Nelson Rolihlahla Madela's Life and Times.

Essay by Clancy August 2003

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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Imagine growing up in a country where drinking out of the wrong water fountain might get you thrown into jail; where a man might have the very same job as his neighbour, but because of the colour of his skin get paid less in a year than the other man made in a week; where the government told you that your ancestors and their ways of living were wrong and savage and not even human. Sounds like some futuristic film, doesn't it? Well, for Nelson Mandela, this was no movie. Growing up in South Africa under the Apartheid system of government meant these things, and worse, were part of daily life.

Though these things existed Nelson Mandela was a fighter. Instead of bowing down to this unjust system of government, he became a lifelong warrior in the battle to free South Africa. Starting out as a leader of an underground political movement called the African National Congress (also known as the ANC).

Nelson Mandela played a part in many dramatic demonstrations against the white-ruled government.

His career in the ANC was cut short in 1964 when he was sentenced to life in prison. The notorious Rivonia Trial, as his sentencing was called, is now seen as nothing more than a cruel ploy used by the white South African government to silence Nelson Mandela once and for all. But even while in prison Nelson Mandela continued to be a beacon of hope for his people, who carried on the struggle against Apartheid in his absence.

In 1990, after 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was freed. His release marked the beginning of the end for Apartheid. In less than five years after his release, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and elected president of South Africa.