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In South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is sworn in as the first Black president of South Africa. In his inaugural address, Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government, declared that “the time for the healing of the wounds has come.” Two weeks earlier, more than 22 million South Africans had turned out to cast ballots in the country’s first-ever multiracial parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority chose Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) party to lead the country.
READ MORE: Nelson Mandela: His Written Legacy
Mandela, born in 1918, was the son of the chief of the Xhosa-speaking Tembu people. Instead of succeeding his father as chief, Mandela went to university and became a lawyer. In 1944, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), a Black political organization dedicated to winning rights for the Black majority in white-ruled South Africa. In 1948, the racist National Party came to power, and apartheid—South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation—became official government policy. With the loss of Black rights under apartheid, black enrollment in the ANC rapidly grew. Mandela became one of the ANC’s leaders and in 1952 was made deputy national president of the ANC. He organized nonviolent strikes, boycotts, marches and other acts of civil disobedience.
After the massacre of peaceful Black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in acts of sabotage against the white minority government. He was tried for and acquitted of treason in 1961 but in 1962 was arrested again for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1963 with seven others on charges of sabotage, treason, and conspiracy. In the celebrated Rivonia Trial, named after the suburb of Johannesburg where ANC weapons were found, Mandela eloquently defended his actions. On June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
READ MORE: The Harsh Reality of Life Under Apartheid
Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. He was confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing and was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken, and while remaining the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement, he led a movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. In 1982 he was moved to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland, and in 1988 to a cottage, where he lived under house arrest.
In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South African president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and on February 11, 1990, ordered the release of Nelson Mandela. Mandela subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 26, 1994, the country’s first free elections were won by Mandela and the ANC, and a “national unity” coalition was formed with de Klerk’s National Party and the Zulus’ Inkatha Freedom Party. On May 10, Mandela was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by numerous international dignitaries.
As president, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations under apartheid and introduced numerous initiatives designed to improve the living standards of South Africa’s Black population. In 1996, he presided over the enactment of a new South African constitution. Mandela retired from politics in June 1999 at the age of 80. He was succeeded as president by Thabo Mbeki of the ANC, but remained a global advocate for peace and social justice until his death in December 2013.
Nelson Mandela Inauguration: South African Leader Became Nation's First Black President 19 Years Ago
On this day, 19 years ago, Nelson Mandela made history by becoming the first black president of South Africa after more than three centuries of white rule.
Mandela's party, the African National Congress (ANC) won a large majority of the seats in the country's first democratic election with more than two million South Africans turning out to cast ballots.
After spending 27 years in jail as a political prisoner, Mandela called for healing as the nation recovered from centuries of racial discrimination, declaring "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another."
In his statement, the leader acknowledged the pain of the past, simultaneously painting the picture of a bright future.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace.
We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.
Today, concerns for the political icon's health have grown after he was hospitalized several times for a recurring lung infection. Mandela appeared weak in a recent video showing him more than three weeks after his most recent hospital visit, despite the government's insistence that he was "in good shape and in good spirits."
The leader's words 19 years ago still resonate today, holding significance both for South Africa and the rest of the world.
Take a look at Mandela on the day of his inauguration in the photo below and watch his full speech in the video above.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first President
South Africa was at one point segregated and divided by Apartheid. Nelson Mandela, considered as the “Father of a democratic South Africa”, and many other people fought for change. Due to his rebellious actions against the South African Government, Mandela was incarcerated and given a death sentence and sent to Robben Island Prison. He was incarcerated for 27 years. Shortly after his release, he became South Africa’s first president.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.&rdquo
Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18th, 1918. Despite his father, who was a local tribe leader of the Temu tribe, Mandela grew up with a full education and studied Law. Mandela joined the ANC (African National Congress) to oppose Apartheid. Mandela and other members were put on trial for treason, which concluded in the shutting down of the ANC. A couple of years after the court case that Mandela was involved in, he was yet again put on trial for treason. The case drew international interest which placed the Apartheid under the world’s eyes. He then gave a long speech declaring his commitment to democracy.
