The Truth About Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela was the greatest person our world has ever seen but do you know the truth about Nelson Mandela? What follows is a list of some of the not so well known facts, the truth about Nelson Mandela…

Nelson Mandela Had Many Names

  • Rolihlahla – At his birth on 18th July 1918, Nelson Mandela was given by his father, the name Rolihlahla. It is a name from the Xhosa language literally meaning, ‘pulling the branch from a tree’. However, the name in Xhosa slang translates to ‘making trouble’ or ‘troublemaker’.
  • Madiba – Many Generations ago the abaThembu tribe settled in a region in the Eastern Cape of South Africa near the Msana river, a tributary of the Mbashe River in Mthatha district. The first king to rule over this land which came to be known as Thembuland was Madiba a Hala. It is Xhosian custom that the name of the founding king of a tribe be passed down through generation to generation. As Nelson Mandela is a direct descendant of the original abaThembu king, he has inherited the Madiba clan name.
  • Buti – During his childhood Nelson Mandela was affectionately known to his family by the name ‘Buti’.
  • Nelson – Mandela was given the name ‘Nelson’ when he went to a Christian primary school as it was the custom of the school to give it’s pupils a Christian name. It is said that his teacher chose the name in honour of Admiral Nelson.
  • Dalibhunga – At the age of 16, Nelson Mandela was circumcised on the banks of the Bashee River. During this traditional initiation into manhood, he was given the name Dalibhuga  ‘creator or founder of the council’ or ‘convenor of the dialogue’
  • Tata – Nelson Mandela is a father figure to many South Africans. He is affectionately known by his people as Tata which is a Xhosa phrase meaning ‘father’.
  • Khulu – Perhaps Tata (father) wasn’t enough. Some South Africans saw it fit to bestow upon Nelson Mandela, the name Khulu which is Xhosian for ‘Grandfather’.

Nelson Mandela’s father Chief Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, had four wives

Nelson Mandela’s mother Nonqaphi Nosekeni was the third of the four wives Mandela’s father was married to.

Mandela’s father died of a lung disease when Nelson Mandela was just nine years old. As his mother could not afford to raise her son he was adopted by his uncle, Jongintaba Dalindyebo, King of the Thembu people.

Nelson was inspired as a boy growing up by listening to stories of times before the arrival of the white man. During his trial he stated,

“…people lived peacefully under the democratic rule of their kings and moved freely and confidently up and down the country…We set up our own Government, we controlled our own armies and we organised our own trade and commerce. The elders would tell us of the wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the Fatherland, as well as the acts of valour by our generals and soldiers during those epic days…”

As a university student, Mandela was into fine clothes and ballroom dancing

Mandela was expelled from University for taking part in a demonstration against bad food

Nelson Mandela ran away from home to the city to escape an arranged marriage.

Mandela’s first job was as a security guard keeping watch over a mine workers’ barracks.

Nelson Mandela married three times.

  • To Evelyn in 1944, to
  • Winnie in 1958 and then to
  • Graça Machel on his 80th birthday in 1988.

Nelson Mandela began study for a law degree (LLB) in 1948. He finally completed his LLB over forty years later in 1989 during the final months of his 26 year prison sentence.

Nelson Mandela was arrested multiple times

  • 22 June 1952 for initiating peaceful campaign protests in Durban
  • 30 July 1952 for “statutory communism”. Stood trial, was found guilty and was given a sentence of nine months’ hard labour which was suspended for two years.
  • 5 December 1955 for “high treason” against the state. The trial began in 1958 with one charge dropped and then the indictment withdrawn by the prosecution.
  • 30 March 1960 after country-wide riots triggered the Sharpville Massacres where 69 protesters were shot by police for burning their ID cards. Mandela was imprisoned without charge under the State of Emergency measures.
  • 5 August 1962 for “inciting workers’ strikes” and “leaving the country without permission”. He stood trial, was found guilty and was given a sentence of five years imprisonment.
  • 9 October 1963 Mandela was charged with “sabotage” and “conspiracy to violently overthrow the government”. The case was initially thrown out for lack of evidence but was resubmitted and eventually on 12 June 1964, resulting in Mandela being found guilty on all charges with a sentence of life imprisonment.

The CIA assisted the South African police with to help secure Mandela’s 1962 arrest. The CIA placed a retired secret agent, Gerard Ludi within the ANC’s inner circle to disclose Mandela’s whereabouts so that a roadblock could be set up to stop and identify Nelson Mandela who was disguised as a chauffeur.

Nelson Mandela was a member of the South African Communist Party

“At his arrest in August 1962, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our Party’s Central Committee.” – See more at:

On 10 May 1994 Mandela was inaugurated South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

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