Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation:; born 18 July 1918) is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, who held office from 1994 to 1999. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of the African National Congress's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his conviction, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa.
Since the end of apartheid, many have frequently praised Mandela, including former opponents. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.
Mandela is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on topical issues. He has received more than 250 awards over four decades, most notably the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela's birthday, 18 July, is to be known as 'Mandela Day' marking his contribution to world freedom.