In his statement from the Dock at the opening of the defense case in the Rivonia Trial, he stated,”We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute.”
Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990. Four years after his release, South Africa had its first Presidential Election and Mandela became South Africa’s first President. Mandela brought in a new ‘Rainbow Nation’ He retired from his Presidency in 1999. Mandela lived to be 95 years old, passing away on December 5, 2013 due to a long illness.
After a long fight for freedom, he stated, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Olivia Raymond is a Senior and it is her third year on the Newspaper staff. She is the Photo-Editor and Online Editor. Olivia enjoys running, painting.
(1994) Nelson Mandela’s Inaugural Address as President of South Africa
On May 9, 1994, Nelson Mandela was officially inaugurated as the first democratically elected President of South Africa chosen by the majority of the nation’s citizens. His inauguration address given at Cape Town, South Africa, appears below.
Mr. Master of Ceremonies,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
My Fellow South Africans:
Today we are entering a new era for our country and its people. Today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South Africa.
Our country has arrived at a decision. Among all the parties that contested the elections, the overwhelming majority of South Africans have mandated the African National Congress to lead our country into the future. The South Africa we have struggled for, in which all our people, be they African, Colored, Indian or White, regard themselves as citizens of one nation is at hand.
Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.
It was to this peninsula that the patriots, among them many princes and scholars, of Indonesia were dragged in chains. It was on the sandy plains of this peninsula that first battles of the epic wars of resistance were fought.
When we look out across Table Bay, the horizon is dominated by Robben Island, whose infamy as a dungeon built to stifle the spirit of freedom is as old as colonialism in South Africa. For three centuries that island was seen as a place to which outcasts can be banished. The names of those who were incarcerated on Robben Island is a roll call of resistance fighters and democrats spanning over three centuries. If indeed this is a Cape of Good Hope, that hope owes much to the spirit of that legion of fighters and others of their calibre.
We have fought for a democratic constitution since the 1880s. Ours has been a quest for a constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa, reflecting their wishes and their aspirations. The struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans. In honoring those who fought to see this day arrive, we honor the best sons and daughters of all our people. We can count amongst them Africans, Coloreds, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews – all of them united by a common vision of a better life for the people of this country.
It was that vision that inspired us in 1923 when we adopted the first ever Bill of Rights in this country. That same vision spurred us to put forward the African Claims in 1946. It is also the founding principle of the Freedom Charter we adopted as policy in 1955, which in its very first lines, places before South Africa an inclusive basis for citizenship.
In 1980s the African National Congress was still setting the pace, being the first major political formation in South Africa to commit itself firmly to a Bill of Rights, which we published in November 1990. These milestones give concrete expression to what South Africa can become. They speak of a constitutional, democratic, political order in which, regardless of color, gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation, the law will provide for the equal protection of all citizens.
They project a democracy in which the government, whomever that government may be, will be bound by a higher set of rules, embodied in a constitution, and will not be able govern the country as it pleases.
Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a country such as ours where the vast majority have been systematically denied their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires that the rights of political and other minorities be safeguarded.
In the political order we have established there will regular, open and free elections, at all levels of government – central, provincial and municipal. There shall also be a social order which respects completely the culture, language and religious rights of all sections of our society and the fundamental rights of the individual.
The task at hand on will not be easy. But you have mandated us to change South Africa from a country in which the majority lived with little hope, to one in which they can live and work with dignity, with a sense of self-esteem and confidence in the future. The cornerstone of building a better life of opportunity, freedom and prosperity is the Reconstruction and Development Program.
This needs unity of purpose. It needs in action. It requires us all to work together to bring an end to division, an end to suspicion and build a nation united in our diversity.
