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18 July

Born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo in the Transkei

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

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

Qunu is a small rural village in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes Qunu as where he spent the happiest moments of his childhood.

Nelson Mandela - a man of many names

"My experiences in the veld where we worked and played together in groups introduced me at an early age to the ideas of collective effort."

Entrusted to Thembu Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo

Nelson Mandela's father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was the chief "by blood and custom" of Mvezo, a position confirmed by the Regent of the Thembu, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. After his death in 1930, young Nelson was entrusted to the Regent.

While his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom says Mandela's father’s died when he was nine, 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. This date also appears in a document written in Mandela's own hand in 1964.

"I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock letting the most nimble go on ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind."

Undergoes initiation; Attends Clarkebury Boarding Institute in Engcobo

"If there is one appeal I could make, it is that young people must take it upon themselves to ensure that they receive the highest education possible so that they can represent us well in future as future leaders."

Attends Healdtown, the Wesleyan College at Fort Beaufort

"It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education."

Enrols at the University College of Fort Hare, in Alice

In a letter to his eldest daughter Maki Mandela, Nelson Mandela writes: "As you know I was baptised in the Methodist Church and was educated in Wesleyan schools - Clarkebury, Healdtown and at Fort Hare. I stayed at Wesley House. At Fort Hare I even became a Sunday school teacher."



Both Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were expelled from Fort Hare in 1940 for political activism.

"I knew it was foolhardy of me to leave Fort Hare, but at the moment when I needed to compromise, I simply could not do so. Something inside me would not let me."

Escapes an arranged marriage; becomes a mine night watchman


Completes BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA)

"To our generation, education became a key to unlock the gates of oppression, a tool against the warped logic of the slave-master. Institutions of learning became the centre to challenge colonial domination and injustice. For this, the thorny gown and cap of achievement were detention, death, exile and long terms of imprisonment."

Begins to attend African National Congress (ANC) meetings informally


Attends his BA graduation at Fort Hare; Enrols for an LLB at Wits University; Enrols as law clerk

"I never felt entirely comfortable there. Always to be the only African, except for menial workers, to be regarded at best a curiosity and at worst as an interloper, is not a congenial experience." - speaking about his time at Wits University.

Co-founds the ANC Youth League (ANCYL); marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase – they have four children

Nelson Mandela had four children with Evelyn Ntoko Mase – Thembekile (1945); Makaziwe (1947 – who died after nine months); Makgatho (1950); Makaziwe (1954)

"I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you, the young lions. You, the young lions, have energised our entire struggle."

Elected national secretary of the ANCYL

"The history of the ANC Youth League stands as testimony to the constructive role the organised youth of a country can and should play in helping to shape the course of that society."

Watches in secret as the Congress of the People adopts the Freedom Charter

"As reflected in our historic policy document, the Freedom Charter, we are committed to ensure all our citizens enjoy equal rights to their languages, culture and religious freedoms."

Elected President of the ANCYL

We are the product of a collective leadership and almost everything we have achieved we have achieved together.

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

"Defiance was a step of great political significance. It released strong social forces which affected thousands of our countrymen. It was an effective way of getting the masses to function politically, a powerful method of voicing our indignation against the reactionary policies of the government."

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

Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo initiated the M-plan (M for Mandela), a strategy where the ANC would be broken down into cells so that it could continue to operate underground. 

"We are at a crucial conjuncture in mobilising the collective energies of humankind towards working together for a more humane, compassionate and just world."

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

"Hardly anybody believed that we would be convicted. In fact in the case itself, people read and finished books, novels; they were not concerned with the proceedings."

Divorces Evelyn Mase; Marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela – they have two daughters

"Comrade Nomzamo and myself contracted our marriage at a critical time in the struggle for liberation in our country. Owing to the pressures of our shared commitment to the ANC and the struggle to end apartheid, we were unable to enjoy a normal family life. Despite these pressures, our love for each other and our devotion to our marriage grew and intensified."
21 March

Sharpeville Massacre

The Nelson Mandela Foundation remembers Sharpeville Massacre victims

"Out of the many Sharpevilles which haunt our history was born the unshakeable determination that respect for human life, liberty and well-being must be enshrined as rights beyond the power of any force to diminish."
30 March

A State of Emergency imposed and he is among thousands detained

"The apartheid regime had put law and order in disrepute. The human rights of the majority of the population were ruthlessly suppressed, there was detention without trial, torture and murder of political activists."
8 April

The ANC is banned

"The banning and confinement of leaders, banishments and deportations, imprisonment and even death, have never deterred South African compatriots."

