Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela dies aged 95

By AFP
Published: December 6, 2013
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Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

JOHANNESBURG: Nelson Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, has died aged 95.

Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.

His condition deteriorated and he died following complications from the lung infection, with his family by his side.

The news was announced by a clearly emotional South African president Jacob Zuma live on television, who said Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” said Zuma.

“What made Nelson Mandela great is precisely what made him human,” he said.

Mandela, once a boxer, had a long history of lung problems after contracting tuberculosis while in jail on Robben Island.

His extraordinary life story, quirky sense of humour and lack of bitterness towards his former oppressors ensured global appeal for the charismatic leader.

Once considered a terrorist by the United States and Britain for his support of violence against the apartheid regime, at the time of his death he was an almost unimpeachable moral icon.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 27 years behind bars before being freed in 1990 to lead the African National Congress (ANC) in negotiations with the white minority rulers which culminated in the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

A victorious Mandela served a single term as president before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading AIDS campaigner before finally retiring from public life in 2004.

“When he emerged from prison people discovered that he was all the things they had hoped for and more,” fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said.

“He is by far the most admired and revered statesperson in the world and one of the greatest human beings to walk this earth.”

He was a global cause celebre during the long apartheid years, and popular pressure led world leaders to tighten sanctions imposed on South Africa’s racist white minority regime.

In 1988 at a concert in Wembley stadium in London, tens of thousands sang “Free Nelson Mandela” as millions more watched on their television sets across the world.

Born in July 1918 in the southeastern Transkei region, Mandela carved out a career as a lawyer in Johannesburg in parallel with his political activism.

He became commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the by now-banned ANC, in 1961, and the following year underwent military training in Algeria and Ethiopia.

While underground back home in South Africa, Mandela was captured by police in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison.

He was then charged with sabotage and sentenced in 1964 to life in prison at the Rivonia trial, named after a Johannesburg suburb where a number of ANC leaders were arrested.

He used the court hearing to deliver a speech that was to become the manifesto of the anti-apartheid movement.

“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. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society.

“It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

He was first sent to prison on Robben Island, where he spent 18 years before being transferred in 1982 to Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town and later to Victor Verster prison in nearby Paarl.

When he was finally released on February 11, 1990, walking out of prison with his fist raised alongside his then-wife Winnie.

Ex-prisoner 46664 was entrusted with the task of persuading the new president F.W. de Klerk to call time on the era of racist white minority rule.

Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their role in the ending of apartheid.

Derived from the Afrikaans word for “apartness,” apartheid was a brutally enforced system that discriminated politically and economically against “non-whites” and separated the races in schools, buses, housing and even public toilets and beaches.

After the ANC won the first multi-racial elections, Mandela went out of his way to assuage the fears of the white minority, declaring his intention to establish “a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

Critics said his five-year presidency was marred by corruption and rising levels of crime. But his successors, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, have never enjoyed anywhere near the same levels of respect or affection.

In retirement, he focused his efforts on mediating conflicts, most notably in Burundi, as well as trying to raise awareness and abolish the taboos surrounding AIDS, which claimed the life of his son Makgatho.

His divorce from second wife Winnie was finalised in 1996.

He found new love in retirement with Graca Machel, the widow of the late Mozambican president Samora Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday.

In one of his last foreign policy interventions, he issued a searing rebuke of George W. Bush on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, calling him “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust”.

Bush’s predecessor Bill Clinton perhaps had a higher opinion of Mandela.

“Every time Nelson Mandela walks in a room we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we’d like to be him on our best day,” he said.

Mandela is survived by three daughters, 18 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. He had four step-children through his marriage to Machel.

His death has left his family divided over his wealth. Some of his children and grandchildren are locked in a legal feud with his close friends over alleged irregularities in his two companies.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • Nadir
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:16AM

    What a legend! May he rest in peace.

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  • ET
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:17AM

    Hero

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  • Yasir Mehmood
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:19AM

    RIP champion

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  • Four
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:27AM

    A true hero who wasn’t afraid to fight injustice. A role model to all; his death is a loss to the whole world.

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  • Indian
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:28AM

    Nelson Mandela will remain in our hearts forever.

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  • Indian
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:30AM

    Peace, Prayers and Blessings

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  • Indian
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:30AM

    Nelson Mandela brought so many gifts in our life. We will never forget him!

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 3:35AM

    RIP Mandela! A true Hero and Leader
    World Twitter updates

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  • Vijay K
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:39AM

    One of the greatest men of our times. A true hero of our age. RIP Madiba.

