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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rwanda: Land of Beauty & Forgiveness.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
I was invited to go to Rwanda for three nights in the beginning of June this year by Rwandair & the Serena Hotel group. I must be completely honest in knowing that the trip would not include a trip to see the Gorillas (Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely) I wasn’t expect much of this country in the middle of Africa. People just see Rwanda as the country with gorillas and of course they see the country for the devastating genocide that rocked the world in 1994. Unfortunately there is just no way of talking about Rwanda without somebody bringing up the movie Hotel Rwanda & the genocide. Not exactly the only thing this country wants to be known for, but they are content in the fact that they might be a lesson to the world to prevent something like this happening again. But before I get into detail on this let me get back to my trip.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Flying Rwandair for the first time, I was a bit sceptic flying on a middle Africa based airline that is not that well known yet. But after receiving good service and having a good take-off I was having a relaxing time watching the beautiful continent unfolding under us with the flight crossing the Great Rift Valley and Lake Malawi. Luckily I had a nice window seat. It was just little less than a 4 hour flight but time flew by quickly. Landing was a bit bumpy due to the mountain winds and the misty weather, but we landed at the small airport in the capital of Kigali. It was just before landing at this airport on the 6th of April 1994, when President Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda was returning from a summit in Tanzania when a surface-to-air missile shot his plane out of the sky over Rwanda's capital city of Kigali which triggered the genocide. Strangely enough the plane crashed into the president’s own barracks and after the investigation of witness’s testimony years later it was found that the missile was launched from one of the president’s own military camps.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The Airport is small but what really surprised me was the sign behind the immigration counters that was promoting people to bring their businesses to Rwanda and the 5 easy steps to obtain business rights. There was also an automated counter for locals to scan their passports to re-enter the country in a few seconds. Something the South African government can definitely invest in.  And if that wasn’t the only surprise I was handed scissors to cut the plastic from my bag that was wrapped at OR Tambo International Airport (me and my scepticism flying airlines I have never flown before). I was told that I wasn’t allowed to step out of the airport with any plastic bag or even the wrapping around my suitcase, to prevent littering in their country. I was very impressed with this rule but I doubted the implementation of it, as a lot of good rules like this never get implemented properly. Stepping out of the airport I was already looking around for plastic bags and litter just to see if I was right with my cynicism, but I was proven wrong. Not even a cigarette bud in sight. I have just arrived in the cleanest country I have ever travelled to. Again I was thinking that there is so much South Africa can learn from this country after just being there for a few minutes.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We were picked up by two 4x4 vehicles at the airport and we were off to the Kigali Serena hotel situated in the middle of Kigali city. On the way to the city centre we passed the parliament building. From the distance the parliament would appear like any other normal parliament in the world, yet there are shell holes in the town-facing-side of the parliament. Rebels occupied the parliament and government troops fired rockets onto the parliament to recover the parliament. Hence today those scars from the civil war are still visible.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The city was almost knocked to the ground during the 100 days of the genocide but today new modern buildings are shooting up everywhere thanks to the governments stand on promoting other countries to invest and bring their business to Rwanda. The Serena hotel is situated in the middle of the city facing the mountain from witch Kigali derived its name from. The name "Kigali" comprises the Bantu prefix "ki" and Rwanda "gali" meaning "broad." Seeing a glimpse of the other hotels in Kigali I will rate the Kigali Serena as the best looking by far. The service and the staff are very good, starting from the welcome at the door to the service in the restaurant. The beautiful kept gardens and swimming pool made it look like a hidden oasis surrounded by the hotel building itself. Here we had a very nice buffet lunch before our drive to the west of the country. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Just after lunch we jumped in the 4x4 heading to the road to the west that started immediately with a steep pass. Suddenly it dawned on me why they call Rwanda the country of a thousand hills. Already after the first kilometre we have raised a few meters higher than the city. Not the greatest road to get stuck behind a truck. Although a lot of the cyclist appreciate these trucks, because they hang on to the back going uphill. A dangerous ploy but saying that I really don’t blame them for doing it with steep passes likes these. The maximum speed limit in Rwanda is 80km/h which sounds very slow but with a country that mostly consists of mountains, steep passes and villages on the edge of the road it’s understandable. This also gives you a chance of enjoying the beautiful mountainous scenery with the locals vegetable gardens filling up the inside of the valleys next to the rivers with their self-made channels to give everyone fare access to the water. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

