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Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born July 18, 1918) was the first president of South Africa to be elected in fully representative democratic elections. Before his presidency he was a prominent anti-apartheid activist who, while imprisoned for 27 years, was involved in the planning of underground armed resistance activities. The armed struggle was, for Mandela, a necessary last resort; he had remained steadfastly committed to non-violence.
Through his 27-year imprisonment, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known figure in the struggle against South African apartheid. Although the apartheid regime and nations sympathetic to it considered him and the ANC to be communists and terrorists, the armed struggle was an integral part of the overall a campaign against apartheid. The switch in policy to that of reconciliation, which Mandela pursued upon his release in 1990, facilitated a peaceful transition to fully representative democracy in South Africa.
Having received over a hundred awards over four decades, Mandela is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on topical issues. In South Africa he is often known as “Madiba,” an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela’s clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela. Many South Africans also refer to him reverently as “mkhulu” (grandfather).
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