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  • Zif
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:48AM

    What a sad loss. He was a great man, an effective leader and his charismatic personality touched many lives. He diid his job well. RIP now!

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  • A2Z
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:54AM

    RIP Nelson Mandela, you was true a hero not for South Africans only but for all those who are against racism and apartheid regimes.

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  • abcd
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:57AM

    Not only your country Zuma sir but 20th century has lost its greatest son.

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  • Sobrab Karboy
    Dec 6, 2013 - 4:14AM

    It’s a bittersweet moment in history today. Sad that an iconic figure with few parallels has left us. And happy, that an exemplary life has ended in an exemplary manner with dignity and respect till the end. I feel, not as a citizen of a nation but, as a citizen of the world that our leader has left us today. To spend 27 beautiful years of youth behind bars to sacrifice for your people but not bow down before the forces of apartheid and oppression; and then in victory show the magnanimity of forgiveness and reconciliation is an exclusive domain of rare leaders in history. Nelson Mandela was one of those leaders. Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known by his people as Madiba will be missed.

    “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
    ― Kahlil Gibran

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Dec 6, 2013 - 4:32AM

    Not only greatest leader of his nation, also icon of whole world. We were blessed to have him in our lives.

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 4:55AM

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” RIP Nelson MandelaRecommend

  • Dec 6, 2013 - 4:57AM

    “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.” ~ Nelson Mandela 1996 Hamba Kahle Tata

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 5:01AM

    “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.” ~ Nelson Mandela 1996 Hamba Kahle Tata

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  • Ahmed
    Dec 6, 2013 - 5:11AM

    One of a kind!

    P.S. Please this time stop pointing fingers at each other and say stuff like ” O the muslims will say he won’t go in heaven” etc. Just say what you have to say for the guy and leave people’s believes to them

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  • Hammad
    Dec 6, 2013 - 5:24AM

    RIP Nelson Mandela, I am literally in tears right now he was my idol my inspiration you will be missed But my brother is sadly predicting a war in SA after u. I dont know but u changeg the earth politics.
    no doubt, great man who changed not just his country, but the world for the better. remember when he was imprisoned and the outrage but he has risen above it and good for him. Nelson has made South Africa what it is today – dear god I hope they never forget what a wonderful man he was I would have loved to have met him. Go for it Nelson!! as u were champions of the cause human freedom. Mandela it meant tackling racism, apartheid and oppression. A very sad day, but also an occasion to celebrate the life of such a wonderful human being.

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  • Aysha M
    Dec 6, 2013 - 5:38AM

    Today, the world has lost a great human being and a great leader. As we mourn his death we must also celebrate his life and his tremendous triumph over hate, prejudice and intolerance and minority and unjust rule. We in Karachi have our own version of Nelson Mandela whose life is dedicated to spread love and to bring people closer and bridge differences between sects, ethnicities and remove all the fault lines which deeply divide us in Pakistan. RIP Nelson Mandela, we are emulating you in Karachi and fighting against minority and unjust rule in our beloved city.

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  • logic
    Dec 6, 2013 - 5:48AM

    Like Gandhi , Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for non violence and peace.

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  • Gufaor
    Dec 6, 2013 - 6:01AM

    Mandela could have been really bitter, but he wasn’t. He seemed like a regular guy that was approachable. Everybody liked him. His body language and his action and words supported his good heart. That is what he said he worked on during those 27 years in prison and it showed when he got out and for the remainder of his life. He will be missed because few with that courage and good heart will follow.

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  • Mubashir
    Dec 6, 2013 - 7:08AM

    The world is a poorer place without you Mr. Mandela. RIP sir.

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  • Sultan
    Dec 6, 2013 - 9:06AM

    The world lost a hero, Africa lost a father…RIP Mandela..

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  • antanu
    Dec 6, 2013 - 9:17AM

    Last salute to a legend….a true leader….a statesman.He was most inspirational personality of 20th century…even greater than Gandhi .Rest in peace Mandela.

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  • goldconsumer
    Dec 6, 2013 - 9:27AM

    I wish we had someone like him as a leader

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 9:41AM

    Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihe Rajeoon. Ameen.
    He was, is, and will remain such a great man that his words, actions, and deeds will tower him into the lofty clouds of sublimity. The majority of the leaders on the world stage SHRINK in shame when the name of Mr. Nelson Mandela (Madiba) is mentioned with reverence.
    Allah Almighty sent him to earth for a special purpose and that was to show the citizens of the world the practical meaning of the word, ‘magnanimity.’ RIP Madiba. Salams

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 9:52AM

    A true leader. He was a giant in a field populated by pygmies such as Arafat, Castro, Che Guevara, Khomeini and the like. Nelson Mandela knew how to forgive his worst enemies. Such men are not mere mortals. They become Gods.

