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epa02016910 (FILE) A file photo dated 30 January 2006 of former South African president and Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thursday 11 February 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. On 11 February 1990 a dignified and determined Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison in Cape Town South Africa, a free man for the first time in 27 years. When he arrived at the City Hall a crowd of 50,000 supporters had assembled. From the balcony he spoke his first words in public for over a quarter century. 'Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. Our march to freedom is irreversible.' The event was broadcast live all over the world. The lawyer and anti-apartheid activist had been convicted of treason and sabotage in June 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent most of his sentence on Robben Island, off Cape Town, doing hard labour. During the 1980s he refused many offers for early release from the government because of the conditions attached. However, on 02 February 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk reversed - after long negotiations with Mandela - the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would be released. This was the beginning of the opening up of apartheid-era South Africa where blacks had been severely discriminated against. In the first national elections in which blacks had the right to vote the ANC won and Mandela became President. He remained in that office from 1994 to 1999. The Opening of Parliament this year has been scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release and South African President Jacob Zuma will honour him in his State of the Nation address. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
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