On the road to the west we passed a lot of small villages and a few beautiful waterfalls. At a distance we even saw bits of the Volcanoes National Parks Mountains sticking out through the mist. These mountains  consisting of five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo)and the park is also home of the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The park was the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 We were on our way to Lake Kivu; the name comes from kivu which means "lake".  It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika. Just before arriving at the lake the landscape changes from the smaller vegetable gardens to bigger tea plantations. Tea & coffee are the biggest exports of the country with the high altitudes, steep slopes and volcanic soils providing favourable conditions.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We arrived at night with just the absences of light showing us the lines of where the lake should be. It was also a Friday night which I think was the reason why all the locals were gathering and playing in the streets, which didn’t make it easy for our poor driver. It almost looked like the locals were in the streets to make use of the lights of the cars passing by.  Dangerous!

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
Arriving at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel we were again welcomed by the friendly faces of the reception staff. After being showed to our rooms we were taken to the restaurant where we were spoiled by a variety of food on the buffet table including beautiful grilled goat fillet. A lot of people will pull up their noses for goat but at least here they tell you it’s goat where in other African countries you will be told that it’s a nice piece of lamb. After a very good dinner I was off to bed after a long day of flying for almost four hours and then driving for four hours. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep with the sounds of people getting together in the streets and now and then a vehicle that hooted most probably for another pedestrian taking a chance in the darkest of the night.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The next morning I was surprised by the lake that was just in front of the hotel. What a beautiful scene with the green mountains on the one side and the beautiful lake on the other. The lake covers a total surface area of some 2,700 km2 and stands at a height of 1,460 metres above sea level. 58% of the lake's waters lie within DRC borders. The lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area, and making it particularly deep: its maximum depth of 480m is ranked eighteenth in the world.  Another thing that makes the lake unique is that’s it’s one of three lakes in the world, that experience limnic eruptions.  Lake Kivu has recently been found to contain approximately 55 billion cubic metres of dissolved methane gas at a depth of 300 metres. First being extracted to supply the local brewery with electricity, it’s now being extracted on a huge scale to supply the country with electricity. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

We were picked up at the hotel after a good breakfast for a drive through the town of Gisenyi and to the border post of the DRC where our cameras were almost confiscated because we “might” have taken a picture that “might” have had a police officer in. After deleting the necessary pictures under the watchful eye of the police we were off to see the hot springs.  The hot springs is a source which is used by a lot of the local people for bathing.  But also because of the high temperatures of the water coming through the surface of the lake shore,  locals even use this water for cooking as we saw some locals cooking a fish and a piece of corn directly in the water.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

After this we were taken to a small lodge on the edge of the lake, where we boarded the Serena hotel boat for a cruise back to the hotel past the methane rig. Only then you realise how big the lake is. The rig is situated almost on the border with the DRC on the lake. A lot of birds use the rig as resting place when crossing the lake. About 10minutes from the rig we were back on the beach in front of the Serena Hotel.

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel
At the hotel we were treated to a nice “beach” braai with local dancing and singing by the Intore dancers with their long white mains. After another busy day I was off to bed where I didn’t even hear the locals in the street as the previous night because I was sleeping as soon as my head touched my pillow. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The next morning we were picked up by the vehicles for our drive back to Kigali. At least we had a nice clear day in which we saw more of the scenery the road had to offer and we stopped at one of the waterfalls. We also stopped at a small village where some of the hottest chilli sauce was being produced. I am not sure how healthy it is but it is HOT!

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Back in Kigali we checked in at the Kigali Serena Hotel and then we were off to the Genocide memorial. I am a huge fan of history and not knowing too much about the genocide than what was betrayed by the movie Hotel Rwanda, I was looking forward visiting the memorial. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

I could just feel the morbid atmosphere as we arrived and I was soon to find out why. The museum hosts a few exhibitions of other genocides that occurred in the world and then it had the main exhibition explaining the series of events that caused the Rwanda genocide of 1994. It also had a room just with pictures of people, mothers, fathers, grannies, granddads, brothers, sisters, etc. that was killed in the genocide. Then it had a room with clothes that was worn by the victims and then a room with bones of some of the unknown victims. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The worst room that actually got me gasping for air was the room that had pictures of the baby & child victims. Each picture had information on their favourite food, favourite toys, their friend’s names and the way they were killed. I couldn’t stay in this room for too long because I just couldn’t take anymore and I had to go out for fresh air.

