Nelson Mandela, Father Of Modern South Africa, Dies At 95

Nelson Mandela,
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.

Mandela was 95.
“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
“What made Nelson Mandela
great was precisely what made him human,” the president said in his
late-night address. “We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”
Mandela will have a state
funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff
from Friday through that funeral.
Mandela, a former
president, battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring
lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.

With advancing age and
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.
Despite rare public appearances, he held a special place in the consciousness of the nation and the world.
A hero to blacks and whites
In a nation healing from the scars of apartheid, Mandela became a moral compass.


Zuma: This is a moment of deepest sorrow


Nelson Mandela in his own words


1990: Mandela released from prison


1994: Mandela takes oath of office
His defiance of white
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.
In his lifetime, he was a
man of complexities. He went from a militant freedom fighter, to a
prisoner, to a unifying figure, to an elder statesman.


Warm, lanky and
charismatic in his silk, earth-toned dashikis, he was quick to admit to
his shortcomings, endearing him further in a culture in which leaders
rarely do.
His steely gaze disarmed opponents. So did his flashy smile.
Former South African
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.
“I had read, of course, everything I could read about him beforehand. I was well-briefed,” he said last year.
“I was impressed,
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.”
For many South Africans,
he was simply Madiba, his traditional clan name. Others affectionately
called him Tata, the Xhosa word for father.
A nation on edge
Mandela last appeared in
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.
“Mandela is woven into
the fabric of the country and the world,” said Ayo Johnson, director of
Viewpoint Africa, which sells content about the continent to media
When he was around, South Africans had faith that their leaders would live up to the nation’s ideals, according to Johnson.
“He was a father figure,
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.”
There are telling nuggets of Mandela’s character in the many autobiographies about him.
An unmovable stubbornness. A quick, easy smile. An even quicker frown when accosted with a discussion he wanted no part of.
War averted
Despite chronic
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.
“We were expected by the
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.
“Not only did we avert
such racial conflagration, we created amongst ourselves one of the most
exemplary and progressive nonracial and nonsexist democratic orders in
the contemporary world.”
Mandela represented a
new breed of African liberation leaders, breaking from others of his era
such as Robert Mugabe by serving one term.
In neighboring Zimbabwe,
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.
But he was not always popular in world capitals.
Until 2008, the United
States had placed him and other members of the African National Congress
on its terror list because of their militant fight against the
apartheid regime.
Humble beginnings
Rolihlahla Mandela
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
Christian names.
His father died when he was 9, and the local tribal chief took him in and educated him.
Mandela attended school
in rural Qunu, where he retreated in 2011 before returning to
Johannesburg and later Pretoria to be near medical facilities.
He briefly attended
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.
In subsequent years, he
completed a bachelor’s degree through correspondence courses and studied
law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, but left
without graduating in 1948.
Four years before he
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
And so began Mandela’s civil disobedience and lifelong commitment to breaking the shackles of segregation in South Africa.
Escalating trouble
In 1956, Mandela and
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.
Meanwhile, the fight for equality got bloodier.
Four years after his
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.
The South African
government outlawed the ANC after the massacre, and an angry Mandela
went underground to form a new military wing of the organization.
“There are many people
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
the run.
During that period, he
left South Africa and secretly traveled under a fake name. The press
nicknamed him “the Black Pimpernel” because of his police evasion
Militant resistance
The African National
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.
The armed struggle was a defense mechanism against government violence, he said.
“My people, Africans,
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.
“If there is no dawning
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. “
The campaign of violence against the state resulted in civilian casualties.
A white South African’s memories of Mandela
Long imprisonment
In 1962, Mandela
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.
Mandela represented
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.
At the trial, instead of
testifying, he opted to give a speech that was more than four hours
long, and ended with a defiant statement.
“I have fought against
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.”
His next stop was the
Robben Island prison, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in detention. He
described his early days there as harsh.
“There was a lot of physical abuse, and many of my colleagues went through that humiliation,” he said.
One of those colleagues
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.
“He demanded better
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.”
And Mandela’s khaki prison pants, he said, were always crisp and ironed.
“Most of us chaps were
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.”
After 18 years, he was transferred to other prisons, where he experienced better conditions until he was freed in 1990.
Months before his release, he obtained a bachelor’s in law in absentia from the University of South Africa.
Mandela’s jail: Robben Island
Calls for release
His freedom followed
years of an international outcry led by Winnie Mandela, a social worker
whom he married in 1958, three months after divorcing his first wife.
Mandela was banned from reading newspapers, but his wife provided a link to the outside world.
She told him of the growing calls for his release and updated him on the fight against apartheid.
World pressure mounted
to free Mandela with the imposition of political, economic and sporting
sanctions, and the white minority government became more isolated.
In 1988 at age 70,
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.
Among them, in an unprecedented meeting, was South Africa’s president, P.W. Botha.
Change was in the air.
When Botha’s successor, de Klerk, took over, he pledged to negotiate an end to apartheid.
South Africa: Following Nelson Mandela
Free at last
On February 11, 1990, Mandela walked out of prison to thunderous applause, his clenched right fist raised above his head.
Still as upright and proud, he would say, as the day he walked into prison nearly three decades earlier.
“As I walked out the
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.
He reassured ANC
supporters that his release was not part of a government deal and
informed whites that he intended to work toward reconciliation.
Four years after his release, in South Africa’s first multiracial elections, he became the nation’s first black president.
“The day he was inducted
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: Patriarch, legend, family man
Broken marriage, then love
His union to Winnie
Mandela, however, did not have such a happy ending. They officially
divorced in 1996 after several years of separation.
For the two, it was a
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
township activist.
Mandela found love again two years after the divorce.
On his 80th birthday, he married Graca Machel, the widow of former Mozambique president, Samora Machel.
Only three of Mandela’s children are still alive. He had 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren
Symbolic rugby
South Africa’s fight for reconciliation was epitomized at the 1995 rugby World Cup Final in Johannesburg, when it played heavily favored New Zealand.
As the dominant sport of
white Afrikaners, rugby was reviled by blacks in South Africa. They
often cheered for rivals playing their national team.
Mandela’s deft use of
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.
Before the real-life
game, Mandela walked onto the pitch, wearing a green-and-gold South
African jersey bearing Pienaar’s number on the back.
“I will never forget
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
“That crowd, which was
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.”
During his presidency,
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.
Share your memories
A promise honored
In 1999, Mandela did
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.
After leaving the
presidency, he retired from active politics, but remained in the public
eye, championing causes such as human rights, world peace and the fight
against AIDS.
It was a decision born
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.
Mandela’s 90th birthday
party in London’s Hyde Park was dedicated to HIV awareness and
prevention, and was titled 46664, his prison number on Robben Island.
A resounding voice
Mandela continued to be a voice for developing nations.
He criticized U.S.
President George W. Bush for launching the 2003 war against Iraq, and
accused the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a
And as he was acclaimed
as the force behind ending apartheid, he made it clear he was only one
of many who helped transform South Africa into a democracy.
In 2004, a few weeks before he turned 86, he announced his retirement from public life to spend more time with his loved ones.
“Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he said as he stepped away from his hectic schedule.
‘Like a boy of 15’
But there was a big treat in store for the avid sportsman.
When South Africa was awarded the 2010 football World Cup, Mandela said he felt “like a boy of 15.”
In July that year,
Mandela beamed and waved at fans during the final of the tournament in
Johannesburg’s Soccer City. It was his last public appearance.
“I would like to be
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.”
With him gone, South Africans are left to embody his promise and idealism.
South Africa since apartheid: Boom or bust?

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