Nelson MCBS

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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

Nelson Mandela

Posted by Nelson MCBS on November 8, 2012

Nelson Mandela’s life story documentary


Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is sometimes called by other names.

Each name has its own special meaning and story. When you use them you should know what you are saying and why. So here is a brief explanation of each name.

Rolihlahla – This is Mr Mandela’s birth name: it is an isiXhosa name which means “pulling the branch of a tree”, but colloquially it means “troublemaker”. His father gave him this name.

Nelson – This name was given to him on his first day at school by his teacher, Miss Mdingane. Giving African children English names was a custom among Africans in those days and was influenced by British colonials who could not easily, and often would not, pronounce African names. It is unclear why Miss Mdingane chose the name “Nelson” for Mr Mandela.

Madiba – This is the name of the clan of which Mr Mandela is a member. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone’s clan name.

Tata – This isiXhosa word means “father” and is a term of endearment that many South Africans use for Mr Mandela. Since he is a father figure to many, they call him Tata regardless of their own age.

Khulu – Mr Mandela is often called “Khulu”, which means great, paramount, grand. The speaker means “Great One” when referring to Mr Mandela in this way. It is also a shortened form of the isiXhosa word “uBawomkhulu” for “grandfather”.

Dalibhunga – This is the name Mr Mandela was given at the age of 16 once he had undergone initiation, the traditional Xhosa rite of passage into manhood. It means “creator or founder of the council” or “convenor of the dialogue”. The correct use of this name when greeting Mr Mandela is “Aaah! Dalibhunga”.

Other names – Of course, Mr Mandela’s family use many terms of endearment for him. His grandchildren use variants of “Grandfather”, like “Granddad” for instance. Mrs Graça Machel frequently uses “Papa”.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born July 18, 1918)


Father: Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Henry (died circa 1927)

Mother: Noqaphi Nosekeni (died 1968)

Mr Mandela has been married three times.

He had six children, four girls and two boys.

A daughter and two sons passed away: Makaziwe died as an infant in 1948; Madiba Thembekile [Thembi] died in a car accident in 1969 and Makgatho Lewanika died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005.

His surviving children are Pumla Makaziwe [Maki], Zenani and Zindziswa [Zindzi]


1944 Married Evelyn Ntoko Mase (born 1922, died April 30, 2004) – Divorced March 19, 1958

June 14, 1958 Married Winifred Nomzamo Zanyiwe Madikizela (born 1934) – Divorced March 19, 1996

July 18, 1998 Married Graça Machel (born 1945)


With Evelyn Mase

1. Madiba Thembekile Mandela (born 1945, died July 13, 1969 aged 24)

2. Makaziwe Mandela (died 1948 aged nine months)

3. Magkatho Lewanika Mandela (born 1950, died January 6, 2005 aged 55)

4. Pumla Makaziwe Mandela (born 1954)

With Winnie Mandela

5. Zenani Dlamini (born 1959)

6. Zindzi Mandela (born 1960)


1. Ndileka Mandela [1965—F—Thembi]

2. Nandi Mandela [1968—F—Thembi]

3. Mandla Mandela [1974—M—Makgatho]

4. Ndaba Mandela [1983—M—Makgatho]

5. Mbuso Mandela [1991—M—Makgatho]

6. Andile Mandela [1993—M—Makgatho]

7. Tukwini Mandela [1974—F—Makaziwe]

8. Dumani Mandela[1976—M—Makaziwe]

9. Kweku Mandela [1985—M—Makaziwe]

10. Zaziwe Manaway [1977—F—Zenani]

11. Zamaswazi Dlamini [1979—F—Zenani]

12. Zinhle Dlamini [1980—M—Zenani]

13. Zozuko Dlamini [1992—M—Zenani]

14. Zoleka Mandela [1980—F—Zindzi]

15. Zondwa Mandela [1985—M—Zindzi]

16. Bambatha Mandela [1989—M—Zindzi]

17. Zwelabo Mandela [1992—M—Zindzi]


1. Ziyanda Manaway [2000—M—Zaziwe]

2. Zipokhazi Manaway [2009—F—Zaziwe]

3. Zenani Mandela [1997–2010—F—Zoleka ]

4. Zwelami Mandela [2003—M—Zoleka]

5. Zamakhosi Obiri [2008—F—Zamaswazi]

6. Thembela Mandela [1984—M—Ndileka]

7. Pumla Mandela [1993—F—Ndileka]

8. Hlanganani Mandela [1986—M—Nandi]

9. Zazi Kazimla Vitalia Mandela [2010—F—Zondwa]

10. Lewanika Ngubencuka Mandela [2010—M—Ndaba]

11. Zenawe Zibuyile Mandela [2011–2011—M—Zoleka]

12. Qheya II Zanethemba Mandela [2011—M—Mandla]

13. Ziwelene Linge Mandela [2011—M—Zondwa]

14. Zenkosi John Brunson Manaway [2012—M—Zaziwe]


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela’s campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.

During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela’s reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.

Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life’s work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after the organization had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected President of the ANC while his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation’s National Chairperson.

Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

After his father’s death in 1927, the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni. Hearing the elder’s stories of his ancestor’s valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom to give all school children “Christian” names.

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Nelson Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest. He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

On his return to the Great Place at Mkhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, who introduced him to Lazar Sidelsky who arranged that he do his articles through the firm of attorneys Witkin Eidelman and Sidelsky.

Meanwhile he began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. By his own admission he was a poor student and left the university in 1948 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London and also did not complete that degree.

In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa. He graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Nelson Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped formed the ANC Youth League.

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons Madiba Thembekile ‘Thembi’ and Makgatho and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. They effectively separated in 1955 and divorced in 1958.

Nelson Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its work the ANC adopted in 1949 a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action.

In 1952 he was chosen at the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his Deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months hard labour suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Nelson Mandela to practice law and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.

At the end of 1952 had the first in a series of banning orders. As a restricted person he was only able to secretly watch as the Freedom Charter was adopted at Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

Nelson Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop of 156 activists on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 30 accused, including Mr. Mandela were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest at Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency on 31 March and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress on 8 April. Nelson Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among the thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial on 14 June 1958 Nelson Mandela married a social worker Winnie Madikizela. They had two daughters Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial Nelson Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a non-racial national convention, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. As soon as he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial Nelson Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March. In the face of a massive mobilization of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation).

On 11 January 1962 using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Nelson Mandela left South Africa secretly. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal where he briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment which he began serving in Pretoria Local Prison, In May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria in mid-June. Within a month police raided a secret hide-out in Rivonia used by ANC and Communist Party activists and several of his comrades were arrested. In October 1963 Nelson Mandela joined nine others on trial for sabotage in what became known and the Rivonia Trial.  Facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous ‘Speech from the Dock’ on 20 April 1964 became immortalized:

“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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

On 11 June 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven other accused Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Denis Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white while the others went to Robben Island.

Nelson Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son Thembi in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 from prostate surgery Nelson Mandela was held alone. He began writing to the Minister of Justice Kobie Coetsee who had visited him in hospital, to initiate talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

In 1988 he was treated for Tuberculosis and was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of the remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Nelson Mandela immersed himself into official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life and on 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graça Machel.

True to his promise Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela-Rhodes Foundation.

In April 2007 his grandson Mandla Mandela became head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla]; born 18 July 1918) is a South African politician who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first ever to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before being elected president, Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, and the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela went on to serve 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to the establishment of democracy in 1994. As president, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa.[2][3]

In South Africa, Mandela is often known as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name; or as tata (Xhosa: father).[4] Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.


Early life

Nelson Mandela belongs to a cadet branch of the Thembu dynasty, which reigns in the Transkei region of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.[5] He was born in Mvezo, a small village located in the district of Umtata.[5] He has Khoisan ancestry on his mother’s side.[6] His patrilineal great-grandfather Ngubengcuka (who died in 1832), ruled as the Inkosi Enkhulu, or king, of the Thembu people.[7] One of the king’s sons, named Mandela, became Nelson’s grandfather and the source of his surname. However, because he was only the Inkosi’s child by a wife of the Ixhiba clan (the so-called “Left-Hand House”[8]), the descendants of his branch of the royal family were not eligible to succeed to the Thembu throne.

Nelson Mandela circa 1937[9]

Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, served as chief of the town of Mvezo.[10] However, upon alienating the colonial authorities, they deprived Mphakanyiswa of his position and moved his family to Qunu. Despite this, Mphakanyiswa remained a member of the Inkosi’s Privy Council and served an instrumental role in Jongintaba Dalindyebo’s ascension to the Thembu throne. Dalindyebo would later return the favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Mphakanyiswa’s death.[11] Mandela’s father had four wives, with whom he fathered thirteen children (four boys and nine girls).[11] Mandela was born to his third wife (‘third’ by a complex royal ranking system), Nosekeni Fanny. Fanny was a daughter of Nkedama of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan, the dynastic Right Hand House, in whose umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood.[12] His given name Rolihlahla means “to pull a branch of a tree”, or more colloquially, “troublemaker”.[13][14]

Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend a school, where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the English name “Nelson”.[15]

When Mandela was nine, his father died of tuberculosis and the regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian.[11] Mandela attended a Wesleyan mission school located next to the palace of the regent. Following Thembu custom, he was initiated at age sixteen and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute.[16] Mandela completed his Junior Certificate in two years, instead of the usual three.[16] Designated to inherit his father’s position as a privy councillor, in 1937 Mandela moved to Healdtown, the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort which most Thembu royalty attended.[17] At nineteen, he took an interest in boxing and running at the school.[12]

After enrolling, Mandela began to study for a Bachelor of Arts at the Fort Hare University, where he met Oliver Tambo. Tambo and Mandela became lifelong friends and colleagues. Mandela also became close friends with his kinsman, Kaiser (“K.D.”) Matanzima who, as royal scion of the Thembu Right Hand House, was in line for the throne of Transkei,[8] a role that would later lead him to embrace Bantustan policies. His support of these policies would place him and Mandela on opposing political sides.[12] At the end of Nelson’s first year, he became involved in a Students’ Representative Council boycott against university policies. He was told to leave Fort Hare and not return unless he accepted election to the SRC.[18] Later in his life, while in prison, Mandela studied for a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London External Programme.

Shortly after leaving Fort Hare, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the regent’s son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them. The young men, displeased by the arrangement, elected to relocate to Johannesburg.[19] Upon his arrival, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine.[20] However, the employer quickly terminated Mandela after learning that he was the Regent’s runaway ward. Mandela later started work as an articled clerk at a Johannesburg law firm, Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, through connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu.[20] While working at Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman, Mandela completed his B.A. degree at the University of South Africa via correspondence, after which he began law studies at the University of Witwatersrand, where he befriended fellow students and future anti-apartheid political activists Joe Slovo, Harry Schwarz and Ruth First.[21] Slovo would eventually become Mandela’s Minister of Housing, while Schwarz would become his Ambassador to Washington. During this time, Mandela lived in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg.[22]

Political activity

After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party, which supported the apartheid policy of racial segregation,[23] Mandela began actively participating in politics. He led prominently in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People, whose adoption of the Freedom Charter provided the fundamental basis of the anti-apartheid cause.[24][25] During this time, Mandela and fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo operated the law firm of Mandela and Tambo, providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many blacks who lacked attorney representation.[26]

Mahatma Gandhi influenced Mandela’s approach, and subsequently the methods of succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists.[27][28] (Mandela later took part in the 29–30 January 2007 conference in New Delhi marking the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s introduction of satyagraha (non-violent resistance) in South Africa).[29]

Initially committed to nonviolent resistance, Mandela and 150 others were arrested on 5 December 1956 and charged with treason. The marathon Treason Trial of 1956–1961 followed, with all defendants receiving acquittals.[30] From 1952–1959, a new class of black activists known as the Africanists disrupted ANC activities in the townships, demanding more drastic steps against the National Party regime.[31] The ANC leadership under Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu felt not only that the Africanists were moving too fast but also that they challenged their leadership.[31] The ANC leadership consequently bolstered their position through alliances with small White, Coloured, and Indian political parties in an attempt to give the appearance of wider appeal than the Africanists.[31] The Africanists ridiculed the 1955 Freedom Charter Kliptown Conference for the concession of the 100,000-strong ANC to just a single vote in a Congressional alliance. Four secretaries-general of the five participating parties secretly belonged to the reconstituted South African Communist Party (SACP).[32][33] In 2003 Blade Nzimande, the SACP General Secretary, revealed that Walter Sisulu, the ANC Secretary-General, secretly joined the SACP in 1955[34] which meant all five Secretaries General were SACP and thus explains why Sisulu relegated the ANC from a dominant role to one of five equals.