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Outside they have a mass grave where 250,000 of the unknown victims were buried which I passed on my way back to the vehicle for our transfer back to the hotel.  The drive back was in silence with everyone just trying to get to grips on what they have just seen and experience. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Back at the hotel we were given time to refresh and get ready for another well varied buffet dinner. A group of us decided to have refreshment next to the beautiful pool and we got stuck there talking about what we saw at the genocide museum and how surprised we were with the beauty of the country. 

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

The next morning we were on our way back to the airport for our flight back to South Africa and I just couldn’t stop thinking of all the lessons us in South Africa can learn from a small country like this that was demolished to the ground not just with the genocide, but also after years of tribal fighting, suppression & discrimination. We have no idea what it is to keep our country clean; with people throwing out rubbish out of their car windows like it’s their duty to create job opportunities. We have so much fraud and here is a country which has big signboards giving their word to their citizens that they tolerate 0% fraud. Looking at the presidential residence you can see not a lot of funds were wasted on unneeded luxuries. We have no idea on what it is to do our bit for our country, with the Rwandese people doing their bit once a month for a whole day doing something for their country from maintaining the streets to the maintaining of government gardens, etc. But most of all what we need to learn from them is forgiveness. The way the one tribe forgave the other and now live in harmony is unimaginable, but still they did it and still do it. Not forgetting all the hardships and the evil that happened in the past like the genocide and civil/guerrilla wars, but learning from it. 

 Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

In South Africa forgiveness is still to be found and unfortunately the Rwanda lesson is still to be learned.  

Rwanda 2013 © Juan Nel

Pictures and text by Juan Nel

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good Bye Madiba...you may rest.

taken from: The Biography Channel website- http://www.biography.com/people/nelson-mandela-9397017


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Transkei, South Africa. Becoming actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In 1993, Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country's apartheid system. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president. In 2009, Mandela's birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader's legacy.


Early Life

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, in the tiny village of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River in Transkei, South Africa. "Rolihlahla" in the Xhosa language literally means "pulling the branch of a tree," but more commonly translates as "troublemaker."


Nelson Mandela's father, who was destined to be a chief, served as a counselor to tribal chiefs for several years, but lost both his title and fortune over a dispute with the local colonial magistrate. Mandela was only an infant at the time, and his father's loss of status forced his mother to move the family to Qunu, an even smaller village north of Mvezo. The village was nestled in a narrow grassy valley; there were no roads, only foot paths that linked the pastures where livestock grazed. The family lived in huts and ate a local harvest of maize, sorghum, pumpkin and beans, which was all they could afford. Water came from springs and streams and cooking was done outdoors. Mandela played the games of young boys, acting out male rights-of-passage scenarios with toys he made from the natural materials available, including tree branches and clay.
At the suggestion of one of his father's friends, Mandela was baptized in the Methodist Church. He went on to become the first in his family to attend school. As was custom at the time, and probably due to the bias of the British educational system in South Africa, Mandela's teacher told him that his new first name would be Nelson.

When Mandela was 9 years old, his father died of lung disease, causing his life to change dramatically. He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people—a gesture done as a favor to Mandela's father, who, years earlier, had recommended Jongintaba be made chief. Mandela subsequently left the carefree life he knew in Qunu, fearing that he would never see his village again. He traveled by motorcar to Mqhekezweni, the provincial capital of Thembuland, to the chief's royal residence. Though he had not forgotten his beloved village of Qunu, he quickly adapted to the new, more sophisticated surroundings of Mqhekezweni.
Mandela was given the same status and responsibilities as the regent's two other children, his son and oldest child, Justice, and daughter Nomafu.

Mandela took classes in a one-room school next to the palace, studying English, Xhosa, history and geography. It was during this period that Mandela developed his interest in African history from elder chiefs who came to the Great Palace on official business. He learned how the African people had lived in relative peace until the coming of the white people. According to the elders, the children of South Africa had lived as brothers, but the white man shattered this fellowship. While the black man shared his land, air and water with the white man, the white man took all of these things for himself.


