Nelson Mandela won a landslide victory in South African’s first election open to all citizens 25 years ago, marking the official end of brutal racist system of apartheid. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker, who covered Mandela’s historic victory, described the day as “jubilant South Africans poured into the streets of Johannesburg, danced in the streets of Soweto.”
“After a brutal, even bloody, election, Mandela, tonight, extended his hand in peace to his political opponents, left and right,” Whitaker said.
The historic elections were held from April 26-29, 1994. The first day of voting was restricted to the elderly, disabled, prison inmates, heavily pregnant women and ex-patriots. Voters waited for hours in lines that stretched more than a mile, in primarily black neighborhoods, to cast their vote. Some violence occurred, but overall the elections were successful.
After early returns were announced on May 2, Mandela proclaimed that the black South Africans who had been disenfranchised for decades by the apartheid system of racial separation were now “free at last!”
The last white South African president, F.W. de Klerk, eventually conceded defeat.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in various South African prisons before being released in 1990, was inaugurated as President of a “National Unity” government on May 10, 1994. Just three days removed from prison, Mandela told CBS News that his time in prison “deepened our convictions.”
At his inaugural address in Pretoria, Mandela said “today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world,confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.”