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Dec 6, 2013 - 9:52AM

    RIP….
    His biggest contribution was that he did not let the anger and frustration of one community get channelled against another community , but against the unjust system…….
    He fought against the system not against individuals ……
    He waged war against the white supremacy not against the whites….
    Many a parts of world facing conflict today learn a thing or two from him!!!!
    You will be missed……………………

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  • Habib ur Rahman
    Dec 6, 2013 - 10:58AM

    Nelson Mandela was a world icon in the true sense. He was a symbol of honour. He earned his honour in his long struggle for freedom for his country. Then he went on to bestow honour on his country by becoming its first colored president. He bestowed honor on the third-word by becoming its source of inspiration for freedom. He bestowed honour on the Nobel Peace prize by becoming its recipient. He was more than a man. He will live forever.

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  • goggi (Lahore)
    Dec 6, 2013 - 11:12AM

    We Pakistanis should unitedly promote the Nelson Mandela Consciousness against poverty, illiteracy, religious evils and all forms of social apartheid…………and above all, a humorous and cheerful disposition!

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  • Shahid
    Dec 6, 2013 - 11:53AM

    Mr.Mandela you are always been remembered as a peace icon of the world.

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  • Zog
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:02PM

    He was a great man.

    Pakistani politicians and the jamat e jahaliat inc can and should learn so much from his example, especially in relation to reconciliation and bringing people together….

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  • M. Emad
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:29PM

    While in South African prison, Nelson Mandela was inspired by the freedom struggle by Sheikh Mujib Ur Rahman.

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  • Moiz Omar
    Dec 6, 2013 - 1:50PM

    Rest in peace, Mr. Mandela.Recommend

  • Rehaim
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:00PM

    He gave them the freedom to live in yet another corrupt, violent African state. The country is only less poorer than the average country in that part of the world is because they have a sizable white minority creating more wealth than the leaders can stash away in Swiss bank accounts.

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  • qasir
    Dec 6, 2013 - 3:02PM

    **The whole world is mourning Mandela , from South Africa, Europe , Australia, New Zealand the

    US and even people in Asia are mourning him . From presidents, to politicians , from royalties,

    to the U.N , from celebrities to just ordinary people like us he was a great man to all of us

    and will never be forgotten irregardless what any of the racist may say about him , he will

    always be the remembered as a great man and will go down in history as a great man. RIP

    Mandela you will be missed greatly :(**

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 6:42PM

    International Olympic Committee (IOC), in recognition of the monumental services to the cause of sports, by the late Nelson Mandela, must honour him by designing the medals with the picture of Nelson Mandela, to be awarded during the next summer Olympics.

    And these Olympics should be name as “Nelson Mandela Olympics Games”.

    In this regard, it will not be out of place to quote a statement of Nelson Mandela on sports. Quote. “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. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” Unquote.”Recommend

  • Dec 6, 2013 - 8:59PM

    We send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Nelson Mandela’s friends, family, and the people of his nation. President Obama had this to say: “Today, the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice, and human dignity — Nelson Mandela is no longer with us, he belongs to the ages. While we mourn his loss, we will forever honor Nelson Mandela’s memory. He left behind a South Africa that is free and at peace with itself — a close friend and partner of the United States. And his memory will be kept in the hearts of billions who have been lifted up by the power of his example.”

    Ali Khan
    DET, United States Central Command

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  • Dec 6, 2013 - 9:10PM

    Nelson Mandela Olympic Games

    International Olympic Committee (IOC), in recognition of the monumental services to the cause of sports, by the late Nelson Mandela, must honour him by designing the medals with the picture of Nelson Mandela, to be awarded during the next summer Olympics.

    And as a befitting tribute to Nelson Mandela’s services for the sports, the next Olympics should also be named as “Nelson Mandela Olympic Games”.

    In this regard, it will not be out of place to quote a statement of Nelson Mandela on sports. Quote. “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. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” Unquote.”Recommend

  • its ok
    Dec 7, 2013 - 10:25PM

    i know at least one country where discrimination is there in the constitution on the basis of religion. one mandela is the need of that country too.Recommend

  • Khalq e Khuda
    Dec 8, 2013 - 1:32AM

    The legacy of Nelson Mandela will live on even if he remains no longer with us. Though what will also live with us is the fact that the Prime Minister or the foreign office has not issued statements of condolences for him let alone fly the flag at half staff like most of the civilised world is doing.

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