Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, has passed away at the age of 95.
Mandela was the first black South African to serve as president, 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 an African nationalist and Democratic Socialist, he served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.
Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
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 1990 amid escalating civil strife.
Becoming ANC President, Mandela led negotiations with then-President FW de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994. As President, he promulgated a new constitution, and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. He declined to run for a second term.
America conservatives have often denounced Mandela as a terrorist and communist sympathiser. He nevertheless gained international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stances, and received more than 250 honors, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect in South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”). He is often described as “the father of the nation”.