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67 Moments in Mandela’s life – His Childhood

As South Africa commemorates Nelson Mandela Day, here are some of the highlights of his life. Starting with his childhood, we will be capturing some of the moments of his life.

  • On July 18, 1918, he was born Rolihlahla Mandela at Mvezo, Transkei. His name directly translated as pulling branches off a tree. Although creating a perception that he was a trouble maker, others say his name refers to ‘clearing out branches from a tree’, as in old branches.
  • He was given the name Nelson at primary school he attended in Qunu. It was a belief of schools then that each child needed to be given a Christian name.
  • Mandela described one of the moments he remembered of his father when he was called to council and he refused, this was probably an indication of where he got his ‘stubbornness’ from.
  • He was 12 years old when his father died and entrusted to Thembu Regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who raised him up as his own son. In 1934, Mandela attended Clarkebury Institute in Engcobo.
  • While at boarding school, he recalled being a prefect, and a part of his responsibilities was to take down the names of boys relieving themselves in public. One night while on duty, he approached a number of boys he spotted committing the indecency – when he noticed the offenders were prefects, he tore the list he had compiled earlier in the evening. This incident indicated the character of the man.
  • During his teenage years, he met his first love, Winnie Madikizela; and during a Sunday lunch date, he described how he struggled eating using utensils.
  • He enrolled at the University of Fort Hare in 1940, where his view of the world around him was expanded. While at the university, he was expelled for not accepting a leadership position – his reasons were that he believed it was not the entire university that voted for the leadership.
  • In 1941, together with his brother Justice (biological son of the Regent), he escaped from home after the Regent arranged a marriage for both of them. The woman chosen for Mandela, Justice fancied and vice-versa. After a long discussion the boys decided to escape. The escape was not easy, the boys used the influence of the Regent to succeed in their endeavour.
  • His first job in Johannesburg was as a night watchman at a mine in the South of Johannesburg. He later found himself unemployed, after it was discovered that the Regent did not give consent for the boys to leave their home.
  • Mandela lived in Alexandra, while he started with articles at a law firm, Witkin Sidelsky and Eidelma. He would travel to work on foot during this time – it was at this firm where he met Walter Sisulu.
  • While doing his articles, Mandela furthered his studies. He completed a BA through the University of South Africa (UNISA) in 1942; the same year he started attending African National Congress (ANC) meetings. This was despite the advice of his employers at the time.

Information sourced from the Nelson Mandela Foundation




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