Nelson Mandela dies aged 95

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 AidsS 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."

From prisoner to global peace icon

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.

At our best, 'we'd like to be him': Clinton

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.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 07/12/2013 at 07:10 AM
Thank you, Nelson...... we'll take it from here...........
Discussion 2 : 06/12/2013 at 08:38 PM
1. And what do Thai political party leaders have to say about this great man? 2. Could they follow his example?
Discussion 3 : 06/12/2013 at 08:35 PM
Having worked in Africa for 10 years I have the utmost respect for Mandela. I will add though that under democracy, which was ANC, 10% of white farmers were murdered by the "majority" According to some this is ok though because the ANC won the election. I will highlight that winning elections do not allow a free riegn to do what you will until the next election.
Discussion 4 : 06/12/2013 at 06:57 PM
I remember him as a man who hadvmade a difference to S. Africa and not making his country as sub-par as Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). I expect him to take vengeance just like those previously oppressed blacks in Rhodesia against those whites who had jailed him for more than two decades and branded him as a terrorist. Yet, he came out a bigger man than I thought and fortunately for those whites they were allowed to co-exist with the black victors and prosper together. Wow, that is a unique achievement!
Discussion 5 : 06/12/2013 at 06:29 PM
Mandela was best known for his unconditional forgiveness for those who had wronged him. In fact, two of his trusty bodyguards were his former prison guards, while he was serving time in prison. After his release, he purposely put himself under the Rules of Law he helped shaping. Two years for TS is nothing comparing to Mandela's 27 years in prison. He was such a blessing for S Africa, and what TS could have been for Thailand.
Discussion 6 : 06/12/2013 at 05:07 PM
Today we mourn his death, tomorrow let us celebrate his life!
Discussion 7 : 06/12/2013 at 02:01 PM
thanks Nelson to have existed
Discussion 8 : 06/12/2013 at 11:55 AM
great man and inspiration!
Discussion 9 : 06/12/2013 at 10:21 AM
One of the greatest. RIP Mandela
Discussion 10 : 06/12/2013 at 10:18 AM
NM was imprisoned for the murder of women, children, ordering and committing bombings of churches, etc. He was a terrorist in his younger years. (look it up)
Discussion 11 : 06/12/2013 at 09:24 AM
Nelson Mandela will forever be known as the tenacious ‘Freedom Fighter’ who sacrificed 27 years of his own freedom for his people. “When you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give others the permission to do the same”. – Nelson Mandela
Discussion 12 : 06/12/2013 at 08:59 AM
A very exciting dynamic human being .Everyone could learn from this gentleman .RIP
Discussion 13 : 06/12/2013 at 08:59 AM
@justfacts, I know that Mandela did not only good things in his life but I think we can agree that at the end he did a lot more good than bad. And when I wrote: “What can I learn from this man” this includes good and bad things. We can also learn from the mistakes of others, especially if we see that these people also learned from their own mistakes.
Discussion 14 : 06/12/2013 at 08:50 AM
Amnesty brought peace to all South Africans. Maybe Thais should reconsider !
Discussion 15 : 06/12/2013 at 08:49 AM
Thais take NOTICE: 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."
Discussion 16 : 06/12/2013 at 08:10 AM
how sad, a truly great man and an example to all the people and politicians in the world. thirty years in prison and most of it in solitary confinement...... this didnt deter him or dim his goal of having a free south africa! he will be missed! rest in peace mr mandela!
Discussion 17 : 06/12/2013 at 08:05 AM
Born and grown up during this time in S.A.He was realy a great man,if only half of the blacks had his insight,the country would have been the best in the world.But insted, is now so dangerous and corrupt.No one dare going there.One man had a vision,to have peace and respect towards all.The rest ,only self empowerment ..me.myself and i.What was once a great country is now a feared destinasions.
Discussion 18 : 06/12/2013 at 08:00 AM
you should do some serious studying about him before you post a statement like this
Discussion 19 : 06/12/2013 at 07:50 AM
A truly admirable man, I grew up in the shadow of apartheid, once saw the hysteria when he appeared at a football match. He set a brilliant example of how to unite a country that was destined to tear itself apart, I wonder how many people in Thailand will reflect on this 'other' great man and his example in resolving a political powder keg. We need a politician here capable of this, a man of principles, moral conviction and universal respect. We have one, unfortunately he's above politics.
Discussion 20 : 06/12/2013 at 07:44 AM
A sad day indeed, the passing of a great statesman bar none.
Discussion 21 : 06/12/2013 at 07:34 AM
The greatest man who ever lived. Understand his struggle and never seek the right to deny the right to vote. A true hero. Rest in peace sir.
Discussion 22 : 06/12/2013 at 07:19 AM
Nelson Mandela - RIP The world needs more people like him. Every politician should study Mandela’s life and ask himself: What can I learn from this man.
Discussion 23 : 06/12/2013 at 07:05 AM
Maybe noteworthy now He is internationally known after more than a 100 television interviews: Maitreya the world teacher (Maitreya Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Imam Mahdi and Messiah all point to the same individual who became esoteric 100.000 years ago after the last global civilization had already collapsed) by his intervention in 1988 predicted the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the process of détente in South Africa, in letters to Share International who published them. (December 5 is the birthday of Benjamin Creme in London, editor of Share International, medium for Maitreya’s forecast.)

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