Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is Nelson Mandela?

    Read Nelson Mandela’s biography.

  2. Can you supply a brief history of the life of Mr Nelson Mandela?

    See our Biography or Chronology pages.

  3. How many awards has Mr Nelson Mandela received in his lifetime?

    Mr Mandela has received more than 695 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the US Congressional Medal. He also has scores of honorary degrees, honorary citizenships and honorary memberships of organisations. Many streets and buildings have been named after Mr Mandela.

  4. How can I contact Mr Nelson Mandela?

    Mr Mandela retired from public life in 2004. You can, however, send him a message through the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at

  5. Where can I find quotes by Mr Mandela?

    Contact the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at for authenticated quotes. You will also find speeches in the Databases section of our website.

  6. Does Mr Nelson Mandela have an AIDS Foundation?

    Mr Mandela’s views on HIV/AIDS have been well publicised (see, for example, his speeches). He formally retired from public life in June 2004 and handed responsibility for all his projects to his charitable organisations. The 46664 campaign is the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory’s vehicle to work within the HIV/AIDS sector. Relevant websites: 46664.com, and Nelson Mandela Childrens’ Fund

  7. Who are Mr Mandela’s biological family?

    Mr Mandela has a big family. He had two daughters and two sons with his first wife, Evelyn Mase, and two daughters with his second wife, Winnie Madikizela. Only three of his children are still alive, daughters: Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi. He also has 17 grandchildren and 12 surviving great-grandchildren. He has four step-children through his marriage to Graça Machel.

  8. Why does Mr Mandela hold photo opportunities with certain people and not with others?

    All visitors are asked to sign a code of conduct agreeing that photographs taken with Mr Mandela are for their private collections and should not be used for publication, fund-raising, or commercial purposes. From time to time Mr Mandela chooses to be photographed by the press at such meetings.

  9. How many marriages has Mr Nelson Mandela had and to whom?

    Mr Mandela has been married three times. He was first married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944. They separated in 1955 and divorced in 1958. She died in 2004. They had two daughters and two sons. Their baby daughter, Makaziwe, died at the age of nine months in 1947. Their eldest son, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi), was killed in a car accident in 1969 when Mr Mandela was in prison. He was not allowed to attend the funeral. Their second son, Makgatho Lewanika, died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In 1958 Mr Mandela married Winifred Nomzamo Zanyiwe Madikizela. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. They divorced in 1996.

    On his birthday in 1998, Mr Mandela married Graça Machel. Mrs Machel brought two children and two step-children into the marriage. For further information, please see the Biography section.

  10. How old is Mr Nelson Mandela?

    Mr Mandela turned 94 on 18 July 2012.

  11. What does Mr Nelson Mandela think of the state of education in South Africa?

    Mr Mandela’s views on education have been well publicised (see, for example, various speeches). The Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Education and Rural Development is responsible for continuing the work Mr Mandela started in education. Relevant websites: the Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

  12. Does Mr Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory or any of the sister charities accept fees when he meets people or appears in public?

    No. Mr Mandela meets who he chooses to meet, with absolutely no fees involved. There is no such thing as money for Mr Mandela’s time.

  13. Which charities does Mr Nelson Mandela support?

    Through his Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund Mr Mandela supports a range of charities. He is also the patron of a number of charities, including those working in the fields of surgery for children (cardiac and facial surgery), the eradication of landmines, disability, education and HIV/AIDS.

  14. What was Mr Nelson Mandela’s vision during the apartheid era?

    Mr Mandela’s vision during the apartheid era was for the eradication of apartheid. He envisioned a South Africa in which all its citizens had equal rights and where every adult would have the right to vote for the government of his/her choice.

  15. What was apartheid?

    Apartheid was the official policy of the National Party, which came to power in 1948 in South Africa. It was the practice of official racial segregation. Under apartheid everyone in South Africa had to be classified according to a particular racial group. This determined where someone could be born, where they could live, where they could go to school, where they could work, where they could be treated if they were sick and where they could be buried when they died. Only white people could vote and they had the best opportunities and the most money spent on their facilities. Apartheid made others live in poverty. Black South Africans’ lives were strictly controlled. Many thousands of people died in the struggle to end apartheid.

  16. What were Mr Nelson Mandela’s achievements in jail?

    Mr Mandela was held in Robben Island Maximum Security Prison until 1982, after which he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison and then to Victor Verster Prison, from which he was released on 11 February 1990. He withstood extremely harsh conditions in prison with dignity and fortitude. Other prisoners remark on how he became a leader of all the other prisoners, fighting for their rights to get better treatment, improved food, and study privileges. He encouraged fellow prisoners never to give away their dignity. He also became a unifier between prisoners belonging to different political organisations. In the latter part of his imprisonment, Mr Mandela initiated talks with the apartheid regime, which ultimately led to peaceful negotiations in South Africa.

  17. What were the names of Mr Nelson Mandela’s parents?

    Mr Mandela’s father was Chief (Nkosi) Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. His mother was Nosekeni Fanny Mandela.

  18. Is Mr Mandela too old and frail to meet people?

    Mr Mandela is 94 years old and has the same challenges of any other person of that age. He still enjoys meeting and interacting with a wide range of people. Now that he has retired and chooses to spend more time with his family and close friends, he needs to be more selective about who he meets. In the past year he has met a wide range of people, especially from local South African communities.

