Date of birth: 18 July 1918, Mvezo, Transkei.
Date of death: 5 December 2013, Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the small village of Mvezo, on the Mbashe River, district of Umtata in Transkei, South Africa. His Father named him Rolihlahla, which means "pulling the branch of the tree", or more colloquially "troublemaker." The name Nelson was not given until his first day at school.
Nelson Mandela"s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was the chief "by blood and custom" of Mvezo, a position confirmed by the paramount chief of the Thembu, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. Although the family is descended from Thembu royalty (one of Mandela"s ancestors was paramount chief in the 18th century) the line had passed down to Mandela through lesser "Houses", rather than through a line of potential succession. The clan name of Madiba, which is often used as a form of address for Mandela, comes from the ancestral chief.
Until the advent of European domination in the region, chieftaincy of the Thembu (and other tribes of the Xhosa nation) was by patrimonial decent, with the first son of the major wife (known as the Great House) becoming automatic heir, and the first son of the second wife (the highest of the lessor wives, also known as the Right Hand House) being relegated to creating a minor chiefdom.
The sons of the third wife (known as the Left Hand House) were destined to become advisors to the chief.
Nelson Mandela was the son of the third wife, Noqaphi Nosekeni, and could have otherwise expected to become a royal advisor. He was one of thirteen children, and had three elder brothers all of whom were of higher "rank".
Mandela"s mother was a Methodist, and Nelson followed in her footsteps, attending a Methodist missionary school.
When Nelson Mandela"s father died in 1930, the paramount chief, Jongintaba Dalindyebo, became his guardian. In 1934, a year during which he attended three month initiation school (during which he was circumcised), Mandela matriculated from