The 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk for their work for the peaceful termination of Apartheid, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918, the son of Chief Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa and his wife Nosekeni Fanny. Moving to the village of Qunu after his father was stripped of his chief hood, Mandela was raised in traditional tribal culture and was given the name Nelson of his first day of school.
In 1943, he enrolled at the University of Witwatersrand for his bachelor of law degree, and became politically awakened. Dissatisfied with the conservative politics of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela helped found its Youth League (ANCYL) in 1944,which quickly gained support for its policies among ANC members. In 1948, the National Party won the all-white national election on the platform of Apartheid, getting a majority of seats with a minority of votes. One year later, the ANC adopted ANCYL's program of action - based on full citizenship and representation for all South Africans - as its official policy, advocating strikes, boycotts and civil disobedience.
In 1950, Nelson Mandela became a member of the ANC executive committee, and in 1952 was elected both Transvaal president and Deputy national president of the ANC. On June 26, 1952, the ANC launched the Defiance Campaign, based on mass civil disobedience to protest discriminatory laws, with Mandela as it's coordinator. Charged and convicted for his role in the campaign, Mandela was given a suspended prison sentence and was soon thereafter confined to Johannesburg for six months. During this period he passed his Law exam and opened the first black legal firm with fellow activist and friend Oliver Tambo. On December 5, 1956, police arrested Mandela and 155 other political leaders, accusing them of participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the state by violent means. The unsuccessful treason trial lasted four years, with Mandela helping conduct the defense under the threat of the death penalty. On March 21, 1960, police opened fire on an unarmed crowd in Sharpeville, a state of emergency was declared, and over 20,000 people were arrested. The ANC was promptly banned and Mandela was detained. Upon his release he went underground and helped found Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, launching a campaign of sabotage.
In 1962 Mandela went briefly to Algeria for military training and was arrested on August 5, charged with incitement and for leaving the country without permission. Leading his own defense, he was sentenced to five years in jail. While serving this sentence he was charged with sabotage and sentenced to life in prison.
For the almost three decades that followed, the government fought black opposition with intimidating legislation, mass arrests and violence. Outlawing black voting rights, the plan was to create a permanent political majority by retaining white economic power and segregating people in "homelands" according to race. During his imprisonment, Mandela never compromised his principles and refused multiple offers of freedom if he renounced violence. After a two decade boycott by the United Nations, and under severe pressure from the outside world, President de Klerk unconditionally freed Nelson Mandela on February 11, 1990, after 27 years in prison. Shortly after his release the ANC agreed to suspend their armed struggle, but the National Party continued to hold power until the first democratic elections in 1994.
As the successful presidential candidate of the ANC, Mandela was inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. He retired from public life in June, 1999 and currently resides in Johannesburg.
"The achievements leading to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize are never those of the individual laureates alone - it is the collective efforts of communities or nations. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to ourselves was a recognition and vindication of the courageous struggles of generations of South Africans from all communities and backgrounds to achieve peace through the unrelenting pursuit of justice and equality"
Robben Island, whose prison was once home to former South African president Nelson Mandela as well as many other black political freedom fighters, is now a World Heritage Site and provides stunning views across the bay with Table mountain as its backdrop.
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