Nelson Mandela was the leader of ANC

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in a small village near Umtata, capital of the former Transkei (now Eastern Cape Province) in South Africa. He spent a relatively carefree childhood in a rural, traditional environment.

Mandela later enrolled at Fort Hare University in the city of Alice to study English, politics and Roman-Dutch law. Fort Hare was at that time the main intellectual center of the resistance of the black population of South Africa against the supremacy of the whites. Mandela began his political engagement here. In Fort Hare he also met his long-time companion and ANC founder Oliver Tambo as well as many other young men who played important roles in the later anti-apartheid struggle. To avoid the threat of a forced marriage within his clan, Mandela moved to Johannesburg before completing his studies. There he began to study law. Mandela was also involved in the political opposition. In 1942 he officially became a member of the ANC.

After the National Party's election victory in 1948, the unfortunate policy of racial segregation, or "apartheid", reached its climax in South Africa. In the years that followed, Nelson Mandela developed into the leading head of a resistance movement - initially peaceful at the time - against the injustice state of the so-called Afrikaners (a population group that descended from Dutch settlers). He played a leading role in the so-called "Freedom Charter", which was proclaimed in 1955. The Charter (constitution) called for democracy, equality and respect for human rights and became the most important manifesto of the anti-apartheid movement and the ANC program.

The apartheid regime responded with treason charges against Mandela and 155 other activists. The multi-year process ended in an acquittal. However, the Boer state intensified the fight against the resistance movement more and more. The massacre in the Johannesburg township of Sharpeville on March 21, 1960 was one of the worst excesses. At a peaceful protest against the discriminatory passport laws of the apartheid system, the police shot indiscriminately into the crowd of defenseless demonstrators. 69 people died and many more were injured. The bloody massacre led to massive international protests as well as national strikes and unrest. South Africa's government responded by banning the ANC and withdrawing from the Commonwealth of Nations.

For Nelson Mandela, the Sharpeville massacre and the events that followed was the turning point in the fight against apartheid. The program of renouncing violence was abandoned. Mandela and his colleagues in the ANC accepted the need for armed struggle against the regime. In 1961, Mandela became the leader of "Umkhonto We Sizwe" ("Spear of the Nation"), the armed wing of the ANC.

Nelson Mandela, along with other ANC members, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for sabotage and planning the armed struggle. Until March 1982 he was imprisoned on the Robben Island prison island, which lies in the rough Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Town, until he was later transferred to Pollsmoor prison, where he was imprisoned for another eight years. In prison he learned self-control, discipline, patience and focus - important leadership skills. He used his charisma and dignity, which his opponents also admired in him. The aged prisoner staged every detail of his encounters with the whites who visited him in Cape Town's Pollsmoor Prison with care, quite the statesman.

And the whites came to meet him. His colleagues in the ANC feared that Mandela would compromise too much. But eventually the ANC adopted a moderate tone, the guerrilla movement died and apartheid lay down their arms. When Mandela walked hand in hand with his wife Winnie Mandela to freedom in February 1990, it was not just the victory of a person, but the triumph of a political conviction.

On the day of his release, Nelson Mandela gave his historic reconciliation speech in front of more than a hundred thousand enthusiastic people in the stadium in Soweto. He called on all South Africans to participate in a new non-racist, united and democratic South Africa with free elections and the right to vote for all.

Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his services to the peaceful ending of the apartheid system.

South Africa received a new, democratic constitution. In 1994 the first democratic elections took place there, which the ANC wins with a clear majority. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the new President of South Africa on May 10, 1994.