11 February-Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid campaigner and politician who became the first black President of South Africa. Having been elected in a fully representative democratic election he helped end racial segregation and brought about a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela visited Ireland on three occasions. He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1988.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo in Umtata (now called Mthatha), South Africa in July 1918. Mandela, a Xhosa born into the Thembu Royal family, was given the name Nelson at the age of seven by his teacher in the local Methodist school. He was awarded a BA Degree by the University of South Africa in 1943 and shortly thereafter began law studies at the University of Witwatersrand. However he devoted his time to politics and failed his final exams.

Having joined the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela became a member the ANC National Executive in March 1950. An advocate of non-violent resistance to apartheid he became deputy national president of the ANC in 1952. As part of the apartheid regime people were legally obliged to carry a pass at all times. A anti pass campaign was organised in 1960 in which passes were burned. At one such event police fired on demonstrators resulting in the deaths of 69 protestors in what became known as the Sharpeville massacre.

Following the massacre Mandela helped organise a paramilitary campaign against the white minority Government. He was arrested and tried for treason in 1961 and though acquitted he was arrested again in 1962. He was convicted of leaving the country illegally and sentenced to five years in prison on Robben Island. In 1964 he was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. He would spend the next 27 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa.

Frederik Willem de Klerk became President of South Africa in September 1989. He began to dismantle the apartheid system and in February 1990 ordered that Nelson Mandela be released from custody. Mandela was released from custody on February 11th 1990. The ANC with Mandela as leader won the general election in April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa on May 10th 1994. Having served one term as President he retired in 1999. In 1993 the Nobel Prize for Peace was jointly awarded to Mandela and de Klerk. Mandela died at the age of 95 on December 5th 2013.

Nelson Mandela was released from custody on Robben Island in the year 1990 On This Day.

Nelson Mandela photo

Photo by symphony of love


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