[QODLink]
Special series

I knew Mandela

Who was the man behind the legend? We get an insight into Nelson Mandela's life through the eyes of people who knew him

Last updated: 06 Dec 2013 15:04
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

"If we did not have a Mandela … the history of this country would be different," says Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela's second wife.

He had a face recognised by millions, a reputation admired worldwide, and a style all of his own. But who was the man behind the legend?

Special Edition
For a unique look at the life of the world's most famous prisoner-turned-president, download our Mandela magazine.

Nelson Rolihlahla was born in 1918 in a small village in South Africa.

His name meant 'troublemaker', one who stirs things up. Later South Africans would call him Madiba, his clan name and an affectionate nickname.

His father died when he was nine years old. He went to stay with his uncle, a royal chief. Seeing the chief dispense justice set in motion a lifetime desire to fight for equality and democracy.

At university he studied law but his political activities got him expelled, so he moved to Johannesburg where he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a political party opposed to South Africa's racial segregation.

Known as 'apartheid' this system of government legally allowed for discrimination against non-whites. "He was the leader deliberately chosen by the ANC to be a symbol of resistance," Winnie Mandela says.

Mandela played an active and vocal role opposing the policies of South Africa's nationalist government. He took his activities underground in the 1960s, but was soon arrested, convicted of sabotage and treason and imprisoned for life.

He was released 27 years later, and was at the forefront of ushering in a new democratic dawn for the country.

Mandela helped build a new image for South Africa and although he spent the last years of his life away from the public eye, he will always be remembered as a man who inspired the world.

"The world needs symbols, the world needs to highlight the best of values we can find in certain human beings, we deliberately, minimise his weaknesses and we minimise his vulnerabilities because that's what counts. We even overvalue what he means in goodness." Says Graca Machel, his third wife, who he lived with until his death in 2013.

I Knew Mandela talks to Nelson Mandela's family and the people who met him, to uncover the life of a legend who, in many ways, changed how South Africa is viewed by others and by itself.

389

Source:
Al Jazeera
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Friends of Steven Sotloff, allegedly the second journalist shown in Islamic State beheading video, call for his release.
Cut off from bulk of Tunisia's economic development, residents of rural towns are creating their own opportunities.
Craft breweries see rising sales, challenging large corporations for a bigger taste of Mexico's $20bn beer market.
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Students kept from using screen-based technology for five days showed improvement in recognizing emotion, US study says.
join our mailing list