Nelson Mandela is released from prison after 27 years

Mandela and Winnie.Mandela and Winnie.

Date: 11 February, 1990

On this day, Nelson Mandela was released unconditionally from prison after 27 years. Accompanied by his wife Winnie, Mandela left the Victor Verster prison (renamed Drakenstein Correctional Centre) on the outskirts of Paarl and was driven 60 km to Cape Town by African National Congress's (ANC) Rose Sonto along a route lined by thousands of supporters.

On the balcony of the City Hall he spoke to a crowd of approximately 50,000 people, who had waited for hours to see him. He started by expressing his sincere and warmest gratitude to the "millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release".

Mandela's release followed the relaxation of apartheid laws - including lifting the ban on leading liberation organisations (e.g. ANC, SACP, PAC) by South African President FW de Klerk. In commemoration of his release, people across the country danced in the streets. Unfortunately the revelry also caused some problems, as doctors had to treat over a hundred people as police clashed with youths looting shops in various cities and townships. In Mdantsane, Ciskei, 10 people were killed when Ciskei soldiers used force against a group of revelers celebrating Mandela's release.In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day, to honour his birthday. This is the first time that the United Nations (UN) has designated a day dedicated to a person.

In January 2011, Mandela was admitted at Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg for what was described as routine tests. He is currently living in Qunu, Eastern Cape where he was born.


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