Major Events Timeline in Mandela’s life

July 18, 1918 Born to Hendry Mphakanyiswa, a Thembu chief, and Nosekeni Qunu in the Umtata district of the Transkei. This was during colonial rule
1925 Attends primary school near Qunu (receives the name ‘Nelson’ from a teacher)
1940 Expelled from University of Fort Hare for role in a student strike with Oliver Tambo, a future ANC president. He moves to Johannesburg the same year.
1942 Joins African National Congress
1943 Receives BA from Fort Hare after completing correspondence courses through University of South Africa.
1944 Helps form the ANC Youth League with Tambo and Walter Sisulu to more aggressively push for racial equality.
He marries Evelyn Mase, cousint to Sisulu.
1947 Mandela elected secretary of youth league.
1950 Climbs to top to becomes president of ANC Youth League and elected to ANC national executive committee
1952 Leads the Defiance Campaign, encouraging people to break racial separation laws. Convicted under Suppression of Communism Act, banned from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg. With Tambo, forms the first black law partnership in the country.
1956 Charged with treason, along with 155 other South Africans of all races who had supported the Freedom Charter calling for a non-racial democracy and a socialist-based economy. They were all acquitted after a four-year trial.
1961 Helps establish ANC guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.
January 1962 Leaves the country for military training and to gather support for Umkhonto weSizwe.
July 1962 Returns to South Africa via Botswana and drives to Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. Travels to KwaZulu-Natal to report back to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli and other comrades.
Aug 1962 Arrested near Howick. Charged with illegally leaving the country and incitement to strike and sentenced to five years’ hard labor.
Nov 1962 Sentenced to five years for incitement and leaving the country illegally
May 1963 Sent to Robben Island.
October, 1963 Charged with sabotage in Rivonia Trial
April 1964 makes his speech from the dock in which he says he is “prepared to die” for a democratic South Africa.
June 11, 1964 All except two of Rivonia Trialists convicted of sabotage
June 12, 1964 Mandela and seven others sentenced to life imprisonment. All except Goldberg are sent to Robben Island to serve their sentences.
1968 Mandela’s mother Nosekeni dies. He is forbidden from attending her funeral.
1969 Mandela’s eldest son Thembekile is killed in a car accident. Mandela is forbidden from attending his funeral.
1982 Mandela, Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni and later Kathrada are transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.
1973 Refuses a government offer of release on condition he agrees to a kind of exile in his native Transkei.
  • Another release offer, on condition he renounce violence. In fiery refusal, read by his daughter Zindzi at a rally, Mandela says burden is on the government to renounce violence, legalize the ANC, scrap segregation laws and agree to political negotiations.
  • Goldberg, who has been held apart from his comrades for more than 20 years, accepts the offer and is released.
  • Undergoes surgery on his prostate gland at the Volks Hospital in Cape Town. Visited in hospital by Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee.
May 1986 Meets with an Eminent Persons Group from the Commonwealth Group of Nations.
July 1986 Wrote to the Commissioner of Prisons requesting a meeting on a matter of national importance. He requested a meeting with Kobie Coetsee. Met with Coetsee where he first raised the issue of talks about talks between the National Party Government and the ANC. Also asked to meet President PW Botha.
Dec 1988 Is transferred to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he is held in the house formerly occupied by a warder. Mandela is assigned the prisoner number 1335/88.
Feb 1990
  • Feb 2, At the opening of Parliament President F.W. de Klerk’s announces the unbanning of all political organizations including the African National Congress.
  • Feb 9, Meets de Klerk and is informed of his release the next day. He was to be released in Johannesburg. Mandela objects saying he wants to walk out of the prison at Victor Verster and asks for an extra week for ANC people on the outside to prepare. De Klerk refuses the extension but agrees to release him at Victor Verster
  • Feb 10, De Klerk announces at a press conference that Nelson Mandela will be released the next day.
  • Feb 11, Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster Prison to cheering crowds. Addresses thousands of well-wishers gathered on the Grand Parade, from the balcony of the City Hall in Cape Town. Spends the night at Bishopscourt, the official residence of the Archbishop of Cape Town.
  • Feb 12, Holds a press conference in the garden of Bishopscourt. Flies to Johannesburg.
  • Feb 13, Flies to FNB Stadium in Soweto for a welcome home rally. Spends his first night in decades at his family home of 8115 Orlando West, Soweto.
1991 Mandela elected president of ANC. The government, ANC and 17 other political groups begin formal negotiations on a new constitution.
1993 Draft constitution adopted, opening the way to South Africa’s first all-race election in April 1994. Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk receive Nobel Peace Prize for their work in negotiating an end to apartheid.
1994 ANC wins elections in April and is inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president the following month
1996 Mandela granted a divorce from Winnie
1998 Mandela weds former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel on his 80th birthday.
June 16, 1999 Mandela retires after one term, a rarity among African presidents, but continues to be active in causes promoting world peace, supporting children and fighting AIDS.
October 1999 Now a former president and sought-after international mediator, Mandela tours Iran, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel.
2004 Announces retirement from public life
Jan. 6, 2005 Eldest son Makgatho dies. Mandela announces the cause is AIDS-related complications, saying the only way to fight the disease’s stigma is to speak openly.
July 18, 2007 Celebrates 89th birthday by launching “council of elders”—Nobel peace laureates, politicians and development experts dedicated to finding new ways to foster peace and resolve global crises.
June 25, 2008 In speech in London, goes further than his government in first public comments about Zimbabwe’s political crisis, referring to “the tragic failure of leadership in our neighboring Zimbabwe.”
July 18, 2009 91st birthday declared international Mandela Day, which organizers hope will become annual day devoted to service to communities.
July 11, 2010 Mandela waves to the crowd at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg as South Africa bids farewell to the 2010 soccer World Cup. Driven in a small golf cart and seated alongside wife, Graca Machel, the smiling, warmly dressed Mandela is welcomed by a thunderous mix of vuvuzelas and roars from the crowd.
Jan. 28, 2011 Mandela released from hospital after spending two nights there for a respiratory infection.
June 21, 2011 Mandela meets at his home with Michelle Obama, her two daughters and other Obama relatives.
Feb. 26, 2012 Mandela is released from a hospital after overnight stay for minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.
December 2012 Mandela spends nearly three weeks in a hospital, where he is treated for a lung infection and has a procedure to remove gallstones.
March 9, 2013 Mandela spends a night in the hospital for a medical exam.
March 28, 2013 Mandela admitted to a hospital with a lung infection.
April 6, 2013 Mandela is released from the hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia and having fluid drained from his lung area.
June 8, 2013 The government says Mandela is admitted to a hospital with a recurring lung infection. Officials describe his condition as serious but stable.
December 5, 2013 Mandela dies at age 95. South African President Jacob Zuma makes the announcement at a news conference, saying “we’ve lost our greatest son.