Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla]; born 18 July 1.918) is a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1.994 to 1.999.
He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.
His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.
Politically a democratic socialist, he served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1.991 to 1.997.
Internationally, Mandela was the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1.998 to 1.999.
A Xhosa born to the Thembu Royal Family, Mandela attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law.
Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League.
After the Afrikaner nationalists of the National Party came to power in 1.948 and began implementing the policy of apartheid, he rose to prominence in the ANC's 1.952 Defiance Campaign, was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch and oversaw the 1.955 Congress of the People.
Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1.956 to 1.961 but was found not guilty.
Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1.961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets.
In 1.962 he was arrested, convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.
An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1.990.
Becoming ANC President, Mandela published his autobiography and led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multi-racial elections in 1.994, in which he led the ANC to victory.
He was elected President and formed a Government of National Unity.
As President, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services.
Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho.
He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki, subsequently becoming an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Controversial for much of his life, right-wing critics denounced Mandela as a terrorist and communist sympathiser.
He has nevertheless received international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, having received over 250 awards, including the 1.993 Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin.
He is held in deep respect within South Africa as the "Father of the Nation" and is often known under his Xhosa clan name of Madiba.
Presiding over the transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy, Mandela saw national reconciliation as the primary task of his presidency.
Having seen other post-colonial African economies damaged by the departure of white elites, Mandela worked to reassure South Africa's white population that they were protected and represented in "the Rainbow Nation".
Mandela attempted to create the broadest possible coalition in his cabinet, with de Klerk as first Deputy President while other National Party officials became ministers for Agriculture, Energy, Environment, and Minerals and Energy, and Buthelezi was named Minister for Home Affairs.
The other cabinet positions were taken by Anc members, many of whom like Joe Modise, Alfred Nzo, Joe Slovo, Mac Maharaj and Dullah Omar had long been comrades, although others, such as Tito Mboweni and Jeff Radebe, were much younger.
Mandela's relationship with de Klerk was strained; Mandela thought that de Klerk was intentionally provocative, while de Klerk felt that he was being intentionally humiliated by the president.
In January 1.995, Mandela heavily chastised him for awarding amnesty to 3,500 police just before the election, and later criticised him for defending former Minister of Defence Magnus Malan when the latter was charged with murder.
Mandela personally met with senior figures of the apartheid regime, including Hendrik Verwoerd's widow Betsie Schoombie and the lawyer Percy Yutar; emphasising personal forgiveness and reconciliation, he announced that "courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace."
He encouraged black South Africans to get behind the previously hated national rugby team, the Springboks, as South Africa hosted the 1.995 Rugby World Cup.
After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar's own number 6 on the back.
This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans; as de Klerk later put it, "Mandela won the hearts of millions of white rugby fans."
Mandela's efforts at reconciliation assuaged the fears of whites, but also drew criticism from more militant blacks.
His estranged wife, Winnie, accused the ANC of being more interested in appeasing whites than in helping blacks.
More controversially, Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC, appointing Desmond Tutu as its chair.
To prevent the creation of martyrs, the Commission granted individual amnesties in exchange for testimony of crimes committed during the apartheid era.
Dedicated in February 1.996, it held two years of hearings detailing rapes, torture, bombings, and assassinations, before issuing its final report in October 1.998.
Both de Klerk and the Anc appealed to have parts of the report suppressed, though only de Klerk's appeal was successful.
Mandela praised the Commission's work, stating that it "had helped us move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future".
Personal and public life
Across the world, Mandela came to be seen as "a moral authority" with a great "concern for truth".
Considered friendly and welcoming, Mandela exhibited a "relaxed charm" when talking to others, including his opponents.
In later life, he was known for looking for the best in everyone, even defending political opponents to his allies, though some thought him too trusting of others.
He was renowned for his stubbornness and loyalty, and exhibited a "hot temper" which could flare up in anger in certain situations, also being "moody and dejected" away from the public eye.
He also had a mischevious sense of humour.
Very conscious of his image, throughout his life he sought fine quality clothes, carrying himself in a "regal style" stemming from his childhood in the Thembu royal house, and during his presidency was often compared to a constitutional monarch.
Considered a "master of imagery and performance", he excelled at presenting himself well in press photographs and producing soundbites.
Mandela was an African nationalist, an ideological position he held since joining the ANC, also being "a democrat, and a socialist".
Although he presented himself in an autocratic manner in several speeches, Mandela was a devout believer in democracy and would abide by majority decisions even when deeply disagreeing with them.
He held a conviction that "inclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech" were the fundamentals of democracy, and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.
A democratic socialist, biographer Anthony Sampson wrote that Mandela was "openly opposed to capitalism, private land-ownership and the power of big money."
Influenced by Marxism, during the revolution Mandela advocated scientific socialism,although he denied being a communist during the Treason Trial.
Biographer David James Smith thought this untrue, stating that Mandela "embraced communism and communists" in the late 1.950s and early 1.960s, though was a "fellow traveller" rather than a party member.
In the 1.955 Freedom Charter, which Mandela had helped create, it called for the nationalisation of banks, gold mines, and land, believing it necessary to ensure equal distribution of wealth.
Despite these beliefs, Mandela nationalised nothing during his presidency, fearing that this would scare away foreign investors.
This decision was in part influenced by the fall of the socialist states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc during the early 1.990s.
Orders, decorations and monuments
Within South Africa, Mandela is widely considered to be "the father of the nation", being seen as "the national liberator, the saviour, its Washington and Lincoln rolled into one".
In 2.004, Johannesburg granted Mandela the freedom of the city, with Sandton Square being renamed Nelson Mandela Square, after a Mandela statue was installed there.
In 2.008, another Mandela statue was unveiled at Groot Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly Victor Verster Prison, near Cape Town, standing on the spot where Mandela was released from the prison.
He has also received international acclaim.
In 1.993, he received the joint Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk.
In November 2.009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed Mandela's birthday, 18 July, as "Mandela Day", marking his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.
It called on individuals to donate 67 minutes to doing something for others, commemorating the 67 years that Mandela had been a part of the movement.
Awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Order of Canada, he was the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen.
The last reciprocent of the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, in 1.990 he received the Bharat Ratna Award from the government of India, and in 1.992 received Pakistan's Nishan-e-Pakistan.
In 1.992 he was awarded the Atatürk Peace Award by Turkey.
He refused the award, citing human rights violations committed by Turkey at the time, but later accepted the award in 1.999.
Elizabeth II awarded him the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John and the Order of Merit.