Nelson Mandela Timeline 1940-1949

Mandela was elected to the Student Representative Council (SRC) at Fort Hare. After he became embroiled in general student dissatisfaction with boarding house food and a very low SRC poll, he followed his conscience and resigned. The head of the University gave him a choice: either he accepts the post or he leaves the university. He was given until the end of the university holidays to decide. When he returned home, the regent ordered him to return to university after the holidays and take up his seat on the SRC. However, Mandela felt that there was a principle at stake and refused to return under the conditions laid down by the rector. Like his late father, Mandela stood by his principles and refused to bend to authority. This is a strong and recurring trait of his personality.
The regent. informed Mandela and Justice that he had chosen brides for them and had made arrangements for them to be married. Both young men were unhappy about this, but kept their displeasure to themselves. They made plans to leave the region for Johannesbsurg and stole a cow from the regent's herd to raise funds for their trip. As they couldn't leave the area without the permission of the magistrate, they lied to obtain a travel permit and set out for Johannesburg.
Upon their arrival in the industrial and commercial city, they found temporary accommodation at Crown Mines with an InDuna in the mine compound. Mandela was employed as a night watchman at the compound, but within a few days he and justice were fired when Dalinyebo contacted the InDuna and demanded that Mandela and Justice be sent back. They left and found accommodation in 46 Seventh Avenue in Alexandra Township. Mandela convinced the regent that he was going to study law and the regent agreed to support his studies.Mandela began articles at the law firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman. Late in 1941 the now frail Dalinyebo visited Mandela in Johannesburg. He did not reprimand him for his past disobedience and Mandela convinced his guardian that it was best for him to complete his law studies in Johannesburg.
That same year, Mandela was introduced to Albertina Totiwe a trainee nurse. She in turn introduced him to her boyfriend, a young business man and estate agent Walter Sisulu and the two men become acquaintances and soon friends.
Mandela stayed in "Dark City", the poorest section of Alexandra Township named for its absence of electricity. He later said, "Alexandra occupies a treasured place in my heart. It was the first place I lived away from home." This broadened his perspective by exposure to Sotho-, Swazi-, Zulu-, etc. speaking people. Nelson Mandela completed a BA degree through correspondence.
Nelson Mandela enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand Law Faculty. He met students of all races and was exposed to liberal, radical and Africanist thought. He also experienced racism and discrimination. He spent six years at Wits, from 1943 -1948, but, owing to the dire circumstances under which he lived and studied, he left without completing his LLB degree.
Mandela met Gaur Radebe at Walter Sisulu's house. He found Radebe unscientific, but admired his enthusiasm and vigour. Radebe, one of organisers of the first Alexandra Bus boycott, invited Mandela to join him to help the campaign against bus price increases. This was Mandela's first exposure to mass action.
Around the same time, Mandela began attending a gathering of young intellectuals brought together by African National Congress president Dr Alfred B. Xuma in his effort to revitalise the ANC. Amongst them were Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Anton Lembede, Lional Majombozi. Majombozi proposed that they form a youth league within the structures of the ANC.
April, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and together with the group of young ANC intellectuals, formed the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). The League's founding meeting was held at the Bantu Men's Social Centre in Johannesburg. Sisulu's fiancé Albertina was the only woman present. Anton Lembede is elected President and Nelson Mandela, Ashby P Mda, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu were elected to the Executive Committee. The league adopted a constitution and issued a manifesto that rejected participation in advisory boards and the Native Representative Council. The Manifesto announced a more militant stance than that of the League's parent body and advocated a staunchly African nationalist orientation.
Walter and Albertina Sisulu were married and Mandela is best man with his girlfriend Evelyn Mase, Walter's cousin as bridesmaid. The Sisulu's home became a second home to Mandela.
15 July, Nelson Mandela marries Evelyn Mase who was a nurse. The newlyweds moved to live with Evelyn's married sister and became neighbours with Esákia (Es'kia) Mphalele, a teacher and later a noted journalist, writer and activist.
Evelyn Mandela gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Tembi. They were allocated a house in Orlando, No 8115. It had three rooms, with no electricity nor inside toilet. Mandela's younger sister, Nomabandla (Leaby), came to live with them and enrolled at Orlando High School. Evelyn was the breadwinner in the family while Mandela studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand. He started to devote more and more of his time to politics.
Evelyn gave birth to a daughter, Makaziwe, but Makaziwe died after 9 months, leaving the couple heart-broken.
July, ANCYL President Anton Lembede died unexpectedly at the young age of 33. AP Mda succeeded him as league President, Oliver Tambo was elected Vice-President, and Mandela was elected Secretary General. At the end of 1947 Mandela was elected on to the Transvaal Provincial Executive of the ANC.
Mandela met A.C. Jordan, an academic much admired by Mandela's Tembu friends, and Isaac Tabata, founder of the Unity Movement. Mandela became National Secretary of the ANCYL. The Leagues decided to organise branches nationally and Mandela was responsible for organising one of the largest branches at Fort Hare University.
May, Mandela visited Cape Town for the first time and stayed three months. He also viewed the isolated prison of Robben Island from the vantage point of Table Mountain.
Mandela left university without completing his law degree.
26 May, the National Party (NP) contested the white-only national elections with a new policy called apartheid (literally apartness) and narrowly won. Mandela was "stunned and dismayed" at the NP's victory.
After he received news about his mother's illness from his eldest sister, Mandela arranged for her to come to Johannesburg to consult medical specialists. She got on very well with her daughter-in-law, Evelyn, and stayed on with them, becoming a great help.
December, At the ANC's annual conference, held that year in Bloemfontein, President-General Dr Xuma,was replaced by Dr J S Moroka. Walter Sisulu is elected ANC Secretary-General and Mandela and Tambo were elected to the ANC National Executive Committee. The conference adopted the ANCYL's Programme of Action, which calls for a militant, Africanist campaign against apartheid and white minority rule. The Bloemfontein conference was a watershed moment in the history of the ANC and the liberation struggle in South Africa.

Last updated : 14-Jul-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Apr-2011