Nelson Mandela is best known as the first black President in South African history and the first President to be elected in a fully democratic elections in South Africa. Prior to these impressive feats he was one of the most important activists in the fight against apartheid, which was a government policy of racial discrimination. He was the co-founder of an organization called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) in 1961, which carried out a number of bombings designed to sabotage key facilities. It was Mandela’s involvement with this organization that led to his arrest and imprisonment.
Why was Nelson Mandela imprisoned?
Mandela was made leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe and this position meant that he organized sabotage campaigns against government and military targets as well as arranged funding and training for the group. In 1962 Mandela was arrested after being on the run for 17 months. He was initially charged and found guilty of leading a strike of black workers and leaving the country illegally and was sentenced to 5 years. A year later some of his fellow activists were arrested and charged, together with Mandella, with capital crimes and sabotage. After one of the most famous trials in South African history Mandela and 7 other defendants were sentenced to life in prison. Mandella spent 25 years and 8 months in prison as a result of this conviction and 18 years of this sentence was spent at Robben Island, which was used to isolate many political prisoners at the time.
Did you know?
Initially the death penalty had been requested for the defendants, but protests from all over the world and a skillful defense led to a lesser sentence.
At the trial Mandela explained that he never wanted to resort to violence, but felt that he needed to after non-violent protests had continually failed.