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out of the harsh realities of racism, mandela meets a man who will change his life forever. >> he walked into the office, it was a real estate agent and mandela was astonished. he realized there was another life that was available. >> he was also an active member of the african national congress. started in 1912, the anc was created to advocate for political rights for south africa's blacks. in the young mandela, he sees the future of the organization. >> he said we wanted to be a mass organization and we needed a mass leader. then one day nelson mandela walked into my office and he realized that's the guy. >> he becomes mandela's men for
and encouraging him to earn a law degree. he also introduce s mandela to his young cousin, evalyn. they marry in 1946 and welcome a child that same year. their family grew to add another son and another daughter. racism and segregation had existed in south africa for as long as there had been white settlers. the majority of whom were descendants of the dutch. in 1948, the africaner led national party sweeps into power and codifies apartheid policies into law. >> they were trying to achieve this ethnic fragmentation of the country to give the nation its even homeland.
>> the anc seeks to counter the new government. in 1952, the anc embarks on a defiance campaign to mobilize their countrymen to defy unjust apartheid laws. mandela is put in charge of organizing the volunteers. >> we volunteered to go to prison, to break the laws, be arrested and not pay bail or whatever and go to jail. >> the defiance campaign fails to change the government policy, but propels mandela to the forefront of the anc. rising in the ranks is another young lawer, oliver tambo. >> they had a very well known law practice and stood for the rights of the people. >> the campaigns of the anc lead to a government crackdown. the anc is banned and mandela,
with 155 others, is charged with treason. the trial begins in 1956. >> at the same time he was also a leader of the anc and he was out there continuing to protest, continuing to speak, continuing to lead meetings. >> mandela and evalyn separate during the trial and will divorce in 1958. that same year, he meets a young social worker from johannesburg. winnie. >> he once said, do you believe in love at first sight? i said, well, i guess so. he said, i did. he really felt that with winnie. >> amid the chaos and tensions of the trial, nelson marries winnie. within two years, she gives birth to two daughters. five years after it began, the treason trial ends in an acquittal for mandela in 1961. but the government does not lift
the ban on the anc. it is a punishing blow. >> they made it an illegal organization. it was illegal to be a member. >> to keep it functioning as a political entity, some members go into exile. others go underground within south africa to continue the struggle. the anc makes a fateful decision about what to do with mandela. >> when the african national congress decided that he should leave his family and continue to work underground in south africa, he's now an outlaw. up next, the anc is banned. its leadership is in exile or like mandela, operating underground. and a new phase of the struggle is about to begin. >> nelson mandela was the number one terrorist in the world in those days. @ñ
♪ demonstrations against the south african government's strict apartheid policies flare into shocking violence. >> 1960. as the treason trial draws to a close, a pivotal moment to the history of south africa unfolds in sharpville. >> thousands gather to protest against new laws requiring every african to carry a pass. >> police open fire on the protesters. 69 are killed. almost 200 wounded. >> the sharpville massacre was important to mandela, because it showed him the government was ruthless in suppressing the majority.
and that made him realize that he was truly in the fight of his life. >> when the treason trial ends in 1961, the african national congress remains banned. nelson mandela is operating underground within south africa. >> when the government closed all negotiations, the only way to change the system is through armed conflict. >> although he will be recognized decades later as a man of peace, in 1961, mandela is an advocate of armed struggle as a means of achieving the anc's goals. >> there are many people who feel it is useless for us to keep talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose replay is only savage attacks. on an unarmed people. the time for us has come to consider in the light of our experiences, whether what we
have done issed a vet. >> he said we need to carry out a campaign of sabotage, attacking buildings dynamite and gun powder. he went himself testing and learning and doing it. >> the goal is to wreak as much havoc on the government's infrastructure as possible while avoiding the loss of life. the attacks begin in 1961. >> nelson mandela was the number one terrorist in the world in those days. he traveled incognito. he posed as a chauffeur. a messenger boy. he grew a beard. >> he becomes a cult hero to south africa's blacks. >> here was a man who epitomized the need to stand up, not to
succumb to the regime, give up your family, give up your livelihood and devote yourself entirely to the struggle. >> the government launches a dragnet to catch him. the cat and house game ends on august 5, 1962. mandela is convicted of traveling without valid papers and insiting people to strike and sentenced to five years in prison. >> to us, five years was like eternity. >> a year later, on july 11, 1963, walter, mandela's friend and mentor and the remaining underground leadership of the anc, meet at a hideout in a northern suburb of johannesberg. >> so we all got together that day, just started the meeting and after a few minutes the police raided. it came as a shock. >> in one fell swoop, the entire underground leadership of the
