MANDELA BECOMES PRESIDENT (Illustration) Biographies Censorship Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Government Social Studies Trials Tragedies and Triumphs World History

The first time Nelson Mandela ever voted in his life took place in 1994 when he voted for himself as President of South Africa. Paul Weinberg took this official photo at Mandela’s polling place - Ohlange School, Inanda, Durban. The photographer has made this photo available subject to a Creative Commons license. CC BY-SA 3.0


By 1985, television viewers around the world were used to seeing violence between South African blacks and whites.  Soweto became a household word as people everywhere bore second-hand witness to the effects of apartheid. 

Then ... the completely unexpected happened.  P.W. Botha - South Africa’s President, known as “P.W” (by those who liked him) and “the great crocodile” (by those who didn’t) - agreed it was time to talk with Mandela.  Kobie Coetsee, South Africa’s minister of justice and prisons, began a dialogue with prisoner 446/64.

During his long years in prison, Mandela had perfected his new strategy of winning-over white people by touching their hearts.  He learned the Afrikaners’ history and taught himself their language, impressing his jailors that he cared enough to know.  He read The Diary of Anne Frank, later describing its impact on him

He began to link his own freedom with that of all South-African blacks.  As Zindzi, his daughter, told a Soweto rally (using her father’s words):

I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.  Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. (John Carlin, Playing the Enemy, page 23.)

Mandela was aided by something else - his innate charm - as he talked first with Coetsee, then with Botha and, finally, with F.W. de Klerk

Although it took years to negotiate his freedom, Nelson Mandela had started to believe that he would one day walk out of prison.  With the world watching on live television, he did that - on the 11th of February, 1990 - leaving Victor Verster prison behind him.

He also believed ... correctly, it turns out ... that he would one day become South Africa’s first black President.  That event happened on the 27th of April, 1994, when Mandela’s party - the ANC - won 62% of the country’s vote.  It was the first time black Africans had been allowed to vote in a national election.

When Mandela was inaugurated - on the 10th of May, 1994 - South Africa was far from unified.  It would take an event - something much bigger and more important than any one individual, including the new leader - to bring the country together.

President Mandela had an idea how that might be accomplished, but his plan had everything to do with one of the most detested symbols of apartheid - rugby, as played by an Afrikaner-dominated team known as the Springboks.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2009

Updated Last Revision: Mar 27, 2015

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"MANDELA BECOMES PRESIDENT" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2009. Jun 02, 2020.
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