Inspirational Africans: Nelson Mandela

On Inspirational Africans, we feature today Nelson Mandela. Many in our generation may have heard of the legendary Nelson Mandela without knowing what made him so great. This year, as we mark Nelson Mandela International Day on 18th July, we remind ourselves of some facts  about this icon and 10 of his most inspiring quotes.


  1. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and freedom fighter. He lived between July 1918 and December 2013. He was the first black democratically elected president of South Africa ( 1994 to 1999) having led the negotiations and struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.


  1. Mandela studied at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and trained to become a lawyer. He was a co-founder of the country’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo which was committed to defending people affected and discriminated against by the apartheid system. He joined the ANC (African National Congress) party in 1943 and became the leader of its youth wing.


  1. He was arrested in 1962 for conspiracy to overthrow the white apartheid government and was thrown into prison for 27 years serving his sentences on Robben Island, in Pollsmoor Prison and later Victor Verster Prison. In prison, he was kept in a 2m x 2.5m cell with nothing but a mattress on the floor and a bucket for sanitary purposes. He was also made to undergo hard labour during his time in prison but nevertheless managed to gain the respect of the guards by the time he was liberated.


  1. The apartheid government offered to release him on 6 different occasions on condition that he didn’t return to the struggle but he refused their offer each time. He was finally released from prison in 1994 due to international pressure on the apartheid government and civil unrest within South Africa at the time. He made an agreement with the apartheid government to bring an end to their regime. A multi racial election was held and his party, ANC emerged the winner making him the president


  1. As president, Nelson Mandela focused on reconciliation between the country’s multi-racial groups, investigating past human right abuses and providing needed social advancement initiatives such as land reforms, health care and combating poverty. At the end of his first term in office, he refused to run for a second term and was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki. He spent the rest of his years as a statesman respected across the globe and focused on charitable acts and fighting HIV AIDS through his Nelson Mandela Foundation. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours including the Nobel Peace Prize. The UN declared his birthday 18th July as Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of his great works for humanity. We the youth of Africa honour this great man for his selfless dedication to the cause of his people. May many more great leaders rise from Africa.

(Photo credit  WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)

Below are some of Nelson Mandela’s most famous quotes:

  1. 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.
  2. It always seems impossible until it’s done.
  3. Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.
  4. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
  5. 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.
  6. A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.
  7. Any man who changes his principles based on who he is dealing with is not a man who can rule a nation.
  8. Fools multiply when wise men are silent
  1. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
  1. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”



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