anc is arrested. >> the arrests were an enormous blow to the freedom struggle. >> mandela, already serving his five-year sentence, is brought to trial with the others. the charge is treason. this time the stakes are higher. >> they told us that you have to prepare for the worst. in other words, they have enough evidence to hang you. >> the trial begins on december 3, 1963 and makes front page news around the world. >> the accused led by mandela took the stands. whatever happens to them, they have to remain an inspiration to future generations of south africa. >> mandela and his co-defendants use the trial to condemn apartheid and espouse their hopes for a nonracial south africa. the trial lasts six months and culminates with mandela delivering a stirring four-hour speech. >> during my lifetime, i have dedicated myself to this
struggle of the african people. i have fought against white domination. >> i fought against black domination. i cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society. >> where all persons live together in harmony. >> it is an idea i hope to live for and achieve. >> but if needs be, sit an ideal for which i'm prepared to die. >> and that encapsulates the spirit of the man that is nelson mandela. >> on june 11, 1964, mandela and all but one of the defendants are convicted of treason. the sentence will be handed down the following day. >> right up to the end, no one knew whether it would be death of life in prison. >> they are prepared, if necessary, to give the last full
measure. >> if he was to die, he would tie like he called it, a man. >> we were mentally prepared for the worst. >> mandela and the others will not face the gallows. instead of death, they are given life sentences in a maximum security prison located off of cape town on the desolate robin island. >> we were sent to robin island so that our people would forget us, and history would put a shroud of silence over our xis tense. almost a denial that we existed. >> mandela finds himself on the island prison from which there is little hope he'll ever leave.
it is june 1964. mandela and his codefendants in the rivonia trial had avoided the death sentence. instead they are bound for robben island. >> an island prison. when i came to jail and when i'm leaving jail. mandela, when he came to jail. there was no date of release. you're supposed to die in jail. >> reporter: robben island, a slab of rock just off the coast of cape town, south africa.
mandela, now known as prisoner 46664 is placed in a separate cell block with other political prisoners. >> unlike the rest of the prison, this section, the prisoners had individual cells. each cell was about 7 x 7'6". >> the cells were very cold. all you were given was a mat. >> the blankets were very thin. i could see you through it. >> no bench. no stool. no bed. the food was bare survival minimum. >> reporter: when not confined to his cell, mandela joins the other political prisoners in manual labor. >> it's a very difficult work for us. none of us had ever done this work before. every day there were blisters and bleeding hands. >> reporter: it isn't long before mandela is singled out by the authorities. >> mandela was called and offered exemption from work, better clothing, food, et cetera.
he refused. as he always said, a leader won't accept things that his followers don't have. >> reporter: for any prisoner, contact with the outside world is a sustaining source of hope. mandela is no exception. the warders know this too, and go to great lengths to hinder the correspondence with families. >> you were allowed one letter of 500 words every six months, and your letters were censored. >> reporter: mandela composes letters to his beloved wife, winnie. >> they had a beautiful correspondence. he wrote love letters to her all those years. they're heart wrenching and moving. >> reporter: in addition to wife and mother, mandela sees another role for winnie. >> when nelson went to prison, winnie, in effect, became his proxy. he wanted her to be out there on the battlefronts protesting. he wanted her to be a symbol of his incarceration.
and she became a very fiery symbol of nelson mandela. >> i never lose hope and my people shall never lose hope. in fact, we expect that the work will go on. >> reporter: but winnie finds herself under constant harassment by the government. >> winnie and the family were under police -- 24-hour police surveillance. it must have been very tough on the family financially, emotionally and so on. but winnie stayed very, very loyal wife. and she went to robben island. she kept mandela alive and well. and in touch with the outside world. >> reporter: and those visits were limited to one every six months and for only 30 minutes each are also closely regulated and watched. >> all you saw was your faces and a warden standing behind ready to cut off your visit if you began to discuss anything outside of family issues. >> reporter: alone in his cell,
mandela must cope with the loss of his mother who dies in 1968. even more devastating news comes in july 1969 when he received word that his eldest son, 25-year-old thembe, had died in a car accident. >> you're informed without feeling, your son is dead, your mother is dead. >> reporter: as devastating as the losses are, mandela does not let them interfere with his leadership role within the prison. with the vigor he has always exhibited, mandela champions for prisoners' rights. slowly life begins to improve on robben island. >> they got better food. they didn't have to work as hard. they were able to be in contact with the world. they got books and newspapers. >> reporter: his image, his words, even his name is banned in south africa. the government had hoped mandela and his codefendants on robben island would fade from the collective consciousness of those on the mainland.
