As a native African living in South Africa under apartheid, the government system of imposed segregation in which non-native white residents of South Africa were treated as fundamentally superior to black natives, Nelson Mandela's initial cause was focused on bringing about the end of apartheid and systematic racial oppression in his home country. Apartheid came to an end in the 1990s, and in 1994, Mandela was elected as the first black chief executive of South Africa in the nation's first full, democratic election. When Mandela's presidential term ended in 1999, his focus shifted from issues within his own nation to general human rights issues across the globe.
Prior to being elected president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and punished for his stance as an anti-apartheid activist. Black South Africans who fought against this system of racial oppression were regularly punished by the ruling white government, though this punishment was not an effective deterrent for activists such as Mandela. Even though Mandela was imprisoned for almost 30 years, he remained a major figure in the fight for racial equality and democracy in South Africa. Although Mandela and other black South Africans were treated horribly by the occupying white government, his goal was to establish a fair and equitable society of racial equality and harmony in South Africa.