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 his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom places Mandela'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 security officer; 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

1955 26 June

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

1956 5 December

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


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

1960 21 March

Sharpeville Massacre

  30 March

A State of Emergency is imposed and he is among thousands detained

  8 April

The ANC is banned


Goes underground; Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed

1962 11 January

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

  23 July

Returns to South Africa

  5 August

Arrested near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal

  7 November

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

1963 27 May

Sent to Robben Island


12 June

Returned to Pretoria Local Prison
  9 October

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

  3 December

Pleads not guilty to sabotage in the Rivonia Trial

1964 4 June

James Kantor discharged and released


  12 June All except Rusty Bernstein are convicted and sentenced to life
  13 June

Arrives on Robben Island

1969 13 July

Thembekile is killed in a car accident

1982 31 March

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

1985 10 February

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

1985 3 November

Admitted to the Volks Hospital for prostate surgery

  23 November 

Discharged from Volks Hospital and returned to Pollsmoor Prison

1988 12 August

Admitted to Tygerberg Hospital where he is diagnosed with tuberculosis

  31 August

Admitted to Constantiaberg MediClinic

  7 December

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

1990 2 February

ANC is unbanned

  11 February


  2 March

Elected ANC Deputy President

1993 10 December

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk

1994 27 April

Votes for the first time in his life

  9 May

Elected by Parliament as first president of a democratic South Africa

  10 May

Inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa


14 December

Launches his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom

Establishes the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund


Divorces Winnie Mandela

1998 18 July

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 1 June

Announces that he will be stepping down from public life

2005 6 January

Announces that his eldest son Makgatho had died of AIDS

2007 13 April

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

2008 27 June Asks future generations to continue the fight for social justice
  18 July

Turns 90 years old


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


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

  11 June

His great-granddaughter Zenani is killed in a car accident

  17 June

Attends the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani

  11 July

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

  18 July

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

  12 October

His second book Conversations with Myself  is published

  18 November

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

2011 January

Admitted to hospital in Johannesburg. Discharged after two nights

  16 May

Votes in the local government elections

  27 June

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

  21 June

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

  18 July

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

  21 October

Officially counted in South Africa’s Census 2011

  25 December

Spends Christmas with family in Qunu, Transkei

2012 25 February

Admitted to hospital

  26 February

Discharged from hospital 


18 July

Celebrates his 94th birthday with his family in Qunu, Transkei

8 December

Admitted to hospital

26 December

Discharged from hospital
2013  1 January

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

  9 March

Admitted to hospital

  10 March 10

Discharged from hospital

  27 March

Admitted to hospital

  6 April

Discharged from hospital

  8 June

Admitted to hospital

  18 July

Spends his 95th birthday in hospital

  1 September

Discharged from hospital

  5 December Passes away at home in Johannesburg