Nelson Mandela was born in July 1918 to a royal family of South Africa’s Xhosa tribe. He was trained to be a counselor to the king because his own branch of the royal family was not eligible for the throne but could serve as hereditary counselors.


Nelson Mandela

Mandela enrolled at Fort Hare University in Eastern Cape and studied English, political science, native law and anthropology for a while but he did not graduate from Fort Hare. He got a job as an articled clerk in a law firm and signed with a correspondence program at the University of South Africa. He studied at night and eventually got his BA degree and later qualified as a lawyer.

He worked in a law firm but he was famous as a prominent member of the African National Congress (ANC). Mandela served the ANC in various capacities and he helped organize the military wing of the ANC known as the “Umkhonto we Sizwe”. Because of his anti-Apartheid activities, Mandela was arrested, tried and jailed. He spent 27 years in prison and later became the first president of a democratic South Africa. Mandela died in December 2013 at age 95 and was given a state burial by the South African government.

Nelson Mandela was definitely a controversial figure during his lifetime. Some people claim that he was a revolutionary who insisted that things must be done his own way or things will not get done. Others believed that Mandela was a lone wolf who did not believe in teamwork. The truth is that Mr. Mandela did not always try to impose his own convictions on other people. There are many examples to show that Nelson Mandela believed in teamwork.


Examples of team work

  • During the early negotiations in 1990-1991, the black South Africans did not present a united front. There were serious incidents of “black-on-black” violence and clashes between supporters of Mandela’s ANC and those of the Inkatha Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Mandela was sure that a “third force” was fuelling the crisis and was not happy about this. Some people within the ANC wanted Mandela to meet force with force. Others wanted him to openly denounce Buthelezi. It is to the credit of Mr. Mandela that he urged the blacks to close ranks and work as one united group. This is why he fought for a peace accord and this accord was signed in September 1991 with Nelson Mandela, Buthelezi and F.W. de Klerk in attendance.
  • Further proof that Mandela believed in teamwork came during the CODESA talks of 1991-1992. During the talks, some senior ANC members who felt they had “paid their dues” wanted Mandela to lead the talks. Another group felt that Cyril Ramaphosa was too young to lead the ANC delegation. Mandela decided that it was better for the ANC to work as a team so Cyril Ramaphosa led the ANC delegation while Mandela served as an important member of the delegation.
  • Nelson Mandela also used the Rugby World Cup 1995 as an opportunity to show that he truly believed in teamwork. This tournament was hosted in South Africa and it was the first time the country would be playing in any world cup. South Africa defeated New Zealand in the final and Nelson Mandela himself presented the cup to Francois Pienaar, the Springboks captain. Mandela was wearing the Springsbok shirt and cap and the message was clear. Mandela believed in teamwork and he had just proved it. More to the point, both black and white South Africans could play rugby on the same pitch in and in the same team. This episode was captured in the film Invictus and it is a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the ultimate team player.
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