The people of South Africa have spoken in these elections. They want change! And change is what they will get. Our plan is to create jobs, promote peace and reconciliation, and to guarantee freedom for all South Africans. We will tackle the widespread poverty so pervasive among the majority of our people. By encouraging investors and the democratic state to support job creating projects in which manufacturing will play a central role we will try to change our country from a net exporter of raw materials to one that exports finished products through beneficiation.
The government will devise policies that encourage and reward productive enterprise among the disadvantaged communities – African, Colored and Indian. By easing credit conditions we can assist them to make inroads into the productive and manufacturing spheres and breakout of the small-scale distribution to which they are presently confined.
To raise our country and its people from the morass of racism and apartheid will require determination and effort. As a government, the ANC will create a legal framework that will assist, rather than impede, the awesome task of reconstruction and development of our battered society.
While we are and shall remain fully committed to the spirit of a government of national unity, we are determined to initiate and bring about the change that our mandate from the people demands.
We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.
This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain we will all rise.
Who is Nelson Mandela?
Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, serving until 1999. A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, Transkei, South Afri c a. Becoming actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In 1993, Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president. In 2009, Mandela’s birthday (July 18) was declared “Mandela Day” to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader’s legacy. Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, 2013, at age 95.
Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, in the tiny village of Mvezo, on the banks of the Mbashe River in Transkei, South Africa. “Rolihlahla” in the Xhosa language literally means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but more commonly translates as “troublemaker.”
This Date in History - Nelson Mandela Inaugurated
On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first Black president of South Africa. An overwhelming number of South Africans chose Mandela and his party, the African National Congress, to lead the country. In his inaugural address, Mandela called for healing of the wounds inflicted under the racial policies of apartheid that had existed in South Africa for decades.
Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a Black political organization dedicated to winning rights for the Black majority in white-ruled South Africa. In an effort to combat the policies under apartheid, Mandela organized strikes that were nonviolent, marches and boycotts, among other acts of civil disobedience.
In 1961, Mandela was acquitted of treason charges but was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. He was convicted and then sentenced to five years in prison but was charged again in 1963 with seven others on charges of treason, sabotage, and conspiracy. Despite his eloquent defense, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, where he served a total of 27 years.
In 1989, the South African government began abandoning policies under apartheid. Mandela and South African President, F.W. de Klerk, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. South Africa then held free elections in 1994. Mandela's party defeated de Klerk's and another party to win the election outright.
During his presidency, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights violations under apartheid. He also implemented programs aiming to improve the lives of South Africa’s Black population. Mandela retired in June 1999 at the age of 80 but actively continued his role as a global advocate for peace and social justice until he died in December 2013.
Mandela Inaugurated As South Africa’s First Black President
Today on May 10, 1994, one billion worldwide viewers tuned in to watch Nelson Mandela’s inauguration ceremony as the country’s first Black President.
Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly the most influential leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. The apartheid was an institutionalized system of racial segregation that existed in the country for more than forty years. South Africa was torn apart by white supremacy and the repression of its black population. In 1944, a young lawyer named Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and eventually became its deputy president. He passionately opposed the apartheid by advocating for a non-violent end to its existence. However, he quickly became enraged and turned to violence after the police massacred a group of peaceful black demonstrators in Sharpeville.
Throughout 1960, Mandela helped to organize an armed division of the ANC and launched a series of guerrilla attacks against the government. Within four years, he was arrested and charged with sabotage along with other prominent ANC. Mandela received a life sentence in prison and served the majority of his time under horrific conditions at the Robben Island Prison. He was confined to a tiny cell without plumbing or a bed. Nevertheless, he remained committed to the cause and continued to be a symbolic leader of the movement. By 1989, President Frederik Willem de Klerk finally began dismantling the apartheid system and suspended many ANC executions. Mandela was released from prison in the following year.