his hometown on the eastern cape. south africa's first black president was in prison for 27 years. nelson mandela died on december 5 in his johannesberg home at the age of 95. winter snowstorm has left a blanket of snow from the midwest to new england. the same system dropped as much of a foot of snow on parts of the northeast, canceling nearly 1200 flights. now back to our program. this is "headliners & legends." once again, lester holt. >> after more than a decade in prison, nelson mandela rose to the pinnacle of leadership and was the anti-apartheid symbol. his arrest and imprisonment had done little to diminish his image as a freedom fighter. as his fight continued behind
bars, he discovered that his name was far from forgotten. it was becoming a rallying cry for those in south africa and indeed the world who were seeking both an end to the rule of apartheid and mandela's freedom. >> reporter: it is 1976, and the harsh realities of prison life are slowly beginning to ease. mandela cultivates not only a garden in the courtyard but also relationships with the warders. >> it taught him that he could eventually win over those guards, and that gave him confidence that he could do it on the outside. >> reporter: while mandela is achieving small victories in prison, the government is coming down hard on those continuing to struggle on the outside. including winnie mandela. >> winnie emerged in the darkest days of repression. as this voice of rebellion and standing up. >> reporter: but winnie pays a
price for being that voice of rebellion. the police often raid her home, and she is frequently held in detention without being charged with crimes. there is also a growing tension among the youth of south africa, still straining under the shackles of apartheid. the government creates a new system of education. they force classes to be taught in afrikaans. the language of the why minority that few blacks speak. the decision will prove disastrous. >> i was busy in my consulting rooms early morning of june the 16th, 1976. when i heard this hum, like the hum of bees. >> reporter: in the johannesburg township of soweto, students are marching against the new education measures. >> this is illegal. >> reporter: police are sent to quell the protests. they open fire on the students.
>> from then on, soweto began to burn. >> reporter: news of the uprising spreads quickly throughout the country, as do other protests and riots. >> south africa was aflame. there was a struggle for liberation, for freedom that this government could not control. >> the soweto uprising of 1976 was a pivotal moment in south african history, and mandela realized it. >> reporter: in prison mandela reads about and is encouraged by the uprising. >> all of the work that he had done for all of these years was actually now bearing fruit, and that there was a revolutionary environment in south africa. >> reporter: outside south africa's borders, the plight of those suffering at the hands of apartheid does not go unnoticed. >> i think every movement of some consequence evolves into
the human personification and embodiment of some figure. >> reporter: for the anti-apartheid movement, it was clear who that figure should be. >> they took a position that we're going to focus on mandela because we needed to single out a symbol of the struggle. >> reporter: the world is quick to adopt the free mandela campaign. >> to hear of this figure and the sacrifice that he was making with his imprisonment was a motivating force. >> reporter: international bodies condemn the rule of apartheid. foreign investment is pulled from south africa. and mass rallies are held throughout the world on mandela's behalf. >> the fact of the matter is that apartheid is wrong. >> the free mandela campaign became the widest public campaign in the world. >> free mandela! >> free mandela! >> say free mandela! >> free mandela! >> reporter: all the while, within south africa's borders,
the armed struggle continues. during all this, the government transfers mandela from robben island to a prison on the mainland in march 1982. mandela, isolated from his comrade, sees an opportunity. >> he puts out feelers to say, i've entertained some visitors from the government and talk about how we have a mutual government or how we end apartheid or how we have democratic elections. >> reporter: the negotiations begin in secret. the government does not want it publicly known that they are speaking with the enemy. mandela by not consulting with the anc leadership knows they can disavow them if the negotiations go poorly. it is a risk he must take. >> the reason he made that decision is because he realized somebody had to start doing something. >> reporter: in 1988 the 70-year-old mandela is moved to yet another prison outside cape town. >> he's sent to another prison which is like a country club
compared to where he had been before. >> reporter: negotiations continue, and slowly other prisoners are released. including mandela's friend and mentor, walter sisulu in october 1989. >> there was this sense that mandela would be getting out of jail, and people were generally excited. you could feel it in the air. >> reporter: to the majority of black south africans, mandela's release and all that it represents is what they have spent nearly 30 years hoping for, fighting for, dying for. as that buildup reaches its crescendo, the south african government wonders what sort of man will emerge. >> in their minds, he was an old man. he was hopelessly out of touch, and part of the thinking when they did release him was that there would be a leadership conflict within the anc. >> reporter: the public waits with bated breath. then this announcement on february 10th, 1990. >> mr. nelson mandela will be
released from the prison on sunday, the 11th of february, at about 3:00 p.m. >> reporter: the anc has its own concerns about what they will find in a freed mandela. >> some feared maybe we have built this man up and put him on such a high pedestal that if and when he's released, we may find him such a disappointment. >> reporter: february 11th, 1990, after 27 years in prison, the questions regarding the hopes and dreams of a nation will be addressed. >> and this crowd's just going wild. >> there's mr. mandela, a free man, taking his first steps into a new south africa. >> this man walking out of prison who seemed unbowed, who still seemed heroic, who seemed optimistic. >> that is the man who the world has been waiting to see. his first public appearance in nearly three decades.
