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​​Madiba, our most famous Joburger
Madiba graces the 46664 concert in JoburgBorn in Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela moved to Johannesburg in the 1940s; and it was to Joburg that he returned after nearly three decades in prison.

​NELSON MANDELA or Madiba, the world's icon of reconciliation, compassion and goodwill, lives in Houghton, Johannesburg.

South Africa's first democratic president, Mandela united a fraught and fearful country in 1994. After he was released from jail in 1990, he came home to his small house in Orlando West, but soon afterwards took up residence in Houghton, where he has lived ever since.

His legacy to South Africa and the world is enormous, the most tangible in the form of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, both based in Joburg. The former embodies the spirit of reconciliation, ubuntu, and social justice, working through strategic networks and partnerships to capture the vision and values of Mandela's life; the latter with developing programmes and partnerships to empower and improve the wellbeing of children and youth.

Out of the children's fund grew the 46664 initiative, a worldwide fundraising programme to help victims and orphans of Aids.

In a much smaller way, he has left a legacy in Johannesburg, in the homes he has lived in, the places he has visited and operated from, the prison where he spent time, and the courts in which he appeared.

Today, Johannesburg "belongs" to the struggle icon - he was given the Freedom of the City in July 2004, the highest recognition a city can pay to acknowledge a person's contribution to its welfare and its inhabitants.

Accepting the honour, with typical Madiba humour, Mandela had jokingly asked if it would be rude if an old man like him would be allowed to drive his cattle from rural Transkei, his birth place, down the streets of Johannesburg, without let or hindrance.

One of his dearest friends and fellow Robben Island prisoner, Ahmed Kathrada, recounts in his autobiography Memoirs, that he and Mandela affectionately called one another madala, Zulu for old man.

"Charming and charismatic, he has both a magnetic personality and a commanding presence," writes Kathrada. "An uncommon amalgam of peasant and aristocrat, he is a living paradox: a democrat par excellence, with just a touch of the autocrat; at once proud but simple; soft yet tenacious; obstinate and flexible; vain one moment and humble the next; infinitely tolerant but also impatient."

Kathrada and Mandela spent 18 years together on Robben Island and a further seven years in Pollsmoor Prison, along with the late Walter Sisulu, another of Madiba's long-time friends.

"For all the public exposure and media attention, Madiba remains an enigma to all but his most intimate circle," concludes Kathrada.

In his honour
He has the freedom of 45 cities around the world, and honorary citizenship of 11.

As a token of appreciation for his contribution to the welfare of the citizens of Johannesburg and South Africa, individuals and organisations have built permanent structures and preserved dwellings where Madiba once stayed during his years as a lawyer and crusader against apartheid injustices.

Perhaps the biggest in Joburg is the Nelson Mandela Bridge, in the inner city. The largest cable-stayed bridge in southern Africa, it was aptly named after Madiba, the man who led South Africa across the apartheid divide. Since its opening in July 2003, it has become one of the most famous landmarks in the city.

Across town in the affluent northern suburb of Sandton, Madiba's image is cast in a 6m high bronze statue and stands preserved in an eternal Madiba jive at Sandton Square, renamed Nelson Mandela Square.

Speaking at the statue's unveiling in April 2004, Ndileka Mandela, Madiba's eldest granddaughter, said: "This is a very happy statue. The dancing stance pays tribute to the spirit of joy and celebration inherent in the people of South Africa."

But perhaps Mandela's most prestigious accolade is the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded jointly to him and former president FW de Klerk, in 1993.

The tributes to him around the world are endless and without precedent. He has 23 schools, universities and institutions named after him; 25 halls, buildings, monuments and housing developments; 13 stadiums, squares, plazas, parks and gardens; 91 streets, roads, boulevards and parks; 32 bursaries and scholarships, foundations and lectures; and 13 statues, sculptures and art works also carry his name.

Madiba has also collected dozens of accolades from around the world: 18 sports-related honours and awards, and 115 other awards.

