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5 Unexpected Facts About Nelson Mandela

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By Nigel Boys

The sad news of the death of former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, on December 5, has been heard all over the world and many are grieving the passing of this great leader of our times.

Although many believe Mandela to be a hero and saint, he has always shunned any such representation of himself.

The former anti-apartheid revolutionary leader, who was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, spent his younger years herding cows after his birth in 1918 as the son of a tribal chief.

Here are some other facts that many people don’t know about the surprisingly humble man:

1.  Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of it on the famous Robben Island, as an enemy of the apartheid government of South Africa and was declared to be a terrorist and traitor to his country. However, he obtained a law degree while he was there and fought against injustice for his fellow inmates.

This was no easy feat because he did not have special treatment while imprisoned and had to pummel rocks like every other prisoner. He was only allowed one visitor per year and two letters.

2.  Although most people know him as Nelson, he was actually born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. He certainly lived up to the meaning of his name which informally means “troublemaker” but literally “pulling the branch of the tree.”

3.  Mandela’s favorite food was tripe and although he had come a long way from his humble beginnings and time in prison, according to his granddaughter, Ndileka, it was still his favorite right up until his death.

Ndileka added that during his latest birthday party, while he could have served them just about any tantalizing dish in the world, the former president still chose to give his guests “samp,” a mixture of tripe and corn.

4.  The former revolutionary also held over 60 honorary degrees from various universities worldwide and was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The United Nations General Assembly also declared July 18 as an international day of freedom and named it “Mandela Day” in his honor.

5.  During his time in prison on Robben Island, Mandela was inspired to continue to fight against the oppressive government of South Africa by a poem from an English poet called William Ernest Henley, titled “Invictus.”

The great leader of our times will be sadly missed but his memory will go on.