In 1959, the ANC lost its most militant support when most of the Africanists, with financial support from Ghana and significant political support from the Transvaal-based Basotho, broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) under the direction of Robert Sobukwe and Potlako Leballo.[35]

Armed anti-apartheid activities

In 1961 Mandela became leader of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (translated Spear of the Nation, and also abbreviated MK), which he co-founded.[36] He coordinated sabotage campaigns against military and government targets, making plans for a possible guerrilla war if the sabotage failed to end apartheid.[37] Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad and arranged for paramilitary training of the group.[37]

Fellow ANC member Wolfie Kodesh explains the bombing campaign led by Mandela: “When we knew that we [sic] going to start on 16 December 1961, to blast the symbolic places of apartheid, like pass offices, native magistrates courts, and things like that … post offices and … the government offices. But we were to do it in such a way that nobody would be hurt, nobody would get killed.”[38] Mandela said of Wolfie: “His knowledge of warfare and his first hand battle experience were extremely helpful to me.”[14]

Mandela described the move to armed struggle as a last resort; years of increasing repression and violence from the state convinced him that many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had not and could not achieve any progress.[14][39]

In June 1961, Mandela sent a letter to South African newspapers warning the government, that if they did not meet their demands, the Umkhonto we Sizwe would embark on a campaign of sabotage. The letter demanded the government accept a call for a national constitutional convention.[40] The demands were not met by the government and beginning on 16 December 1961, the Umkhonto we Sizwe with Mandela as its leader, launched a bombing campaign against government targets with the first action of the campaign being the bombing of an electricity sub-station.[41] In total, over the next eighteen months, the Umkhonto we Sizwe would initiate dozens more acts of sabotage and bombings. The South African government alleged more acts of sabotage had been carried out and at the Rivonia trial the accused would be charged with 193 acts of sabotage in total.[42] The campaign of sabotage against the government included attacks on government posts, machines, power facilities, and crop burning in various places including Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. [40]

Later, mostly in the 1980s, MK, the organisation co-founded by Mandela, waged a guerrilla war against the apartheid government in which many civilians became casualties.[37] For example, the Church Street bomb in Pretoria killed 19 people and injured 217. After he had become President, Mandela later admitted that the ANC, in its struggle against apartheid, also violated human rights, criticising those in his own party who attempted to remove statements mentioning this from the reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[43]

Until July 2008 Mandela and ANC party members were barred from entering the United States—except to visit the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan—without a special waiver from the US Secretary of State, because of their South African apartheid-era designation as terrorists.[44][45]

Arrest and Rivonia trial

Mandela Capture Site near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal

Main article: Rivonia Trial

On 5 August 1962 Mandela was arrested after living on the run for seventeen months, and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort.[46] A large number of groups have been accused of tipping off the police about Mandela’s whereabouts including the South African Communist Party, Mandela’s host in Durban GR Naidoo, and the CIA, but Mandela himself considers none of these connections to be credible and instead attributes his arrest to his own carelessness in concealing his movements.[14] Of the CIA link in particular, Mandela’s official biographer Anthony Sampson believes that “the claim cannot be substantiated.”[47]

Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance. On 25 October 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison.[48]

While Mandela was imprisoned, police arrested prominent ANC leaders on 11 July 1963, at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, north of Johannesburg. Mandela was brought in, and at the Rivonia Trial they were charged by the chief prosecutor Dr. Percy Yutar with four charges of the capital crimes of sabotage (which Mandela admitted) and crimes which were equivalent to treason, but easier for the government to prove.[49] The charge sheet at the trial listed 193 acts of sabotage in total.[50] They were charged with the preparation and manufacture of explosives, according to evidence submitted, included 210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminum powder and a ton of black powder.[51] They were also charged with plotting a foreign invasion of South Africa, which Mandela denied.[49][52] The specifics of the charges to which Mandela admitted complicity involved conspiring with the African National Congress and South African Communist Party to the use of explosives to destroy water, electrical, and gas utilities in the Republic of South Africa.[53]

Bram Fischer, Vernon Berrangé, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos were part of the defence team that represented the main accused.[54] Harry Schwarz represented Jimmy Kantor, who was not a member of the ANC or MK; Kantor was acquitted long before the end of the trial. Harold Hanson was brought in at the end of the case to plead mitigation.[52]

In his statement from the dock at the opening of the defence case in the trial on 20 April 1964 at Pretoria Supreme Court, Mandela laid out the reasoning in the ANC’s choice to use violence as a tactic.[55] His statement described how the ANC had used peaceful means to resist apartheid for years until the Sharpeville Massacre.[56] That event coupled with the referendum establishing the Republic of South Africa and the declaration of a state of emergency along with the banning of the ANC made it clear to Mandela and his compatriots that their only choice was to resist through acts of sabotage and that doing otherwise would have been tantamount to unconditional surrender.[56] Mandela went on to explain how they developed the Manifesto of Umkhonto we Sizwe on 16 December 1961 intent on exposing the failure of the National Party’s policies after the economy would be threatened by foreigners’ unwillingness to risk investing in the country.[57] He closed his statement with these words: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”[39]

All except Rusty Bernstein were found guilty, but they escaped the gallows and were sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964.[52] Although many saw Mandela as a political prisoner, Amnesty International did not consider him as the group “rejects the proposal to recognize as prisoners of conscience people who use or advocate the use of force.” However, Amnesty International campaigned against the harsh conditions Mandela experienced while imprisoned.[58]


Robben Island prison yard

Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison.[59] While in jail, his reputation grew and he became widely known as the most significant black leader in South Africa.[1] On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry.[60] Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations.[61] Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges.[62] Mandela describes how, as a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification) he was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months.[63] Letters, when they came, were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison censors.[14]

Whilst in prison Mandela undertook study with the University of London by correspondence through its External Programme and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws.[64] He was subsequently nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London in the 1981 election, but lost to Princess Anne.[64]

In his 1981 memoir Inside BOSS[65] secret agent Gordon Winter describes his involvement in a plot to rescue Mandela from prison in 1969: this plot was infiltrated by Winter on behalf of South African intelligence, who wanted Mandela to escape so they could shoot him during recapture. The plot was foiled by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service.[65]

In March 1982 Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba.[63] It was speculated that this was to remove the influence of these senior leaders on the new generation of young black activists imprisoned on Robben Island, the so-called “Mandela University”.[66] However, National Party minister Kobie Coetsee says that the move was to enable discreet contact between them and the South African government.[67]

In February 1985 President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom on condition that he ‘unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon’.[68] Coetsee and other ministers had advised Botha against this, saying that Mandela would never commit his organisation to giving up the armed struggle in exchange for personal freedom.[69] Mandela indeed spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”[67]

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was recovering from prostate surgery.[70] Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.[67]

In 1988 Mandela was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release. Various restrictions were lifted and people such as Harry Schwarz were able to visit him.[71] Schwarz, a lifelong friend of Mandela, had known him since university when they were in the same law class.[72] He was also a defence barrister at the Rivonia Trial and would become Mandela’s ambassador to Washington during his presidency.

Throughout Mandela’s imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela![73] In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem de Klerk.[74] De Klerk announced Mandela’s release in February 1990.[75]

Mandela was visited several times by delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross, while at Robben Island and later at Pollsmoor prison. Mandela had this to say about the visits: “to me personally, and those who shared the experience of being political prisoners, the Red Cross was a beacon of humanity within the dark inhumane world of political imprisonment.”[76][77]


Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands in January 1992

On 2 February 1990, State President F. W. de Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison.[78] Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11 February 1990. The event was broadcast live all over the world.[79]

On the day of his release, Mandela made a speech to the nation.[80] He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country’s white minority, but made it clear that the ANC’s armed struggle was not yet over when he said “our resort to the armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon, so that there may no longer be the need for the armed struggle.”

He also said his main focus was to bring peace to the black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.[80]


Following his release from prison, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and, between 1990 and 1994, led the party in the multi-party negotiations that led to the country’s first multi-racial elections.[81]

In 1991, the ANC held its first national conference in South Africa after its unbanning, electing Mandela as President of the organisation. His old friend and colleague Oliver Tambo, who had led the organisation in exile during Mandela’s imprisonment, became National Chairperson.[82]

Mandela’s leadership through the negotiations, as well as his relationship with President F. W. de Klerk, was recognised when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. However, the relationship was sometimes strained, particularly so in a sharp exchange in 1991 when he furiously referred to De Klerk as the head of “an illegitimate, discredited, minority regime”. The talks broke down following the Boipatong massacre in June 1992 when Mandela took the ANC out of the negotiations, accusing De Klerk’s government of complicity in the killings.[83] However, talks resumed following the Bisho massacre in September 1992, when the spectre of violent confrontation made it clear that negotiations were the only way forward.[14]

Following the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani in April 1993, there were renewed fears that the country would erupt in violence.[84] Mandela addressed the nation appealing for calm, in a speech regarded as ‘presidential’ even though he was not yet president of the country at that time. Mandela said “tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. …Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us”.[85] While some riots did follow the assassination, the negotiators were galvanised into action, and soon agreed that democratic elections should take place on 27 April 1994, just over a year after Hani’s assassination.[67]

“Kill the Boers” controversy

Following the 7 September 1992 Bisho massacre, on September 8, at the memorial service for the 28 massacred protesters, Nelson Mandela and the freedom fighters are recorded on video singing a song in Xhosa whose lyrics include: “Go safely Mkhonto, Mkhonto we Sizwe, we the members of the MK have pledged ourselves to kill them, the amaBhulu (Boers)”[86][87] The video footage caused controversy in July 2007, when members of the Suidlanders,[88] a right-wing group with links to the Boeremag, another ring-wing group with white separatist aims, spread DVDs containing the footage to various people across the country.

Presidency of South Africa

South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The ANC won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country’s first black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second in the Government of National Unity.[89] As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.[90] Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.[91] After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar’s own number 6 on the back. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.[92]

After assuming the presidency, one of Mandela’s trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as “Madiba shirts“, even on formal occasions.[93] In South Africa’s first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government.[94] Commentators and critics including AIDS activists such as Edwin Cameron have criticised Mandela for his government’s ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis.[95][96] After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.[97][98] Mandela has since spoken out on several occasions about the AIDS epidemic.[99][100]

During the course of his presidency, a wide range of progressive social reforms were enacted by Mandela’s government, aimed at reducing long entrenched social and economic inequalities in South Africa.

Free health care was introduced in 1994 for all children under the age of six together with pregnant and breastfeeding women making use of public sector health facilities (a provision extended to all those using primary level public sector health care services in 1996).[101] The Reconstruction and Development Programme was lauched, which invested in essential social services such as housing and health care. Increases in welfare spending were carried out, with public spending on welfare and social grants increased by 13% in 1996/97, 13% in 1997/98, and 7% in 1998/99.[102] The government also introduced parity in grants for communities, including disability grants, child maintenance grants, and old-age pensions, which had previously been set at different levels for South Africa’s different racial groups.[102]

The application of the child maintenance grant was extended to blacks in rural areas, who had been previously excluded from the system. A significant increase in public spending on education was carried out, with expenditure raised by 25% in 1996/97, 7% in 1997/98 and 4% in 1998/99.[102] In addition, reproductive health services were expanded.[103]

The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act, 1913 to claim back their land, leading to the settlement of tens of thousands of land claims.[104] The Land Reform Act 3 of 1996 safeguarded the rights of labour tenants who live and grow crops or graze livestock on farms. This legislation ensured that such tenants could not be evicted without a court order or if they were over the age of sixty-five.[105]

Child support grants were introduced in 1998 to alleviate child poverty, [106] while the Skills Development Act of 1998 provided for the establishment of mechanisms to finance and promote skills development at the workplace.[102]

The Labour Relations Act of 1995, which promoted workplace democracy, orderly collective bargaining, and the effective resolution of labour disputes.[107] The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997, which improved enforcement mechanisms while extending an improved “floor” of rights to all workers,[107] while the Employment Equity Act of 1998 was passed to put an end to unfair discrimination and ensure the implementation of affirmative action in the workplace.[107]

3 million people were connected to telephone lines,[108] 1.5 million children were brought into the education system,500 clinics were upgraded or constructed, 2 million people were connected to the electricity grid, water access was extended to 3 million people, and 750,000 houses were constructed, housing nearly 3 million people in the process.[108]

Compulsory schooling was introduced for African children between six and fourteen years,[3] while free meals were provided for between 3.5 to 5 million school children.[109]

The 1996 Mine Health and Safety Act (amended in 1997) was passed to improve health and safety safety conditions for miners,[110] while a National Drug Policy was launched in 1996 to improve access to essential medicines.[111]

The Welfare Laws Amendment Act of 1997 amended the Social Assistance Act of 1992 to provide for equality of access, uniformity and effective regulation of social assistance throughout South Africa, amongst other changes.[112] Amendments to the Aged Persons Act in 1998, which provided for the establishment of management committees for homes for the elderly, to require reporting on the abuse of elderly persons, and to regulate the prevention of the abuse of elderly people.[112]

The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 1998 provided that no individual may be evicted from their home without a Court order after all relevant circumstances have been taken into account.[113]

A National Development Agency was established in 1998, and was mandated to provide funds to civil society organizations to meet the developmental needs of poor communities, amongst other functions.[112] The Extension of Security of Tenure Act of 1997 aimed at providing security of tenure to vulnerable occupants of land outside of urban areas. The legislation contained provisions which sought to create and support long-term security for vulnerable occupants while also safeguarding them from unfair eviction.[114] The Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act of 1996 safeguarded labour tenants and provided them with the right to claim land.[115]

Amendments to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) in 1997 ensured that the number of dependants of workers who tragically lost their lives as a result of work place accidents and diseases now had an extended right to compensation beyond the age of eighteen. In addition, workers were granted a full right to compensation “for any disease arising out of the course and scope of their employment as compensation will not be limited to diseases resulting from exposure to substances at the workplace or due to workplace practices.”[116] Amendments to the Insolvency Act in 1998 aimed to ensure that in bankruptcy cases preference would be given to workers “to ensure that monies owed to them takes precedence over the claims of other creditors.”[116]

Lockerbie trial

Bust of Mandela erected on London’s Southbank by the Greater London Council administration of socialist Ken Livingstone in 1985.

