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Current news 18 Jul 2016

Nelson Mandela International Day — tidbits about the South African leader

Nelson Mandela International Day is held on July 18. In November 2009 the United Nations General Assembly decided to set this day in honor of the former President of South Africa to coincide with the date of his birth. In the body’s resolution 64/13 Mandela’s values, his struggle for democracy, promoting human rights, equality and peace and great humanitarian work are recognized.

To commemorate the day of the former South African president, we will tell you some of the best known facts and some tidbits about the so-called Madiba:

  • Nelson Mandela was a lawyer. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare, the first university to accept black people in South Africa and in 1952 he set up the first law firm in the country with colored lawyers.
  • Thanks to the values he represented, Mandela received approximately 50 honorary doctorates from various universities around the world.
  • His fighting spirit made him one of the most important leaders in the history of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC), which he chaired.
  • In the mid-50s he was arrested with 155 others and tried for high treason. He was prisoner 466/64, i.e. prisoner 466 of 1964. This number is now a global symbol of freedom: for example in 2002 the Nelson Mandela Foundation created a campaign called 46664 to raise awareness about HIV.
  • In 1962, the CIA notified South Africa about Mandela’s location, after which time he was jailed for 27 years.
  • During his long stint in prison he held secret talks with Frederik de Klerk, the South African President. It was a result of these talks that he managed to be released.
  • In 1994, when 20 million South Africans were able to exercise their right to vote for the first time, Nelson Mandela was chosen as the first black president.

But there are more interesting facts about Nelson Mandela that are not as well known, such as for example:

  • The former president’s original name is Rolihlahla Mandela, which means “pulling the branch of a tree”, “troublemaker”. He was named Nelson in school when he was 7 years old. Another name by which he is known is Madiba, as he belonged to the Madiba clan, of the Xhosa ethnic group.
  • It was not until 2008, when the US decided to withdraw Nelson Mandela from the list of suspected terrorists.
  • During his time in prison, the apartheid regime offered him probation six times. But he rejected each offer. In 1969, the South African secret service tried to assassinate him by inventing a false escape mission, but British intelligence foiled the operation.
  • In the ’70s, Mandela wrote his memoirs and buried them in the garden he was cultivating in prison, with the aim of publishing them one day, but the administration discovered them when they were carrying out work and from that time on withdrew his study privileges.
  • He was married three times. In 1944 to Evelyn Mase Ntoko for 13 years, he subsequently married Winnie Madikizela in 1958 and they divorced in 1996 after 38 years of marriage. Finally, in 1998, aged 80, he married Graça Machel, widow of a former president of Mozambique. Nelson Mandela had 6 children, 17 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren at the time of his death. One of his sons died of AIDS, so he was very involved in the fight against this disease.
  • Besides being a lawyer and activist for equality and human rights, Mandela was fond of boxing, Christianity and had a great sense of humor. He starred in a funny story when he met the Spice Girls and said, “This is one of the best moments of my life.”
  • The Harlem Globetrotters and Manchester United football club have declared him an honorary member. He has his own nuclear particle, the “Mandela Nelson”, discovered in 1973 by physicists at the University of Leeds. Mandela also gives his name to a prehistoric species of woodpeckers, the “Australopicus nelsonmandelai”, and an orchid, the “paravanda Nelson Mandela”.
  • In 2012 The Central Bank of South Africa issued a banknote with his face in recognition of his work for the country. Furthermore, South African Airways, the largest airline in South Africa, has Mandela’s silhouette painted on its aircrafts.

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