In 1962 Nelson Mandela was arrested as leader of the ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’ (meaning ‘Spear of the Nation’) and sentenced to 5 years.
When the Nationalist Party gained power in South Africa in 1948 laws against the rights of the majority black population, which began in 1913 (just three years after their independence) became rigidly enforced. The black majority were severely repressed and ill treated by the white minority government under legislation known as apartheid laws.
Nelson Mandela was a young black student when he first became involved in protests against the apartheid and he continued his studies in law, hoping to one day free black South Africans from the injustice that they faced daily. He helped form the African National Congress Youth League in 1944. The African National Congress (ANC) which was a group campaigning for equal rights for black and white people in South Africa. In 1948 the South African Government passed new laws which separated black people from white people and this was known as ‘apartheid’. He was an admirer of Ghandi and peaceful protest, but after continued abuse of black Africans, including the massacre of un-armed black protestors, he changed tactics.
Mandela became the leader of an army called ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’ meaning ‘Spear of the Nation’ which was actively involved in sabotage. Mandela was arrested on the 5th of August 1962 and sentenced to 5 years. On the 12th June 1964 Mandela (while in prison) Mandela was on trial once again for a cash of weapons found in a Umkhonto we Sizwe hide out. He and his co-accused were sentenced to life imprisonment for treason and sabotage (rather than the death penalty that the prosecution wanted). Several conditional offers of release were made to Mandela by the South African Government but these were against Mandela’s beliefs and so he refused.
On the 11th of February 1990 Mandela was released from prison (after 27 years) and on the 18th of March 1992 white South Africans voted to end the apartheid. Finally on the 27th of April 1994 South Africa held its first universal suffrage elections allowing the black majority to vote. The elections saw 19.7 million of the 22.7 million eligible voters participate and the African National Congress (ANC) headed by Nelson Mandela won with 62.65% of the votes (more than 40% above their closest competitor ‘The National Party’ who received 20.39%). On the 10th of May 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first President of South Africa to be elected in universal suffrage elections