President Mandela took a particular interest in helping to resolve the long-running dispute between Gaddafi‘s Libya, on the one hand, and the United States and Britain on the other, over bringing to trial the two Libyans who were indicted in November 1991 and accused of sabotaging Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed at the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, with the loss of 270 lives.[117] As early as 1992, Mandela informally approached President George H.W. Bush with a proposal to have the two indicted Libyans tried in a third country. Bush reacted favourably to the proposal, as did President François Mitterrand of France and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.[118] In November 1994 – six months after his election as president – Mandela formally proposed that South Africa should be the venue for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial.[119]

However, British Prime Minister John Major flatly rejected the idea saying the British government did not have confidence in foreign courts.[120] A further three years elapsed until Mandela’s offer was repeated to Major’s successor, Tony Blair, when the president visited London in July 1997. Later the same year, at the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Edinburgh in October 1997, Mandela warned:

“No one nation should be complainant, prosecutor and judge.”

A compromise solution was then agreed for a trial to be held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, governed by Scots law, and President Mandela began negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi for the handover of the two accused (Megrahi and Fhimah) in April 1999.[121] At the end of their nine-month trial, the verdict was announced on 31 January 2001. Fhimah was found not guilty, but Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in a Scottish jail. Megrahi’s initial appeal was turned down in March 2002, and former president Mandela went to visit him in Barlinnie prison on 10 June 2002.

‘Megrahi is all alone’, Mandela told a packed press conference in the prison’s visitors room. ‘He has nobody he can talk to. It is psychological persecution that a man must stay for the length of his long sentence all alone. It would be fair if he were transferred to a Muslim country – and there are Muslim countries which are trusted by the West. It will make it easier for his family to visit him if he is in a place like the kingdom of Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt.’[122]

Megrahi was subsequently moved to Greenock jail and out of solitary confinement.[123] In August 2009 Megrahi, suffering from cancer and expected to have only 3 months left to live, was released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya. However, it soon became apparent that there had been an error in the prognosis, as Megrahi lived for another three years. The Nelson Mandela Foundation expressed its support for the decision to release Megrahi in a letter sent to the Scottish Government on behalf of Mandela.[124]

Marriage and family

Mandela has been married three times, has fathered six children, has twenty grandchildren, and a growing number of great-grandchildren. He is grandfather to Chief Mandla Mandela.[125]

First marriage

Mandela’s first marriage was to Evelyn Ntoko Mase who, like Mandela, was also from what later became the Transkei area of South Africa, although they actually met in Johannesburg.[126] The couple broke up in 1957 after 13 years, divorcing under the multiple strains of his constant absences, devotion to revolutionary agitation, and the fact she was a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion which requires political neutrality.[127] Evelyn Mase died in 2004.[128] The couple had two sons, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) (1946–1969) and Makgatho Mandela (1950–2005), and two daughters, both named Makaziwe Mandela (known as Maki; born 1947 and 1953). Their first daughter died aged nine months, and they named their second daughter in her honour.[129] All their children were educated at the United World College of Waterford Kamhlaba.[130] Thembi was killed in a car crash in 1969 at the age of 23, while Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, and Mandela was not allowed to attend the funeral.[131] Makgatho died of AIDS in 2005, aged 54.[132]

Second marriage

Mandela’s second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, also came from the Transkei area, although they, too, met in Johannesburg, where she was the city’s first black social worker.[133] They had two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born 4 February 1958, and Zindziswa (Zindzi) Mandela-Hlongwane, born 1960.[133] Zindzi was only 18 months old when her father was sent to Robben island. Later, Winnie would be deeply torn by family discord which mirrored the country’s political strife; while her husband was serving a life sentence in the Robben Island prison, her father became the agriculture minister in the Transkei.[133] The marriage ended in separation (April 1992) and divorce (March 1996), fueled by political estrangement.[134]

Mandela was still in prison when his daughter Zenani was married to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1973, elder brother of King Mswati III of Swaziland.[135] Although she had vivid memories of her father, from the age of four up until sixteen, South African authorities did not permit her to visit him.[136] The Dlamini couple live and run a business in Boston.[137] One of their sons, Prince Cedza Dlamini (born 1976), educated in the United States, has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as an international advocate for human rights and humanitarian aid.[137] In July 2012, Zenani was appointed ambassador to Argentina, becoming the first of Mandela’s three remaining children to enter public life.[138] Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane made history worldwide when she read out Mandela’s speech refusing his conditional pardon in 1985. She is a businesswoman in South Africa with three children, the eldest of whom is a son, Zondwa Gadaffi Mandela.[139]

Third marriage

Mandela was remarried, on his 80th birthday in 1998, to Graça Machel née Simbine, widow of Samora Machel, the former Mozambican president and ANC ally who was killed in an air crash 12 years earlier.[140] The wedding followed months of international negotiations to set the unprecedented bride price to be remitted to Machel’s clan. Said negotiations were conducted on Mandela’s behalf by his traditional sovereign, King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo.[141] The paramount chief‘s grandfather was the regent Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who had arranged a marriage for Mandela, which he eluded by fleeing to Johannesburg in 1940.[19]

Mandela still maintains a home at Qunu in the realm of his royal nephew (second cousin thrice-removed in Western reckoning), whose university expenses he defrayed and whose privy councillor he remains.[142]


Mandela became the oldest elected President of South Africa when he took office at the age of 75 in 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term and retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

After his retirement as President, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organisations. He has expressed his support for the international Make Poverty History movement of which the ONE Campaign is a part.[143] The Nelson Mandela Invitational charity golf tournament, hosted by Gary Player, has raised over twenty million rand for children’s charities since its inception in 2000.[144] This annual special event has become South Africa’s most successful charitable sports gathering and benefits both the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Gary Player Foundation equally for various children’s causes around the world.[145]

Mandela is a vocal supporter of SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest organisation dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children.[146] Mandela appeared in a televised advertisement for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and was quoted for the International Olympic Committee‘s Celebrate Humanity campaign:[147]

For seventeen days, they are roommates. For seventeen days, they are soulmates. And for twenty-two seconds, they are competitors. Seventeen days as equals. Twenty-two seconds as adversaries. What a wonderful world that would be. That’s the hope I see in the Olympic Games.

Three organisations associated with Mandela have been established: the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.[148]

Post-retirement health

In July 2001 Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. He was treated with a seven-week course of radiation.[149] In 2003 Mandela’s death was incorrectly announced by CNN when his pre-written obituary (along with those of several other famous figures) was inadvertently published on CNN’s web site due to a fault in password protection.[150] In 2007 a fringe right-wing group distributed hoax email and SMS messages claiming that the authorities had covered up Mandela’s death and that white South Africans would be massacred after his funeral. Mandela was on holiday in Mozambique at the time.[151]

In June 2004, at age 85, Mandela announced that he would be retiring from public life. His health had been declining, and he wanted to enjoy more time with his family. Mandela said that he did not intend to hide away totally from the public, but wanted to be in a position “of calling you to ask whether I would be welcome, rather than being called upon to do things and participate in events. My appeal therefore is: Don’t call me, I will call you.”[152] Since 2003, he has appeared in public less often and has been less vocal on topical issues.[153] He is white-haired and walks slowly with the support of a stick. There are reports that he may be suffering from age-related dementia.[154]

Mandela’s 90th birthday was marked across the country on 18 July 2008, with the main celebrations held at his home town of Qunu.[155] A concert in his honour was also held in Hyde Park, London.[156] In a speech to mark his birthday, Mandela called for the rich people to help poor people across the world.[155] Despite maintaining a low-profile during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Mandela made a rare public appearance during the closing ceremony, where he received a “rapturous reception.”[157]

In January 2011, he was admitted to the private Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, for what were at the time described as “routine tests” by his foundation,[158] leading to intense media speculation about the health condition of the increasingly frail Mandela.[159] It later emerged that he had been suffering from a respiratory infection, which had responded well to treatment. He was discharged after two and a half days in hospital in a stable condition, and returned to his Houghton, Johannesburg home in an ambulance.[160]


On 18 July 2007, Mandela, Graça Machel, and Desmond Tutu convened a group of world leaders in Johannesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world’s toughest problems. Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday.[161]

Archbishop Tutu serves as the chair of The Elders. The founding members of this group also include Graça Machel, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus.[162]

“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken”, Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”[163]

AIDS engagement

Since his retirement, one of Mandela’s primary commitments has been to the fight against AIDS. He gave the closing address at the XIII International AIDS Conference in 2000, in Durban, South Africa.[164] In 2003, he had already lent his support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign, named after his prison number.[165] In July 2004, he flew to Bangkok to speak at the XV International AIDS Conference.[166] His son, Makgatho Mandela, died of AIDS on 6 January 2005.[167] Mandela’s AIDS activism is chronicled in Stephanie Nolen‘s book, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa.

Criticism of US and UK foreign policy

Nelson Mandela had strongly opposed the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo and called it an attempt by the world’s powerful nations to police the entire world.[168] In 2002 and 2003, Mandela criticised the foreign policy of the administration of US president George W. Bush in a number of speeches.[169][170] Criticising the lack of UN involvement in the decision to begin the War in Iraq, he said, “It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations.” Mandela stated he would support action against Iraq only if it is ordered by the UN. Mandela also insinuated that the United States may have been motivated by racism in not following the UN and its secretary-general Kofi Annan on the issue of the war. “Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals [sic] were white”.[171] General Colin Powell, the first of two African-Americans appointed by Bush to the position of US Secretary of State, presented to the United Nations Assembly the case for the war in Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Mandela urged the people of the US to join massive protests against Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to oppose him.[172] “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.” He attacked the United States for its record on human rights and for dropping atomic bombs on Japan during World War II. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.”[171] Nelson Mandela also harshly condemned British Prime Minister Tony Blair and referred to him as the “foreign minister of the United States”.[173]

Mandela, and Kofi Annan, also strongly criticised George W Bush’s PEPFAR initiative at an international AIDS conference in 2004.

Ismail Ayob controversy

Further information: Ismail Ayob

Ismail Ayob was a trusted friend and personal attorney of Mandela for over 30 years. In May 2005, Ayob was asked by Mandela to stop selling prints signed by Mandela and to account for the proceeds of their sale. This bitter dispute led to an extensive application to the High Court of South Africa by Mandela that year.[174] Ayob denied any wrongdoing,[175] and claimed that he was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by Mandela’s advisors, in particular, lawyer George Bizos.[176]

In 2005 and 2006, Ayob, his wife, and son were subjected to a verbal attack by Mandela’s advisors. The dispute was widely reported in the media, with Ayob being portrayed in a negative light, culminating in the action by Mandela to the High Court. There were public meetings at which Mandela associates attacked Ayob and there were calls for Ayob and his family to be ostracised by society.[177] The defence of Ismail and Zamila Ayob (his wife, and a fellow respondent) included documents signed by Mandela and witnessed by his secretaries, that, they claimed, refuted many of the allegations made by Nelson Mandela and his advisors.[178]

The dispute again made headlines in February 2007 when, during a hearing in the Johannesburg High Court, Ayob promised to pay R700 000 to Mandela, which Ayob had transferred into trusts for Mandela’s children, and apologised,[179] [180] although he later claimed that he was the victim of a “vendetta“, by Mandela.[181] Some media commentators expressed sympathy for Ayob’s position, pointing out that Mandela’s iconic status would make it difficult for Ayob to be treated fairly.[176]


Ayob, George Bizos and Wim Trengove were trustees of the Nelson Mandela Trust, which was set up to hold millions of rands donated to Nelson Mandela by prominent business figures, including the Oppenheimer family, for the benefit of his children and grandchildren.[182] Ayob later resigned from the Trust. In 2006, the two remaining trustees of the Nelson Mandela Trust launched an application against Ayob for disbursing money from the trust without their consent.[183] Ayob claimed that this money was paid to the South African Revenue Service, to Mandela’s children and grandchildren, to Mandela himself, and to an accounting company for four years of accounting work.[180]

Bizos and Trengrove refused to ratify the payments to the children and grandchildren of Nelson Mandela and the payments to the accounting firm. A court settlement was reached in which this money, totalling over R700,000 was paid by Ismail Ayob to the trust on the grounds that Ayob had not sought the express consent of the other two trustees before disbursing the money.[184] It was alleged that Ayob made defamatory remarks about Mandela in his affidavit, for which the court order stated that Ayob should apologise.[185] It was pointed out that these remarks, which centred on Nelson Mandela holding foreign bank accounts and not paying tax on these, had not originated from Ayob’s affidavit but from Nelson Mandela’s and George Bizos’s own affidavits.[186]

Blood Diamond controversy

In a The New Republic article in December 2006, Nelson Mandela was criticised for a number of positive comments he had made about the diamond industry. There were concerns that this would benefit suppliers of blood diamonds.[187] In a letter to Edward Zwick, the director of the motion picture Blood Diamond, Mandela had noted that:

…it would be deeply regrettable if the making of the film inadvertently obscured the truth, and, as a result, led the world to believe that an appropriate response might be to cease buying mined diamonds from Africa. … We hope that the desire to tell a gripping and important real life historical story will not result in the destabilisation of African diamond producing countries, and ultimately their peoples.[188]

The New Republic article claims that this comment, as well as various pro-diamond-industry initiatives and statements during his life and during his time as a president of South Africa, were influenced by both his friendship with Harry Oppenheimer, former chairman of De Beers, as well as an outlook for ‘narrow national interests’ of South Africa (which is a major diamond producer).[189]

Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe who has led the country since independence in 1980, has been widely criticised internationally for the 1980s fighting which killed tens of thousands of people as well as corruption, incompetent administration, political oppression and cronyism that has ultimately led to the economic collapse of the country.[190][191]

