Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born 18 July 1918) is a South African politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before being elected President, Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, and the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
Born to the Thembu royal family, he was educated at Methodist schools before attending Fort Hare University, where he became involved in anti-apartheid politics. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela went on to serve 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to the establishment of democracy in 1994. As President, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa.
In South Africa, Mandela is often known as Madiba, his Xhosa clan name; or as tata (Xhosa: father). Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. Mandela has received international acclaim for his actions, although critics, particularly in his early life, considered him a terrorist.