>> the whole country went bananas. i mean, it just went crazy. >> joy, exhilaration, the jubilation in the streets, people crying, people dancing. >> we thought, this is a true cause for optimism. here's a true and great leader. it was a very inspiring moment for millions and millions of people. >> viva mandela! viva! >> banks of people along the route in cape town in all colors there to welcome his release. >> we've never seen anything like it before and probably never will again. >> reporter: mandela and his entourage arrive at city hall in cape town. thousands have gathered to see mandela and hear his first public words in almost three decades. >> and the whole world held its breath. so did we in south africa. what will be the first words that mr. mandela is going to say?
>> i bid you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all! i stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant for you, the people. >> we really felt that this was a new beginning, a new dawn, a new day. >> reporter: nelson mandela, after 27 years in prison, is a free man, free to lead his party and his people into a new future. but that future is still uncertain.
1990. after 27 years in prison, 71-year-old nelson mandela is a free man. >> yes! >> reporter: he must now adapt to a world completely changed from when he went to prison. there are also questions about the man himself. >> when he emerged from prison, i think there was great tension within the anc. yes, he was the symbol of the anc. yes, he was this great mass leader, but nobody really knew who had not been in prison with him what his capacity was. would he really be able to lead? >> reporter: mandela seeks to move the nation forward together. >> to come out of prison with so very little bitterness and be able to reconcile warring afrikaners from the right and the black left. >> reporter: but mandela's desire for reconciliation among the people does not make the
reconciling of political differences any smoother. with the lifting of a ban of political organizations like the anc and the release of political prisoners such as mandela, the government of south africa commits itself to change and a new chorus of the country must be charted. >> they set out in a flimsy little rowboat to cross this ocean, and there was no turning back. >> reporter: the various political factions must go about the difficult task of dismantling the rule of apartheid and incorporating all citizens of all race suppose the process. >> throughout the negotiating process, it was almost a touch and go situation when it could quite easily have crumbled. >> reporter: mandela's main counterpart in the negotiations is f.w. de klerk. president of south africa and leader of the national party. >> the relationship was never a comfortable one. >> there is one major obstacle
in the way of progress. the anc has not yet terminated the armed struggle. >> mandela never liked de klerk. he thought he was a slippery eel. >> as long as he plays this stubborn game, it must be clear that we are not going to be with him on this matter. he can do what he likes. >> reporter: for their efforts and despite their differences, the two are awarded the nobel prize for peace. for mandela, the difficulties do not end at the negotiating table. his relationship with winnie is severely strained. >> he had kept this memory of her alive all the time, that he was in prison. and when he came out, he found that she was a different person. >> reporter: winnie's struggles go beyond a strained marriage. she becomes embroiled in several scandals. including a murder for her involvement, winnie is convicted of kidnapping but serves no prison time. >> the struggle is a very, very vicious terrain.
so many people cracked under the weight of repression. winnie, i believe, has in a certain sense been one of those victims. >> reporter: at first mandela stands by his wife, but eventually a strain on the relationship becomes too much. >> my love for her remains undiminished. however, we have mutually agreed that a separation would be best for each one of us. >> the irony, i think, is that in some ways he was more alone when he left prison than he had been when he was in prison. it was a very, very difficult time for him. >> reporter: it is a difficult time for the country as well. violence on all sides continues. there are deadly clashes between various black factions. and the white right wing goes to great lengths to disrupt the negotiations.