Mandela and Mugabe were seldom seen as close. Mandela criticised Mugabe in 2000, referring to African leaders who had liberated their countries but had then overstayed their welcome.[192][193] In his retirement, Mandela spoke out less often on Zimbabwe and other international and domestic issues,[153] sometimes leading to criticism for not using his influence to greater effect to persuade Mugabe to moderate his policies.[194] His lawyer George Bizos revealed that Mandela has been advised on medical grounds to avoid engaging in stressful activity such as political controversy.[195] Nonetheless, in 2007, Mandela attempted to persuade Mugabe to leave office “sooner than later”, with “a modicum of dignity”, before he was hounded out like Augusto Pinochet. Mugabe did not respond to this approach.[196] In June 2008, at the height of the crisis over the Zimbabwean presidential election, Mandela condemned the “tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe.[197]


Fighter for liberation of South Africa Nelson Mandela on a 1988 USSR commemorative stamp

Eve Fairbanks of Newsweek said “Mandela rightly occupies an untouched place in the South African imagination. He’s the national liberator, the saviour, its Washington and Lincoln rolled into one”.[198]

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is to be known as “Mandela Day” to mark his contribution to world freedom.[199]

Orders and decorations

Mandela has received many South African, foreign and international honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 (which was shared with Frederik Willem de Klerk),[200] the Order of Merit[201] from, and creation as, a Baliff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John by Queen Elizabeth II and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush.[202] In July 2004, the city of Johannesburg bestowed its highest honour on Mandela by granting him the freedom of the city at a ceremony in Orlando, Soweto.[203]

As an example of his popular foreign acclaim, during his tour of Canada in 1998, 45,000 school children greeted him with adulation at a speaking engagement in the SkyDome in the city of Toronto.[204] In 2001, he was the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen (the only previous recipient, Raoul Wallenberg, was awarded honorary citizenship posthumously).[205] While in Canada, he was also made an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada, one of the few foreigners to receive the honour.[206]

In 1990 he received the Bharat Ratna Award from the government of India and also received the last ever Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.[207] In 1992 he was awarded the Atatürk Peace Award by Turkey. He refused the award citing human rights violations committed by Turkey at the time,[208] but later accepted the award in 1999.[209] In 1992 he received the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civil service award of Pakistan.[210]

Musical tributes

Many artists have dedicated songs to Mandela. One of the most popular was from The Special AKA who recorded the song “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1983. Stevie Wonder dedicated his 1985 Oscar for the song “I Just Called to Say I Love You” to Mandela, resulting in his music being banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.[211] In 1985, Youssou N’Dour‘s album Nelson Mandela was the Senegalese artist’s first United States release.

In 1988, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at London’s Wembley Stadium was a focal point of the anti-apartheid movement, with many musicians voicing their support for Mandela.[212] Jerry Dammers, the author of Nelson Mandela, was one of the organisers.[212] Simple Minds wrote and performed the song “Mandela Day” for the concert (it would appear on their next album six months later),[212] Santana recorded the instrumental “Mandela”,[212] Tracy Chapman performed “Freedom Now”, dedicated to Mandela and released on her album Crossroads,[212] Salif Keita from Mali, who played at the concert, later visited South Africa and in 1995 recorded the song “Mandela” on his album Folon.[212] and Whitney Houston performed and dedicated the gospel song “He I Believe”.

In South Africa, “Asimbonanga (Mandela)” (“We Have Not Seen Him”) became one of Johnny Clegg‘s most famous songs, appearing on his Third World Child album in 1987.[213] Hugh Masekela, in exile in the UK, sang “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)” in 1987.[214] Brenda Fassie‘s 1989 song “Black President”, a tribute to Mandela, was hugely popular even though it was banned in South Africa.[215] Nigerian reggae musician Majek Fashek released the single, “Free Mandela”, in 1992, making him one of many Nigerian recording artists who had released songs related to the anti-apartheid movement and to Mandela himself.

In 1990, Hong Kong rock band Beyond released a popular Cantonese song, “Days of Glory”. The anti-apartheid song featured lyrics referring to Mandela’s heroic struggle for racial equality.[216] The group Ladysmith Black Mambazo accompanied Mandela to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway in 1993, and performed for his inauguration in 1994. In 2003, Mandela lent his weight to the 46664 campaign against AIDS, named after his prison number. Many prominent musicians performed in concerts as part of this campaign.[217]

A summary of Mandela’s life story is featured in the 2006 music video “If Everyone Cared” by Nickelback.[218] Raffi‘s song “Turn This World Around” is based on a speech given by Mandela where he explained the world needs to be “turned around, for the children”.[219] A tribute concert for Mandela’s 90th birthday took place in Hyde Park, London on 27 June 2008.[220] Singer-songwriter Ampie du Preez and cricketer AB de Villiers wrote a song called “Madibaland” in honour of Mandela. It is featured as the 4th and 14th tracks on their album, “Maak Jou Drome Waar“.[221]

Published biographies

Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, was published in 1994, an extended version of No Easy Walk to Freedom, published by Heinemann in 1965. Mandela had begun work on it secretly while in prison.[222] In that book Mandela did not reveal anything about the alleged complicity of F. W. de Klerk in the violence of the eighties and nineties, or the role of his ex-wife Winnie Mandela in that bloodshed. However, he later co-operated with his friend, journalist Anthony Sampson who discussed those issues in Mandela: The Authorised Biography.[223] Another detail that Mandela omitted was the allegedly fraudulent book, Goodbye Bafana.[224] Its author, Robben Island warder James Gregory, claimed to have been Mandela’s confidant in prison and published details of the prisoner’s family affairs.[224] Sampson maintained that Mandela had not known Gregory well, but that Gregory censored the letters sent to the future president and thus discovered the details of Mandela’s personal life. Sampson also averred that other warders suspected Gregory of spying for the government and that Mandela considered suing Gregory.[47]

Cinema and television

The film Mandela and De Klerk told the story of Mandela’s release from prison.[225] Mandela was played by Sidney Poitier. Goodbye Bafana, a feature film that focuses on Mandela’s life, had its world premiere at the Berlin film festival on 11 February 2007. The film starred Dennis Haysbert as Mandela and chronicled Mandela’s relationship with prison guard James Gregory.[226]

On the American television series The Cosby Show Cliff and Claire Huxtable’s grandchildren were named Nelson and Winnie in honour of Mandela and his then wife Winnie.

In the BBC television sitcom Only Fools and Horses (1981–2003) the two main characters, Del Boy and Rodney Trotter live at flat 368 on the twelfth floor of the fictional Nelson Mandela House on the Dockside Estate, Peckham, London.

In the final scene of the 1992 movie Malcolm X, Mandela – recently released after 27 years of political imprisonment – appears as a schoolteacher in a Soweto classroom.[227] He recites a portion of one of Malcolm X‘s most famous speeches, including the following sentence: “We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence…” The famous final phrase of that sentence is “by any means necessary.”[228] Mandela informed director Spike Lee that he could not utter the phrase on camera fearing that the apartheid government would use it against him if he did. Lee obliged, and the final seconds of the film feature black-and-white footage of Malcolm X himself delivering the phrase.[228]

Mandela and Springboks captain, François Pienaar, are the focus of a 2008 book by John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation,[229] that spotlights the role of the 1995 Rugby World Cup win in post-apartheid South Africa. Carlin sold the film rights to Morgan Freeman.[230] The film, entitled Invictus,[231] was directed by Clint Eastwood, and featured Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Pienaar.[230]

In the BBC television one-off drama Mrs Mandela, Nelson Mandela was portrayed by David Harewood and Sophie Okonedo played his former wife Winnie Mandela.[232]

Statues and civic tributes

Tributes to Nelson Mandela

The statue of Mandela in Parliament Square, London.
Nelson Mandela Gardens in Leeds
Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg

On 30 April 2001, Nelson Mandela Gardens in Millennium Square, Leeds was officially opened and Nelson Mandela was awarded the freedom of the city and awarded a commemorative ‘golden owl’ (the heraldic symbol of Leeds). In a speech outside Leeds Civic Hall in front of 5000 people, mistakenly Mandela famously thanked ‘the people of Liverpool for their generosity’.[233]

On 31 March 2004, Sandton Square in Johannesburg was renamed Nelson Mandela Square, after a 6-metre statue of Nelson Mandela was installed on the square to honour the famous South African statesman.[234]

On 29 August 2007, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Parliament Square in London by Richard Attenborough, Ken Livingstone, Wendy Woods (widow of Donald Woods), and Gordon Brown.[235] The campaign to erect the statue was started in 2000 by the late Donald Woods, a South African journalist driven into exile because of his anti-apartheid activities. Mandela stated that it represented not just him, but all those who have resisted oppression, especially those in South Africa.[236] He added: “The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines, some of them leaders, some of them followers. All of them deserve to be remembered.”[237] An earlier London statue resides on the South Bank of The Thames, dating from 1985.[238]

On 27 August 2008, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Correctional Centre between Paarl and Franshhoek on the R301 road, near Cape Town. Formerly known as Victor Verster, this was where Mandela spent the last few years of his 27 years in jail in relative comfort, as he and other ANC stalwarts negotiated with the apartheid government on the terms of his release and the nature of the new South Africa. It stands on the very spot where Mandela took his first steps as a free man. Just outside the prison gates – the culmination of the Long Walk to Freedom – the title of Mandela’s autobiography.[239][240]

After 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake demolished the Cypress Street Viaduct portion of the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland, California, the city renamed the street-level boulevard that replaced it Mandela Parkway in his honour.

In Leicester, England there is a Nelson Mandela Park with the slogan “South Africa belongs to all those who live there, Black and White”. It is opposite Leicester Tigers ground Welford Road.

Mandela Day

Mandela Day on his birthday, 18 July, is an annual international day adopted by the United Nations. Individuals, communities and organisations are asked to donate 67 minutes to doing something for others, commemorating the 67 years that Nelson Mandela gave to the struggle for social justice.[241]


Mandela’s signature, dated “6.9.2000” (6 September 2000), in the green room, Llewellyn Hall, Australian National University.

Evidence of Mandela’s presence is honoured. An example is that his signature on a green room wall was rapidly covered by a plastic cover to preserve the artifact.

In 2004, zoologists Brent E. Hendrixson and Jason E. Bond named a South African species of trapdoor spider in the family Ctenizidae as Stasimopus mandelai, “honouring Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and one of the great moral leaders of our time.”[242]

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Further reading

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, Ju...

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Português: Brasília - O presidente da África d...

Português: Brasília – O presidente da África do Sul, Nelson Mandela, é recebido na capital federal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Posted in Men of History | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Gandhiji / Mahatma Gandhi / Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Posted by Nelson MCBS on November 8, 2012

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

NAME: Mahatma Gandhi

OCCUPATION: Anti-War Activist

BIRTH DATE: October 02, 1869

DEATH DATE: January 30, 1948

EDUCATION: Samaldas College at Bhavnagar, Gujarat, University College London




Born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India, Mohandas Gandhi studied law and came to aggravate for Indian rights both at home and in South Africa. He became a leader of India’s independence movement, organizing boycotts against British institutions in peaceful forms of civil disobedience. He was given the holy name Mahatmas and oversaw a diverse ashram. He was killed by a fanatic in 1948.


Indian nationalist leader. Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2, 1869 in Porbandar, Kathiawar, West India. He studied law in London, but in 1893 went to South Africa, where he spent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation against Indians. As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became one of the major political and spiritual leaders of his time. Satyagraha remains one of the most potent philosophies in freedom struggles throughout the world today.

In 1914, Gandhi returned to India, where he supported the Home Rule movement, and became leader of the Indian National Congress, advocating a policy of non-violent non-co-operation to achieve independence. His goal was to help poor farmers and laborers protest oppressive taxation and discrimination. He struggled to alleviate poverty, liberate women and put an end to caste discrimination, with the ultimate objective being self-rule for India.

Following his civil disobedience campaign (1919-22), he was jailed for conspiracy (1922-4). In 1930, he led a landmark 320 km/200 mi march to the sea to collect salt in symbolic defiance of the government monopoly. On his release from prison (1931), he attended the London Round Table Conference on Indian constitutional reform. In 1946, he negotiated with the Cabinet Mission which recommended the new constitutional structure. After independence (1947), he tried to stop the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Bengal, a policy which led to his assassination in Delhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic.

Even after his death, Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence and his belief in simple living–making his own clothes, eating a vegetarian diet, and using fasts for self-purification as well as a means of protest–have been a beacon of hope for oppressed and marginalized people throughout the world.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi:– (pronounced: [ˈmoːɦənd̪aːs ˈkərəmtʃənd̪ ˈɡaːnd̪ʱi]; 2 October 1869[1] – 30 January 1948), commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.[2][3]

The son of a senior government official, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat, and trained in law in London. Gandhi became famous by fighting for the civil rights of Muslim and Hindu Indians in South Africa, using the new techniques of non-violent civil disobedience that he developed. Returning to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants to protest excessive land-taxes. A lifelong opponent of “communalism” (i.e. basing politics on religion) he reached out widely to all religious groups. He became a leader of Muslims protesting the declining status of the Caliphate. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, and above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from British domination.

Gandhi led Indians in protesting the national salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in demanding the British to immediately Quit India in 1942, during World War II. He was imprisoned for that and for numerous other political offenses over the years. Gandhi sought to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He saw the villages as the core of the true India and promoted self-sufficiency; he did not support the industrialization programs of his disciple Jawaharlal Nehru. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn he had hand spun on a charkha. His chief political enemy in Britain was Winston Churchill,[4] who ridiculed him as a “half-naked fakir.”[5] He was a dedicated vegetarian, and undertook long fasts as means of both self-purification and political mobilization.

