Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as the country’s first president from 1994 to 1999. He was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, and died on December 5, 2013. He was the country’s first black president and the first elected in a democratic election with full representation. His administration aimed to undo apartheid’s legacy by combating institutionalised racism and promoting racial healing. He was the head of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997, and was a socialist and African nationalist.
Life as a Patriot and Revolutionary
Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family in Mvezo, Union of South Africa, as a Xhosa speaker. Prior to working as a lawyer in Johannesburg, he studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand. He became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist movements there, joining the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943 and co-founding the Youth League in 1944. Mandela and the African National Congress committed themselves to ending apartheid, a system of racial segregation that favoured whites, after the National Party’s white-only government created it. He was named president of the African National Congress’s Transvaal branch, and he rose to notoriety as a result of his participation in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He was detained multiple times for seditious actions and tried unsuccessfully in the 1956 Treason Trial. He covertly joined the illegal South African Communist Party after being influenced by Marxism (SACP).
His Greatest Sacrifice
Mandela spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Pollsmoor, and Victor Verster. President F. W. de Klerk freed him in 1990 in the face of mounting domestic and international pressure and fears of racial civil war. Mandela and de Klerk spearheaded negotiations to end apartheid, which culminated in Mandela’s triumph in the 1994 multiracial general election, in which he was elected president of South Africa. Mandela emphasised peace between the country’s racial groupings and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to probe previous human rights violations while leading a broad coalition government that adopted a new constitution. Despite his socialist ideals, he kept his administration’s liberal economic framework, taking measures to stimulate land reform, combat poverty, and increase healthcare facilities.