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  1. ITV Report

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

Nelson Mandela passed away on 5th December 2013 at the age of 95. Photo: Reuters

Nelson Mandela, known as Madiba to his people, was one of the most widely loved and respected political leaders in history.

He was born in 1918 and given the name Nelson at missionary school.

Trained as a lawyer, he joined the African National Congress and quickly rose through the ranks. At first he advocated peaceful resistance to white rule and the apartheid regime.

But the 1960 Sharpville massacre, in which 69 black protesters were shot dead by police, was to be a turning point in Mandela’s politics.

A young Nelson Mandela with his then-wife Winnie. Credit: Reuters

“There are many people who feel it is futile for us to continue to talking peace and non-violence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on a defenceless people,” he told an ITN reporter shortly after.

As a consequence of the ANC’s new tactics of violent sabotage, Mandela, along with other leaders, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in prison on the notorious Robben Island.

But if the apartheid government thought they had heard the last of Mandela’s name, they were wrong: ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ became the anthem taken up around the world by anti-apartheid campaigners.

Political and social pressure became too much for South African authorities and in February 1990, President F W de Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC. Mandela was freed shortly after.

“Let bygones be bygones. Let what has happened pass,” he said upon release, rejecting any suggestions of violent revenge. “Take your knives and your guns and throw them into the sea,” he told his followers.

After almost 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela walks free from Victor Verster prison near Cape Town on 11 February 1990. Credit: Reuters

In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and a few months later the formal end of apartheid came about when he was elected president of a new democratic South Africa.

Just a year later, a predominantly white crowd chanted Mandela’s name as South Africa hosted and won the Rugby World Cup.

He served one successful term as president before handing power over to his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

In retirement he supported countless charities and campaigned against child poverty and AIDS.

In 2008, a frail Nelson Mandela travelled to London for a huge open-air concert celebrating his 90th birthday.

Two years later he appeared at the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, but that was to be his last formal appearance.

He is going to be remembered as an icon of reconciliation and forgiveness - a person of very considerable magnanimity, who was able to preside over a process of transformation from repression to democracy, avoiding the bloodbath that everybody expected.

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In the last months of his life, Mandela spent his time at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton.

He spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December 2012 with a lung infection after surgery to remove gallstones.

On 8 May, he was admitted to hospital again after the lung infection returned - his fourth stay in six months.

Nelson Mandela passed away on 5th December 2013 at the age of 95.

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