News National On this day: Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison

On this day: Nelson Mandela spent his last day in prison

Nelson Mandela is remembered as a charismatic hero of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Photo: Getty
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On February 10, 1990, Nelson Mandela spent his final day in prison.

The South African leader was locked up for 27 years as punishment for fighting against apartheid, a political system in South Africa where black people suffered racial discrimination.

From 1948 until the early 1990s, black people in South Africa were arrested, tortured, kicked out of their homes and forced to comply with humiliating work rules – all because of their race.

For most of his political life, Mr Mandela advocated for racial equality in peaceful ways. He did not want anyone to use violence.

But his strategy changed when a group of peaceful black demonstrators were massacred at Sharpeville in 1960.

This was the turning point that led Mr Mandela to abandon his policy of non-violence.

Instead, he started organising guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.

It didn’t take long for the government to find ways to silence him.

Nelson Mandela giving a speech before the African Congress in the 1960s. Photo: Getty

From 1961, he was arrested for multiple crimes, including treason, illegally leaving the country, and sabotage.

In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Mr Mandela spent the first 18 years of his 27-year sentence at the brutal Robben Island Prison, where he was forced to do hard labour in a quarry.

He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and was allowed to have a visitor for 30 minutes once a year.

Despite being kept away from his fellow protesters on the streets of South Africa, Mr Mandela remained the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement.

He spent his final years in prison at Victor Verster prison near Cape Town, until his release on February 11.

When he was released, he held his fist up in an African National Congress salute.

Years later, Mr Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

He continued to campaign for peace and social justice until his death in December 2013.

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