To condense all of Mr Nelson Mandela's achievements into one chronology would be impossible; as a result, we do not claim that our work here is comprehensive. Below you will find a chronology of important events in his life. It is a work in progress and we are happy to receive your comments or additions.

Year Date Event
1918 July 18

Born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo in the Transkei


Attends primary school near Qunu (receives the name ‘Nelson’ from a teacher)


Father dies.* Entrusted to Thembu Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo at the age of 12

*While the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom places Madiba’s father’s death in 1927, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930.


Undergoes initiation; Attends Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo


Attends Healdtown, the Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort


Enrols at the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice




Escapes an arranged marriage; becomes a mine night watchman; Starts articles at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman


Completes BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA)


Begins to attend African National Congress (ANC) meetings informally


Graduates with BA from Fort Hare; Enrols for an LLB at Wits University


Co-founds the ANC Youth League (ANCYL); marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase – they have four children: Thembekile (1945); Makaziwe (1947 – who dies after nine months); Makgatho (1950); Makaziwe (1954)


Elected national secretary of the ANCYL


Elected President of the ANCYL


Defiance Campaign begins; Arrested and charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act; Elected Transvaal ANC President; Convicted with J.S Moroka, Walter Sisulu and 17 others under the Suppression of Communism Act; Sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years; Elected first of ANC deputy presidents; Opens South Africa’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo


Devises the M-Plan for the ANC’s future underground operations


Watches as the Congress of the People at Kliptown launches the Freedom Charter


Arrested and joins 155 others on trial for Treason. All are acquitted by 29 March 1961


Divorces Evelyn Mase; Marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela – they have two daughters: Zenani (1959) and Zindzi (1960)

1960 March 21

Sharpeville Massacre

  March 30

A State of Emergency imposed and he is among thousands detained

  April 8

The ANC is banned


Goes underground; Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed

1962 January 11

Leaves the country for military training and to garner support for the ANC

  July 23

Returns to South Africa

  August 5

Arrested near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal

  November 7

Sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country without a passport

1963 May 27

Sent to Robben Island


June 12

Returned to Pretoria Local Prison
  October 9

Appears in court for the first time in what becomes known as the Rivonia Trial, with Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel 'Rusty' Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, James Kantor, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni

  December 3

Pleads not guilty to sabotage in what becomes known as the Rivonia Trial

1964 June 11

All except Rusty Bernstein and James Kantor are convicted and sentenced (June 12) to life

  June 13

Arrives on Robben Island

1969 July 13

Thembekile is killed in a car accident

1982 March 31

Mr Mandela, Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and Andrew Mlangeni and later Ahmed Kathrada are sent to Pollsmoor Prison

1985 February 10

Rejects, through his daughter, Zindzi, South African President PW Botha's offer to release him if he renounces violence

1985 November 3

Admitted to the Volks Hospital for prostate surgery

  November 23 

Discharged from Volks Hospital and returned to Pollsmoor Prison

1988 August 12

Admitted to Tygerberg Hospital where he is diagnosed with Tuberculosis

  August 31

Admitted to Constantiaberg MediClinic

  December 7

Moved to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl where he was held for 14 months in a cottage

1990 February 2

ANC is unbanned

1990 February 11


  March 2

Elected ANC Deputy President

1993 December 10

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with FW de Klerk

1994 April 27

Votes for the first time in his life

  May 9

Elected by Parliament as first president of a democratic South Africa

  May 10

Inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa


December 14

Launches his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom

Establishes the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund


Divorces Winnie Mandela

1998 July 18

Marries Graça Machel on his 80th birthday


Steps down after one term as President, establishes the Nelson Mandela Foundation


Diagnosed with prostate cancer


Establishes the Mandela Rhodes Foundation

2004 June 1

Announces that he will be stepping down from public life

2005 January 6

Announces that his eldest son Makgatho had died of AIDS

2007 April 13

Attends the installation of his grandson Mandla as chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council

2008  July 18

Turns 90 years old, asks future generations to continue the fight for social justice


Votes for the fourth time in his life; Attends the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma on May 9 and witnesses Zuma's first State of the Nation address; Turns 91


Is formally presented with the Fifa World Cup trophy before it embarks on a tour of South Africa

2010 June 11

His great-granddaughter Zenani is killed in a car accident

2010 June 17

Attends the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani

2010 July 11

Makes a surprise appearance at the Final of the Fifa World Cup in Soweto

2010 July

Celebrates his 92nd birthday at home in Johannesburg with family and friends

2010 October 12

His second book Conversations with Myself  is published

2010 November 18

Meets the South African and American football teams that played in the Mandela Challenge match

2011 January

Is admitted to hospital in Johannesburg where he was diagnosed with a chest infection. He is discharged after two nights

2011 May 16

Votes in the local government elections

2011 June 27

His book Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations is launched

2011 June 21

Is visited at home by American First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia

2011 July 18

Celebrates his 93rd birthday with his family in Qunu, Eastern Cape

2011 October 21

Is officially counted in South Africa’s Census 2011

2011 December 25

Spends Christmas with family in Qunu

2012 February 25

Admitted to hospital for abdominal complaint

  February 26

Discharged from hospital 


July 18

Celebrates his 94th birthday with his family in Qunu, Eastern Cape

December 8

Is admitted to hospital

December 26

Is discharged from hospital
2013  January 1

Spends New Year’s Day with members of his family in Johannesburg

  March 9

Is admitted to hospital

  March 10

Is discharged from hospital

  March 27

Is admitted to hospital

  April 6

Is discharged from hospital

  June 8

Is admitted to hospital

  July 18

Spends his 95th birthday in hospital

  September 1

Is discharged from hospital

  December 5 Dies 5th December 2013