Nelson Mandela was freed from Victor Verster prison, in Paarl, on 11 February 1990. He had been in prison for 27 years. Much of that time had been spent in the maximum security facility on Robben Island. In 1984, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, and in 1988 to the low security Victor Verster prison. The move was to allow for Mandela to participate in a series of clandestine meetings with National Party government and other leading ANC figures, toward negotiating the unbanning of the ANC and the transfer of power to a democratically elected government.
Mandela appeared at the gates of the prison just after 4pm, an hour after he was expected to be released. Holding hands with his wife Winnie, he punched the air in the ANC power salute, before climbing into a car to be driven to Cape Town, where about 50,000 people gathered outside the City Hall, to hear him speak in public for the first time in almost three decades.