Nelson Mandela’s life sentence imposed in 1964 had a substantial impact on the South African political scene. During his years in prison, Mandela actively campaigned against the apartheid regime in South Africa until his release in 1990. This article will discuss the reasons behind his life sentence and how Mandela used his time in prison to help end apartheid in South Africa.

Mandela’s Involvement in the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Nelson Mandela was a prominent leader in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. He advocated for the fight against racial segregation, which sought to give African people access to the same rights as other citizens. He was a co-founder of the African National Congress (ANC), which led mass protests and civil disobedience campaigns against the South African government.

The Rivonia Trial and the Crime of High Treason

In 1963, Mandela was arrested and charged with high treason. He was tried alongside other ANC leaders in the Rivonia Trial in 1964. The trial concluded with Mandela and his co-defendants being charged with attempting to overthrow the government by means of organized sabotage and violence. Consequently, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela’s Time in Prison

During his 27 years in prison, Mandela continued to advocate for the ANC’s principles and helped sustain the anti-apartheid movement both inside and outside of the prison walls. He was one of the most renown anti-apartheid activists in the world, and his efforts eventually led to his release in 1990 and the abolishment of the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1994.


Nelson Mandela’s life sentence was a result of his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement and his part in the Rivonia Trial. Mandela’s time in prison continued to help spread the movement’s values and lead the fight against racial discrimination. His imprisonment and eventual release from prison marked a huge breakthrough in the fight for equality in South Africa, which eventually led to the end of apartheid.

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