Nelson Mandela dies

Nelson Mandela dies
Published: 06 December 2013
NELSON Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president and an icon of peace and reconciliation the world over, has died at the age of 95.

The announcement was made by President Jacob Zuma shortly before midnight on Thursday.

"He passed on peacefully in the company of his family," he said via a live broadcast from the Union Buildings. "Our people have lost a father. We knew that this day would come. Nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world."

Mandela, who had been largely out of public view since the 2010 Soccer World Cup, died just before 9pm at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where his family had started gathering earlier in the day.

"This the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son, yet what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human," Mr Zuma said. "Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell."

The African National Congress (ANC) said in a statement: "Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions; here and abroad."

Former president FW de Klerk, who received the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, told CNN: "He was a great unifier and a very, very special man." He added that Mandela's greatest legacy was his emphasis on reconciliation.

US President Barack Obama, who is expected to attend Mandela's state funeral,  said the world had lost "one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth".

Mr Obama on Thursday ordered flags to fly at half-staff at the White House and public buildings. The proclamation, which also extended to US foreign missions, military posts, naval stations and military vessels, is valid until sunset on Monday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said "a great light had gone out", adding that flags would be flown at half-mast at his Downing Street office.

Mandela had been admitted to hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection. He was discharged on September 1 and had since then been treated at home.

He had since 2011 fought off several bouts of lung infection, an ailment dating back to his 27 years in apartheid jails when he worked in quarries at times. He was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 and was treated for prostate cancer, gallstones and stomach ailments.

Gathering in Houghton, Soweto

A large crowd gathered outside Mandela's Houghton home early on Friday morning, holding candles and flags while singing struggle songs and hymns after the announcement of his death. The group of spectators and reporters braved an unusually chilly Johannesburg summer's night, standing on the sidewalk, most still shocked at the news.

A helicopter flew overhead as dignitaries arrived to pay their last respects. They included ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Jessie Duarte.

"I just saw this in the news and came to see what's happening at his home," said Mathews Ramakatsa, from the Vaal. "Even now it feels like I can just burst and cry, he has done so much for South Africa, he was an amazing father to our country ... I hope we bury our father with the peace he deserves."

Daniel Siyaya also came to pay his last respects. "I was shocked, I even cried, for Christ's sake, I'm so shocked. He brought us all together, whites and blacks are here, crying together."

Jabu Mncwabe, 51, who came from Randburg, said Mandela had had a profound impact on her life. "I couldn't sleep, I just wanted to come and say goodbye to Tata. I was very shocked."

Police cordoned off the street with tape, keeping spectators away from the entrance to the Mandela home.

People also gathered in Vilakazi Street, Soweto, where they sang freedom songs near the house where Mandela once lived. The street was closed to traffic.

A life in politics

Born on July 18 1918 in the Eastern Cape village of Mvezo, Mandela became a prominent anti-apartheid activist who emerged as a youth leader in the African National Congress and was co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the party's armed wing, which launched a campaign of sabotage and bombings against the National Party government.

Though acquitted along with about 150 others in a treason trial that ran from 1956 to 1961, Mandela was again arrested in August 1962 and initially sentenced to five years in prison. He then faced additional charges of sabotage - alongside other prominent ANC leaders - at the Rivonia trial, which ended with life sentences for all except one.

Mandela eventually spent 27 years in jail, with the prison number 46664 - which in 2003 became the designation of his global HIV/AIDS fundraising campaign.

For most of that time, Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island - today a museum. But times changed and on February 2 1990, then state president FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations. Nine days later, the world watched and celebrated as Mandela walked from prison a free man.

He led the ANC through a politically fraught four years leading up to South Africa's first democratic elections on April 27 1994, which the party won. Mandela, then aged 75, became the country's first democratically elected leader, a position he held until June 1999. He was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

In an interview with The Associated Press in May this year, Mandela's eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, said he did not talk much any more but reached out in another way.

"It's the hand that he stretches out. It is the touching of the hand that speaks volumes for me. And for me, if you ask me what I would treasure, it is this moment that I treasure with my father," she said. "It means, ‘My child, I'm here.' It means to me that, ‘I'm here. I love you. I care.'"

Ms Mandela, the oldest of Mr Mandela's three surviving children, added: "My dad has not been in good, perfect health over the past month. And he has good days and he has bad days."

One of those bad days was April 29, when state television broadcast footage of a visit by President Jacob Zuma and other leaders of the African National Congress to Mr Mandela, at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela was in good shape, but the footage - the first public images of the former president in nearly a year - showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Mr Zuma tried to hold his hand.

Mandela, who fathered six children, is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, from his third marriage at the age of 80 in 1998, along with 20 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.

Mr Mandela will receive a state funeral. All flags will be lowered to half-mast from Friday and remain so until after the funeral - an event that will be the centre of a global media frenzy, attended by leaders and dignitaries from all over the world.

"As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and the respect that Madiba personified," Mr Zuma said on Thursday. "Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family. As we gather wherever we are in the country ... let us recall the values for which Madiba fought. Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed."

- Riaan Wolmarans and Natasha Marrian with Wyndham Hartley, Reuters, Sapa-AP and Sapa
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