In his last year, unhappy at the partition of India, Gandhi worked to stop the carnage between Muslims on the one hand and Hindus and Sikhs that raged in the border area between India and Pakistan. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by a Hindu nationalist who thought Gandhi was too sympathetic to India’s Muslims. 30 January is observed as Martyrs’ Day in India. The honorific Mahatma (“Great Soul”), was applied to him by 1914.[6] In India he was also called Bapu (“Father”). He is known in India as the Father of the Nation;[7] his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi’s philosophy was not theoretical but one of pragmatism, that is, practicing his principles in real time. Asked to give a message to the people, he would respond, “My life is my message.”[8]

Early life and background

Gandhi in his earliest known photo, aged 7, c. 1876

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi[9] was born on 2 October 1869[1] in Porbandar, a coastal town which was then part of the Bombay Presidency, British India.[10] He was born in his ancestral home, now known as Kirti Mandir.[11] His father, Karamchand Gandhi (1822–1885), who belonged to the Hindu Modh community, served as the diwan (a high official) of Porbander state, a small princely state in the Kathiawar Agency of British India.[11][12] His grandfather was Uttamchand Gandhi, also called Utta Gandhi.[11] His mother, Putlibai, who came from the Pranami Vaishnava community, was Karamchand’s fourth wife, the first three wives having apparently died in childbirth.[13] Jain ideas and practices powerfully influenced Gandhi, particularly through his mother, who was a devout Jain.[14][15]

The Indian classics, especially the stories of Shravana and king Harishchandra, had a great impact on Gandhi in his childhood. In his autobiography, he admits that they left an indelible impression on his mind. He writes: “It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number.” Gandhi’s early self-identification with truth and love as supreme values is traceable to these epic characters.[16][17]

In May 1883, the 13-year-old Mohandas was married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji (her first name was usually shortened to “Kasturba”, and affectionately to “Ba”) in an arranged child marriage, according to the custom of the region.[18] In the process, he lost a year at school.[19] Recalling the day of their marriage, he once said, “As we didn’t know much about marriage, for us it meant only wearing new clothes, eating sweets and playing with relatives.” However, as was prevailing tradition, the adolescent bride was to spend much time at her parents’ house, and away from her husband.[20] In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple’s first child was born, but survived only a few days. Gandhi’s father, Karamchand Gandhi, had also died earlier that year.[21]

Mohandas and Kasturba had four more children, all sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892; Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900.[18] At his middle school in Porbandar and high school in Rajkot, Gandhi remained a mediocre student. He shone neither in the classroom nor on the playing field. One of the terminal reports rated him as “good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography; conduct very good, bad handwriting.” He passed the matriculation exam at Samaldas College in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, with some difficulty. Gandhi’s family wanted him to be a barrister, as it would increase the prospects of succeeding to his father’s post.[22]

English barrister

Gandhi and his wife Kasturba (1902)

In 1888, Gandhi travelled to London, England, to study law at University College London, where he studied Indian law and jurisprudence and to train as a barrister at the Inner Temple. His time in London was influenced by a vow he had made to his mother upon leaving India, in the presence of a Jain monk, to observe the Hindu precepts of abstinence from meat and alcohol as well as of promiscuity.[23] Gandhi tried to adopt “English” customs, including taking dancing lessons for example. However, he could not appreciate the bland vegetarian food offered by his landlady and was frequently hungry until he found one of London’s few vegetarian restaurants. Influenced by Henry Salt’s writing, he joined the Vegetarian Society, was elected to its executive committee,[24] and started a local Bayswater chapter.[13] Some of the vegetarians he met were members of the Theosophical Society, which had been founded in 1875 to further universal brotherhood, and which was devoted to the study of Buddhist and Hindu literature. They encouraged Gandhi to join them in reading the Bhagavad Gita both in translation as well as in the original.[24] Not having shown interest in religion before, he became interested in religious thought.

Gandhi was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left London for India, where he learned that his mother had died while he was in London and that his family had kept the news from him.[24] His attempts at establishing a law practice in Bombay failed because he was too shy to speak up in court. He returned to Rajkot to make a modest living drafting petitions for litigants but was forced to close it when he ran afoul of a British officer.[13][24] In 1893, he accepted a year-long contract from Dada Abdulla & Co., an Indian firm, to a post in the Colony of Natal, South Africa, then part of the British Empire.[13]

Civil rights movement in South Africa (1893–1914)

Gandhi in South Africa (1895)

Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, where he developed his political views, ethics and political leadership skills. Indians in South Africa were led by wealthy Muslims, who employed Gandhi as a lawyer, and by impoverished Hindu indentured laborers with very limited rights. Gandhi considered them all to be Indians, taking a lifetime view that “Indianness” transcended religion and caste. He believed he could bridge historic differences, especially regarding religion, and he took that belief back to India where he tried to implement it. The South African experience exposed handicaps to Gandhi that he had not known about. He realised he was out of contact with the enormous complexities of religious and cultural life in India, and believed he understood India by getting to know and leading Indians in South Africa.[25]

In South Africa, Gandhi faced the discrimination directed at all coloured people. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first-class. He protested and was allowed on first class the next day.[26] Travelling farther on by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger.[27] He suffered other hardships on the journey as well, including being barred from several hotels. In another incident, the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do.[28]

These events were a turning point in Gandhi’s life and shaped his social activism and awakened him to social injustice. After witnessing racism, prejudice and injustice against Indians in South Africa, Gandhi began to question his place in society and his people’s standing in the British Empire.[29]

Gandhi extended his original period of stay in South Africa to assist Indians in opposing a bill to deny them the right to vote. Though unable to halt the bill’s passage, his campaign was successful in drawing attention to the grievances of Indians in South Africa. He helped found the Natal Indian Congress in 1894,[13][26] and through this organisation, he moulded the Indian community of South Africa into a unified political force. In January 1897, when Gandhi landed in Durban, a mob of white settlers attacked him and he escaped only through the efforts of the wife of the police superintendent. He, however, refused to press charges against any member of the mob, stating it was one of his principles not to seek redress for a personal wrong in a court of law.[13]

In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act compelling registration of the colony’s Indian population. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on 11 September that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to the truth), or non-violent protest, for the first time.[30] He urged Indians to defy the new law and to suffer the punishments for doing so. The community adopted this plan, and during the ensuing seven-year struggle, thousands of Indians were jailed, flogged, or shot for striking, refusing to register, for burning their registration cards or engaging in other forms of non-violent resistance. The government successfully repressed the Indian protesters, but the public outcry over the harsh treatment of peaceful Indian protesters by the South African government forced South African leader Jan Christiaan Smuts, himself a philosopher, to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi. Gandhi’s ideas took shape, and the concept of Satyagraha matured during this struggle.

Gandhi and the Africans

M.K. Gandhi while serving in the Ambulance Corps during the Second Boer War (1899)

Gandhi focused his attention on Indians while in South Africa and opposed the idea that Indians should be treated at the same level as native Africans while in South Africa.[31][32][33] After several treatments he received from Whites in South Africa, Gandhi began to change his thinking and apparently increased his interest in politics.[34] White rule enforced strict segregation among all races and generated conflict between these communities. Bhana and Vahed argue that Gandhi, at first, shared racial notions prevalent of the times and that his experiences in jail sensitized him to the plight of blacks.

In 1906, the British declared war against the Zulu kingdom in Natal, Gandhi encouraged the British to recruit Indians.[35] He argued that Indians should support the war efforts in order to legitimise their claims to full citizenship.[35] The British accepted Gandhi’s offer to let a detachment of 20 Indians volunteer as a stretcher-bearer corps to treat wounded British soldiers. This corps was commanded by Gandhi and operated for less than two months.[36] The experience taught him it was hopeless to directly challenge the overwhelming military power of the British army—he decided it could only be resisted in non-violent fashion by the pure of heart.[37]

After the black majority came to power in South Africa, Gandhi was proclaimed a national hero with numerous monuments.[38]

Struggle for Indian Independence (1915–47)

In 1915, Gandhi returned to India permanently. He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and organizer. He joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale’s liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to make it look wholly Indian.[39]

Gandhi took leadership of Congress in 1920 and began a steady escalation of demands (with Intermittent compromises or pauses) until on 26 January 1930 the Indian National Congress declared the independence of India. The British did not recognize that and more negotiations ensued, with Congress taking a role in provincial government in the late 1930s. Gandhi and Congress withdrew their support of the Raj when the Viceroy declared war on Germany in September 1939 without consulting anyone. Tensions escalated until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in 1942 and the British responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands of Congress leaders for the duration. Meanwhile the Muslim League did cooperate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi’s strong opposition, to demands for a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In August 1947 the British partitioned the land, with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on terms Gandhi disapproved.[40]

Role in World War I

In April 1918, during the latter part of World War I, the Viceroy invited Gandhi to a War Conference in Delhi.[41] Perhaps to show his support for the Empire and help his case for India’s independence,[42] Gandhi agreed to actively recruit Indians for the war effort.[43] In contrast to the Zulu War of 1906 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he recruited volunteers for the Ambulance Corps, this time Gandhi attempted to recruit combatants. In a June 1918 leaflet entitled “Appeal for Enlistment”, Gandhi wrote “To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them…If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army.”[44] He did, however, stipulate in a letter to the Viceroy’s private secretary that he “personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe.”[45]

Gandhi’s war recruitment campaign brought into question his consistency on nonviolence as his friend Charlie Andrews confirms, “Personally I have never been able to reconcile this with his own conduct in other respects, and it is one of the points where I have found myself in painful disagreement.”[46] Gandhi’s private secretary also had acknowledged that “The question of the consistency between his creed of ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence) and his recruiting campaign was raised not only then but has been discussed ever since.”[43]

Champaran and Kheda

Gandhi in 1918, at the time of the Kheda and Champaran Satyagrahas

Gandhi’s first major achievements came in 1918 with the Champaran and Kheda agitations of Bihar and Gujarat. The Champaran agitation pitted the local peasantry against their largely British landlords who were backed by the local administration. The peasantry was forced to grow Indigo, a cash crop whose demand had been declining over two decades, and were forced to sell their crops to the planters at a fixed price. Unhappy wIth this, the peasantry appealed to Gandhi at his ashram in Ahmedabad. Pursuing a strategy of non-violent protest, Gandhi took the administration by surprise and won concessions from the authorities.[47]

In 1918, Kheda was hit by floods and famine and the peasantry was demanding relief from taxes. Gandhi moved his headquarters to Nadiad,[48] organising scores of supporters and fresh volunteers from the region, the most notable being Vallabhbhai Patel.[49] Using non-cooperation as a technique, Gandhi initiated a signature campaign where peasants pledged non-payment of revenue even under the threat of confiscation of land. A social boycott of mamlatdars and talatdars (revenue officials within the district) accompanied the agitation. Gandhi worked hard to win public support for the agitation across the country. For five months, the administration refused but finally in end-May 1918, the Government gave way on important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended. In Kheda, Vallabhbhai Patel represented the farmers in negotiations with the British, who suspended revenue collection and released all the prisoners.[50]

Khilafat movement

In 1919 Gandhi, with his weak position in Congress, decided to broaden his base by increasing his appeal to Muslims. The opportunity came from the Khilafat movement, a worldwide protest by Muslims against the collapsing status of the Caliph, the leader of their religion. The Ottoman Empire had lost the World War and was dismembered, as Muslims feared for the safety of the holy places and the prestige of their religion.[51] Although Gandhi did not originate the All-India Muslim Conference,[52] which directed the movement in India, he soon became its most prominent spokesman and attracted a strong base of Muslim support with local chapters in all Muslim centers in India.[53] His success made him India’s first national leader with a multicultural base and facilitated his rise to power within Congress, which had previously been unable to reach many Muslims. In 1920 Gandhi became a major leader in Congress.[54][55] By the end of 1922 the Khilafat movement had collapsed.[56]

Gandhi always fought against “communalism,” which pitted Muslims against Hindus in politics, but he could not reverse the rapid growth of communalism after 1922. Deadly religious riots broke out in numerous cities, including 91 in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) alone.[57][58] At the leadership level, the proportion of Muslims among delegates to Congress fell sharply, from 11% in 1921 to under 4% in 1923.[59]


Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn, in late 1920

With Congress now behind him in 1920, Gandhi had the base to employ non-cooperation, non-violence and peaceful resistance as his “weapons” in the struggle against the British Raj. His wide popularity among both Hindus and Muslims made his leadership possible; he even convinced the extreme faction of Muslims to support peaceful non-cooperation.[60] The spark that ignited a national protest was overwhelming anger at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (or Amritsar massacre) of hundreds of peaceful civilians by British troops in Punjab. Many Britons celebrated the action as needed to prevent another Mutiny like 1857, an attitude that caused many Indian leaders to decide the Raj was controlled by their enemies, and was more an obstacle than a pathway. Gandhi criticised both the actions of the British Raj and the retaliatory violence of Indians. He authored the resolution offering condolences to British civilian victims and condemning the riots which, after initial opposition in the party, was accepted following Gandhi’s emotional speech advocating his principle that all violence was evil and could not be justified.[61]

After the massacre and subsequent violence, Gandhi began to focus on winning complete self-government and control of all Indian government institutions, maturing soon into Swaraj or complete individual, spiritual, political independence.[62] During this period, Gandhi claimed to be a “highly orthodox Hindu” and in January 1921 during a speech at a temple in Vadtal, he spoke of the relevance of non-cooperation to Hindu Dharma, “At this holy place, I declare, if you want to protect your ‘Hindu Dharma’, non-cooperation is first as well as the last lesson you must learn up.”.[63]

Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhi’s home in Gujarat

In December 1921, Gandhi was invested with executive authority on behalf of the Indian National Congress. Under his leadership, the Congress was reorganised with a new constitution, with the goal of Swaraj. Membership in the party was opened to anyone prepared to pay a token fee. A hierarchy of committees was set up to improve discipline, transforming the party from an elite organisation to one of mass national appeal. Gandhi expanded his non-violence platform to include the swadeshi policy—the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement.[64]