Goes underground; Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) is formed

"It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe."
11 January

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

"My tour was successful beyond all our hopes. Wherever I went I met sympathy for our cause and promises of help. All Africa was united against the stand of white South Africa, and even in London I was received with great sympathy."
23 July

Returns to South Africa

"I returned to South Africa and reported to my colleagues on the results of my trip. On my return I found that there had been little alteration in the political scene save that the threat of a death penalty for sabotage had now become a fact."
5 August

Arrested near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal

His 27 years in prison starts on this day.

"The policeman was doing his duty, he did it according to the law, he was courteous. He treated me with respect and I had no reason to be bitter at all about a policeman doing his duty. Where we get annoyed is where the police abuse their powers and do things which are impermissible."
7 November

Sentenced to five years for incitement and leaving the country illegally

"Other people will be driven in the same way in this country, by this very same force of police persecution and of administrative action by the government, to follow my course, of that I am certain."
27 May

Sent to Robben Island

"It is only my flesh and bones that are shut up behind these tight walls. Otherwise I remain cosmopolitan in my outlook; in my thoughts I am as free as a falcon."
12 June

Returned to Pretoria Local Prison

I hate being moved from one prison to another. It involves much inconvenience and degrading treatment.

Appears in court with nine others for what becomes known as the Rivonia Trial

Charged for sabotage in 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

"The Rivonia Trial aroused emotions tremendously and the way we conducted the trial where the government was hoping to put us in the dock, we put the government in the dock; right from our plea, we made it clear that this was a unique trial and we said it is the government that should be in the dock, not us. We plead not guilty."
20 April

Delivers his famous speech from the dock in the Rivonia Trial

At the start of the defence case in the Rivonia Trial, Nelson Mandela delivered a speech from the dock which also became known as his “Prepared to Die" speech.

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
12 June

Sentenced to life with Sisulu, Mbeki, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Motsoaledi, Goldberg and Mlangeni

"When we faced the prospect of the death sentence, we knew, we resolved to walk the plank, not protesting our innocence, but proclaiming the justness of our ideals and the certainty of their triumph."
13 June

Arrives on Robben Island

Video: Reflections on prison life

"Prison is itself a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is, above all, a test of one’s commitment. Those who passed through that school have all acquired a firmness, tempered by a remarkable resilience."
13 July

Thembekile is killed in a car accident

Madiba Thembekile Mandela, Nelson Mandela's eldest son, is killed in a car accident 

"Suddenly my heart seemed to have stopped beating and the warm blood that had freely flown in my veins for the last fifty-one years froze into ice. For some time I could neither think nor talk and my strength appeared to be draining out."
31 March

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

"To be moved to another place was really upsetting, but we soon got used to it."
10 February

Rejects South African President PW Botha’s offer of conditional release

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

"I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return."
3 November

Admitted to the Volks Hospital for prostate surgery

12 August

Admitted to Tygerberg Hospital where he is diagnosed with tuberculosis

"I have suffered from illnesses which have a stigma. When I was in prison I contracted TB and there are many people who do not want to have anything to do with somebody who has tuberculosis."
31 August

Admitted to Constantiaberg MediClinic

7 December

Moved to Victor Verster Prison where he spends the last 14 months of his imprisonment

On 7 December Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl. He was held for 14 months in a cottage until he was released on 11 February 1990.

2 February

ANC is unbanned

F.W. de Klerk's speech at the opening of Parliament 2 February 1990

"Let us remember that despite oppression, despite hangings, bannings, imprisonments and exile, our Liberation Movement united like no other in the world."
11 February


On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was finally released.

