Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in 1918 and was a South African lawyer, liberation leader and politician. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was South Africa’s first black president from 1994-1999. Mandela graduated as a lawyer and opened a law office with the later President of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Tambo in 1952. From 1991 to 1997 he was the senior leader of the ANC. He first became active in the organization from the 1940s, and the most important debate was about the racial divide in South Africa.
Mandela believed that in order to overcome the racial divide, blacks and whites had to live together in peace. It wouldn’t be no help in “throwing out” the white ones. New non-violent resistance methods were therefore used. Boycotting campaigns, mass demonstrations and other forms of civil disobedience were put on the agenda. In 1952, the first nationwide protest against apartheid was initiated by the ANC. The campaign gained tremendous support and was named the Disobedience Campaign. Hundreds of blacks were shot and killed while many were reportedly outlawed. Among them was Nelson Mandela. This was the first time he was arrested and wanted outlaw.
In 1956, he was indicted for high treason, but was acquitted along with the other 155 defendants in 1961, after which he went underground to continue the fight against the apartheid regime and organize the armed resistance. In 1962 he was arrested again. Mandela was first sentenced to 5 years in prison for hard work because of sabotage, but it ended up being sentenced to life in prison – without fair law and judgment.
In 1985, he was offered the freedom, but refused because he did not agree with the terms presented. Due to tuberculosis, he was moved to a new prison in 1988. Throughout South Africa, people marched in demonstration protests against the prison. He had now become the very epitome of black liberation in South Africa.
Mandela was released in 1990, partly because of foreign pressure. 100,000 people from all over the world came to South Africa to receive and honor Mandela who had now turned 71. He then played a central role in the negotiations leading to the first free elections in South Africa’s history, and a formal abolition of apartheid in 1994.
After resigning as president in 1999, Mandela had become South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador. He has fought against HIV / AIDS and helped his country get the right to host the World Cup in 2010 – the largest event ever organized on African soil. In 2004, however, he withdrew from the public to spend more time with friends and family.
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