Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader who
served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.
He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation.
He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. There he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 after the National Party‘s white-only government established apartheid, a system of racial segregation that privileged whites, he and the ANC committed themselves to its overthrow.
Mandela served 27 years in prison. Amid growing domestic and international pressure, and with fears of a racial civil war, President F. W. de Klerk released him in 1990.
Mandela and de Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became president. Mandela emphasised reconciliation between the country’s racial groups
Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, and described as the