Credit: Shutterstock/Nelson Mandela

People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite..

Born in the small village of Mvezo on 18 July 1918, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela would become one of the most influential and important figures of the twentieth-century, not only in his homeland of South Africa, but across the world. Growing up in a country that employed a policy of racial discrimination, with the white minority ruling the majority population of black africans, his work would come to shape the fight against apartheid, and his ascent to the presidency in 1994 was seen as a new bright new beginning for the country.

A member of the African National Congress, Mandela was imprisoned in 1964, for taking part in a campaign of sabotage against government facilities, which was a reaction to the massacre of 69 unarmed black protestors by police at Sharpeville. During his trial Mandela gave an impassioned three-hour long speech to the gathered assembly closing with the oft quoted words, while looking the judge directly in the eye: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”

Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and served 27 years of that sentence before being released in 1990 by President F.W. de Klerk. In the following years he sought a policy of reconciliation and peaceful negotiation rather than vengeance or recompense, and it is for this that Mandela has become so renowned. His ability to work with and even forgive those who would have seen him killed earlier in his life meant that South Africa was able to hold its first fully democratic elections in 1994, with Mandela winning 65% of the vote. When he died in 2013 the country entered 10 days of mourning, and his body was visited by hundreds of thousands as he lay in state.