On 11 July 1963 a raid was undertaken on Lilieslief farm in Rivonia, near Johannesburg, which was being used by the MK as headquarters. The remaining leadership of the MK was arrested. Nelson Mandela was included at trial with those arrested at Lilieslief and charged with over 200 counts of "sabotage, preparing for guerrilla warfare in SA, and for preparing an armed invasion of SA". Mandela was one of five (out of the ten defendants) at the Rivonia Trail to be given life sentences and sent to Robben Island. Two more were released, and the remaining three escaped custody and were smuggled out of the country.
At the end of his four hour statement to the court Nelson Mandela stated:
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
These words are said to sum up the guiding principles by which he worked for liberation of South Africa.
In 1976 Nelson Mandela was approached with an offer by Jimmy Kruger, the Minister for Police serving under President BJ Vorster, to renounce the struggle and settle in the Transkei. Mandela refused. By 1982 international pressure against the South African government to release Nelson Mandela and his compatriots was growing. The then South African president, PW Botha, arranged for Mandela and Sisulu to be transferred back to the mainland to Pollsmoor Prison, near Cape Town. In August 1985, approximately a month after the South African government declares a state of emergency, Mandela was taken to hospital for an enlarged prostate gland. On his return to Pollsmoor he was placed in solitary confinement (having a whole section of the jail to himself).
In 1986 Nelson Mandela was taken to see the Minister of Justice, Kobie Coetzee, who requested once again that he 'renounce violence' in order to win his freedom. Despite refusing, restrictions on Mandela were somewhat lifted: he was allowed visits from his family, and was even driven around Cape Town by the prison warder. In May 1988 Mandela was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Tygerberg hospital for treatment. On release from hospital he was moved to 'secure quarters' at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl.
By 1989 things were looking bleak for the Apartheid regime: PW Botha had a stroke, and shortly after 'entertaining' Mandela at the Tuynhuys, the presidential residence in Cape Town, he resigned. FW de Klerk was appointed as his successor. Mandela met with De Klerk in December 1989, and the following year at the opening of parliament (2 February) De Klerk announced the unbanning of all political parties and the release of political prisoners (except those guilty of violent crimes). On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was finally released.
By 1991 the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, CODESA, was set up to negotiate constitutional change in South Africa. Both Mandela and De Klerk were key figures in the negotiations, and their efforts were jointly awarded in December 1993 with the Nobel Peace Prize. When South Africa's first multi-racial elections were held in April 1994, the ANC won a 62% majority. (Mandela revealed later that he was worried that it would achieve the 67% majority that would allow it to re-write the constitution.) A Government of National Unity, GNU, was formed – based on an idea proffered by Joe Slovo, the GNU could last for up to five years as a new constitution was drawn up. It was hoped that this would allay the fears of South Africa's whites population suddenly faced with majority Black rule.
On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela made his inaugural presidential speech from the Union Building, Pretoria:
"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. Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another... Let freedom reign. God Bless Africa!"
Shortly after he published his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.
In 1997 Nelson Mandela stepped down as leader of the ANC in favour of Thabo Mbeki, and in 1999 he relinquished the post of president. Despite claims to have retired, Mandela continues to have a busy life. He was divorced from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1996, the same year that the press realised he was having a relationship with Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambique's former president. After heavy prompting by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel were married on his eightieth birthday, 18 July 1998.
This article first went live on 15 August 2004.