100 World Class South Africans: Nelson Mandela

The one and only

He’s a giant of our time. A truly great man.

Nelson Mandela – our Tata Madiba – has secured an unassailable place in history.

No others enjoy the same global adulation and reverence; few people have his ability to profoundly affect those who meet him, or inspire such solidarity even among the most disparate.

From his humble rural roots to nursing the Struggle as one of SA’s first black lawyers, it was his leadership of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, that made him the world’s most famous political prisoner.

Tried for treason, he served 27 years of a life sentence and became the face of apartheid’s repressed, and then became the president of South Africa in 1994.

Co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (with former president FW de Klerk), he is credited with facilitating the country’s peaceful transition to democracy.

Loved for his jive and trademark shirts, his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is a fixture on bookshelves the world over.

Now 94, Mandela has retired from public life, but his legacy lives on through the foundations named after him, the star-studded 46664 concerts and the annual Mandela Day (18 July), when people are encouraged to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to charity in his honour.

Having acknowledged his failings, Madiba’s enduring popularity stands. He remains the panacea to a nation’s pain.

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