“He is now resting… he is now at peace,” said South African President Jacob Zuma about the death of Nelson Mandela, the towering moral giant of the 20th and 21st centuries, who has died aged 95. “Our nation has lost its greatest son.” As soon as the news about his death started spreading in the media and via social networks, thousands of tributes emerged.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan also mourns the loss of one of history’s ‘greatest liberators’ in his condolence message to South Africa.
“Mandela will always be remembered and honoured by all mankind as one of its greatest liberators, a wise, courageous and compassionate leader, and an icon of true democracy,” Jonathan said, describing the former South African president as a “source of inspiration to the oppressed peoples all over the world.”
His passing will “create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent,” Mr. President concluded.
Meanwhile, first black president of the United States of America Barack Obama, too, decried the loss of the “profoundly good” man who “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
President Obama remembers Nelson Mandela: “A man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 5, 2013
“Let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived.” —President Obama
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 5, 2013
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said in a televised statement, hailing his political hero for his “fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others.”
Obama said Mandela, in his journey from a “prisoner to a president,” transformed South Africa and “moved all of us,” as “he achieved more than could be expected of any man.
“Today he’s gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.
“He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”
“The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears,” Obama said.
Mandela’s fragile health overshadowed Obama’s 2006 trip to South Africa, and there had been fears that the former South African leader would pass away while Obama was in the country. The President decided against visiting Mandela in hospital, reasoning he would be a distraction, and met with members of his family instead.
The president took his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha to Robben Island, where Mandela was held in spartan conditions by the racist apartheid regime. In one wrenching shot taken by his official photographer, Obama was pictured in the tiny cell where Mandela once lived, with his emotional daughter in his arms.
He also walked with his family around the bleak limestone quarry on the island — off the coast of Cape Town — where Mandela endured years of backbreaking and futile work under the eyes of white South African guards.
Other living former U.S. presidents were also quick to react to Mandela’s death with their own statements.
“I will never forget my friend Madiba,” Bill Clinton said in a tweet, accompanied by a photo of he and Mandela together.
“History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation,” Clinton, who was president when Mandela took power, said in a longer statement.
George H.W. Bush said he had watched in wonder as Mandela forgave his captors following 26 years in jail — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all.”
“He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country,” Bush Senior said, adding that Mandela was “one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has led the sporting tributes to his “dear friend” president Nelson Mandela.
Mr. Mandela had used sport to bring his country together following strict racial segregation by his predecessors.
Blatter said: “It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person. He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people. He was probably one of the greatest humanists of our time.”
Mr Mandela once stated: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people, in a way that little else does.”
“Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us.”
FIFA said that in respect of Mandela’s memory, flags of its 209 member associations will fly at half-mast at its Swiss HQ and said a minute’s silence will be held before the next round of international matches.
My respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time: Nelson Mandela. http://t.co/0iLg06VUEU
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) December 5, 2013
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron also paid tribute, saying via his Twitter account that “a great light has gone out in the world.”
Earlier this year, Mr Mandela spent nearly three months in hospital with a recurring lung infection. He was moved to his home in the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg in September, where he continued to receive intensive care.
I’ve spoken to the Speaker and there will be statements and tributes to Nelson Mandela in the House on Monday.