Nelson Mandela is an anti-apartheid champion and the first black South African President (1994-1999). He was imprisoned for 27 years for his opposition activity. In the 1940s Mr Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), a black liberation movement. In the 1950s he became a leader of the ANC Youth League. Nelson Mandela later took the leadership of the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), an organisation tasked with carrying out acts of sabotage.

In 1962, he was sentenced to five years in prison for inciting a workers’ strike and leaving the country without permission. During his term in prison, other leaders of the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested. In 1964 eight accused, including Mr Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to the prison on Robben Island in the vicinity of Cape Town.

While he served his prison term, an international campaign launched for his release was intensifying. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was conditionally released by President Frederik Willem de Klerk, who lifted the ban on the ANC. Mr Mandela also campaigned against AIDS (his own son fell victim of the disease) and supported talented, sick and disabled children.

Frederik Willem de Klerk served as the last white President of South Africa. From 1972 he sat in Parliament as a National Party member. From 1978 onwards, he was in charge of several government departments, including the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of National Education. As the head of education department, F. W. de Klerk supported segregated universities.

In February 1989 he became the leader of the National Party and in August of the same year he was elected State President. In his first speech as the party leader, he called for a non-racist South Africa and urged to hold negotiations about the country’s future. He legalised the African National Congress (ANC), a liberation movement of black South African people.

He stepped down from the office after the first free elections in 1994, when the black majority came to power and Nelson Mandela was elected new President.