South Africa celebrates Freedom Day and Nelson Mandela Centenary in 2018

This year, 2018, South Africa is celebrating 24 years of freedom. To be exact, 27 April 2018 marks twenty-four years of Freedom for the people of South Africa.  Both celebratory events will be organized in South Africa and abroad. In South Africa celebration is done through workshops, conferences, talk shows, and sharing what freedom and democracy to South Africans means.

The Embassy will celebrate this day on 18 June 2018, the significance of this date and month being the fact the 18 ( in July 1918) is the date on which Nelson Mandela was born while June is the month on which the youth is celebrated (16 June). Nelson Mandela loved the children as it is indicated below.

On 18 June 2018 the Embassy will also be celebrating the Centenary of Nelson Mandela through an overarching theme: “The year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: towards full realisation of our freedom through radical socio-economic transformation”. The intention of the theme is to foreground characteristics and values which former President Mandela was renowned for across the world: He valued:  Integrity, Passion, Service, Transparency, Respect and Transformation. The late Nelson Mandela played an integral role in the liberation of South Africa. He dedicated his life to the pursuit of equality and justice for all South Africans and was one of the founding fathers of our constitutional democracy.


Historical facts

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni.

Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which was  launched on 16 December 1961.

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month, police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty, his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Rivonia Trial, 1963 . The 8  who faced death penalty:  Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Nelson Mandela released from prison after 27 years

Nelson Mandela voted for the first time in his life at the age of 76

It was on 27 April 1994 that the heroic struggle for freedom waged through mass action involving women, youth, trade unions and religious organisations as well as through underground and armed action and spreading to the international anti-apartheid struggles ended with the first ever democratic elections in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, the icon of struggles, voted for the first time when he was 76 years old instead of the internationally accepted 18 years. He emerged as the first black democratically elected President for a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. 27 April 2018 marks twenty-four years of freedom for the people of South Africa.

It set our nation on a path towards reconciliation, freedom, justice, peace, democracy and an entrenched strong culture of fundamental human rights and Ubuntu. In 1994, led by President Nelson Mandela, we began building a democratic country.

In this 10 May 1994 file photo, Nelson Mandela takes the oath of office in Pretoria, to become the country’s first black President. His legacy lives on.

Nelson Mandela left an indelible mark on our society having laid the foundation for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Madiba’s legacy lives on in our commitment to ensure a just and fair society for all, including the rights to dignity and freedom of expression. We will continue to address the difficult issues which face us by engaging in dialogue, mindful of the fact that any solution must be to the benefit of all.

Mandela’s love for children

Among many other awards and prizes received since his release from prison and leadership of a democratic South Africa, in 2005 Mandela received the World’s Children’s Prize and in 2009 he was named Decade Child Rights Hero 2009 for his lifelong struggle to free the children of South Africa from apartheid, and for his unwavering support for their rights. The latter was a joint award with Graca Machel, his third wife.

During his term as president, Mandela gave half his salary to the poor, specifically to children. “I have never cared very much for personal prizes. A person does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards,” he writes in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. In addition, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, he gave part of his $1.2-million (R11.7-million) prize money to help disadvantaged children.

Paying it forward

Mandela’s work for children continued, despite his retirement from public life and illness. Through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, funds are raised and programmes are initiated to ensure a better future for children. The focus of these efforts is on creating a beneficial environment for the welfare of children. The fund raises money for organisations that work with the country’s children and youth, from birth to 22 years of age from underprivileged surroundings.

“Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children,” he wrote in a letter while on Robben Island to his friend Amina Cachalia, an anti-apartheid activist, in 1981.

According to the Nedbank Children’s Affinity, which works in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the fund has given nearly R315-million (US$31-million) to about 1 850 projects supporting children since its launch in 2005. Nedbank is one of South Africa’s big four banks.

“Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people,” Mandela said in 1995 at the dedication of Qunu and Nkalane schools.

Nelson Mandela inspired everyone to be the change that we want to see

Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN asks individuals around the world to mark Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July) by making a difference in their communities. Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for everyone to take action and inspire change.

In December 2015, the General Assembly decided to extend the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day to also be utilized in order to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, to raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society and to value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance.

In marking the 100 year anniversary of Madiba’s life we have an opportunity to reflect on the values he had left with us. Through his values and dedication to the service of humanity South Africans remain inspired to become a united and prosperous nation. We have an opportunity to reflect on how we can continue his legacy and work together to move the country forward. Mandela inspires us to become an instrument of change and support the less fortunate within our communities.

Nelson Mandela was the architect of our nation and peaceful transition

Mandela’s struggle for liberation saw him spend 27 years in prison from 1964 to 1991. During his years in prison, his reputation grew steadily and he was widely accepted as one of the most significant black leaders in South Africa. Mandela consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom and rejected at least three conditional offers of release. The former President’s steadfast resolve in the face of adversity led him to become a strong symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength.

President Nelson Mandela’s triumphant release from prison is at the centre of our inspiring story of building a united and prosperous nation. He had overseen our peaceful transition from apartheid to a society built on the pillars of democracy and freedom. Nelson Mandela consistently remained an advocate of national unity and reconciliation.

On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first democratically elected President and oversaw the Government of National Unity. Nelson Mandela was a central figure in the struggle for liberation from the unjust apartheid system.

Madiba’s vision is being realised through our Constitution and the National Development Plan. 

In 1996, former President Nelson Mandela signed into law a new Constitution for the nation, establishing a strong government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression. The Constitution lays the basis for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights for all. We are pursuing the dreams and aspirations of Nelson Mandela as we continue to respect basic human rights; and remain committed to the rule of law and the Constitution. Our National Development Plan (NDP) commits us to the country we envisioned at the start of democracy where all South Africans are part of our development. Through working together to implement the NDP we can do more to overcome the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Nelson Mandela was a symbol of resistance in our fight for freedom

In  celebrating  the life of Nelson Mandela as we do today and throughout the year,  the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa takes this opportunity to, on behalf of the South African Nation, Government, and people of South Africa, humbly express sincere words of appreciation to all the countries, their governments and their citizens for extending a hand of assistance to South Africans for them to also join the community of nations in enjoying democracy, rule of law, peace and security. This is a debt that the country will never be able to fully pay back and which it will never stop appreciating.  South Africa has a full understanding that some countries’ citizens sacrificed their meagre incomes to contribute to South Africa’s struggle. Working together with our partners in the international community, South Africa learned that it could achieve a South Africa that Nelson Mandela fought tirelessly to found. His vision bore fruit on 27 April 1994.

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