In 1991, Nelson Mandela was elected the president of the African National Congress (ANC), and his friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, was elected the ANC’s national chairperson. Mandela continued to negotiate with President F.W. de Klerk toward the country's first non-racial elections. The first plenary session of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA I) began on December 21 1991, at the World Trade Centre in Johannesburg. White South Africans were willing to share power, but many black South Africans wanted a complete transfer of power. The negotiations were tense. Violence across South African townships erupted, followed by the assassination of ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani on 10 April 1993. Mandela was under pressure and he had to keep a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations in the midst of the demonstrations.
In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work towards abolishing apartheid. Negotiations between black and white South Africans prevailed. On 27 April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections. The ANC won the election with 62.65 % of the vote. The National Party (NP) received 20.39 %, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54 %, Freedom Front (FF) 2.2 %, Democratic Party (DP) 1.7 %, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2 % and the African Christian Democratic Party 0.5 %.
On 10 May 1994, Nelson Mandela, at the age of 77, was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president and F W de Klerk became Mandela’s first deputy. Although the ANC gained a majority vote, they formed the Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by Mandela.
In 1994, Mandela published an autobiography titled “Long Walk to Freedom” which he secretly wrote while in prison. He also published a number of books on his life and struggles, among them “No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: the Struggle is my Life” and “Nelson Mandela's Favourite African Folktales”.In 1995, he was awarded the Order of Merit by FIFA for bringing South Africa back in international football.
During his presidency, Mandela also worked to protect South Africa's economy from collapse. There was also a serious need to address the economic legacy of apartheid: poverty, inequalities, unequal access to social services and infrastructure, and an economy that had been in crisis for nearly two decades.
In 1994, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was introduced. The RDP was a South African socio-economic policy framework implemented by the ANC government of Mandela. The ANC's main aim in developing and implementing the RDP, was to address the immense socio-economic problems brought about by Apartheid. Specifically, it set its sights on alleviating poverty and addressing the massive shortfalls in social services across South Africa. Through its RDP, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic health care.
Also, as part of his mission for peace, nation-building and reconciliation, Mandela used the nation's enthusiasm for sports as an important point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the once-hated all-white national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa came to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the young republic of South Africa. The Rugby World Cup was won by South Africa and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country. The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid. It was also the first World Cup in which South Africa was allowed to participate.
In 1996, Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing both the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, was approved by the Constitutional Court (CC) on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997. The Constitution was founded on the following values: (a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. (b) Non-racialism and non-sexism. (c) Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
In June 1996, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic policy was introduced. The policy proposed a set of medium-term policies aimed at the rapid liberalization of the South African economy. These policies included a relaxation of exchange controls, privatisation of state assets, trade liberalization, “regulated” flexibility in labour markets, strict deficit reduction targets, and monetary policies aimed at stabilizing the rand through market interest rates.
The Gear policy aimed at strengthening the South African economic development, increasing employment, and redistribution of income and socio-economic opportunities to in favour of the poor people. The key goals of Gear policy were: economic growth of 6% by the year 2000, employment growth above the increase in the economically active population, inflation less than 10 per cent, a ratio of gross domestic savings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 12.5 per cent in the year 2000, relaxation of exchange controls and reduction of the budget deficit to below 4 per cent of GDP.
In 1998, the South African government, under Nelson Mandela, announced that it intended to purchase 28 BAE/SAAB JAS 39 Gripen-fighter aircraft from Sweden at a cost of R10.875 billion, i.e. R388 million (about US$65 million) per plane. The South African Department of Defence's Strategic Defence Acquisition aimed to modernise its defence equipment, which included the purchase of corvettes, submarines, light utility helicopters, lead-in fighter trainers and advanced light fighter aircraft. However, The Arms Deal, as it subsequently came to be known, was accused of corruption. In 2011, sitting President Jacob Zuma announced a commission of enquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages. The Commission was chaired by Judge Seriti, a judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal and became known as the Seriti Commission.
In 1999, Mandela retired from active politics. He was called on to help broker peace agreements in Burundi in central Africa serving as a mediator. The Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation for Burundi was signed on 28 August 2000, with the support of the Regional Peace Initiative (RPI) and the international community. Subsequently, the peace processes were consolidated with the signing of two ceasefire agreements. The first of these agreements was signed on 7 October 2002 between the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGoB) and the Burundi Armed Political Parties and Movements (APPMs). The second agreement on 2 December 2002 was between the TGoB and the CNDD-FDD of Pierre Nkurunziza.
In South Africa, Mandela pursued money-raising drives for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. He would do this by, among other things, inviting business leaders to join him on visits to settlements of poor people, where he would have them pledge donations, particularly for schools and classrooms. Such facilities have become known as the products of "Madiba magic”.