the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead
South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, South African
President Jacob Zuma announced late Thursday.
great was precisely what made him human,” the president said in his
late-night address. “We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”
funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff
from Friday through that funeral.
president, battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring
lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
bouts of illness, Mandela retreated to a quiet life at his boyhood home
in the nation’s Eastern Cape Province, where he said he was most at
peace. He was later moved to his home in the Johannesburg suburb of
Houghton, where he died.
minority rule and incarceration for fighting against segregation focused
the world’s attention on apartheid, the legalized racial segregation
enforced by the South African government until 1994.
man of complexities. He went from a militant freedom fighter, to a
prisoner, to a unifying figure, to an elder statesman.
charismatic in his silk, earth-toned dashikis, he was quick to admit to
his shortcomings, endearing him further in a culture in which leaders
President F.W. de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with
Mandela in 1993 for transitioning the nation from a system of racial
segregation, described their first meeting.
however, by how tall he was. By the ramrod straightness of his stature,
and realized that this is a very special man. He had an aura around him.
He’s truly a very dignified and a very admirable person.”
he was simply Madiba, his traditional clan name. Others affectionately
called him Tata, the Xhosa word for father.
public during the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. His absences
from the limelight and frequent hospitalizations left the nation on
edge, prompting Zuma to reassure citizens every time he fell sick.
the fabric of the country and the world,” said Ayo Johnson, director of
Viewpoint Africa, which sells content about the continent to media
elder statesman and global ambassador,” Johnson said. “He was the
guarantee, almost like an insurance policy, that South Africa’s young
democracy and its leaders will pursue the nation’s best interests.”
political violence in the years preceding the vote that put him in
office in 1994, South Africa avoided a full-fledged civil war in its
transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy. The peace was due in
large part to the leadership and vision of Mandela and de Klerk.
world to self-destruct in the bloodiest civil war along racial
grounds,” Mandela said during a 2004 celebration to mark a decade of
democracy in South Africa.
such racial conflagration, we created amongst ourselves one of the most
exemplary and progressive nonracial and nonsexist democratic orders in
the contemporary world.”
new breed of African liberation leaders, breaking from others of his era
such as Robert Mugabe by serving one term.
Mugabe has been president since 1987. A lot of African leaders
overstayed their welcomes and remained in office for years, sometimes
decades, making Mandela an anomaly.
States had placed him and other members of the African National Congress
on its terror list because of their militant fight against the
started his journey in the tiny village of Mvezo, in the hills of the
Eastern Cape, where he was born on July 18, 1918. His teacher later
named him Nelson as part of a custom to give all schoolchildren
in rural Qunu, where he retreated in 2011 before returning to
Johannesburg and later Pretoria to be near medical facilities.
University College of Fort Hare but was expelled after taking part in a
protest with Oliver Tambo, with whom he later operated the nation’s
first black law firm.
completed a bachelor’s degree through correspondence courses and studied
law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, but left
without graduating in 1948.
left the university, he helped form the youth league of the African
National Congress, hoping to transform the organization into a more
radical movement. He was dissatisfied with the ANC and its old-guard
dozens of other political activists were charged with high treason for
activities against the government. His trial lasted five years, but he
was ultimately acquitted.
treason charges, police shot 69 unarmed black protesters in Sharpeville
township as they demonstrated outside a station. The Sharpeville
Massacre was condemned worldwide, and it spurred Mandela to take a more
militant tone in the fight against apartheid.
government outlawed the ANC after the massacre, and an angry Mandela
went underground to form a new military wing of the organization.
