In the year 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president in the Republic of South Africa (RSA.) He was the first non-white head of state in South African history. President Nelson Mandela was also the first to take office following the dismantling of apartheid and the introduction of multiracial democracy. He was the oldest head of state in South Africa’s history, taking office at the age of 75.
South Africa’s first multi-racial elections in which full enfranchisement was granted were held on 27 April 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) won 62% of the votes in the election. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the country’s first black President. The National Party’s F.W. de Klerk was his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second in the Government of National Unity.
When Nelson Mandela began his term on 10 May 1994, he presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid. He won international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela encouraged black South Africans to get behind the Springboks as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar’s own number 6 on the back. This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.
Nelson Mandela divorced his estranged wife, Winnie Mandela. Thabo Mbeki became the sole deputy president of South Africa in June due to F. W. de Klerk’s resignation from joint office.
President Nelson Mandela took a particular interest in helping to resolve the long-running dispute between Gaddafi’s Libya, the United States and Britain over bringing to trial the two Libyans who were indicted in November 1991. In 1992, President Nelson Mandela informally approached President George H.W. Bush with a proposal to have the two indicted Libyans tried in a third country. Bush reacted favorably to the proposal, as did President François Mitterrand of France and King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In November 1994 Nelson Mandela formally proposed that South Africa should be the venue for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial
The British Prime Minister John Major flatly rejected the idea saying the British government did not have confidence in foreign courts. A further three years elapsed until Nelson Mandela’s offer was repeated to Major’s successor, Tony Blair. The president visited London in July 1997. At the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Edinburgh in October 1997, Nelson Mandela spoke the following words:
“No one nation should be complainant, prosecutor and judge.”
In South Africa’s first post-apartheid military operation, acting president Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government.
Nelson Mandela married Graça Machel, the widow of former Mozambican president Samora Machel.
A compromise solution was then agreed for a trial to be held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, governed by Scots law, and President Nelson Mandela began negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi for the handover of the two accused Libyans in April 1999.
End of term
The 1996 constitution limited the president to two consecutive five-year terms. Nelson Mandela did not attempt to have the document amended to remove the two-term limit. He had only intended to serve one term. Nelson Mandela left office on 14 June 1999. He was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki, who was inaugurated to the presidency on 16 June. Nelson Mandela retired from active politics and he engaged in a number of philanthropic activities.