A righteous man

December 5 2013

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrikaMiriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Paul Simon, Rufaro Stadium, Harare, Zimbabwe, 1987. Mandela was released from Victor Verster prison in 1990.

July 18 1918: Born in Mvezo, Eastern Cape (Transkei)

1925: School near the village of Qunu, Eastern Cape, given name Nelson by a teacher who insists that pupils have a Christian name

1939: University College of Fort Hare, Alice, Eastern Cape

1940: Expelled from Fort Hare for joining a protest

1941: Moves to Johannesburg to escape arranged marriage, works briefly as a night watchman at a mine, starts work as trainee lawyer at Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman, studies at night

1942: Completes BA (in what?) at University of South Africa, Pretoria

1943: Joins ANC, enrols for law degree at University of Witwatersrand; fails final exams three times, degree is never awarded

1944: Co-founds ANC Youth League, marries Evelyn Mase, with whom he has two sons and two daughters

1951: Elected president of ANC Youth League

1952: Arrested for violating laws aimed at suppressing communism and sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour suspended for two years, opens South Africa’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo, elected ANC deputy president

1956: Arrested and charged with treason, along with 155 others, all are acquitted (the Treason Trials)

1958: Divorces Evelyn Mase and marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela, with whom he has two daughters

1960: Detained following banning of ANC and imposition of a state of emergency

1961: Goes underground, helps to co-found ANC’s military wing and is appointed its commander-in-chief, South Africa becomes a republic May 31 and leaves the Commonwealth

1962: Leaves the country January 11 to travel in Africa, arrested August 5 on return (Marshall Square Prison, Johannesburg), convicted of incitement to strike and leaving country illegally, sentenced November 7 to five years’ imprisonment (Pretoria, Robben Island off coast of Cape Town, Pretoria)

1963: after July 11 police raid on Liliesleaf Farm in Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia also charged with sabotage, Rivonia trial begins in Pretoria October 9

June 11-12 1964: Convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, sent to Robben Island

1982: Transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town, rejects President PW Botha’s offer to free him if he renounces violence, undergoes prostate surgery

1988: Contracts tuberculosis, transferred to Victor Verster prison, outside Cape Town

February 11 1990: Released from prison

1990: Elected ANC deputy president

1991: Elected ANC president

1993: Awarded Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk

April 27 1994: Votes for first time in his life in South Africa’s first democratic election

May 10 1994: Inaugurated as president

1996: Divorces Winnie Mandela

1998: Marries Graca Machel on his 80th birthday

June 14 1999: Steps down after one term as president

2001: Diagnosed with prostate cancer

2002: Begins global campaign to fight AIDS

2004: Withdrawal from public life

2005: Reveals that eldest son, Makgatho, died of an AIDS-related illness

2008: 90th birthday

2010: Public appearance at final of soccer World Cup

2011-13: Hospital visits

December 5 2013: Dies in Johannesburg

I remember the moment I realised Mandela actually was a great man: it was while watching a BBC documentary about him long after his release.

I saw him at Davos during his presidency. I remember him standing with a few people in the snow outside the lower entrance to the old congress centre, near the Extrablatt café. A waiter was standing near him, perhaps hesitating to cross his path. Mandela pulled the chap towards him so that they could be photographed together. I hope the man got the picture.

10 Responses to “A righteous man”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    “We’re on our own now,” I would have written if I were Jacob Zuma’s speechwriter.

    Then I googled the phrase and found that a South African journalist, Brendan Boyle, had used it.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Lance Knobel:

    “A key part of what transformed Davos from a place where third-rate ministers from second-rate countries gathered with a crowd of largely European business executives to a place where major political leaders flocked to be with a truly global business elite was the very real tie that was forged with Nelson Mandela in the 1990s. […]

    Largely through the efforts of Fred Sicre, who was in charge of Africa and the Middle East for WEF in those years, the Forum developed an amazing South African connection.”

    Mandela first went to Davos in 1992. Lance tells a story that is similar to mine, but it must be from hearsay, since we weren’t in Davos in ’92.


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