Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Nelson Mandela (South Africa)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in 1918 in Transkei, South Africa. He studied law at University College in Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and joined the resistance movement. He was against the apartheid government, and ruling party. He was accused of high treason in the late fifties, but declared innocent in 1961.

After the ban of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the creation of a military section within the ANC which was called “Umkhonto we Sizwe” which is Zulu for “Spear of the nation.” Mandela was imprisoned in 1962 for five years, and sentenced to compulsory work. The court case in 1963 drew international attention to Nelson Mandela. The South African lawyer and politician was sentenced to life in prison due to his fight for equality. From 1964 until 1982 he was imprisoned on Robben Island near Cape Town. Afterwards he was in the Pollsmoor prison on the mainland.

In the years following his release Nelson Mandela’s prestige quickly rose. He became one of the most significant political figures of South Africa. He was also a powerful symbol of the resistance and anti-apartheid movement. He had refused to give up his political views to achieve his freedom. Nelson Mandela was first released from custody in 1990 and dedicated himself fully to the goals that he had begun forty years earlier.

In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress. He went on to become the first president to support an equal, democratic South Africa. When his five-year term finished in 1999, Nelson Mandela began working with a multitude of human right’s organizations. After the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding he won the Bruno Kreisky Prize in 1981. He was the second African freedom fighter to receive the international award. Nelson Mandela could not personally accept the prize money, nor could his family. In 1993 Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Frederik Willem de Klerk for the peaceful political transition in Africa. He passed away on December 5th 2013.