Nelson Mandela Timeline

Timeline of Madiba

This is a brief timeline of Nelson Mandela giving some of the basic dates of important events. This Nelson Mandela timeline gives a relatively quick biography and helps to keep events in order.

  • 1918
    July 18 Rolihlahla Mandela is born in the small village of Mveso on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. His father was Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa and his mother Nosekeni Fanny. Rolihlahla was given the name Nelson when he started school.
  • 1927
    Nelson Rolihlahla’s father dies. He is placed under the guardianship of Jongintaba Dalindyebo acting chief of the Thembu tribe.
  • 1937
    Attends Wesleyan College in Fort Beaufort then studies for BA at Fort Hare University. It was here that Mandela met his life-long friend Oliver Tambo.
  • 1939
    Nelson becomes involved in a boycott against the Universities policies and has to leave.
  • 1939
    He escapes an arranged marriage and runs to Johannesburg.
  • 1939
    While there he completes his BA through correspondence and studies Law at the University of Witwatersrand
  • 1943
    Nelson Mandela becomes a member of the African National Congress (ANC).
  • 1944
    Along with Oliver Tambo, forms the Youth League of the ANC
  • 1944
    Nelson Mandela marries Evelyn Mase. They go on to have 4 children – one of whom dies as an infant.
  • 1948
    The apartheid policy of segregation is implemented across South Africa
  • 1952
    Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo open the first black legal firm in South Africa.
  • 1952
    While providing free or cheap legal aid to blacks, Mandela is actively involved in the ANC’s defiance campaign.
  • 1955
    Freedom Charter calling for equal rights is adopted at the Congress of the people.
  • 1956
    On Dec 5 Mandela and 155 other political activists are charged with treason. The Riviona Trial followed until 1956 when all were acquitted.
  • 1957
    Mandela’s first marriage ends
  • 1958
    Nelson Mandela marries ‘Winnie’. They go on to have 2 children
  • 1959
    New laws passed separating homelands for black groups and increasing racial segregation.
  • 1959
    Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) is formed and the ANC loses many members and financial support to the group.
  • 1960
    At the Sharpeville Massacre 69 black South Africans are shot by police at a peaceful protest and over 150 are wounded.
  • 1960
    The ANC is banned and Mandela goes underground forming ‘The Spear of the Nation’ (MK) military group with arms.
  • 1961
    Mandela issues a call to arms and becomes leader of the Umkhontoat ANC guerilla movement.
  • 1962
    Aug 5, Mandela is arrested and imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort.
  • 1962
    Oct 25 – sentenced to 5 years in prison but goes on the run
  • 1964
    Nelson is recaptured, tried for treason and sabotage and is sentenced to life imprisonment. He is 46 years old and goes to Robben Island prison where he spends the next 18 years of his imprisonment, before being moved before his eventual release in 1990.
  • 1965
    Rhodesian independence, with only white representation in government.
  • 1968
    Mandela loses his eldest son in a car crash and his mother also dies. He is not permitted to attend their funerals.
  • 1968
    The United Nations expels Rhodesia because of its apartheid policies
  • 1976
    Protests in Soweto and Sharpeville (lead by Steve Biko), result in the death of over 600.
  • 1977
    Biko is killed while in police custody.
  • 1980
    Oliver Tambo (who has been exiled) launches an international campaign to have Mandela released.
  • 1980
    Zimbabwe gains independence.
  • 1983
    Farmers are allowed to arm themselves and by 1983 Government making claims of multiple murders, rapes and robberies by black dissidents
  • 1986
    Sanctions increase against South Africa costing millions.
  • 1988
    Amnesty for dissidents announced. 122 surrender
  • 1990
    Feb 11 – Nelson Mandela is freed from prison after 27 years.
  • 1990
    The ban on the ANC is lifted by President de Klerk, and talks on forming a multi-racial democracy begin.
  • 1991
    Nelson Mandela becomes president of the ANC. Olympic Games ban lifted.
  • 1992
    Winnie Mandela is convicted of kidnapping and as an accessory to assault. She and Nelson separate.
  • 1993
    Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1993
    Nelson and Winnie divorce
  • 1994
    April 26 – first elections where blacks can vote. The ANC wins the election with 252 seats out of 400.
  • 1994
    Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as the first black President of South Africa in May. De Klerk is appointed as Deputy President and the racially mixed Government of National Unity is formed.
  • 1995
    Mandela wears a Springbok shirt at the South African hosted Rugby World Cup. This is seen as a gesture of healing and trust between black and white.
  • 1998
    July 18 Nelson Mandela marries Graca Machel (widow of former Mozambique President) on his 80th birthday.
  • 1999
    Mandela relinquishes the Presidency of South Africa to Thabo Mbeki.
  • 2000
    Mandela is appointed mediator civil war in Burundi.
  • 2001
    Nelson Mandela is treated for prostate cancer.
  • 2003
    Supports 46664 AIDS fund raising campaign. (named after his prison number)
  • 2004
    At 85 Mandela announces retirement from official life. Granted the honor of the freedom of the city of Johannesburg.
  • 2005
    Jan 6 Mandela’s son Makgatho dies of AIDS.
  • 2009
    The United Nations General Assembly declares July 18 ‘Mandela Day’ as a tribute to his contribution to world freedom.
  • Dec. 5, 2013
    Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95 in Johannesburg.
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