Gandhi even invented a small, portable spinning wheel that could be folded into the size of a small typewriter.[65] This was a strategy to inculcate discipline and dedication to weeding out the unwilling and ambitious and to include women in the movement at a time when many thought that such activities were not respectable activities for women. In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British educational institutions and law courts, to resign from government employment, and to forsake British titles and honours.[66]

“Non-cooperation” enjoyed widespread appeal and success, increasing excitement and participation from all strata of Indian society. Yet, just as the movement reached its apex, it ended abruptly as a result of a violent clash in the town of Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, in February 1922. Fearing that the movement was about to take a turn towards violence, and convinced that this would be the undoing of all his work, Gandhi called off the campaign of mass civil disobedience.[67] This was the third time that Gandhi had called off a major campaign.[68] Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He began his sentence on 18 March 1922. He was released in February 1924 for an appendicitis operation, having served only 2 years.[69]

Without Gandhi’s unifying personality, the Indian National Congress began to splinter during his years in prison, splitting into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participation in the legislatures, and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing this move. Furthermore, cooperation among Hindus and Muslims, which had been strong at the height of the non-violence campaign, was breaking down. Gandhi attempted to bridge these differences through many means, including a three-week fast in the autumn of 1924, but with limited success.[70] In this year, Gandhi was persuaded to preside over the Congress session to be held in Belgaum. Gandhi agreed to become president of the session on one condition that Congressmen should take to wearing khadi (made of homespun cloth). In his long political career, this was the only time when he presided over a Congress session.[71]

Salt Satyagraha (Salt March)

Main article: Salt Satyagraha

Original footage of Gandhi and his followers marching to Dandi in the Salt Satyagraha

Gandhi stayed out of active politics and, as such, the limelight for most of the 1920s. He focused instead on resolving the wedge between the Swaraj Party and the Indian National Congress, and expanding initiatives against untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance and poverty. He returned to the fore in 1928. In the preceding year, the British government had appointed a new constitutional reform commission under Sir John Simon, which did not include any Indian as its member. The result was a boycott of the commission by Indian political parties. Gandhi pushed through a resolution at the Calcutta Congress in December 1928 calling on the British government to grant India dominion status or face a new campaign of non-cooperation with complete independence for the country as its goal. Gandhi had not only moderated the views of younger men like Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought a demand for immediate independence, but also reduced his own call to a one year wait, instead of two.[72]

The British did not respond. On 31 December 1929, the flag of India was unfurled in Lahore. 26 January 1930 was celebrated as India’s Independence Day by the Indian National Congress meeting in Lahore. This day was commemorated by almost every other Indian organisation. Gandhi then launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt in March 1930. This was highlighted by the famous Salt March to Dandi from 12 March to 6 April, where he marched 388 kilometres (241 mi) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself. Thousands of Indians joined him on this march to the sea. This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold on India; Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000 people.[73]


Salt as a household necessity was of special interest to women. Gandhi strongly favoured the emancipation of women, and he went so far as to say that “the women have come to look upon me as one of themselves.” He opposed purdah, child marriage, untouchability, and the extreme oppression of Hindu widows, up to and including sati. He especially recruited women to participate in the salt tax campaigns and the boycott of foreign products.[74] Sarma concludes that Gandhi’s success in enlisting women in his campaigns, including the salt tax campaign, anti-untouchability campaign and the peasant movement, gave many women a new self-confidence and dignity in the mainstream of Indian public life.[75]

Gandhi as folk hero

Congress in the 1920s appealed to peasants by portraying Gandhi as a sort of messiah (the long-awaited savior of an entire people), a strategy that succeeded in incorporating radical forces within the peasantry into the nonviolent resistance movement. In thousands of villages plays were performed that presented Gandhi as the reincarnation of earlier Indian nationalist leaders, or even as a demigod. The plays built support among illiterate peasants steeped in traditional Hindu culture. Similar messianic imagery appeared in popular songs and poems, and in Congress-sponsored religious pageants and celebrations. The result was that Gandhi became not only a folk hero but the Congress was widely seen in the villages as his sacred instrument.[76]


Mahadev Desai (left) reading out a letter to Gandhi from the viceroy at Birla House, Bombay, 7 April 1939

The government, represented by Lord Edward Irwin, decided to negotiate with Gandhi. The Gandhi–Irwin Pact was signed in March 1931. The British Government agreed to free all political prisoners, in return for the suspension of the civil disobedience movement. Also as a result of the pact, Gandhi was invited to attend the Round Table Conference in London as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. The conference was a disappointment to Gandhi and the nationalists, because it focused on the Indian princes and Indian minorities rather than on a transfer of power. Lord Irwin’s successor, Lord Willingdon, taking a hard line against nationalism, began a new campaign of controlling and subduing the nationalist movement. Gandhi was again arrested, and the government tried and failed to negate his influence by completely isolating him from his followers.[77]


In 1932, through the campaigning of the Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar, the government granted untouchables separate electorates under the new constitution. In protest, Gandhi embarked on a six-day fast in September 1932. The resulting public outcry successfully forced the government to adopt an equitable arrangement through negotiations mediated by Palwankar Baloo. This was the start of a new campaign by Gandhi to improve the lives of the untouchables, whom he named Harijans, the children of God.[78]

On 8 May 1933, Gandhi began a 21-day fast of self-purification and launched a one-year campaign to help the Harijan movement.[79] This new campaign was not universally embraced within the Dalit community, as Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s use of the term Harijans as saying that Dalits were socially immature, and that privileged caste Indians played a paternalistic role. Ambedkar and his allies also felt Gandhi was undermining Dalit political rights. Gandhi had also refused to support the untouchables in 1924–25 when they were campaigning for the right to pray in temples. Because of Gandhi’s actions, Ambedkar described him as “devious and untrustworthy”.[68] Gandhi, although born into the Vaishya caste, insisted that he was able to speak on behalf of Dalits, despite the presence of Dalit activists such as Ambedkar.[80] Gandhi and Ambedkar often clashed because Ambedkar sought to remove the Dalits out of the Hindu community, while Gandhi tried to save Hinduism by exorcising untouchability. Ambedkar complained that Gandhi moved too slowly, while Hindu traditionalists said Gandhi was a dangerous radical who rejected scripture. Guha noted in 2012 that, “Ideologues have carried these old rivalries into the present, with the demonization of Gandhi now common among politicians who presume to speak in Ambedkar’s name.”[81] Guha adds that their work complemented each other, and Gandhi often praised Ambedkar.

In the summer of 1934, three attempts were made on Gandhi’s life.[82][83]

Congress politics

In 1934 Gandhi resigned from Congress party membership. He did not disagree with the party’s position but felt that if he resigned, his popularity with Indians would cease to stifle the party’s membership, which actually varied, including communists, socialists, trade unionists, students, religious conservatives, and those with pro-business convictions, and that these various voices would get a chance to make themselves heard. Gandhi also wanted to avoid being a target for Raj propaganda by leading a party that had temporarily accepted political accommodation with the Raj.[84]

Gandhi returned to active politics again in 1936, with the Nehru presidency and the Lucknow session of the Congress. Although Gandhi wanted a total focus on the task of winning independence and not speculation about India’s future, he did not restrain the Congress from adopting socialism as its goal. Gandhi had a clash with Subhas Chandra Bose, who had been elected president in 1938, and who had previously expressed a lack of faith in non-violence as a means of protest.[85] Despite Gandhi’s opposition, Bose won a second term as Congress President, against Gandhi’s nominee, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya; but left the Congress when the All-India leaders resigned en masse in protest of his abandonment of the principles introduced by Gandhi.[86][87] Gandhi declared that Sitaramayya’s defeat was his defeat.[88]

World War II and Quit India

Main article: Quit India Movement

Gandhi and Nehru in 1942

Gandhi initially favoured offering “non-violent moral support” to the British effort when World War II broke out in 1939, but the Congressional leaders were offended by the unilateral inclusion of India in the war without consultation of the people’s representatives. All Congressmen resigned from office.[89] After long deliberations, Gandhi declared that India could not be party to a war ostensibly being fought for democratic freedom while that freedom was denied to India itself. As the war progressed, Gandhi intensified his demand for independence, calling for the British to Quit India in a speech at Gowalia Tank Maidan. This was Gandhi’s and the Congress Party’s most definitive revolt aimed at securing the British exit from India.[90]

Gandhi was criticised by some Congress party members and other Indian political groups, both pro-British and anti-British. Some felt that not supporting Britain more in its struggle against Nazi Germany was unethical. Others felt that Gandhi’s refusal for India to participate in the war was insufficient and more direct opposition should be taken, while Britain fought against Nazism, it continued to refuse to grant India Independence. Quit India became the most forceful movement in the history of the struggle, with mass arrests and violence on an unprecedented scale.[91]

In 1942, although still committed in his efforts to “launch a non-violent movement”, Gandhi clarified that the movement would not be stopped by individual acts of violence, saying that the “ordered anarchy” of “the present system of administration” was “worse than real anarchy.”[92][93] He called on all Congressmen and Indians to maintain discipline via ahimsa, and Karo ya maro (“Do or die”) in the cause of ultimate freedom.[94]

Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Bombay, 1944

Gandhi and the entire Congress Working Committee were arrested in Bombay by the British on 9 August 1942. Gandhi was held for two years in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune. It was here that Gandhi suffered two terrible blows in his personal life. His 50-year old secretary Mahadev Desai died of a heart attack 6 days later and his wife Kasturba died after 18 months imprisonment on 22 February 1944; six weeks later Gandhi suffered a severe malaria attack. He was released before the end of the war on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery; the Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. He came out of detention to an altered political scene—the Muslim League for example, which a few years earlier had appeared marginal, “now occupied the centre of the political stage”[95] and the topic of Jinnah‘s campaign for Pakistan was a major talking point. Gandhi met Jinnah in September 1944 in Bombay but Jinnah rejected, on the grounds that it fell short of a fully independent Pakistan, his proposal of the right of Muslim provinces to opt out of substantial parts of the forthcoming political union.[96][97]

While the leaders of Congress languished in jail, the other parties supported the war and gained organizational strength. Underground publications flailed at the ruthless suppression of Congress, but it had little control over events.[98] At the end of the war, the British gave clear indications that power would be transferred to Indian hands. At this point Gandhi called off the struggle, and around 100,000 political prisoners were released, including the Congress’s leadership.[99]

Partition and independence, 1947

Gandhi having tea with Lord Mountbatten, 1947

As a rule, Gandhi was opposed to the concept of partition as it contradicted his vision of religious unity.[100] Concerning the partition of India to create Pakistan, while the Indian National Congress and Gandhi called for the British to quit India, the Muslim League passed a resolution for them to divide and quit, in 1943.[101] Gandhi suggested an agreement which required the Congress and Muslim League to cooperate and attain independence under a provisional government, thereafter, the question of partition could be resolved by a plebiscite in the districts with a Muslim majority.[102] When Jinnah called for Direct Action, on 16 August 1946, Gandhi was infuriated and personally visited the most riot-prone areas to stop the massacres.[103] He made strong efforts to unite the Indian Hindus, Muslims, and Christians and struggled for the emancipation of the “untouchables” in Hindu society.[104]

On 14 and 15 August 1947 the Indian Independence Act was invoked. In border areas some 10—12 million people moved from one side to another and upwards of a half million were killed in communal riots pitting Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.[105] But for his teachings, the efforts of his followers, and his own presence, there perhaps could have been much more bloodshed during the partition, according to prominent Norwegian historian, Jens Arup Seip.[106]

Stanley Wolpert has argued, The “plan to carve up British India was never approved of or accepted by Gandhi…who realised too late that his closest comrades and disciples were more interested in power than principle, and that his own vision had long been clouded by the illusion that the struggle he led for India’s freedom was a nonviolent one.”[107]


Raj Ghat, Delhi is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi that marks the spot of his cremation.

