Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla]; born 18 July 1918) is a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. His administration focused on dismantling apartheid's legacy, cutting poverty and inequality. Politically left-wing, he served as president of the African National Congress (ANC) political party from 1990 to 1999.
Born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, studying law. Living in Johannesburg townships and becoming involved in anti-colonial politics, he joined the ANC, becoming a founding member of its Youth League. When the National Party government implemented apartheid in 1948, he rose to prominence in the ANC's 1952 Defiance Campaign, being elected president of the Transvaal ANC branch and overseeing the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities, and although initially committed to non-violent protest, he adopted a policy of violent resistance, co-founding the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, in 1961. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison, many on Robben Island, while an international campaign lobbied for his release.
Released in 1990, Mandela led the ANC in negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk leading to apartheid's abolition and the establishment of democracy in 1994. In that year's elections, he led the ANC to victory. As president, he initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa. Refusing to run for a second term, and succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki, Mandela became an elder statesman focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Mandela has received international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, having received over 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and is held in deep respect within South Africa as the "Father of the Nation", where he is often known under his Xhosa clan name of Mandiba. Controversial for much of his life, critics denounced him as a terrorist for his involvement in Umkhonto we Sizwe. (Wikipedia)
To learn more about Nelson Mandela's work visit: NelsonMandela.org