When Mandela was 16, it was time for him to partake in the traditional African circumcision ritual to mark his entrance into manhood. The ceremony of circumcision was not just a surgical procedure, but an elaborate ritual in preparation for manhood. In African tradition, an uncircumcised man cannot inherit his father's wealth, marry or officiate at tribal rituals. Mandela participated in the ceremony with 25 other boys. He welcomed the opportunity to partake in his people's customs and felt ready to make the transition from boyhood to manhood. His mood shifted during the proceedings, however, when Chief Meligqili, the main speaker at the ceremony, spoke sadly of the young men, explaining that they were enslaved in their own country. Because their land was controlled by white men, they would never have the power to govern themselves, the chief said. He went on to lament that the promise of the young men would be squandered as they struggled to make a living and perform mindless chores for white men. Mandela would later say that while the chief's words didn't make total sense to him at the time, they would eventually formulate his resolve for an independent South Africa.

From the time Mandela came under the guardianship of Regent Jongintaba, he was groomed to assume high office, not as a chief, but a counselor to one. As Thembu royalty, Nelson attended a Wesleyan mission school, the Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Wesleyan College, where, he would later state, he found interest and achieved academic success through "plain hard work." He also excelled at track and boxing. Mandela was initially mocked as a "country boy" by his Wesleyan classmates, but eventually became friends with several students, including Mathona, his first female friend.


In 1939, Mandela enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare, the only residential center of higher learning for blacks in South Africa at the time. Fort Hare was considered Africa's equivalent of Oxford or Harvard, drawing scholars from all parts of sub-Sahara Africa. In his first year at the university, Mandela took the required courses, but focused on Roman Dutch law to prepare for a career in civil service as an interpreter or clerk—regarded as the best profession a black man could obtain at the time.


In his second year at Fort Hare, Mandela was elected to the Student Representative Council. For some time, students had been dissatisfied with the food and lack of power held by the SRC. During this election, a majority of students voted to boycott unless their demands were met.


Aligning with the student majority, Mandela resigned from his position. Seeing this as an act of insubordination, the university's Dr. Kerr expelled Mandela for the rest of the year, but gave him an ultimatum: He could return if he agreed to serve on the SRC. When Mandela returned home, the regent was furious, telling Mandela unequivocally that he would have to recant his decision and go back to school in the fall.

Mandela's Imprisonment


A few weeks after Nelson Mandela's return home, Regent Jongintaba announced that he had arranged a marriage for his adopted son. The regent wanted to make sure that Mandela's life was properly planned, and the arrangement was within his right, as tribal custom dictated. Shocked by the news, feeling trapped and believing he had no other option, Mandela ran away from home. He settled in Johannesburg, where he worked a variety of jobs, including as a guard and a clerk, while completing his bachelor's degree via correspondence courses. He then enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg to study law.


Mandela soon became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress in 1942. Within the ANC, a small group of young Africans banded together, calling themselves the African National Congress Youth League. Their goal was to transform the ANC into a mass grassroots movement, deriving strength from millions of rural peasants and working people who had no voice under the current regime. Specifically, the group believed that the ANC's old tactics of polite petitioning were ineffective. In 1949, the ANC officially adopted the Youth League's methods of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-cooperation, with policy goals of full citizenship, redistribution of land, trade union rights, and free and compulsory education for all children.

For 20 years, Mandela directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies, including the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo, partnering with Oliver Tambo, a brilliant student he'd met while attending Fort Hare. The law firm provided free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks.

In 1956, Mandela and 150 others were arrested and charged with treason for their political advocacy (they were eventually acquitted). Meanwhile, the ANC was being challenged by Africanists, a new breed of black activists who believed that the pacifist method of the ANC was ineffective. Africanists soon broke away to form the Pan-Africanist Congress, which negatively affected the ANC; by 1959, the movement had lost much of its militant support.

In 1961, Mandela, who was formerly committed to nonviolent protest, began to believe that armed struggle was the only way to achieve change and subsequently co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe, also known as MK, an armed offshoot of the ANC dedicated to sabotage and guerilla war tactics to end apartheid. In 1961, Mandela orchestrated a three-day national workers' strike.


He was arrested for leading the strike the following year and sentenced to five years in prison. Then, in 1963, he was brought to trial again. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage.
Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However, while incarcerated, Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program.


A 1981 memoir by South African intelligence agent Gordon Winter described a plot by the South African government to arrange for Mandela's escape so as to shoot him during the recapture. The plot was foiled by British intelligence, however. Mandela continued to be such a potent symbol of black resistance that a coordinated international campaign for his release was launched, and this international groundswell of support exemplified the power and esteem Mandela had in the global political community.


