Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 at his home in Johannesburg, almost 50 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the South African government.

The most prominent figure in the anti-apartheid movement, Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo in Umtat. After moving to Johannesburg, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and moved into politics by training as a lawyer.

In 1948, only white people were permitted to vote in the South African general election. The openly racist Herenigde Nasionale Party, led by Daniel Francois Malan, took power.

In government, it looked to expand racial segregation with apartheid legislation. Mandela, who had gained increasing influence in the ANC, began taking direct action against the government.

At a rally in 1952, Mandela addressed 10,000 people and ANC membership grew from 20,000 to 100,000. In response, the government made mass arrests and Mandela was himself arrested a month after his speech.

Between 1956 and 1961, he was prosecuted for treason but was found not guilty.

He then co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe, which led a bombing campaign against government facilities. Mandela was arrested again in 1962 and was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to life on 12 June, 1964.

Continued activism

After 27 years, Mandela was released on the back of an international campaign. He became ANC president and was made leader of South Africa in 1994, taking over from FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid-era South Africa.

Mandela retired in 1999 at the age of 80. During his five years in office, spending on welfare increased and the government introduced equality in grants for children, pensioners and disabled people, which had previously been set at different rates for different racial groups. Free healthcare for children and pregnant women was introduced in 1996.

In his private life, Mandela divorced Winnie Mandela and began a relationship with Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambique president Samora Machel.

He also encouraged black South Africans to support the national rugby team, the Springboks, and hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

After his retirement, Mandela continued his activist work and publicly criticised a number of Western political decisions, including the war in Iraq. He accused Tony Blair and George W Bush of undermining the UN and said the war was a "tragedy".

Nelson Mandela dies at the age of 95.Reuters
Mandela moved to Johannesburg and trained as a lawyer as a way to get into politics. He joined the ANC in 1944 and established the party's Youth League.Wiki Commons
The politician married his first wife Evelyn Mase, an ANC activist and nurse, in 1944. They met at the home of Walter Sisulu, who had secured Mandela a job at law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman.Wiki Commons
Mandela married his second wife, Winnie, in 1958, during which time he was being tried for treason. The not guilty verdict in 1961 was considered a major embarrassment to the government.Wiki Commons
Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in 1990, ending 27 years in prison. Before Victor Verster, he had spent six-and-a-half years in Pollsmoor and 18 years on Robben Island. he had been jailed for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.Reuters
The last president to serve in apartheid-era South Africa, FW de Klerk, legalised the ANC and freed Mandela, who replaced him as the country’s leader in 1990.Reuters
Mandela was met with cheers from United Nations members when he delivered a speech to the Committee Against Apartheid in June 1990, a month before being elected leader of the ANC.Reuters
Mandela took the oath of office as president of South Africa after being elected in 1994 in the first open election in the country's historyReuters
A year after his election, Mandela encouraged black South Africans to support the national rugby team, the Springboks. After they won the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, Mandela, wearing the club strip, presented the captain with the trophy.Reuters
Mandela faced criticism from the West over his friendships with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi, who he awarded the Order of Good Hope to in 1997Reuters
In 1998, a year before he retired from office, Mandela visited the prison on Robben Island with US president Bill Clinton and future secretary of state Hillary ClintonReuters
Mandela and his third wife, Graca, were jointly awarded honorary degrees from Ryerson University in Toronto in 2001Reuters
Queen Elizabeth and Mandela have met on several occasions since his release from prison and subsequent retirement. In 1995, the Queen visited South Africa for the first time since 1947.Reuters
Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday in July 2012 at his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape. South Africans were encouraged to celebrate by dedicating 67 minutes of their time to help others – representing the 67 years Mandela had spent in politics.Reuters