On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was shot while he was walking to a platform from which he was to address a prayer meeting. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, was a Hindu nationalist with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, who held Gandhi responsible for weakening India by insisting upon a payment to Pakistan.[108] Godse and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte were later tried and convicted; they were executed on 15 November 1949. Gandhi’s memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph “Hē Ram”, (Devanagari: हे ! राम or, He Rām), which may be translated as “Oh God”. These are widely believed to be Gandhi’s last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed.[109] Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation through radio:[110]

“Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.”—Jawaharlal Nehru’s address to Gandhi[111]

Funeral procession of Gandhi at New Delhi on 6 February 1948

Gandhi’s death was mourned nationwide. Over 2 million people joined the 5 mile long funeral procession that took over 5 hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla house, where he was assassinated. Gandhi’s body was transported on a weapons carrier, whose chassis was dismantled overnight to allow a high-floor to be installed so that people could catch a glimpse of his body. The engine of the vehicle was not used, instead 4 drag-ropes manned by 50 people each pulled the vehicle.[112] All Indian owned establishments in London remained closed in mourning as thousands of people from all faiths and denominations and Indians from all over Britain converged at India House in London.[113]

Professor Yasmin Khan argues that Gandhi’s death and funeral helped consolidate the authority of the new Indian state. With Nehru and Patel in charge, the government made sure everyone knew the guilty party was not a Muslim. Congress tightly controlled the epic public displays of grief over a two-week period—the funeral, mortuary rituals and distribution of the martyr’s ashes—as millions participated and hundreds of millions watched. The goal was to assert the power of the government and legitimize the Congress Party’s control. This move built upon the massive outpouring of Hindu expressions of grief. The government suppressed the RSS, the Muslim National Guards, and the Khaksars, with some 200,000 arrests. Gandhi’s death and funeral linked the distant state with the Indian people and made more understand the need to suppress religious parties during the transition to independence for the Indian people.[114]


By Hindu tradition the ashes were to be spread on a river. Gandhi’s ashes were poured into urns which were sent across India for memorial services.[115] Most were immersed at the Sangam at Allahabad on 12 February 1948, but some were secretly taken away. In 1997, Tushar Gandhi immersed the contents of one urn, found in a bank vault and reclaimed through the courts, at the Sangam at Allahabad.[116][117] Some of Gandhi’s ashes were scattered at the source of the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, and a memorial plaque marks the event. On 30 January 2008, the contents of another urn were immersed at Girgaum Chowpatty. Another urn is at the palace of the Aga Khan in Pune[116] (where he had been imprisoned from 1942 to 1944) and another in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles.[118]

Principles, practices and beliefs

Main article: Gandhism

Gandhism designates the ideas and principles Gandhi promoted. Of central importance is nonviolent resistance. A Gandhian can mean either an individual who follows, or a specific philosophy which is attributed to, Gandhism.[47] M.M.Sankhdher argues that Gandhism is not a systematic position in metaphysics or in political philosophy. Rather, it is a political creed, an economic doctrine, a religious outlook, a moral precept, and especially, a humanitarian world view. It is an effort not to systematize wisdom but to transform society and is based on an undying faith in the goodness of human nature.[119] However Gandhi himself did not approve of the notion of “Gandhism”. He explained in 1936:

There is no such thing as “Gandhism,” and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems…The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not final. I may change them tomorrow. I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.[120]


Gandhi with famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, 1940

Historian R.B. Cribb argues that Gandhi’s thought evolved over time, with his early ideas becoming the core or scaffolding for his mature philosophy. In London he committed himself to truthfulness, temperance, chastity, and vegetarianism. His return to India to work as a lawyer was a failure, so he went to South Africa for a quarter century, where he absorbed ideas from many sources, most of them non-Indian.[121] While Gandhi was born a Hindu, he grew up in an eclectic religious atmosphere and throughout his life searched for insights from many religious traditions.[122] He was exposed to Jain ideas through his mother who was a devout Jain and was in contact with Jain leaders. Themes from Jainism that Gandhi absorbed included asceticism; compassion for all forms of life; the importance of vows for self-discipline; vegetarianism; fasting for self-purification; mutual tolerance among people of different creeds; and “syadvad,” the idea that all views of truth are partial, a doctrine that lies at the root of Satyagraha.[15][123]

Gandhi’s London experience provided a solid philosophical base focused on truthfulness, temperance, chastity, and vegetarianism. When he returned to India in 1891, his outlook was parochial and he could not make a living as a lawyer. This challenged his belief that practicality and morality necessarily coincided. By moving in 1893 to South Africa he found a solution to this problem and developed the central concepts of his mature philosophy.[124] N. A. Toothi[125] felt that Gandhi was influenced by the reforms and teachings of Swaminarayan, stating “Close parallels do exist in programs of social reform based on to non-violence, truth-telling, cleanliness, temperance and upliftment of the masses.”[126] Vallabhbhai Patel, who grew up in a Swaminarayan household was attracted to Gandhi due to this aspect of Gandhi’s doctrine.[127]

Gandhi’s ethical thinking was heavily influenced by a handful of books, which he repeatedly meditated upon. They included especially Plato’s Apology, (which he translated into his native Gujarati); William Salter’s Ethical Religion (1889); Henry David Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1847); Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1893); and John Ruskin’s Unto this Last (1862), which he also translated into Gujarati . Ruskin inspired his decision to live an austere life on a commune, at first on the Phoenix Farm in Natal and then on the Tolstoy Farm just outside Johannesburg, South Africa.[128]

Balkrishna Gokhale argues that Gandhi took his philosophy of history from Hinduism and Jainism, supplemented by selected Christian traditions and ideas of Tolstoy and Ruskin. Hinduism provided central concepts of God’s role in history, of man as the battleground of forces of virtue and sin, and of the potential of love as an historical force. From Jainism, Gandhi took the idea of applying nonviolence to human situations and the theory that Absolute Reality can be comprehended only relatively in human affairs.[129]

Historian Howard Spodek argues for the importance of the culture of Gujarat in shaping Gandhi’s methods. Spodek finds that some of Gandhi’s most effective methods such as fasting, noncooperation and appeals to the justice and compassion of the rulers were learned as a youth in Gujarat. Later on, the financial, cultural, organizational and geographical support needed to bring his campaigns to a national audience were drawn from Ahmedabad and Gujarat, his Indian residence 1915–1930.[130]


Mohandas K. Gandhi and other residents of Tolstoy Farm, South Africa, 1910

In 1908 Leo Tolstoy wrote A Letter to a Hindu, which said that only by using love as a weapon through passive resistance could the Indian people overthrow colonial rule. In 1909, Gandhi wrote to Tolstoy seeking advice and permission to republish A Letter to a Hindu in Gujarati. Tolstoy responded and the two continued a correspondence until Tolstoy’s death in 1910. The letters concern practical and theological applications of non-violence.[131] Gandhi saw himself a disciple of Tolstoy, for they agreed regarding opposition to state authority and colonialism; both hated violence and preached non-resistance. However, they differed sharply on political strategy. Gandhi called for political involvement; he was a nationalist and was prepared to use nonviolent force. He was also willing to compromise.[132] It was at Tolstoy Farm where Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach systematically trained their disciples in the philosophy of nonviolence.[133]

Truth and Satyagraha

“God is truth. The way to truth lies through ahimsa (non-violence)”—Sabarmati 13 March 1927

Gandhi dedicated his life to the wider purpose of discovering truth, or Satya. He tried to achieve this by learning from his own mistakes and conducting experiments on himself. He called his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth.[134]

Bruce Watson argues that Gandhi based Satyagraha on the Vedantic ideal of self-realization, and notes it also contains Jain and Buddhist notions of nonviolence, vegetarianism, the avoidance of killing, and ‘agape’ (universal love). Gandhi also borrowed Christian-Islamic ideas of equality, the brotherhood of man, and the concept of turning the other cheek.[135]

Gandhi stated that the most important battle to fight was overcoming his own demons, fears, and insecurities. Gandhi summarised his beliefs first when he said “God is Truth”. He would later change this statement to “Truth is God”. Thus, satya (truth) in Gandhi’s philosophy is “God”.[136]

The essence of Satyagraha (a name Gandhi invented meaning “adherence to truth”[137]) is that it seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists themselves and seeks to transform or “purify” it to a higher level. A euphemism sometimes used for Satyagraha is that it is a “silent force” or a “soul force” (a term also used by Martin Luther King Jr. during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech). It arms the individual with moral power rather than physical power. Satyagraha is also termed a “universal force,” as it essentially “makes no distinction between kinsmen and strangers, young and old, man and woman, friend and foe.”[138]

Gandiji wrote: “There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one’s cause.”[139] Civil disobedience and non-cooperation as practised under Satyagraha are based on the “law of suffering”,[140] a doctrine that the endurance of suffering is a means to an end. This end usually implies a moral upliftment or progress of an individual or society. Therefore, non-cooperation in Satyagraha is in fact a means to secure the cooperation of the opponent consistently with truth and justice.[141]


Gandhi with textile workers at Darwen, Lancashire, 26 September 1931.

Although Gandhi was not the originator of the principle of non-violence, he was the first to apply it in the political field on a large scale.[142] The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Christian contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Some of his other remarks were widely quoted, such as “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”[143] “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for.”[144] Gandhi realized later that this level of nonviolence required incredible faith and courage, which he believed everyone did not possess. He therefore advised that everyone need not keep to nonviolence, especially if it were used as a cover for cowardice, saying, “where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”[145][146]

Gandhi thus came under some political fire for his criticism of those who attempted to achieve independence through more violent means. His refusal to protest against the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Udham Singh and Rajguru were sources of condemnation among some parties.[147][148]

Of this criticism, Gandhi stated, “There was a time when people listened to me because I showed them how to give fight to the British without arms when they had no arms […] but today I am told that my non-violence can be of no avail against the [Hindu–Moslem riots] and, therefore, people should arm themselves for self-defense.”[149]

Gandhi’s views came under heavy criticism in Britain when it was under attack from Nazi Germany, and later when the Holocaust was revealed. He told the British people in 1940, “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions… If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”[150]

In a post-war interview in 1946, he said, “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”[151] Gandhi believed this act of “collective suicide”, in response to the Holocaust, “would have been heroism”.[152]


One of Gandhi major strategies first in South Africa and then in India was uniting Muslims and Hindus to work together in opposition to British imperialism. In 1919-22 he won strong Muslim support for his leadership in the Khilafat Movement to support the historic Ottoman Caliphate. By 1924 that Muslim support had largely evaporated.[153][154]


In 1931, he suggested that while he could understand the desire of European Jews to emigrate to Palestine, he opposed any movement that supported British colonialism or violence. Muslims throughout India and the Middle East strongly opposed the Zionist plan for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Gandhi (and Congress) supported the Muslims in this regard. By the 1930s all major political groups in India opposed a Jewish state in Palestine.[155]

This led to discussions concerning the persecution of the Jews in Germany and the emigration of Jews from Europe to Palestine, which Gandhi framed through the lens of Satyagraha.[156][157] In 1938, Gandhi stated that his “sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became life-long companions.”[158] In 1937, Gandhi discussed Zionism with his close Jewish friend Hermann Kallenbach.[159] He said Zionism was not the right answer to the Jewish problem[160] and instead recommended Satyagraha. Gandhi thought the Zionists in Palestine represented European imperialism and used violence to achieve their goals; he argued that “the Jews should disclaim any intention of realizing their aspiration under the protection of arms and should rely wholly on the goodwill of Arabs. No exception can possibly be taken to the natural desire of the Jews to found a home in Palestine. But they must wait for its fulfillment till Arab opinion is ripe for it.”[161] Philosopher Martin Buber was highly critical of Gandhi’s approach and in 1939 wrote an open letter to him on the subject. Gandhi reiterated his stance on the use of Satyagraha in Palestine in 1947.[162]

Vegetarianism and fasting

Stephen Hay argues that Gandhi in London looked into numerous religious and intellectual currents. He especially appreciated how the theosophical movement encouraged a religious eclecticism and an antipathy to atheism. Hay says the vegetarian movement had the greatest impact for it was Gandhi’s point of entry into other reformist agendas of the time.[163] The idea of vegetarianism is deeply ingrained in Hindu and Jain traditions in India, especially in his native Gujarat.[164] Gandhi was close to the chairman of the London Vegetarian Society, Dr. Josiah Oldfield, and corresponded with Henry Stephens Salt, a vegetarian campaigner. Gandhi became a strict vegetarian. He wrote the book The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism and wrote for the London Vegetarian Society’s publication.[165]

Gandhi used fasting as a political device, often threatening suicide unless demands were met. Gandhi noted in his autobiography that vegetarianism was the beginning of his deep commitment to Brahmacharya; without total control of the palate, his success in Brahmacharya would likely falter. “You wish to know what the marks of a man are who wants to realize Truth which is God,” he wrote. “He must reduce himself to zero and have perfect control over all his senses-beginning with the palate or tongue.”[166][167]

Congress publicized the fasts as a political action that generated widespread sympathy. In response the government tried to manipulate news coverage to minimize his challenge to the Raj. He fasted in 1932 to protest the voting scheme for separate political representation for Dalits; Gandhi did not want them segregated. The government stopped the London press from showing photographs of his emaciated body, because it would elicit sympathy. Gandhi’s 1943 hunger strike took place during a two-year prison term for the anticolonial Quit India movement. The government called on nutritional experts to demystify his action, and again no photos were allowed. However his final fast in 1948, after India was independent, was lauded by the British press and this time did include full-length photos.[168]

Alter argues that Gandhi’s fixation on diet and celibacy were much deeper than exercises in self-discipline. Rather, his beliefs regarding health offered a critique of both the traditional Hindu system of ayurvedic medicine and Western concepts. This challenge was integral to his deeper challenge to tradition and modernity, as health and nonviolence became part of the same ethics.[169]


A core Gandhian value that came in for much bantering and ribald music hall humour in Britain was his nakedness—Churchill publicly called him a “half-naked fakir”[170] – and his experiments in “brahmacharya” or the elimination of all desire in the face of temptation.[171] In 1906 Gandhi, although married and a father, vowed to abstain from sexual relations. In the 1940s, in his mid-seventies, he brought his grandniece Manubehn to sleep naked in his bed as part of a spiritual experiment in which Gandhi could test himself as a “brahmachari.” Several other young women and girls also sometimes shared his bed as part of his experiments.[172] Gandhi discussed his experiment with friends and relations; most disagreed and the experiment ceased in 1947.[173]

Nai Talim, Basic Education

Main article: Nai Talim

Gandhi’s educational policies reflected Nai Talim (‘Basic Education for all’), a spiritual principle which states that knowledge and work are not separate. It was a reaction against the British educational system and colonialism in general, which had the negative effect of making Indian children alienated and career-based; it promoted disdain for manual work, the development of a new elite class, and the increasing problems of industrialisation and urbanisation. The three pillars of Gandhi’s pedagogy were its focus on the lifelong character of education, its social character and its form as a holistic process. For Gandhi, education is ‘the moral development of the person’, a process that is by definition ‘lifelong’.[174]