Read Mandela's speech given in Cape Town on the day he was set free

"Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all! I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands."
2 March

Elected ANC Deputy President

5 July

Elected president of the ANC

10 December

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with FW de Klerk

Nelson Mandela holds his Nobel Lecture on 10 December 1993, in the Oslo City Hall, Norway

"A man does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards, but when I was notified that I had won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Mr de Klerk, I was deeply moved."
27 April

Votes for the first time in his life

Read Nelson Mandela's statement after voting in South Africa's first democratic election

"I waited for over seventy years to cast my first vote. I chose to do it near the grave of John Dube, the first President of the ANC, the African patriot that had helped found the organisation in 1912. I voted not for myself alone but for many who took part in our struggle."
9 May

Elected by Parliament as first president of a democratic South Africa

10 May

Inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa

"I, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, do hereby swear to devote myself to the well-being of the Republic of South Africa and all its people."
14 December

Launches his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom

"What a sweet euphemism for self-praise the English language has evolved! Autobiography."

Establishes the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

Read Nelson Mandela's speech at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund

"Our love for children is undiminished. Their innocence and energy, their happiness and welfare must be protected and treasured. It is their laughter that I yearned for while in prison. My Children’s Fund will continue to bring hope to children and young people."

Divorces Winnie Mandela

"Physical suffering is nothing compared to the trampling down of those tender bonds of affection that form the basis of the institution of marriage and the family that unite man and wife."
18 July

Marries Graça Machel on his 80th birthday

"I would hope that the average individual experiences one of the highest levels of emotional attachments, satisfaction and happiness when in love."

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

"Shortly after I became president I publicly announced that I would serve one term only and would not seek re-election."

Diagnosed with prostate cancer

I had prostate cancer and then I discussed it with my prison friends, “Look, I’d better be the one who announces publicly that I have cancer because if I go to a doctor to treat me they are going to go around whispering ‘did you know that Mandela has cancer?'"

Establishes the Mandela Rhodes Foundation

"A new generation of potential leaders is beginning to emerge on the African continent. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation will nurture these young people, helping to stimulate their creativity, even as they acquire the skills that will help reshape the destiny of our continent."
1 June

Announces that he will be stepping down from public life

"I do not intend to hide away totally from the public, but henceforth I want to be in the position of calling you to ask whether I would be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events. The appeal therefore is don’t call me, I’ll call you."
6 January

Announces that his eldest son Makgatho had died of AIDS

"I hope that as time goes on we will realise that it is important for us to talk openly about people who die from AIDS."

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

25 June

On his last trip to London, appeals for all to become more involved in fight for social justice

"The world remains beset by so much suffering, poverty and deprivation. It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalised."
18 July

Turns 90 years old

View Madiba's 90th birthday message

"We are honoured that you wish to celebrate the birthday of a retired old man who no longer has power and influence."

Votes for the fourth time in his life and turns 91

The UN declares 18 July international Mandela Day in recognition of Nelson Mandela's contribution to global peace and freedom.

"We are humbled by the call for an annual Mandela Day in our honour."

Is formally presented with the Fifa World Cup trophy before it tours South Africa

Nelson Mandela speaks about what it means for South Africa to host the FIFA World Cup

11 June

His great-granddaughter Zenani is killed in a car accident; attends funeral six days later

"There are few experiences in life as painful as that of a parent losing a child to death. No matter what the circumstances are, that loss cuts to the core of our relationships as human beings."

Celebrates his 92nd birthday at home in Johannesburg

I am sure if I go to heaven and then they say, “Who are you?” I say, “No, I’m Madiba” – “From Qunu?” I say, “Yes”. They’ll say, “You are daring to come here with all your sins”. They will say, “Please go away and knock in hell, they might accept you there”.
11 July

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


His second book Conversations with Myself is released

18 November

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

"Soccer is one of the sporting disciplines in which Africa is rising to demonstrate her excellence, for too long latent in her womb."

Is admitted to hospital in Johannesburg

Discharged after two nights.

16 May

Votes in the local government elections

21 June

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

27 June

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

18 July

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

21 October

Is officially counted in South Africa’s Census 2011

25 February

Admitted to hospital for abdominal complaint. Discharged after one night

18 July

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

8 December

Is admitted to hospital and discharged 18 days later



Is admitted to hospital on 9 March

Is discharged from hospital on 10 March

Is admitted to hospital on 27 March

Is discharged from hospital on 6 April

Is admitted to hospital on 8 June

18 July

Spends his 95th birthday in hospital

1 September

Is discharged from hospital

5 December

Dies at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg

Dies at his Houghton home at age 95. Is surrounded by close family.

Read the family's statement

Visitors pay tribute to Madiba at the Nelson Mandela Foundation