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Nelson Mandela's Imprisonment Essay

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Table of contents

  1. Impact of Prison on Mandela
  2. Prison’s Lessons to Run a Country
  3. Conclusion

Leadership is a social process in which an individual uses the support of others in attaining particular goals. A leader is an individual who is moving towards a certain direction, whereas managing to influence others to be his or her followers. Nelson Mandela is one of the leaders who demonstrated clear leadership styles during his tenure of office as the first Black President of South Africa. Mandela's journey through his self-transformation occurred in prison, where he had been imprisoned for 27 years. Most individuals, other than Mandela, would be crushed by the experience and consumed by anger. To Mandela, the prison was not a loss of freedom and thought, but a platform for profound thinking and the development of his leadership styles. The three decades in which Mandela was a political prisoner were transformative. He transformed himself and was able to transform South Africa. Mandela was able to learn discipline, leadership, and patience, whereas in prison, taking that and carrying a nation through freedom and peace with that knowledge.

Impact of Prison on Mandela

Mandela entered prison as a revolutionist. In 1963, Mandela was imprisoned in Pretoria Local Prison. Oliver Tambo, Mandela's close friend, remembered him with virtues as emotional, passionate, sensitive, rapidly stung to bitterness by insult and patronage (Lieberfeld, 237). Mandela was defined by a natural air of authority and could not assist magnetizing a crowd: he commanded a tall bearing; the youth trusted him, for their impatience reflects his own, luring to the women. He was committed and courageous and was a natural-born mass leader. Mandela was sensitive to how the colonialists strived to obliterate the history and identity of the oppressed by impacting their minds in order for them to forget.

Mandela learned about patience and discipline because there was little that a prisoner could control. The one thing that Mandela could control was he. There was no space for indiscipline or outbursts. Mandela lacked privacy because he shared the cells with other individuals (Smith, 395). He argued that he could not stretch himself without being in contact with others. It was clear that prison emotion and figuratively reshaped him. There was a lack of extraneous emotion because everything had to be commanded. Each morning and evening, Mandela painstakingly arranged the few possessions he permitted in the small cell.

Prison modeled the leadership skills of Mandela. In every moment, Mandela was required to stand up to the authorities (Smith, 395). He was the leader of the inmates and did not want to fail them. He became more acutely knowledgeable of how his colleagues viewed him. However, he was isolated from the larger world, the prison was its own sphere, and he had to lead the convicts there. For 27 years, he figured out policy, behaving, and leadership. Mandela became frustrated and irritated in other instances when people assessed his feelings.

Mandela became a true statesman after being released from prison. While in prison, he concealed his anger because he perceived that it did not serve him towards the progression of a democratic South Africa. Mandela was distinguishable from other prisoners because he had the capability to observe the root causes of the injustices done to him and the South Africans from the black race. The colleagues of Mandela viewed the warders as monolithic, the epitome of the brutal apartheid system. On the other hand, Mandela attempted to discover something decent and honorable in these warders and jailers. Finally, he viewed them as the victims of the apartheid system and perpetrators of it. These jailers and warders, who came from poor backgrounds, were illiterate and had been inculcated in an unfair and racist system since their childhood. His empathy for his warders and jailers demonstrates some form of maturity. Mandela implied that he entered prison as an angry, impulsive young man who was emotional, passionate, sensitive, quickly stung by bitterness and retaliation by abuse and patronage, as his best friend, Oliver Tambo asserted adjectives that Mandela ultimately discovered disagreeable (Lieberfeld, 237).

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Mandela developed lessons and valued when he was imprisoned. Nelson Mandela, who had come out from prison, was a different man than the one who had arrived due to his age, values, and lessons Mandela carried in which he used to lead a nation. Mandela would always praise individuals by using the phrases 'measured', 'balanced' and 'controlled', which he would assert was a reflection of himself. Mandela responded to Richard Stengel's question on how prison changed him, and he articulated that prison changed him. He came out of jail as measured, self-disciplined, and control, capable of strategizing and liaising with a colleague and aiming for a better South Africa. He became the figure who was able as a person and as part of the community to bring a country out of its history of racism and oppression.

Prison’s Lessons to Run a Country

Mandela was a transformative leader who led South Africa as the first Black president. The lessons that Mandela drew from prison enabled him to run the nation. The first lesson that Mandela derived from prison is forgiving to be free from emotions of revenge and victimhood. While in prison, Mandela chose to forgive the jailers and warders whom he viewed as the victims of the harsh apartheid rule. After his release, Mandela announced that he was working with the same individuals who threw him in prison, persecuted his wife, and harassed his children from one academic institution to the other. He persuaded other persons to forget the past and think of the present. This form of forgiveness carries on inspiring others and transforming society's perceptions (Soudien, 354).

The second lesson that Mandela derived from prison was peacefully reconciling with persons who opposed his struggle at the hallmark of his agenda (Le Cordeur, 45). There was absolutely no person who anticipated that Mandela would liaise with Fredrick de Klerk, an individual who belonged to the South African regime that harshly treated Mandela and his comrades in the African National Congress. Mandela confessed that his hatred towards the white rulers in the nation reduced while in prison. When he came out of prison, his was that the ultimate way of building a new South Africa was encouraging the whites and blacks to liaise as the nation belongs to them.

The third lesson that Mandela derived from prison is freedom. As a transformative leader, Mandela had a lasting commitment vision of justice and freedom for the black South Africans. Whereas in prison, Mandela learned that it is important to persevere when attempting to attain a certain goal. He faced many hardships when he was imprisoned.


In conclusion, the prison was the greatest teacher of Mandela. Before entering prison, Mandela was passionate, sensitive, and emotional. Prison allowed Mandela to undergo a journey of self-transformation. It enabled him to learn patience, discipline, and leadership. The Mandela that was released was different in terms of age, values, and lessons. He had virtues as ‘balanced’, ‘measured’ and ‘controlled’. The lessons that Mandela derived from the prison enabled him to successfully run the nation.

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