His Life

Nelson Mandela: A Timeline Of His Life

A look back at the milestone moments of South Africa’s former president.

As Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, the world lost one of its most iconic and inspiring leaders.

Here we look back at his most poignant moments, from a boy who was kicked out of university and ran away from his family, to the man who grew up to become the President of South Africa.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela.

1918
On July 18, Rolihlahla Mandela is born in Mveso village on the Eastern Cape of South Africa to parents Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa and Nosekeni Fanny. On starting school, Rolihlahla is given the name ‘Nelson’.

1927
Mandela’s father dies and he is placed under the guardianship of Jongintaba Dalindyebo, acting chief of the Thembu tribe.

1937

Mandela attends Fort Hare University where he meets his life-long friend Oliver Tambo. Two years later Mandela is thrown out after boycotting the university’s policies.

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1939

Mandela runs away from his family and an arranged marriage and finds a new home in Johannesburg where he finishes his university degree and studies law at the University of Witwatersrand.

1943

Mandela becomes a member of the African National Congress (ANC).

1944

Forms the Youth League of the ANC along with Oliver Tambo. Later that year Mandela marries his first wife Evelyn Mase with whom he has four children. Sadly, one dies in infancy.

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1948

The apartheid policy of segregation between black and white people is implemented across South Africa.

1952

Mandela and Oliver Tambo open the first black legal firm in South Africa, providing free or cheap legal aid to black people. Meanwhile, Mandela becomes actively involved in the ANC’s defiance campaign.

1956

Mandela and 155 other political activists are charged with treason, but all are acquitted.

1958
Mandela marries his second wife Winnie after his first marriage ended the year before. Mandela and Winnie have two children together.

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1960

At the Sharpeville Massacre, 69 black South African protestors are shot dead by police. That same year, the ANC is banned and Mandela forms the underground military group ‘The Spear of the Nation’.

1961

Mandela issues a call to arms and becomes leader of the Umkhontoat ANC guerilla movement.

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1962
In August, Mandela is arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, but he escapes and goes on the run.

1964
Two years’ later, Mandela is recaptured and tried for treason and sabotage. Now 46 years old, he is sentenced to life imprisonment and is transferred to Robben Island where he spends the next 18 years of his life.

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1968
Mandela’s eldest son is killed in a car crash and his mother also dies. He is not allowed to attend their funerals.

1968-1988
The United Nations expels Rhodesia because of its apartheid policies. Over 600 protesters die in Soweto and Sharpeville. Oliver Tambo, in exile, launches an international campaign to have Mandela released. International sanctions increase against South Africa, costing millions. An amnesty for dissidents results in the surrender of 122.

1990

February 11, Mandela is freed from prison.

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1990

The ban on the ANC is lifted by President Frederik Willem de Klerk and he begins talks on forming a multi-racial democracy.

1991

Nelson Mandela becomes president of the ANC.

1993

Nelson Mandela and President de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson and Winnie divorce later that year.

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1994

April 26 marks the first time in South Africa that black people have the vote. The ANC wins the election with 252 seats out of 400 and Mandela is inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa. De Klerk is appointed his deputy and together they form the Government of National Unity.

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1995
Mandela wears a Springbok shirt as he presents South Africa with the rugby world cup at the country’s home tournament in Johannesburg. The iconic moment between Mandela and the captain Francois Pienaar becomes legendary and was later immortalised in the film Invictus.

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1998
On July 18 Mandela marries Graca Machel on his 80th birthday.

1999
Mandela relinquishes the presidency of South Africa to Thabo Mbeki.

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2001

Mandela is treated for prostate cancer.

2003

An AIDS fund raising campaign is setup in the name of Mandela’s prison number: 46664.

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2004

At 85 years of age, Mandela announces his retirement from official life. He is granted the honour of the freedom of the city of Johannesburg.

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2009
The United Nations General Assembly declares July 18 ‘Mandela Day’ as a tribute to his contribution to world freedom.

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2013
Mandela, 95, passes away in his Johannesburg home on Thursday 5 December after a prolonged lung infection.

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