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Mandela's words, "The struggle is my life," are not to be taken lightly. Nelson Mandela personifies struggle. He is still leading the fight againstapartheid with extraordinary vigour and resilience after spending nearlythree decades of his life behind bars. He has sacrificed his private lifeand his youth for his people, and remains South Africa's best known andloved hero. Mandela has held numerous positions in the ANC: ANCYL secretary (1948);ANCYL president (1950); ANC Transvaal president (1952); deputy nationalpresident (1952) and ANC president (1991). He was born at Qunu, near Umtata on 18 July 1918. His father, Henry Mgadla Mandela, was chief councillor to Thembuland'sacting paramount chief David Dalindyebo. When his father died, Mandelabecame the chief's ward and was groomed for the chieftainship. Mandela matriculated at Healdtown Methodist Boarding School and then starteda BA degree at Fort Hare. As an SRC member he participated in a studentstrike and was expelled, along with the late Oliver Tambo, in 1940. Hecompleted his degree by correspondence from Johannesburg, did articles ofclerkship and enrolled for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1944 he helped found the ANC Youth League, whose Programme of Action was adopted by the ANCin 1949. Mandela was elected national volunteer-in-chief of the 1952 DefianceCampaign. He travelled the country organising resistance to discriminatorylegislation. He was given a suspended sentence for his part in the campaign. Shortlyafterwards a banning order confined him to Johannesburg for six months.During this period he formulated the "M Plan", in terms of which ANCbranches were broken down into underground cells. By 1952 Mandela and Tambo had opened the first black legal firm in thecountry, and Mandela was both Transvaal president of the ANC and deputynational president. A petition by the Transvaal Law Society to strike Mandela off the roll ofattorneys was refused by the Supreme Court. In the 'fifties, after being forced through constant bannings to resignofficially from the ANC, Mandela analysed the Bantustan policy as apolitical swindle. He predicted mass removals, political persecutions andpolice terror. For the second half of the 'fifties, he was one of the accused in theTreason Trial. With Duma Nokwe, he conducted the defence. When the ANC was banned after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, he wasdetained until 1961 when he went underground to lead a campaign for a newnational convention. Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC, was born the sameyear. Under his leadership it launched a campaign of sabotage againstgovernment and economic installations. In 1962 Mandela left the country for military training in Algeria and toarrange training for other MK members. On his return he was arrested for leaving the country illegally and forincitement to strike. He conducted his own defence. He was convicted andjailed for five years in November 1962. While serving his sentence, he wascharged, in the Rivonia trial, with sabotage and sentenced to lifeimprisonment. A decade before being imprisoned, Mandela had spoken out against theintroduction of Bantu Education, recommending that community activists "makeevery home, every shack or rickety structure a centre of learning". Robben Island, where he was imprisoned, became a centre for learning, andMandela was a central figure in the organised political education classes. In prison Mandela never compromised his political principles and was alwaysa source of strength for the other prisoners. During the 'seventies he refused the offer of a remission of sentence if herecognised Transkei and settled there. In the 'eighties he again rejected PW Botha's offer of freedom if herenounced violence. It is significant that shortly after his release on Sunday 11 February 1990,Mandela and his delegation agreed to the suspension of armed struggle. Mandela has honorary degrees from more than 50 international universitiesand is chancellor of the University of the North. He was inaugurated as the first democratically elected State President ofSouth Africa on 10 May 1994 - June 1999Nelson Mandela retired from Public life in June 1999. He currently residesin his birth place - Qunu, Transkei.
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