Nai Talim evolved out of the spiritually oriented education program at Tolstoy Farm in South Africa, and Gandhi’s work at the ashram at Sevagram after 1937.[175] After 1947 the Nehru government’s vision of an industrialized, centrally planned economy had scant place for Gandhi’s village-oriented approach.[176]

Swaraj, Self-Rule

Main article: Swaraj

Rudolph argues that after a false start in trying to emulate the English in an attempt to overcome his timidity, Gandhi discovered the inner courage he was seeking by helping his countrymen in South Africa. The new courage consisted of observing the traditional Bengali way of “self-suffering” and, in finding his own courage, he was enabled also to point out the way of ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘ahimsa’ to the whole of India.[177]

Gandhi was a self-described philosophical anarchist,[178] and his vision of India meant an India without an underlying government.[179] He once said that “the ideally nonviolent state would be an ordered anarchy.”[180] While political systems are largely hierarchical, with each layer of authority from the individual to the central government have increasing levels of authority over the layer below, Gandhi believed that society should be the exact opposite, where nothing is done without the consent of anyone, down to the individual. His idea was that true self-rule in a country means that every person rules his or herself and that there is no state which enforces laws upon the people.[181]

This would be achieved over time with nonviolent conflict mediation, as power is divested from layers of hierarchical authorities, ultimately to the individual, which would come to embody the ethic of nonviolence. Rather than a system where rights are enforced by a higher authority, people are self-governed by mutual responsibilities. On returning from South Africa, when Gandhi received a letter asking for his participation in writing a world charter for human rights, he responded saying, “in my experience, it is far more important to have a charter for human duties.”[182]

A free India did not mean merely transferring the established British administrative structure into Indian hands. He warned, “you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englishtan. This is not the Swaraj I want.”[183] Tewari argues that Gandhi saw democracy as more than a system of government; it meant promoting both individuality and the self-discipline of the community. Democracy was a moral system that distributed power and assisted the development of every social class, especially the lowest. It meant settling disputes in a nonviolent manner; it required freedom of thought and expression. For Gandhi, democracy was a way of life.[184]

Gandhian economics

A free India for Gandhi meant the flourishing of thousands of self-sufficient small communities who rule themselves without hindering others. Gandhian economics focused on the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level. His policy of “sarvodaya”[185] called for ending poverty through improved agriculture and small-scale cottage industries in every village.[186] Gandhi challenged Nehru and the modernizers in the late 1930s who called for rapid industrialization on the Soviet model; Gandhi denounced that as dehumanizing and contrary to the needs of the villages where the great majority of the people lived.[187] After Gandhi’s death Nehru led India to large-scale planning that emphasized modernization and heavy industry, while modernizing agriculture through irrigation. Historian Kuruvila Pandikattu says “it was Nehru’s vision, not Gandhi’s, that was eventually preferred by the Indian State.”[188] After Gandhi’s death activists inspired by his vision promoted their opposition to industrialization through the teachings of Gandhian economics.

Literary works

Young India, a weekly journal published by Gandhi from 1919 to 1932

Gandhi was a prolific writer. One of Gandhi’s earliest publications, Hind Swaraj, published in Gujarati in 1909, is recognised[by whom?] as the intellectual blueprint of India’s freedom movement. The book was translated into English the next year, with a copyright legend that read “No Rights Reserved”.[189] For decades he edited several newspapers including Harijan in Gujarati, in Hindi and in the English language; Indian Opinion while in South Africa and, Young India, in English, and Navajivan, a Gujarati monthly, on his return to India. Later, Navajivan was also published in Hindi. In addition, he wrote letters almost every day to individuals and newspapers.[190]

Gandhi also wrote several books including his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Gujarātī “સત્યના પ્રયોગો અથવા આત્મકથા”), of which he bought the entire first edition to make sure it was reprinted.[68] His other autobiographies included: Satyagraha in South Africa about his struggle there, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule, a political pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John Ruskin‘s Unto This Last.[191] This last essay can be considered his programme on economics. He also wrote extensively on vegetarianism, diet and health, religion, social reforms, etc. Gandhi usually wrote in Gujarati, though he also revised the Hindi and English translations of his books.[192]

Gandhi’s complete works were published by the Indian government under the name The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the 1960s. The writings comprise about 50,000 pages published in about a hundred volumes. In 2000, a revised edition of the complete works sparked a controversy, as it constituted large number of errors and omissions.[193] The Indian government later withdrew the revised edition.[194]

Legacy and depictions in popular culture

A wall graffiti in San Francisco containing a quote and image of Gandhi

The word Mahatma, while often mistaken for Gandhi’s given name in the West, is taken from the Sanskrit words maha (meaning Great) and atma (meaning Soul). Rabindranath Tagore is said to have accorded the title to Gandhi.[195] In his autobiography, Gandhi nevertheless explains that he never valued the title, and was often pained by it.[196]

Followers and international influence

Mahatma Gandhi on a 1969 postage stamp of the Soviet Union

Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. Leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, including Martin Luther King and James Lawson, drew from the writings of Gandhi in the development of their own theories about non-violence.[197][198][199] King said “Christ gave us the goals and Mahatma Gandhi the tactics.”[200] Anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was inspired by Gandhi.[201] Others include Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan,[202] Steve Biko, and Aung San Suu Kyi.[203]

In his early years, the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was a follower of the non-violent resistance philosophy of Gandhi.[201] Bhana and Vahed commented on these events as “Gandhi inspired succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. This legacy connects him to Nelson Mandela…in a sense Mandela completed what Gandhi started.”[204]

Gandhi’s life and teachings inspired many who specifically referred to Gandhi as their mentor or who dedicated their lives to spreading Gandhi’s ideas. In Europe, Romain Rolland was the first to discuss Gandhi in his 1924 book Mahatma Gandhi, and Brazilian anarchist and feminist Maria Lacerda de Moura wrote about Gandhi in her work on pacifism. In 1931, notable European physicist Albert Einstein exchanged written letters with Gandhi, and called him “a role model for the generations to come” in a later writing about him.[205] Einstein said of Gandhi:

Mahatma Gandhi’s life achievement stands unique in political history. He has invented a completely new and humane means for the liberation war of an oppressed country, and practised it with greatest energy and devotion. The moral influence he had on the consciously thinking human being of the entire civilized world will probably be much more lasting than it seems in our time with its overestimation of brutal violent forces. Because lasting will only be the work of such statesmen who wake up and strengthen the moral power of their people through their example and educational works.We may all be happy and grateful that destiny gifted us with such an enlightened contemporary, a role model for the generations to come.

Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.[206]

Lanza del Vasto went to India in 1936 intending to live with Gandhi; he later returned to Europe to spread Gandhi’s philosophy and founded the Community of the Ark in 1948 (modelled after Gandhi’s ashrams). Madeleine Slade (known as “Mirabehn”) was the daughter of a British admiral who spent much of her adult life in India as a devotee of Gandhi.[207][208]

In addition, the British musician John Lennon referred to Gandhi when discussing his views on non-violence.[209] At the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in 2007, former U.S. Vice-President and environmentalist Al Gore spoke of Gandhi’s influence on him.[210]

President of the United States Barack Obama in an address to a Joint Session of the Parliament of India said that:

“I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world.”—Barack Obama in an address to a Joint Session of the Parliament of India, 2010[211]

Obama in September 2009 said that his biggest inspiration came from Mahatma Gandhi. His reply was in response to the question ‘Who was the one person, dead or live, that you would choose to dine with?’. He continued that “He’s somebody I find a lot of inspiration in. He inspired Dr. King with his message of nonviolence. He ended up doing so much and changed the world just by the power of his ethics.”[212]

Time Magazine named The 14th Dalai Lama, Lech Wałęsa, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benigno Aquino, Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela as Children of Gandhi and his spiritual heirs to non-violence.[213] The Mahatma Gandhi District in Houston, Texas, United States, an ethnic Indian enclave, is officially named after Gandhi.[214]

Global holidays

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared Gandhi’s birthday 2 October as “the International Day of Non-Violence.”[215] First proposed by UNESCO in 1948, as the School Day of Non-violence and Peace (DENIP in Spanish),[216] 30 January is observed the School Day of Non-violence and Peace in schools of many countries[217] In countries with a Southern Hemisphere school calendar, it is observed on 30 March.[217]


Monument to M.K. Gandhi in New Belgrade, Serbia. On the monument is written “Non-violence is the essence of all religions”.

Time magazine named Gandhi the Man of the Year in 1930. Gandhi was also the runner-up to Albert Einstein as “Person of the Century[218] at the end of 1999.The Government of India awards the annual Gandhi Peace Prize to distinguished social workers, world leaders and citizens. Nelson Mandela, the leader of South Africa’s struggle to eradicate racial discrimination and segregation, is a prominent non-Indian recipient. In 2011, Time magazine named Gandhi as one of the top 25 political icons of all time.[219]

Gandhi did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times between 1937 and 1948, including the first-ever nomination by the American Friends Service Committee,[220] though he made the short list only twice, in 1937 and 1947.[104] Decades later, the Nobel Committee publicly declared its regret for the omission, and admitted to deeply divided nationalistic opinion denying the award.[104] Gandhi was nominated in 1948 but was assassinated before nominations closed. That year, the committee chose not to award the peace prize stating that “there was no suitable living candidate” and later research shows that the possibility of awarding the prize posthumously to Gandhi was discussed and that the reference to no suitable living candidate was to Gandhi.[104] When the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Prize in 1989, the chairman of the committee said that this was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”[104]

Film and literature

Mahatma Gandhi has been portrayed in film, literature, and in the theatre. Ben Kingsley portrayed Gandhi in the 1982 film Gandhi, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The 2007 film, Gandhi, My Father explores the relationship between Gandhi and his son Harilal. Gandhi is also a central figure in the 2006 Bollywood comedy Lage Raho Munna Bhai. The 1996 film, The Making of the Mahatma, documents Gandhi’s time in South Africa and his transformation from an inexperienced barrister to recognised political leader.[221]

Several biographers have undertaken the task of describing Gandhi’s life. Among them are: D. G. Tendulkar with his Mahatma. Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in eight volumes, and Pyarelal and Sushila Nayyar with their Mahatma Gandhi in 10 volumes. There is also another documentary, titled Mahatma: Life of Gandhi, 1869–1948, which is 14 chapters and 6 hours long.[222]

The April 2010 biography, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld contained controversial material speculating about Gandhi’s sexual life.[223] Because of this material, the book was banned in the Indian state of Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace.[224] Lelyveld, however, stated that the press coverage “grossly distort[s]” the overall message of the book.[225]

Current impact within India

The Gandhi Mandapam, a temple in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in India. This temple was erected to honour M.K.Gandhi.[226]

India, with its rapid economic modernization and urbanization, has rejected Gandhi’s economics[227] but accepted much of his politics and continues to revere his memory. Reporter Jim Yardley notes that, “modern India is hardly a Gandhian nation, if it ever was one. His vision of a village-dominated economy was shunted aside during his lifetime as rural romanticism, and his call for a national ethos of personal austerity and nonviolence has proved antithetical to the goals of an aspiring economic and military power.” By contrast Gandhi is “given full credit for India’s political identity as a tolerant, secular democracy.”[228]

Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, is a national holiday in India, Gandhi Jayanti. Gandhi’s image also appears on paper currency of all denominations issued by Reserve Bank of India, except for the one rupee note.[229] Gandhi’s date of death, 30 January, is commemorated as a Martyrs’ Day in India.[230]

There are two temples in India dedicated to Gandhi.[231] One is located at Sambalpur in Orissa and the other at Nidaghatta village near Kadur in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka.[231] The Gandhi Memorial in Kanyakumari resembles central Indian Hindu temples and the Tamukkam or Summer Palace in Madurai now houses the Mahatma Gandhi Museum.[232]


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Primary sources

Web sites

Journal articles

  • Cribb, R. B. (August 1985). “The Early Political Philosophy of M. K. Gandhi, 1869-1893”. Asian Profile 13 (4): 353–360.
  • Hardiman, David (April 2001). “Champaran and Gandhi: Planters, Peasants and Gandhian Politics by Jacques Pouchepadass (Review)”. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 11 (1): 99–101. JSTOR 25188108.
  • Khan, Yasmin (January 2011). “Performing Peace: Gandhi’s assassination as a critical moment in the consolidation of the Nehruvian state” (abstract). Modern Asian Studies 45 (1): 57–80. doi:10.1017/S0026749X10000223. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  • Mohanty, Rekha (2011). “From Satya to Sadbhavna”. Orissa Review (January 2011): 45–49. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  • Murali, Atlury (January 1985). “Non-Cooperation in Andhra in 1920–22: Nationalist Intelligentsia and the Mobilization of Peasantry”. Indian Historical Review 12 (1/2): 188–217. ISSN 0376-9836.
  • Norvell, Lyn (1997). “Gandhi and the Indian Women’s Movement”. British Library Journal 23 (1): 12–27. ISSN 0305-5167.
  • Prashad, Ganesh (September 1966). “Whiggism in India”. Political Science Quarterly 81 (3): 412–431. JSTOR 2147642.
  • Sarkar, Jayabrata (18 April 2006). “Power, Hegemony and Politics: Leadership Struggle in Congress in the 1930s”. Modern Asian Studies 40 (2): 333–370. doi:10.1017/S0026749X0600179X.
  • Sarma, Bina Kumari (January 1994). “Gandhian Movement and Women’s Awakening in Orissa”. Indian Historical Review 21 (1/2): 78–79. ISSN 0376-9836.
  • Spodek, Howard (February 1971). “On the Origins of Gandhi’s Political Methodology: The Heritage of Kathiawad and Gujarat”. The Journal of Asian Studies 30 (2): 361–372. JSTOR 2942919.

News reports

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