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South Africas First Post-Apartheid President Thirty years in jail as a political prisoner didnt embitter NELSON MANDELA One of his greatest regrets after being released from Robben Island Prison in 1990 was that he forgot to thank the prison guards So it came as no surprise that when he was elected president in South Africas first all-race elections in 1994 he regularly consulted his former captors about his plans to construct a racially integrated democratic society The foster child of a Thembu chief Mandela was groomed to rule the tribe But like all nonwhite South Africans Mandela was painfully aware of the grim realities of apartheid the legal separation of races The injustices he witnessed propelled him into politics and law As a young college student he was suspended for joining a protest boycott He moved to Johannesburg where he finished his degree by correspondence and joined the African National Congress a black nationalist movement I stand before you filled with deep pride and joy pride in the ordinary humble people of this country You have shown such a calm patient determination to reclaim this country as your own And joy that we can loudly proclaim from the rooftops Free at last Mandela May 2 1994 echoing Martin Luther King Jr after winning the first all-race election in South Africa Mandela helped to write ANC policy documents calling for redistribution of land trade-union rights and free and compulsory education By 1952 he was traveling the country to recruit volunteers in a massive civil- disobedience campaign After he was arrested and convicted for organizing the campaign Mandela was confined to Johannesburg There he passed the bar exam and with fellow activist Oliver Tambo formed the first black law partnership in South Africa During this time Mandela also masterminded the famous M Plan which organized ANC members into a countrywide underground network As Mandela emerged as the movements leader
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