Today is Mandela Day, a recognition of the birthday of Nelson Mandela, who helped end South Africa’s apartheid system, and later become its first black president.
The United Nations declared July 18 Mandela Day to honour the man who became a beacon of hope and an activist for change in the African nation which had institutionalised segregation for blacks and whites.
The anti-apartheid activist, born on July 18, 1918, was arrested and convicted of sabotage, treason and violent conspiracy in the infamous Rivonia Trial in 1962. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and would serve 27 years at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town.
Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990 under a South African government led by President Frederik de Klerk.
Mandela would work with de Klerk to end the system of apartheid between 1990 and 1991, going on to become president of the African National Congress (ANC) party in July that year.
The ANC would win South Africa’s first elections with universal suffrage in 1994 which led to Mandela’s rise as the country’s first black president.
He would lead the nation until 1999, overseeing numerous progressive social reforms aimed at creating a more equal South Africa. Mandela would go on to become an advocate of peace and social justice after leaving office.
Mandela died on December 5, 2013 after a lung infection. He was 95.