10th May
It was on this day...
1994 Nelson Mandella Becomes President Of South Africa

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandella had served 27 years as a political prisoner in a South African jail.

He had set up a paramilitary wing of the ANC after a massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960. The purpose of the wing was to engage in acts of sabotage against the white minority government.

Mandella was unsuccessfully tried for treason in 1961, but, a year later, was arrested for illegally leaving the country. He was sentenced to 5 years in Robben Island Prison.

In 1963 he, and 7 others, were put on trial in the Rivonia (the district in Jo-burg where ANC weapons were found) Trial for sabotage, treason and conspiracy. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The first 18 years was spent in Robben Island Prison in a small cell with no bed or running water. He was forced to do hard labour in a quarry. He was allowed to write and receive only one letter every six months. Once a year he could meet a visitor for 30 minutes.

Mandella became the symbolic head of the antiapartheid movement. His leadership of a civil disobedience movement while in Robben Island Prison led to improved conditions in the jail.

In 1982 he was relocated to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland, and in 1988 he lived under house arrest in a cottage.

In 1989 F.W. de Klerk became South African president; he would dismantle the apartheid movement and allow blacks to vote. The ban on the ANC was lifted. On February 11th Mandella was released.

Mandella led the ANC in its negotiations with the white minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government.

In 1993 Mandella and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

On April 26, 1994, in South Africa's first free elections, Mandella and the ANC won, and formed a coalition government of national unity with De Klerk's National Party and the Zulus' Inkatha Freedom Party.

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