Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013) was the first black President of South Africa from 1994 – 1999. Madiba, as locals lovingly call him, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and, in his lifetime and in death, known as a philanthropist, apartheid revolutionary and the Father of our Rainbow Nation.
Mandela stood for justice, peace and reconciliation, and it is largely due to his efforts that South Africa saw a peaceful transition from apartheid to a democracy.
In the little village of Mvezu in the Transkei, Mandela was born the 13th child to the 3rd wife of the then chief of the village. He grew up in nearby Qunu herding cattle and delighting in stick fights before going on to confront injustices done by the apartheid regime. One could say that Qunu is where the story of the New South Africa begins.
Up until today nothing much has changed in these rural villages. Women cook in cast iron pots and boys tend stock on the grassy hills. People live in round, thatch-roofed mud homes on sloping hillsides, often overlooking the sea.
The young Nelson began his University studies at Fort Hare University in Alice, close to Eastern Cape towns like Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort. The University now happily claim him as a fellow, but Mandela was expelled after his second year for a conflict with the authorities and was forced to complete his Bachelor of Arts Degree through correspondence. He then studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand and joined the African National Congress (ANC, the now ruling party). The rest, you may say, is history.
Smiley Face Tours recommends travellers to the Eastern Cape to visit Mandela’s place of birth and the area where he grew up: Mvezu, Qunu and Alice.