On this day: Nelson Mandela elected first black President of South Africa

Apartheid - meaning “separateness” in Afrikaans – was the name given to a series of laws beginning in 1948 that formally codified racial segregation

May 10, 1994: Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa – after enduring decades in prison while leading the fight against apartheid.

The former African National Congress leader, who is now 94 and suffering from ailing health, ended three centuries of white minority rule in the country.

During his inauguration ceremony, which was watched by a crowd of 100,000, he spoke of the “human disaster” of apartheid but also pledged reconciliation.


“We saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict,” he said while standing beside the outgoing white president FW De Klerk.

“The time for healing of wounds has come... never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another.”

And, urging forgiveness, he said in Afrikaans, the language of the majority of whites: “Wat is verby verby” – “What is past is past”.

Mr Mandela’s election was the final act in forming what is now referred to as the Rainbow Nation.

Apartheid - meaning “separateness” in Afrikaans – was the name given to a series of laws beginning in 1948 that formally codified racial segregation.

Under it, black South Africans were deprived of citizenship and barred from living in white areas or going to the same schools, hospitals or even beaches.


By the 1950s, a series of protests and uprisings were inspired by lawyer Mr Mandela, who was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1962.

He served 27 years in prison, during which time he became a focal point for international opposition to apartheid, leading to a series of sanctions.

By the 1980s, South Africa had developed into a virtual police state as mounting unrest and violence led to brutal crackdowns and a decade-long state of emergency.

Mr Mandela was released from jail in 1990 and three years later – after negotiating the ending of apartheid - shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr De Klerk in 1993.

Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie walk hand in hand upon his release from prison in 1990  (AP Photo/Greg English, …

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