Six memorable Mandela quotes

Nelson Mandela's quotes are the stuff of legend. We look at some of the icon's most unforgettable statements and where they were made.

By Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Khuthala Nandipha

It's no wonder that Nelson Mandela is known as one of the most quoted men in the world, his words of wisdom echo worldwide. Aside from his memorable political speeches and his autobiography, there are other important life maxims that Madiba taught us through the years – words we should all definitely try to live by. 

Here's a look at seven of those unforgettable statements in pictures.

1. This quote was first published in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in 1994. While it refers to Mandela's trials and tribulations on his road to peace and reconciliation in South Africa, it is also often quoted along roads and paths of the more literal kind. It is a favourite among adventurers and explorers around the world and has found a home in many captions that accompany pictures of hills, valleys and mountainous ranges. 

2. As quoted from a letter Mandela wrote to Fatima Meer, a fellow anti-apartheid activist and close friend. When he wrote these words to Meer he was referring to the generosity of spirit, but followed that sentence with “but when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special”.

3. These were the final words spoken by Mandela during his four-and-a-half-hour-long speech at the Rivonia Trial in 1964. These words have gone on to become one of the most quoted by an accused uttered in an open court, and they spread like wildfire in the media at a time when people could be banned or imprisoned for quoting Mandela. After his sentence, Mandela's voice was silenced in public except by the brave few who risked punishment by uttering his words in secret or defiance.

4. Mandela said that if you wanted to know how a nation treats its people, you should visit its prisons. This quote greets visitors to Number Four Prison on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where apartheid activists were held. The quote was later adopted by the Treatment Action Campaign as it spoke to the organisation’s mandate to fight discrimination against people living with HIV and Aids. 

5. Mandela spoke these words during the 90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002 at Walter Sisulu Hall in Johannesburg. Six years later, when Mandela turned 90 himself and graced the cover of Time, it was used in a piece called "The secrets of leadership", which was written by Time's managing editor Richard Stengel. Stengel also helped Mandela with his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and is himself quoted as calling Mandela "the closest thing the world has to a secular saint".  

6. This quote is from a letter Mandela wrote while imprisoned on Robben Island to his close friend and anti-apartheid activist Amina Cachalia in 1981. When Mandela turned 92, the Nelson Mandela Foundation published a new book called Nelson Mandela, By Himself. The book is a collection of 2000 quotes from his life.

A previous version of this article incorrectly included a quote associated with Mandela but originally penned in a poem by Marianne Williamson. It has been removed.

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