Former South African President Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Thursday, December 5, after a prolonged lung infection.
Mandela, the country’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon, would receive a full state funeral, President Jacob Zuma said, ordering flags to be flown at half mast.
“Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rohlihla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed. … Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity, earned him their love,” Zuma said.
Mandela spent nearly three months in the hospital through September, initially to treat a lung infection.
Nelson Mandela led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison. He negotiated with the nation’s white leaders toward establishing democracy and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994. He stepped down after five years in office.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
As president, Mandela faced the monumental task of forging a new nation from the deep racial injustices left over from the apartheid era, making reconciliation the theme of his time in office.
The hallmark of Mandela’s mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which probed apartheid crimes on both sides of the struggle and tried to heal the country’s wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he used to say.
In retirement, he shifted his energies to battling South Africa’s AIDS crisis and the struggle became personal when he lost his only surviving son to the disease in 2005.
Mandela’s last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he attended the championship match of the soccer World Cup, where he received a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 at the stadium in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela’s key dates
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness