Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 into the Madiba tribal clan - part of the Thembu people - in a small village in the eastern Cape of South Africa.

He joined the African National Congress in 1943, first as an activist, then as the founder and president of the ANC Youth League.

Mandela campaigned tirelessly against apartheid, the system devised by the all-white National Party which oppressed the black majority.

In 1956, Mandela was charged with high treason, along with 155 other activists, but the charges against him were dropped after a four-year trial. However, in the winter of 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison.

The world community tightened the sanctions first imposed on South Africa in 1967 against the apartheid regime. The pressure produced results, and in 1990, President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, and Mr Mandela was released from prison.

In December 1993, Mandela and Mr de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Five months later, for the first time in South Africa's history, all races voted in democratic elections and Mr Mandela was elected president.

Nelson Mandela gave up the presidency of the ANC in December 1997 and since his retirement he has continued travelling the world, meeting leaders, attending conferences and collecting awards.

What do you think of Nelson Mandela?

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Read what others have said..

mark johnson conisbrough
genuine modern-day hero. Truly charismatic and inspirational for anyone trying to battle the odds to make the world a better place. Hope we don't have to wait until he leaves us to realise his iconic status!

Karen Baldwin Dartford Kent
Nelson Mandela certainly deserves to be an icon. I consider very lucky & fortunate to met the man himself and just to shake hands with him was one of life's experiences I will always cherish forever. He had such presence. I was a civil servant and it wasn't just my hand he shook, but at least 50 of my fellow colleagues. I just hope someone comes round soon and achieves what he has done in countries like Zimbabwe, Iraq and Afganistan

Eddie, Croydon
Mandela stands as a good example to all African leaders. The man is an oasis of wisdom in the African politics jungle. A true hero nd ultimate icon.

Patricia Estes, ex,pat, Long Beach California
Nelson Mandela is my inspiration in life. To me, he exemplifies the beauty of the human spirit.

Tony, Bugbrooke
Mandela has manged to mix the celebrity factor with the elder statesman nouse

20 th century icon

Nelson, New York City
He is a great man. A blessing to South Africa and the world.

P Holliday Chester
He is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He made a statement that white people shouldn't complain about crime as the black people have lived with it for years - yes black people kill black people - 20 - 40 black people die in the townships every weekend on killing sprees! This is now spilling over into the "white" areas, welcome to the new South Africa where life is cheap. I have heard comments that black people said it was safer under white rule and cost of living was cheaper too. Have you heard that Mr Mandela? They are still waiting for those houses??

simon aubrey
What a twentieth century icon he just went through his captivity with quiet dignity.When he was released he called for people to reconcile their differences with each other.If any body else gets voted it will be a great travesty of common sense over headline makers but hey there you go this country is a democracy unlike what nelsons country once was.

Jonny Kinross, Glasgow
Its almost impossible for us here in the west to concieve of a view of justice based on forgiveness and reconciliation, especially when so much pain was inflicted on one race by another and yet this man managed to take such view to the whole world. Without a doubt he has made the most powerful positive contribution to world politics.

emmanuel olatosi
a truly friend of the masses

darryl rooth
he's the best one of the four a world person known all over the world

Okoye, OC; MD, USA
He is my idol, an iconic figure that teaches us that justice can come from compromise than from retribution.

Robert Syme, Scotland
He is head and shoulders above the other three. He is head and shoulders above everyone. A man who restores ones faith in the human race.

Vivien Collins, Essex
In 1967 he would have been percieved by many (white people) as a villian but 40 years on and he is acknowledged as one of the greatest men of the last century and perhaps even of this. He is a hero in every sense: brave, committed, humble and passionate and represents all that we should aspire to be. Clearly THE great icon of the last 40 years.

Lulu Belvedere Kent
he is one of the greatest men to walk the surface of this earth so lets celebrate him while he is still with us!

jim gregg 01226385839
Changed the world - for the better!!!!

Liz Taylor
He has changed the lives of many people in my lifetime and his influence will live on for generations to come.

Martin Heath Godalming Surrey
Though all his personal suffering in the belife of his cause has been able to work for peace in South Africa

Arthur Richards from Birmingham
What can I say about this guy- Never say die! He always believed.

mr seddon YORKSHIRE 07807717761
with out question "the man" he stood up for what he believed in went to prison for what he believed in he is a man to look up to as how many of us would run and back down when treated the way he has A MAN WHO DESERVES ALL PRAISE AND AWARDS NOT LIKE MANY FOOTBALLERS AND THERE PARTNERS WHO MILK US AND R ON EVERY CHANNEL PAPERS MAGS ETC ALL FOR THERE OWN EGOS.

Leanne Wilson,
Nelson Mandela is the only person out of these candidates that can really be considered as the ultimate icon. Terry Wogan is fantastic, Diana was brilliant, and the Beatles were inspirational. But they are not in the same league as Nelson Mandela.

Alyson, Bradford
Icon = a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it - with that definition who else in the list could it be

jenny in surrey
If everyone got it like he gets it, what a world we would have!

Raja PS Mohan
Osacar wilde once said - Nothing can heal the soul but senses only and senses only can be healed by soul.. he knews what he preaches and prcatices . mandela deserves a lot of credit ,, so integration , peace and greater understanding of everything is possible.

Mike, Edinburgh
I am delighted at Nelson Mandela being nominated as an icon, he helped changed a society/country/world into something much more acceptable in the 20th Century. Diana contributed nothing to this world. Sir Terry although entertaining is poles apart from from Mandela. The Beatles excellent music and helped shape the ENTERTAINMENT world, but please lets get this into some sort of perspective as to who has made the most significant contribution to the WORLD in the last 40 years.

Malcolm from Telford
Nelson Mandela is the icon for me, he has never lost his dignity even after his long incarceration in South African. He also avoided the possible blood shed that could have been started after his release.

Mrs G. Smith Crayford Kent
Nelson Mandela has commited his whole life to equal rights for black South Africans and in so doing, has reduced racial prejudices world wide.

steve dykes plymouth devon
i agree the other candidates are icons , but ultimate icons cant really be showbiz or royalty, mandela was the ultimate sacrice for south africa. he in my opinion is the icon of last 40years

James in Lagos
I grow up in Lagos west Africa have gone to gone Cape town and East Africa.What man has done for South Africa is great for all the people who were thinking they had no future now they have one.

Osvaldo Neto, London
Great,brave and intelligent leader, who basically fought a long battle for his people and indeed the world. I would definitely vote for Mandela

Cindy Cooper, Norwich
What can you say about this man that hasn't already been said? He's fantastic, an example to us all!!

lesley boughton - South Yorkshire
The one true leader of the last 40 years - he put others before himself; country before ego. Wonderful man

Miller Caldwell DUMFRIES
Who else taught us to turn the other cheek after his imprisonment? A shining light who brought to life the word 'reconcilliation.' A lesson badly needed at the end of the last century and even more so in this present time. From prison to icon in forty years. That says it all.

Lindsay Clifford - Whitstable
The inner strength this wonderful man has demonstrated to the world is almost beyond compare. He lacks bitterness despite all odds and his warmth, humour, humility and resolve are an example to every living being. He is unique and I for one never want him to go away.

carol williams ,newport
he stood for what he believed in suffered for it & emerged not only victorious but graceful upon his release.a worthy winner surely

Dennis Hursthouse, Mansfield
Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to us all, he fought oppression in his own country when other powerful nations could only look on.

Sigward Ametefe Chippenham Wiltshire
"Fellow South Africans I greet you with peace"That was part of his speech after his release from prison.He embraced both his people and his enemy with peace.He is a shiny example of a good leader.Leadership that has brought South Africa peace and stability.

Robert Brain, Elgin
The remaining icons are bit of a joke in comparsion. Nelson Mandela wins hands down and is a world class icon of our era and no doubt will remain one well into the future.

Deb Small. The Black Isle - Scottish Highlands.
Nelson Mandela is an advocate not only for human rights but also for human nature.Peace and compassion with humility and bravery. He's my icon.. Vote Mandela:)

Joe da silva, St Albans
Denis Taylor, Moray, ScotlandAs with Ghandi before him, a visionary, who proved that the fight for freedom was possible without the bullet. A true man of peace....Jeff Kirby, LeicesterYou have to be kidding! He was a terrorist, 'freedom fighter' for those with double standards.His organisation bombed buses and restaurants which killed many innocent children. My icon would be Mother Teresa, she gave up her life to help others!!

John Robinson, Mozambique
I am a white man married to a black Africa wife, when we went to apartheid RSA it was bad for us, she of cause was a kaffir and me no better than a dog for my association with her. Mr Mandele made RSA better for all of us - I now can stay in the same hotel as she - viva Mandela, abiaxa racismo. from John & Gloria. Beira Mozambique.

Andy in Poole
If you are voting for Nelson, is he much different from Gerry Adams ?

Robert Knox, Bathgate West Lothian
Nelson Mandela is one of the very few on the shorlist that IS an Icon. Striving for diplomacy, equality and for the love of his country and his people. His standing in the world today and his achievements are of legendary proportions. He has all the qualities that we should aspire to - strengh, solidarity, focus, love, respect to name a few - and if we all possesed these qualities instilled in us, like him, the world would be a much richer place. If we ever needed an influencial figure in our lives, this is the man.What more can I say?! A true, if not the ONLY true icon on your list.I wish a long and happy life to Nelson Mandela.

