Now Reading
Nelson Mandela, icon of freedom, dead at 95

From the archive: This story is more than 5 years old.

Nelson Mandela, icon of freedom, dead at 95

  • Mandela casting his vote in South Africa's 1994 elections. It was the first time Mandela had voted in his life. It was taken at Ohlange School, Inanda, Durban.
    Paul Weinberg/Wikimedia CommonsMandela casting his vote in South Africa's 1994 elections. It was the first time Mandela had voted in his life. It was taken at Ohlange School, Inanda, Durban.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his struggle against racist white rule before emerging to become South Africa's first democratically elected president, has died at the age of 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela's death to the nation in a televised statement live from the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Mandela, who had become increasingly frail over the years and suffered recurring lung infections, passed away Thursday at 8:50 p.m. local time. He is said to have died peacefully and in the company of family at his home in the Houghton area of Johannesburg.

"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Zuma told South Africans. "Our people have lost a father."

Zuma said that Mandela will be given a state funeral, and that flags across South Africa will be lowered starting tomorrow.

"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," Zuma said in his address to South Africans. "His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world."

U.S. President Barack Obama marked Mandela’s passing with an emotional statement.

“He achieved more than could be expected of any man,” Obama said.

“He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.”

Obama called Mandela “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

“We will not see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. It falls to us to carry forward the example he set.”

Mandela's political party, the African National Congress, said that South Africa "has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions, here and abroad."

"The large African Baobab, who loved Africa as much as he loved South Africa, has fallen. Its trunk and seeds will nourish the earth for decades to come," the ANC statement said.

Mandela, known in South Africa by his Xhosa clan name “Madiba,” had a history of lung problems dating back to his years working in a lime quarry as a political prisoner on Robben Island. He contracted tuberculosis during his 27 years behind bars.

After the collapse of the apartheid system, Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, and served one term before retiring.

In recent years he spent much of his time in Qunu, his beloved boyhood village in the remote Eastern Cape, but hadn’t been back since being airlifted to Pretoria for medical treatment a year ago.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner had not appeared in public since South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup in 2010, when he toured the stadium in Soweto ahead of the final match, waving weakly to the crowd with wife Graca Machel by his side.

Zuma, in his address, spoke of Mandela's vision for South Africa, "in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another."

South Africa must not rest until Mandela's vision of a "truly united," "peaceful and prosperous" Africa has been achieved.

"This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow," Zuma said. "Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination."


Mandela quotes

Nelson Mandela's fight for freedom inspired the world. Here's a list of some of his most memorable quotes, which remind us all to work toward peace and equality.

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

From his essay, "Working Towards Peace."

"Hope is a powerful weapon, and (one) no one power on earth can deprive you of."

From Notes to the Future, 2012

"Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."

From his Letter to Winne Mandela, written on Robben Island, 1975

"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."

From an interview for the documentary, "Mandela," 1994

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Addressing students at Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, 2009

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Speech at the University of the Witwatersrand South Africa, 2003

"A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed."

From his interview with "O," the Oprah Magazine, 2001.

"Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve."

From the presidential address, "No Easy Walk to Freedom" speech, 1993

"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."

From his Letter to Makhaya Ntini on his 100th cricket test, 2009

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

-Long Walk to Freedom, 1995

"What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."

-90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu, 2002

— compiled by Bandu Kallon/GlobalPost

— 30 —

Top headlines

Best in Internet Exploder