“If we did not have a Mandela … the history of this country would be different,” says Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s second wife.
He had a face recognised by millions, a reputation admired worldwide, and a style all of his own. But who was the man behind the legend?
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His name meant ‘troublemaker’, one who stirs things up. Later South Africans would call him Madiba, his clan name and an affectionate nickname.
His father died when he was nine years old. He went to stay with his uncle, a royal chief. Seeing the chief dispense justice set in motion a lifetime desire to fight for equality and democracy.
At university he studied law but his political activities got him expelled, so he moved to Johannesburg where he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a political party opposed to South Africa’s racial segregation.
Known as ‘apartheid’ this system of government legally allowed for discrimination against non-whites. “He was the leader deliberately chosen by the ANC to be a symbol of resistance,” Winnie Mandela says.
Mandela played an active and vocal role opposing the policies of South Africa’s nationalist government. He took his activities underground in the 1960s, but was soon arrested, convicted of sabotage and treason and imprisoned for life.
He was released 27 years later, and was at the forefront of ushering in a new democratic dawn for the country.
Watch the whole report at Al Jazeera: I Knew Mandela – Al Jazeera English