Living in Orlando, Alex and Rivonia
The Mandela Family Museum is in Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, in Soweto, where he lived with his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, with whom he had four children.

He also lived in the humble four-roomed house with his second wife, Winnie Madikizela, with whom he had two daughters - Zenani and Zindziswa. His marriage to Madikizela-Mandela ended in 1996 and in 1998, he married Graca Machel, the widow of the late Samora Machel, the president of Mozambique until his death in 1986.

Mandela has also lived in another of Johannesburg's famous black townships - Alexandra. Arriving in the city from Eastern Cape in the 1940s, Madiba found sanctuary in a small room in the backyard of a house, on the corner of Seventh and Hofmeyer streets.

There are many memories of Madiba in his adopted hometown. Tucked away in the wealthy northern suburb of Rivonia is Liliesleaf Farm. The farm was a hideout for the key leaders of the then banned African National Congress (ANC), who were arrested in 1963 poring over plans for Operation Mayibuye, the conversion to violent methods to overthrow the apartheid government.

The farm buildings have been restored and are now a museum.

Born in Qunu
Son of a principal councillor to the acting paramount chief of Thembuland, Madiba's life began in the village of Qunu in Eastern Cape. Influenced by the cases that came before the chief's court, he resolved to become a lawyer.

Mandela attended a local mission school where he completed his primary education, from where he was sent to Healdtown, a well-known Wesleyan secondary school. Here he matriculated, and then enrolled at the University College of Fort Hare for a bachelor of arts degree. He was suspended from college for joining in a protest boycott and when an arranged marriage was proposed to him, Mandela escaped to Johannesburg.

Arriving in Alexandra, he found work as a guard at one of the mines. Later he got a job as an articled clerk at a law firm, and eventually he enrolled at the University of South Africa (Unisa) to complete his degree. His dream to become a lawyer blossomed when he started his law studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. In partnership with Oliver Tambo, another struggle icon, he opened a practice in downtown Johannesburg.

Mandela entered politics while studying in Johannesburg by joining the ANC in 1942. It was during this time that he and a small group of mainly young members of the ANC embarked on a mission to transform the party into a mass movement.

Thanks to his dedication and hard work, Mandela soon impressed his peers and was elected secretary of the ANC Youth League in 1947. During the Campaign for Defiance of Unjust Laws in 1952, Mandela was elected the party's national volunteer-in-chief and he travelled the country organising resistance to discriminatory legislation. He was charged and brought to trial for his role in the campaign and sentenced to a suspended prison sentence.

President of Youth League
In recognition of his contribution to the defiance campaign, Mandela was elected president of both the Youth League and the Transvaal region of the ANC at the end of 1952. He consequently became the deputy president of the ANC.

The 1950s turned out to be a time of strife and tribulation for Mandela - he was banned, arrested and imprisoned. He was also one of the accused in the historic Treason Trial that ended in 1961, with the state dropping all charges.

Umkhonto weSizwe, the ANC's military wing, was formed in 1961, with Mandela as commander-in-chief. After travelling abroad for several months, he was arrested in 1962 on his return to South Africa for unlawfully exiting the country and for incitement to strike. Convicted, Madiba was sentenced to five years on Robben Island.

While serving this sentence, he was charged with sabotage in the infamous Rivonia Trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Then, in 1984, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town; in December of that year he was moved to Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. After serving 27 years behind bars, he was released on 11 February 1990.

One of the first tasks he undertook after his release was to complete his autobiography, which he had begun in prison on Robben Island. Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1994.

President of South Africa
In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after its decades-long banning, Mandela was elected president of the party. His long-time friend, Tambo, became the congress's national chairperson. In 1994, after South Africa's first democratic elections, he was elected president of the Republic of South Africa.

He retired from public life in June 1999, though not from the public eye. He built himself a home in his birthplace in Qunu, and visits it as often as he can.

Yet he still spends most of his time at his home in Houghton. His greatest pleasure, he says, is watching one of Johannesburg's beautiful sunsets, with the music of Handel or Tchaikovsky playing in the background.
​​Madiba, our most famous Joburger