Happy Mandela Day: 5 Great Interviews in the Life of a Legend (Video)

Watch Mandela from his first TV interview through one celebrating his 90th birthday

Last Updated: July 24, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

Nelson Mandela turns 95 today, as the world celebrates the day named in his honor.

Two weeks ago, the former South African president Nelson Mandela was by many accounts barely clinging to life. Today, he has reportedly made "dramatic" progress.

No one knows more than Nelson Mandela about dramatic progress.

A lawyer who fought against the country's apartheid policy, he spent 27 years in prison before becoming the leader of the country that had held him captive. He helped hold South Africa together after his 1990 release until the presidential election. It was the first one in which he and other blacks were allowed to vote.

Mandela is often known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata, meaning father. These five interviews recount how he became known as the father of South Africa — and a human rights hero the world over.

1961: Mandela's First TV Interview
Mandela gave his first television interview a year after government security forces killed 69 blacks who were demonstrating against apartheid, a system that denied them the right to vote, own property, or even move freely through the country.

Speaking to ITV from a secret hideout, the then-42-year-old Mandela outraged South African leaders by calling for one man, one vote. He also said South Africa was a country of many people, rejecting the notion that Europeans should be banished.

But he alarmed the government the most with his cautious answer about whether he remained committed to non-violence: "There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and nonviolence against a government whose reply is only savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people."

He was arrested, charged with treason, and sent to Robben Island for nearly three decades.

1994: Before the Election

After worldwide pressure on the South African government, new president F.W. de Klerk released Mandela in 1990. Mandela continued his fight for equal rights, even as he and de Klerk tried to prevent violence. They faced each other as opponents even as they tried to hold the country together. Before the election, both men spoke with CBS News' Dan Rather.

2000: Post-Presidency

In 2000, after his presidency, Mandela spoke with Oprah Winfrey about his life and struggles, surprising her with his humility.

Part 1:

Part 2:

2005: Centre of Memory

In 2005, Mandela spoke with Verne Harris, a director of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, an organization that promotes peace, human rights and democracy by examining the past. (It also, interestingly enough, calls out scams that seek to take advantage of Mandela's unimpeachable reputation.)

In the interview, Mandela discusses his life on Robben Island, including his jailers' attempts to make his treatment seem better than it was for the benefit of visitors.

2008: 90th Birthday

In 2004, Mandela said he was finished with interviews. But he made an exception for CNN on his 90th birthday. "What day is it?" he joked, pretending not to realize he had reached another milestone.

Surrounded by his grandchildren and his wife, Graca Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday, Mandela said one of his greatest regrets was not spending more time with his family. Of course, he didn't have the option for 27 years.