47 Interesting Facts About Nelson Mandela

Last updated on September 11th, 2018

32. Nelson Mandela was diagnosed with Tuberculosis on August 12, 1988, after which he was shifted to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.

33. Mandela was released from prison, on the orders of F. W. de Klerk, the then South African state President, on February 11, 1990.

Nelson Mandela facts for kids

34. Nelson Mandela is known for the anti-apartheid movement both in South Africa and internationally.

35. Apartheid was a government policy that segregated whites from non-whites. It meant that white and non-white people could not marry each other, could not share a table in a restaurant, could not form sports teams and could not live in the same area. The policy was to discriminate between people based on their color and not allow them to have equal rights.

36. Nelson Mandela retired from politics in 1999, and advocated peace and social justice in his home country and around the world until his death in 2013.

37. His original name was “Rolihlahla” Mandela. One of his teachers named him “Nelson” out of a common practice of giving African students English names.

38. As a sign of respect, many South Africans referred to Nelson Mandela as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name.

39. During his time in school, he excelled at sports such as boxing and track, as well as in academics.

40. Nelson Mandela was arrested along with other 155 activists for the first time on December 5, 1956.

41. Nelson Mandela rose to international fame when he made a statement during the “Rivonia trial” that if the situation demands, he is ready to die for his ideal of a democratic and free society that promotes equal opportunities and harmony for the public.

42. Kids, did you know that Nelson Mandela has a species of spider and a prehistoric woodpecker (Australopicus nelsonmandelai) named after him?

43. South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup under the government of Nelson Mandela.

44. Mandela was a fan of Mahatma Gandhi, and he admired him a lot for his peaceful nonviolence in India during that time.

45. He was also the recipient of more than 250 awards, including honorary degrees from more than 50 universities worldwide.

46. Mandela was on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008, when the then-President George W. Bush signed a bill removing Mandela from it.

47. In 1990, Nelson Mandela became the Second non-citizen and first non-Indian recipient of Bharat Ratna, which is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. Other famous people that have been conferred upon with the award include A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Mother Teresa.

You can find the list of Mandela’s fellow prisoners, friends and political adversaries here.

Mandela’s famous speeches

During his life, Mandela addressed thousands of people with his speeches. Some of the titles of his famous speeches are:

‘Black Man In A White Man’s Court’

This was Mandela’s first court statement, in Pretoria, October, 1962.

‘An ideal I am prepared to die for’

This is considered as Mandela’s best speech after he had already been sentenced for two years.

‘Address in Capetown’

Delivered in February, 1990; this was Mandela’s speech after he was freed from prison. He used the same words to close the speech as he had used in his famous 1964 speech.

‘The 100-days speech’

Delivered in August, 1994 after completing his first hundred days in office as the President of South Africa.

‘Don’t call me, I’ll call You’

Delivered in June, 2004, Mandela spoke to the public during his years of retirement from the government; but his retirement was not from social activism meant to help people all over the world fight against oppression and injustice.

Famous & inspirational quotes by Nelson Mandela

  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
  • “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
  • “People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.”
  • “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
  • “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
  • “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
  • “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
  • “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
  • “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
  • “Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what they had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment?”
  • “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
  • “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”
  • “When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.”

Nelson Mandela – Quick facts

Born18 July 1918
Mvezo, Cape Province, Union of South Africa
Died5 December 2013 (aged 95)
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Languages KnownXhosa (first language)
Age At the time of death95 years
Field of WorkActivist
Books1. Long Walk to Freedom
2. Conversations With Myself
3. The Struggle is My Life
4. The Essential Nelson Mandela
AwardsSakharov Prize (1988)
Bharat Ratna (1990)
Nobel Peace Prize (1993)
Order of Lenin
Presidential Medal of Freedom
ContributionsAnti-Apartheid Movement
EducationUniversity of Fort Hare
UoL External Programme
University of South Africa
University of the Witwatersrand
ParentsGadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (c. 1880-1928)
Nosekeni Fanny