Hand in hand with his wife Winnie, Nelson Mandela left Víctor Verster Prison as a free man for the first time in 27 years. At the gate, a police cordon held back the emotional crowd that was waiting for the South African leader and that blocked the path of the car that took Mandela to Cape Town’s Grand Parade, the square that was jammed with the hundreds of thousands of other supporters awaited him on the day of his liberation.
It was the beginning of the end of the racial segregation that had lasted for 300 years, and that ended on the day in 1994 when Nelson Mandela assumed the Presidency of South Africa, only four years after being released from prison.
Democratic elections, free of racial discrimination, led to the victory of the African National Congress (ANC), and Mandela made history by becoming the first black president of the country, after having been imprisoned for three decades for his fight against apartheid. Having become a political legend during his years behind bars, Mandela led the country’s transition, defended the process of democratisation, and worked to realise it “quickly and without interruptions”.
Madiba, the name by which the political leader was known in South Africa, believed in “the unity of individuals” and “the national reconciliation”, but, above all, he rejected resentment, which is what he could have felt for those who imprisoned him while his wife became a symbol of the resistance and raised their two children, two children who already had their own families by the time Mandela was released from prison.
The South African activist and former president Nelson Mandela - SOUTH AFRICA- THE GOOD NEWS
The African leader began his political career in Johannesburg, the city that granted him the opportunity to become an attorney and join the ANC. This is how far he had come from Umtata, the town in the east of the country where he was born in 1918. Long before he launched his crusade against apartheid, he was a boxer.
Mandela’s involvement in the ANC led him to be accused of treason in 1956. However, the worst did not come until 1964, when he was given a life sentence in a second trial, which was also the occasion of one of his most memorable speeches.
"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities"
While Mandela was enduring his long years of imprisonment, his popularity grew in the rest of the world and he became a visible symbol of the fight against racial segregation. This was so true that, after being freed, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with F. W. de Klerk, the man who preceded him as President of South African and who negotiated the definitive end of apartheid.
Mandela was a leader who worked with the enemy to end racial separation and who fought tirelessly against discrimination and for the freedom he eventually achieved for his country. Madiba’s immortal legacy will always be a symbol for peace, not only in Africa, but all around the world.