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,” Mandela said during his time on
left South Africa and secretly traveled under a fake name. The press
nicknamed him “the Black Pimpernel” because of his police evasion
Congress heeded calls for stronger action against the apartheid regime,
and Mandela helped launch an armed wing to attack government symbols,
including post offices and offices.
are turning to deliberate acts of violence and of force against the
government, in order to persuade the government, in the only language
which this government shows by its own behavior that it understands,”
Mandela said during a hearing in 1962.
of sanity on the part of the government — ultimately, the dispute
between the government and my people will finish up by being settled in
violence and by force. “
secretly received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia. When he
returned home later that year, he was arrested and charged with illegal
exit of the country and incitement to strike.
himself at the trial and was briefly imprisoned before being returned to
court. In 1964, after the famous Rivonia trial, he was sentenced to
life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
testifying, he opted to give a speech that was more than four hours
long, and ended with a defiant statement.
white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which
all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is
an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it
is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Robben Island prison, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in detention. He
described his early days there as harsh.
was Khehla Shubane, 57, who was imprisoned in Robben Island during
Mandela’s last years there. Though they were in different sections of
the prison, he said, Mandela was a towering figure.
rights for us all in prison. The right to get more letters, get
newspapers, listen to the radio, better food, right to study,” Shubane
said. “It may not sound like much to the outside world, but when you are
in prison, that’s all you have.”
lazy, we would hang our clothes out to dry and wear them with creases.
We were in a prison, we didn’t care. But Mandela, every time I saw him,
he looked sharp.”
years of an international outcry led by Winnie Mandela, a social worker
whom he married in 1958, three months after divorcing his first wife.
to free Mandela with the imposition of political, economic and sporting
sanctions, and the white minority government became more isolated.
Mandela was hospitalized with tuberculosis, a disease whose effects
plagued him until the day he died. He recovered and was sent to a
minimum security prison farm, where he was given his own quarters and
could receive additional visitors.
door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t
leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” he said
at the time.
supporters that his release was not part of a government deal and
informed whites that he intended to work toward reconciliation.
as president, we stood on the terraces of the Union Building,” de Klerk
remembered years later. “He took my hand and lifted it up. He put his
arm around me, and we showed a unity that resounded through South Africa
and the world.”
Mandela, however, did not have such a happy ending. They officially
divorced in 1996 after several years of separation.
fiery love story, derailed by his ambition to end apartheid. During his
time in prison, Mandela wrote his wife long letters, expressing his
guilt at putting political activism before family. Before the
separation, Winnie Mandela was implicated in violence, including a
conviction for being an accessory to assault in the death of a teenage
white Afrikaners, rugby was reviled by blacks in South Africa. They
often cheered for rivals playing their national team.
the national team to heal South Africa was captured in director Clint
Eastwood’s 2009 feature film “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman as
Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the white South African
captain of the rugby team.
game, Mandela walked onto the pitch, wearing a green-and-gold South
African jersey bearing Pienaar’s number on the back.
the goosebumps that stood on my arms when he walked out onto the pitch
before the game started,” said Rory Steyn, his bodyguard for most of his
almost exclusively white … started to chant his name. That one act of
putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing
white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa.”
Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to
investigate human rights abuses during apartheid. He also introduced
housing, education and economic development initiatives designed to
improve the living standards of the black majority.
not seek a second term as president, keeping his promise to serve only
one term. Thabo Mbeki succeeded him in June of the same year.
presidency, he retired from active politics, but remained in the public
eye, championing causes such as human rights, world peace and the fight
of tragedy: His only surviving son, Makgatho Mandela, died of AIDS at
age 55 in 2005. Another son, Madiba Thembekile, was killed in a car
crash in 1969.
party in London’s Hyde Park was dedicated to HIV awareness and
prevention, and was titled 46664, his prison number on Robben Island.
President George W. Bush for launching the 2003 war against Iraq, and
accused the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a
as the force behind ending apartheid, he made it clear he was only one
of many who helped transform South Africa into a democracy.
Mandela beamed and waved at fans during the final of the tournament in
Johannesburg’s Soccer City. It was his last public appearance.
remembered not as anyone unique or special, but as part of a great team
in this country that has struggled for many years, for decades and even
centuries,” he said. “The greatest glory of living lies not in never
falling, but in rising every time you fall.”
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