Nelson Mandela Foundation


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who was Nelson Mandela?

    See his biography page.

  2. Can you supply a brief history of Nelson Mandela's life?

    See our Chronology page.

  3. When was Nelson Mandela's birthday?

    18 July.

  4. How old was Nelson Mandela?

    The late former President Mandela was 95 when he died.

  5. What were the names of Nelson Mandela’s parents?

    His father was Nkosi (Chief) Mphakanyiswa Mandela and his mother was Nosekeni Mandela.

  6. When did Nelson Mandela’s parents die?

    His father died in 1930 when Mr Mandela was 12 and his mother died in 1968 when he was in prison. 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.

  7. What does the name "Madiba" mean?

    Madiba is the name of the Thembu clan to which Mr Mandela belongs. It gets its name from a 19th century chief. All the members of this clan can be called Madiba. Mr Mandela was called Madiba as a sign of both respect and affection.

  8. How many brothers and sisters did Nelson Mandela have?

    Mr Mandela’s father had four wives and a total of 13 children. With Mr Mandela’s mother he had four children – Mr Mandela and three daughters. Mr Mandela had three full sisters, three half-brothers and six half-sisters.

  9. How tall was Nelson Mandela?


  10. Who are Nelson Mandela’s biological family?

    Mr Mandela had a big family. He had two daughters and two sons with his first wife, Evelyn Mase, and two daughters with his second wife, Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela. He had four stepchildren from his marriage to Graca Machel. Only three of his children are still alive – his daughters Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi. He is survived by his daughters and his 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. 

  11. How many marriages did Nelson Mandela have and to whom?

    Mr Mandela was married three times. He was first married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944. They separated in 1955 and divorced in 1958. She died in 2004. They had two daughters and two sons. Their baby daughter, Makaziwe, died at the age of nine months. Their eldest son, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi), was killed at the age of 24 in a car accident in 1969 while Mr Mandela was in prison. He was not allowed to attend the funeral. Their second son, Makgatho Lewanika, died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In March 1958 Mr Mandela and his wife divorced. In June 1958 Mr Mandela married Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. They divorced in 1996. On his 80th birthday in 1998 Mr Mandela married Graca Machel, who brought two children and two step-children into the marriage.

  12. What was apartheid?

    Apartheid was the official policy of the National Party, which became the governing party of South Africa in 1948. Apartheid, which means "separateness", was the practice of official racial segregation in every aspect of life. Under apartheid, everyone in South Africa had to be classified according to a particular racial group. This classification determined where someone could be born, where they could live, where they could go to school, where they could work, where they could be treated if they were sick and where they could be buried if they died. Only white people could vote and they had the best opportunities and the most money was spent on their facilities. Apartheid made others live in poverty. Black South Africans' lives were strictly controlled. Many thousands of people died in the struggle to end apartheid.

  13. What was Nelson Mandela’s vision during the apartheid era?

    Mr Mandela's vision during the apartheid era was for the eradication of racism and for the establishment of a constitutional democracy. He envisioned a South Africa in which all its citizens had equal rights and where every adult would have the right to vote for the government of his or her choice.

  14. What beliefs and actions influenced Nelson Mandela as a leader?

    Mr Mandela was driven by an unshakeable belief in the equality of all people and his determination to overthrow the system of apartheid in South Africa. He helped to organise and to lead many peaceful campaigns, but after violent disruptions by the state and its outlawing of the opposition organisations, it became clear to him and his comrades that peaceful protest was impossible. In 1961 they decided to turn to an armed struggle and established Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) – also known as MK – as an army for freedom fighters.

  15. Which organisations did Nelson Mandela establish?

    Mr Mandela helped to found the African National Congress Youth League in 1944. He also helped in 1961 to establish Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress and was its first Commander-in-Chief. When he was President of South Africa he started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and donated one-third of his salary every month to the organisation. In 1999 after he stepped down as President he started the Nelson Mandela Foundation as a post-presidential office and charity to assist in various causes. In 2003 he founded the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to assist postgraduate students from throughout Africa to further their studies. He also established the Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development

  16. What were the details of Nelson Mandela’s prison time?

    Mr Mandela was arrested on several occasions and stood trial four times. On 30 July 1952, he and 19 of his comrades were arrested for their role in the Defiance Campaign. They stood trial and were found guilty on 2 December 1952 of "statutory communism", which the apartheid regime used against people who opposed its laws. You did not have to be a communist to be convicted of statutory communism. They were sentenced to nine months in prison with hard labour, suspended for five years.

    On 5 December 1956 Mr Mandela and scores of others were arrested on charges of high treason. They were released on bail about two weeks later. At the end of the four-and-a-half year trial, the last 28 remaining accused were acquitted.

    During the Treason Trial the African National Congress was outlawed and at the end of the trial Mr Mandela began operating secretly. Later that year, Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, was formed with Mr Mandela as its Commander-in-Chief. He left the country secretly at the beginning of 1962 for military training and to gather support for the armed struggle. He was arrested in South Africa on 5 August 1962 about two weeks after he returned to the country. He was charged for leaving the country without a passport and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced on 7 November 1962 to five years in prison. He started serving his sentence in Pretoria Local Prison but was sent to Robben Island on 27 May 1963. He was transferred back to Pretoria about two weeks later. On 9 October 1963 he was brought to stand trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Most of the accused in that trial had been arrested at Liliesleaf farm in Johannesburg on 11 July 1963. On 11 June 1964 eight of the nine remaining accused were convicted of sabotage and the next day they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

  17. On what day was Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment?

    12 June 1964.

  18. On what day was Nelson Mandela released from prison?

    11 February 1990.

  19. Where can I find quotes by Nelson Mandela?

    Contact the Nelson Mandela Foundation at for authenticated quotations. You will also find his speeches in the database section of our website. They are searchable by word.

  20. Is the quote about "your deepest fear" something Nelson Mandela said?

    No. This is a quote by the American author Marianne Williamson and it has been incorrectly attributed to Mr Mandela.

  21. How do you pronounce Graca Machel?

    Gra-ss-ah Ma-shell.

  22. Who is the head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation?

    The Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation is Mr Sello Hatang.

  23. How many people did Nelson Mandela free?

    The liberation movements freed all the people of South Africa.

  24. What books about Nelson Mandela are suitable for children?

    The Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom; Long Walk to Freedom (Children’s Version) abridged by Chris Van Wyk; Nelson Mandela: The Authorised Comic Book available in English, American English, French and Dutch

  25. How many books did Nelson Mandela author?

    Six. No Easy Walk to Freedom - a collection of his writings and speeches first published in 1965; Long Walk to Freedom – his autobiography, published in 1994; Conversations with Myself, published in 2010; Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations, published in 2011; Dare Not Linger, published in 2017, based on his unfinished memoirs and completed by Mandla Langa; The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, published in 2018.