  19. What beliefs and actions influenced Mr Nelson Mandela as a leader?

    Mr Mandela’s actions were driven by an unshakable belief in the equality of all people and his determination to overthrow the racist system of apartheid. Mr Mandela helped to organise and to lead many peaceful protest campaigns, but after many violent disruptions by the state, it became clear to him and his colleagues that the regime would not allow peaceful change. In 1961 they formed Umkhonto weSizwe(Spear of the Nation) – also known as MK – as an army for freedom fighters and launched the armed struggle.

  20. When is Mr Nelson Mandela’s birthday?

    18 July.

  21. On what date was Mr Nelson Mandela sentenced to life imprisonment?

    12 June 1964.

  22. What were the dates of Mr Nelson Mandela’s prison time?

    Mr Mandela was arrested on several occasions and stood trial four times. On 30 July 1952, he and 19 of his comrades were arrested for his role in the Defiance Campaign and stood trial in September 1952. He and the 19 others were found guilty on 2 December for ‘statutory Communism’ – which the apartheid regime used to define people who opposed its laws. Their sentence was nine months in jail with hard labour, suspended for five years.

    On 5 December 1956 Mr Mandela and others were arrested on charges of High Treason. They were released on bail about two weeks later. At the end of the four-and-a-half year trial, charges were withdrawn against all the accused. On 29 March 1961 Mr Mandela and 27 colleagues were found to be innocent of the charges laid against them.

    During the Treason Trial the African National Congress was outlawed and Mr Mandela began operating secretly after the end of the trial. Later that year, Umkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, was formed. Mr Mandela left the country at the beginning of 1962 for military training and to gather support for the ANC. He was arrested in South Africa on 5 August 1962 and charged with inciting people to strike and for leaving the country without a passport. He was convicted and on 7 November 1962 he was sentenced to five years in jail. He was sent to Robben Island Maximum Security Prison in May 1963. But in July 1963 he was brought to Pretoria to stand trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial, most of the accused were arrested at a farm in a suburb of Johannesburg called Rivonia. That trial started in October 1963 and on 11 June 1964, eight of the nine accused were convicted of sabotage. The next day they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

  23. When was Mr Nelson Mandela released from prison?

    Sunday 11 February 1990.

  24. What does the name ‘Madiba’ mean?

    Madiba is the name of the Thembu clan to which Mr Mandela belongs. It gets its name from a 19th century Thembu chief. All the members of this clan can also be called Madiba. Mr Mandela is called Madiba as a sign of both respect and affection.

  25. Did Mr Nelson Mandela go to a multiracial school?

    No. When Mr Mandela went to school there were no schools that children of different races could attend together. When he attended the University of the Witwatersrand, however, he was in a mixed-race law class.

  26. Who is the head of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory?

    The Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is Mr Achmat Dangor.

  27. How do you pronounce Graça Machel?

    Gra-ssa Ma-shell.

  28. How many brothers does Mr Nelson Mandela have?

    Mr Mandela’s father had four wives and a total of 13 children. With Mr Mandela’s mother, Nosekeni, he had four children: Mr Mandela and three daughters. So Mr Mandela had three full sisters, three half – brothers and six half – sisters. For more information, see the Biography section.

  29. How many people did Mr Nelson Mandela free?

    The liberation movements freed all the people of South Africa, which had a population of approximately 40 million.

  30. Is the quote about ‘deepest fear’ something that Mr Mandela said?

    No. This is a quote by an American author called Marianne Williamson and it has been incorrectly attributed to Mr Mandela.

  31. How many awards and honours has Nelson Mandela received?

    More than 1 115

  32. How many streets, roads, boulevards, avenues, bridges, highways have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 85

  33. How many stadia, squares, plazas, parks, gardens, trails and areas have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 20

  34. How many halls, buildings, housing developments, structures have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 35

  35. How many schools, universities, and other educational institutions have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 25

  36. How many bursaries, scholarships, and foundations have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 19

  37. How many awards and events have been named after Mr Mandela?

    More than 15

  38. How many sports-related honours and awards have been given to Mr Mandela?

    More than 40

  39. How many student union honours and awards have been made to Mr Mandela?

    More than 8

  40. How many honorary degrees have been conferred on Mr Mandela?

    More than 115

  41. How many civic honours, freedoms of cities/towns, and honorary citizenships have been given to Mr Mandela?

    More than 175

  42. How many other awards have been made to Mr Mandela?

    More than 345

  43. How many musical and theatre tributes have referred to Mr Mandela or have been dedicated to him?

    More than 25

  44. How many statues, sculptures, art works and monuments have been given to, or dedicated to, Mr Mandela?

    More than 95

  45. How many patronages are held by Mr Mandela?

    More than 105

  46. How many miscellaneous objects, animate and inanimate hold Mr Mandela’s name?

    More than 40

  47. How tall is Mr Mandela?


  48. What books can I buy for my children to read about Mr Mandela?

    Long walk to freedom: The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

    The Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom

    Long Walk to Freedom (children’s version) abridged by Chris van Wyk

    Click here for more information about the launch of this children’s book

    Nelson Mandela: The authorised comic book

    Click here for information about this comic book