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Beyond the Icon: 5 Lesser-Known Facts about Nelson Mandela

Beyond the Icon: 5 Lesser-Known Facts about Nelson Mandela

This week, July 18th, to be exact marked Mandela Day! In honour of his life and legacy: we thought it would be fitting to have a post sharing some facts about him. Nelson Mandela's life was a testament to determination, courage and pursuit of justice. He fought tirelessly for the freedom of black South Africans and to bring to an end the apartheid regime and create equality. He was truly a remarkable person who inspired and continues to inspire people worldwide! 

Before we start on the facts, you may be wondering what is Mandela Day. Its official name is Nelson Mandela International Day, declared by the UN General Assembly in 2009, in commemoration of his birthday. Mandela Day honours his life, work, and legacy and is a day to encourage people to change the world for a better place.

Now that we understand Mandela Day- let us dive into five facts about Madiba. 

1. The name Madiba and Nelson

You may have heard of Mandela being named Madiba and perhaps wondered about the meaning of the name and where it came from. Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan on July 18th 1918. All members of the Madiba clan got the name Madiba. It was a sign of affection and respect.

When he joined primary school, his teacher, Miss Mdingane, named him Nelson. At the time, it was accepted for a teacher to give their students Christian/English names. That is how he got his name Nelson and the meaning behind his name Madiba. 

2. Mandela was married 3 times 

Did you know that Mandela was married a total number of three times? His first wife was Evelyn Ntoko Mase. They married in 1944 and had four children, two daughters and two sons. Their marriage, however, did not last. They separated in 1955 and got divorced in 1958.

Mandela then married Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela in the same year, 1958. They were married for thirty-eight years and had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. They later divorced in 1996. 

Mandela's last wife was Graca Machel. They got married on his 80th birthday in 1998. An interesting fact about Graca is that she was the widow of former Mozambican President: Samora Machel.

3. Mandela wrote three books in his lifetime

Mandela was a prolific writer. Other than his numerous speeches, letters, and articles, he also wrote three books. You might be familiar with his first book, his famous autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1994. He then went on to write two more books under his belt. He published a book in 2010 titled, Conversations with Myself. He then published his final book in 2011 titled Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Book of Quotations. Have you read any of his titles? 

4. Mandela established about 6 organisations 

Nelson Mandela was instrumental in establishing different organisations during his life. He began in 1944 when he aided in founding the African National Congress Youth League. The purpose of the African National Congress Youth League was to galvanise the youth to step up the fight against segregation within South Africa. 

The second organisation he played a key role in setting up was Umkhonto weSizwe. It was the armed wing of the African National Congress, and Madiba became the first Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto weSizwe.

During the time he was in jail, he did not set up any organization. After his release, he became South Africa's first black president. While in office, he started the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and donated a third of his monthly salary to the Fund. 

In 1999, after serving as president for one term, he stepped down and began the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The foundation focused on combatting various charity cases associated with poverty and HIV/AIDS, among others. The foundation also worked at preserving South Africa's history and heritage.

In the year 2003, he founded the Mandela Rhodes Foundation. The Mandela Rhodes Foundation's purpose was to assist postgraduate students throughout Africa to further their studies. Within the same year, he established the Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development. Mandela was passionate about education and believed that it could change the world. Therefore, these foundations held near and dear to his heart.

5. Mandela received over 250 awards

Mandela receiving  the freedom of the city of Tshwane in 2008. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Nelson Mandela received over 250 awards in 40 years. While we will not list all the awards he won, some of the most notable awards he has received include The Noble Peace Prize in 1993; Philadelphia Liberty Medal presented by the then US President Bill Clinton in 1993; Olympic Gold Order in 1994; Anne Frank Medal in 1994; The Hunger Project’s 8th annual Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger in 1994; Freedom of the City of London in 1996; The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002; Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2006. There are tons of awards that he won, and if you are interested in reading the full list, check out this Wikipedia article.

Nelson Mandela lived an exemplary life, and Mandela Day offers the perfect opportunity to honour his work and contributions. As we conclude our blog, we recommend checking out our previous post on lessons kids can learn from his long walk to freedom and our accompanying educational worksheet

We hope you have enjoyed and learnt some facts about the great Nelson Mandela. What other facts would you add to our list?



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