10 facts about Mandela’s early days with the ANC

  • In 1948, the same year he married his first wife Evelyn Ntoko, he co-founded the ANC Youth League. The youth league was characterised as being more radical than the mother body. He was elected ANCYL National Secretary in 1948 and elected President in 1951.
  • When the Defiance Campaign began in 1952 he was arrested and charged for violating the Suppression Act. He was convicted along with JS Moroka, Walter Sisulu and 17 others; he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years. The same year, he was elected Transvaal ANC President.
  • In 1952 he opened South Africa’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo.
  • The following year, 1953 – he started devising the M-plan for the ANC’s future operations.
  • He was one of the witnesses of the Congress of the People at Kliptown when the organisation adopted the Freedom Charter.

  • Mandela’s marriage to Evelyn Mase ended in 1958, and the same year he married Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela.
  • Three major events around Mandela took place in 1960 – March 21 was the Sharpeville Massacre, today South Africa observes Human Rights Day to commemorate the events of this day. A State of Emergency was imposed and he was among thousands detained and on April 8, the ANC was banned.
  • He went underground in 1961 to form Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), before leaving the country for military training and to garner support for the ANC in 1962. He returned to South Africa later that year, before being sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country without a passport.
  • He appeared in court for the first time in what is now known as the Rivonia Trial, October 9, 1963 along with Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein, James Kantor, Elias Motswaledi and Andrew Mlangeni.
  • All except Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein were sentenced to life in prison – on that day, he made a statement which caused a stir in the courtroom.

He said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Watch Full Speech Here

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