>> mandela really believed the country was potentially on the brink of civil war. >> reporter: the violence peaks on easter sunday 1993 when a high-ranking anc member is shot outside his home by a white right-wing polish immigrant. >> there was uproar in the country. riots. >> reporter: the country finds itself in a moment of crisis. de klerk and the government are unable to keep the peace. there was only one man who could pull the nation back from the abyss. mandela addresses the country on national television. >> tonight i'm reaching out to every single south african, black and white, now is the time for all south africans to stand together. >> only he could control the country in a crisis.
and effectively, he was president from then on. de klerk was eclipsed. >> reporter: negotiations proceed, building towards a momentous event. >> the first time they were called for dignity was on the 7th of april, 1994. >> reporter: for the first time in its almost 400-year history, south africans from all races will be allowed to vote. >> april 27th arrived with a huge question mark, whether the elections will be held in a peaceful atmosphere or whether violence was going to mar and scar the region. but it came and was just a peaceful day. miles and miles of people standing, black and white, were standing, waiting. >> reporter: the voting takes four days. and to nobody's surprise,
mandela's party, the anc, wins a landslide victory. >> today we celebrate. not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of south africa. >> reporter: mandela is set to become the first black president of south africa. the inauguration comes on a sparkling day in may, 1994. >> will you please raise your right hand and say, so help me god. >> so help me god. >> and i looked at my children i felt life had been worthwhile. >> the newly installed president mandela faces a difficult road ahead. >> we are now ready to begin the great task of building our country.
it is a bright new dawn for south africa and its people. nelson mandela after 27 years in prison, four years of hard negotiations, and the nation's first truly democratic elections has been sworn in as the first black president of south africa. he creates an inclusive government to guide the nation through the growing pains of a post-apartheid era. >> a government of national
unity. in which the old regime, led by former president, f.w. de klerk was part of the cabinet. he was a deputy president. >> for his part, mandela takes a less hands-on, more symbolic roll as president. >> he was to the country a beloved father figure. >> as the the father figure, mandela knows he must once again lead by example. >> i think, in south africa, given our tortured history was very important. mr. mandela played a pivotal role in that process. >> we are one country. we are one people. >> he realized that afrikaner passions were intense. they felt they lost their country. and i think he cared about them. he showed genuine empathy. >> through a series of acts,
mandela reaches out to the afrikaner community. he has tea with the wives of former apartheid leaders. he visits monuments that celebrate afrikaner history. in 1995, south africa hosts the rugby world cup. >> rugby was the religion of the mainly white africaners. >> mandela walks on to the pitch sporting the team jersey to show his solidarity and support. far from forgetting the past, mandela wants to form a permanent record of the apartheid era, one which does not alienate sections of the population nor assign blame. he creates truth and reconciliation commission, as a way for the nation to move forward from its tortured past. >> he thought there would be a catharsis for the country for both white and black. the chairman of the commission is archbishop desmond tutu, the spiritual leader of black south africans had been a source of
hope during apartheid's darkest days. the process allows for those who lived under apartheid and those who perpetuated it to come forward and speak of their experiences. black and white, oppressor, and oppressed. >> the truth about the past. starting to come up. >> the truth about the past is often painful, difficult to speak. maybe even more difficult to hear. >> here was a collective memory of a past which was so painful. and i believe it's made an enormous contribution in preventing us from ever going back. >> while president, mandela meets a kind, brilliant, wonderful woman.
when they met he realized this is a great partner for me. >> they marry on july 18th, 1998. it is mandela's 80th birthday. >> from the start of his presidency, mandela maintained he would serve one term in office. in 1999, after five years as the nation's first black president, he holds true to his promise. >> so many others have remained in power, until they have been overthrown in coups or they have died and gone out feet first. mandela retired at the height of his popularity. >> mandela feels it is not only in his best interest, but in the best interest of the young nation as well. >> he wanted to set an example that anc leaders should not remain in power as other african leaders have done. you must have rotating government. >> in retirement, mandela focuses the bulk of his efforts on the need of south africa's
children and also the growing aids crisis. for mandela as for an ever-growing percentage of south africans, the epidemic hits close to home. on january 6th, 2005, his last surviving son dies from the disease at age 54. >> it made people take his commitment more seriously. they realize if he too had been deeply affected by it. for the sake of africa and the world, we must act and act now. >> at 86, mandela plans to scale back on his public appearances. >> i am now retiring from retiring. and this is for real. >> but over the yoers, he is celebrated on milestone occasions. >> i think mandela has given us a legacy to treasure.
but with it comes a challenge. what are you going to do to make this country and this nation a united nation? >> around the world, the icons of the century, and they loved as a man of peace and reconciliation. mandela's legacy will be forever. and he will be the george washington of the new south africa. to that egs temperature, he will never die. >> i would like it to be said that here lies a man who has done his duty. ♪ >> nelson mandela's life was one of great sacrifice and great suffering. but ultimately, the legacy he leaves behind for fellow south africans and the world is one of great triumphs likely to be remembered and revered for centuries to come. that's all for this edition of "headliners and legends" i'm lester holt.