Lisa Keld - East Sussex
I have been to Robben Island & listened to the guided tour 3 times from an ex-political prisoner. It never ceases to move me, the compassion & forgiveness that these people, including their leader, Mandella, showed in order for this beautiful country to move forward to a more forward thinking country, working together for the future.

Doreen Hawkes Surrey
What a wonderful man if only we had more like him.
In the days when some of us were members of the Anti-Apartheid movement and he was still imprisoned, others in Britain, Europe and the USA condemned Nelson Mandela as a violent criminal. Nevertheless, he has provided the most inspirational role model for peace and love ever.

Peter Crockford, Cornwall
Great man, the greatest of our time.

TRacy Carter - Waddingham
Nelson is the only name worthy of the vote - a true champion of his beliefs, passion and dignity and the world is a far better place because of him. He is an outstanding man, (and gets my vote) - there are no others named that have made a life long commitment to anything apart from their craft. A true icon in every sense of the word!

Morag M Clarence Ayr
It has to be Nelson Mandela. He is the only ICON in the list.

Adrian - Derbyshire
We cannot undermine the great good that Nelson as done. South Africa still needs much prayer mind but what a difference that Nelson as made.

Sue Welton
His name is known by everyone worldwide. That surely says it all.

Liz Taylor, Northampton
He achieved an end to apartheid peacefully. He changed the life of many poeple and his legacy will continue to improve the lives of black south africans for may generations to come. Very few other people have achieved so much for so many poeple in my lifetime.

Denis Taylor, Moray, Scotland
As with Ghandi before him, a visionary, who proved that the fight for freedom was possible without the bullet. A true man of peace. AN ICON!

Jeff Kirby, Leicester
Very inspirational.

Roy Sutherland
From your list of so called icons he stands out as the only one who has made any real impression and done any good for mankind.PS. Happy 40th to the best radio station......

Jo Wilkinson, Poole
He's a complete hero. A champion of human rights.

Tina Minchom Lancaster
There can be no doubt that Nelson Mandela is the only person on the list that deserves the title of Icon.
I live in Germany and have a lot of friends in South Africa and I know how importent is Nelson Mandela there. But I think he is import also for poeple in other countries. He showed us to change the world persistantly and peacefuly. ´it would a good sign for BBC Radio 2best regardsAndré Tonn / Berlin

Kay - Kent
How can anyone else be on this list. The man done and had done to him so much, nobody on that list could have lived through the hell he did or achive,through is true grit and determination, to give the South African people a say in the world.

Anne Smith, Wood Lane, Stoke-on-Trent
Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to all who want to act against inequality and violence. I am in awe of this man; his compassion, humility and total common sense make me very humble. It's a pity there aren't more like him in power.

Mary Thomson. Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, Scot
Nelson Mandela has done such great work, firstly against apartheid and then to champion the cause of those in less econimically developed countries. He is the ultimate icon.

Andy Fell, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. (panda1@btinter
Looking down the shortlist only Nelson Mandela stands out.He really ought to be No 1.

John Brown Sheffield
How can any of the other candidates come even close to what Mr Mandela has achieved in his lifetime?

Sheila Evans - St Mary's Platt Kent TN15 8LL
Stands so high above all the pop stars. Iconsthey may be, but, Nelson Mandela has helped tochange his country. No pop star could claim to have done that!

Lottie North Wales
He is The Number One Icon, he represents the fight for FREEDOM & EQUALITY, something we should all strive for. He is the only winner on this list, and who compiled this list it is a joke.
Truly one of the greatest men of all time. As much as I like and respect some of the other candidates they are not in the same class.

Nicola Timlick, Rochester
It is not just that he shared exactly the same birthday as my late mother another campaigner but that he is a principled man who over the last 40 years has shaped the world. He is a man who strived to liberate his people from tyranny and eventually inspired enough people to enable this to succeed. He is a man who knows that the struggle for the underprivileged and exploited peoples of the world goes on, but he has given people hope. The 60's was a decade when the hope of peace and goodwill was rekindled. I am also in admiration of the reconciliation that has taken place with some people in South Africa. I say let us continue in the spirit that Nelson Mandela upholds so well.

Mandela is the ultimate representation of the most positive of ways our society has progressed in the last forty years. I hope the British public will vote for this progress rather than for pure entertainment.

Sarah, Inverness
Sentimentalists will vote for Diana, Princess of Wales, but I think she'd be mortified to win more votes than Nelson Mandela, who surely deserves the accolade of ultimate icon.
Anyone else but Nelson Mandela to win would be a joke, so he is icon number ONE.

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