Interesting Facts about Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was an icon of modern South Africa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and one of the most respected world leaders of the 20th century. Like a diamond, he was truly one of a kind and his smile sparkled like no other. He also has an international day named in his honour, Nelson Mandela Day, which is celebrated every year on 18 July as a call to action for individuals to help change the world into a better place. In celebration of this remarkable man and legend, here are 10 interesting facts about Nelson Mandela.
1. He lived up to his name
Nelson Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela, which means “to pull a branch off a tree” and “troublemaker” in his Xhosa tribe. He was given the name Nelson by his primary school teacher when he was seven years old. It was the 1920s and African children were given English names so that colonial masters could pronounce them easily.
2. Mandela’s nicknames
After going underground because of his ANC activities, Mandela’s ability to evade the securities services earned him the nickname, “the black Pimpernel”. This was after the novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel, about a hero with a secret identity. In later years Mandela also became known by his clan name, Madiba.
3. He loved sports
Mandela loved sports and believed that it “has the power to change the world… it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
4. Six children and 17 grandchildren
Mandela had six children – four girls and two boys. A daughter and two sons passed away: Makaziwe died as an infant in 1948; Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) died in a car accident in 1969; and Makgatho Lewanika died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. His surviving children are Pumla Makaziwe (Maki), Zenani and Zindziswa (Zindzi).
5. AIDS activist
Once he was finished with his presidency, Mandela became an advocate in support of people suffering from AIDS, the deadly disease that took the life of his son Makgatho, and affects more people in South Africa than any other country in the world.
6. Married three times
Nelson Mandela married three times. His last marriage was at the age of 80 to Graça Machel, who was formerly married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband’s death means she has been the first lady of two nations.
7. His Favourite Dish
Although he’s been wined and dined with some of the world’s finest cuisines, what Mandela enjoyed eating most was tripe – the lining of farm animals.
8. 27 Years in jail
Nelson Mandela spent nearly 27 years of his life in jail. He spent 18 years of his imprisonment on Robben Island, during which he was allowed to meet his wife once every six months. Today, there are Robben Island Tours to see Mandela’s jail cell.
9. Nobel Prize winner
Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993, “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
10. His name lives on
Hundred of streets have been named after Nelson Mandela. He also had a nuclear particle (the ‘Mandela particle’), a prehistoric woodpecker (Australopicus nelsonmandelai) and an orchid (Paravanda Nelson Mandela) named after him.
Learn more about the what other gems South Africa has to offer when you visit the Cape Town Diamond Museum. Open 7 days a week, 9am – 9pm, at the V&A Waterfront Clock Tower in Cape Town.