During the early 1990s, he led the ANC’s negotiations with the white minority government, which helped establish a new multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their cooperation. The next year, he won the federal election with 63% of the vote, becoming the country's first black head of state. It was also the first truly democratic election. At the age of 76, Nelson Mandela was formally inaugurated at a ceremony in Pretoria attended by more than 4,000 people — many of whom were prominent world leaders. The internationally televised ceremony had over a billion people tune in to watch the historic event. Mandela served only one term as president before retiring from political life.
Nelson Mandela inaugurated as South Africa's first black President
South Africa's first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994.
The ANC won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country's first black President, with the National Party's de Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second in the Government of National Unity. As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation. Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 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.
After assuming the presidency, one of Mandela's trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as "Madiba shirts", even on formal occasions. In South Africa's first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government. Commentators and critics including AIDS activists such as Edwin Cameron have criticised Mandela for his government's ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis. After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Mandela has since spoken out on several occasions against the AIDS epidemic.
On this day in 1994 newly elected President of South Africa Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress announced victory in the nation's first democratic all race elections, ending decades of white dominated rule.
South Africans had been living under the apartheid system which separated life for black and white people since the election of hardline nationalists in 1948.
For Mandela abolishing apartheid, establishing universal suffrage and holding free democratic elections had been a life long goal which he received the Nobel Peace Prize, in conjunction with National Party President FW de Klerk, in 1993.
The win is also more impressive as Mandela had only been release from prison four years before, where he had been serving a life sentence for inciting armed revolution against white dominated rule in 1964.
Little Known Black History Fact: Nelson Mandela Inauguration
Nelson Mandela achieved an amazing feat by becoming the first Black president of his beloved South Africa. On this day in 1994, the late President Mandela assumed the mantle of leadership in front of an adoring throng of South Africans, world leaders and dignitaries from around the globe.
By the time, the man lovingly called “Madiba” had already sacrificed 27 year of his life as an imprisoned activist railing against South Africa’s racist apartheid regime. The first 18 years of that time were served in brutal conditions at the infamous Robben Island prison. In 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmor Prison on the South African mainland before ending his days as a prisoner under house arrest in 1988.
During nearly three decades of imprisonment, Mandela he became the iconic face of the anti-apartheid movement. Even though his militant past dogged him in the eyes of white South Africans, Mandela gained support from figures from around the world who championed his cause.
Mandela was released officially in 1990 by then South African president F.W. de Klerk. After his release, an unusual partnership between Mandela’s African National Congress party and de Klerk’s National Party helped ease racial tensions. In 1991, the ANC won the country’s first free election and Mandela became President.
A unity coalition between the National Party, the ANC and the Zulu’s Inkatha Freedom Party was established. On May 10 in Pretoria, Mandela gave an impassioned inauguration speech that made mention of not only his sacrifice, but others around the world fighting for freedom.
“We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free. Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.
“We are both humbled and elevated by the honor and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness,” said Mandela.
For their collaborative efforts, Mandela de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
In 1999, the age of 80, Mandela retired, handing over power to the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki served until 2008.
Mandela remained a vocal advocate for world peace, HIV/Aids and human rights up until his death in 2013.
This Day in History: Mandela Become South Africa’s First Black President
On this day in 1994, Nelson Mandela defied three centuries of white-minority rule and decades of racial strife in South Africa, becoming the country’s first-ever black president.
The live television coverage gripped the world as Mandela, then aged 75, addressed the nation during a moment of unparalleled history.
Having survived 27 years in prison, President Mandela was not bitter during his public remarks. In fact, the anti-apartheid icon paid tribute to his predecessor, F.W. de Klerk, and adopted a tone of reconciliation.
"We saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict. The time for healing of wounds has come. Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another," he said.
Four years earlier in 1990, Mandela was freed from prison and began intense negotiations that led to multi-racial elections and his presidency. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with de Klerk, in 1993.
Mandela, lovingly called the “Father of the Nation,” served as president until 1999. After stepping down, he became among the world's most respected active elder statesman until the early 2000s.