In 1982, Mandela and other ANC leaders were moved to Pollsmoor Prison, allegedly to enable contact between them and the South African government. In 1985, President P.W. Botha offered Mandela's release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle; the prisoner flatly rejected the offer. With increasing local and international pressure for his release, the government participated in several talks with Mandela over the years, but no deal was made. It wasn't until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela's release was finally announced, on February 11, 1990. De Klerk also unbanned the ANC, removed restrictions on political groups and suspended executions.

Prison Release and Presidency

Upon his release from prison, Nelson Mandela immediately urged foreign powers not to reduce their pressure on the South African government for constitutional reform. While he stated that he was committed to working toward peace, he declared that the ANC's armed struggle would continue until the black majority received the right to vote.
In 1991, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress, with lifelong friend and colleague Oliver Tambo serving as national chairperson. Mandela continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country's first multiracial elections. White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. The negotiations were often strained and news of violent eruptions, including the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani, continued throughout the country. Mandela had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations amid the demonstrations and armed resistance.


In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid. Due in no small part to their work, negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed: On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections.


Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country's first black president on May 10, 1994, at the age of 77, with de Klerk as his first deputy.


Also in 1994, Mandela published his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, much of which he had secretly written while in prison. The following year, he was awarded the Order of Merit.


From 1994 until June 1999, Mandela worked to bring about the transition from minority rule and apartheid to black majority rule. He used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic.


Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse during his presidency. Through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care. In 1996, Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression.

Retirement and Later Career

By the 1999 general election, Nelson Mandela had retired from active politics. He continued to maintain a busy schedule, however, raising money to build schools and clinics in South Africa's rural heartland through his Mandela Foundation, and serving as a mediator in Burundi's civil war. He also published a number of books on his life and struggles, among them No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: The Struggle is my Life; and Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales.


 Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2001. In June 2004, at the age of 85, he announced his formal retirement from public life and returned to his native village of Qunu.


On July 18, 2007, Mandela convened a group of world leaders, including Graca Machel, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus, to address the world's toughest issues. Named "The Elders," the group is committed to working both publicly and privately to find solutions to problems around the globe. Since its inception, the group has made an impact in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, promoting peace and women's equality, demanding an end to atrocities, and supporting initiatives to address humanitarian crises and promote democracy.

In Recent Years


Nelson Mandela made his last public appearance to date in 2010, at the final match of the World Cup in South Africa. He has largely stepped out of the spotlight, choosing to spend much of his time in his childhood community of Qunu, south of Johannesburg. He did, however, visit with Michelle Obama, U.S. first lady and wife of President Barack Obama, during her trip to South Africa in 2011.


In recent months, there have been growing concerns about Mandela's health.

In January 2011, Mandela suffered his first lung infection, and in early 2012, he was briefly hospitalized in Johannesburg to undergo surgery for a stomach ailment. He was released after a few days, later returning to Qunu. In December 2012, the 94-year-old Mandela was hospitalized for tests and medical treatment relating to a recurrent lung infection. In March 2013, he was re-admitted to the hospital after his lung infection returned—marking the third time in two years that the former president has been hospitalized for a respiratory infection. Hours later, it was reported that he was responding positively to treatment.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's current president, issued a statement in response to public concern over Mandela's recent health scare, asking for support in the form of prayer: "We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts," Zuma said. "We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recovery."

Nelson Mandela continues to be a source of inspiration for civil rights activists worldwide. In 2009, Mandela's birthday (July 18) was declared Mandela Day, an international day to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader's legacy.

According to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the annual event is meant to encourage citizens worldwide to give back the way that Mandela has throughout his lifetime. According to a statement on the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory's website, "Mr. Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it's supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community."

Personal Life


Mandela has been married three times. He was married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase from 1944 to 1957. The couple had four children together: Madiba Thembekile, Makgatho, Makaziwe and Maki. He and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were married from 1958 to 1996; they had two daughters together, Zenani and Zindziswa. In 1998, Mandela married Graça Machel.


In addition to advocating for peace and equality on both a national and global scale, Mandela has remained committed to the fight against AIDS, a disease that killed his son, Makgatho, in 2005.









"Invictus" Madibas favourite poem:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

by William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

 Taken from: Nelson Mandela. [Internet]. 2013. The Biography Channel website. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/nelson-mandela-9397017 [Accessed 13 Jun 2013].