The first South African black President and icon of anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela, is dead.
He died at 95 in his Houghton home in Johannesburg after a 25-year-long but courageous battle with lung infection, throwing his country into a state of mourning.
Hordes of South Africans from all races flocked to his home as soon as the news of the great man’s death broke, keeping an all night vigil.
Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Barack Obama of the United States as well as the British Prime Minister, David Cameron were some of the world leaders that rose early to pay tribute to the late legendary leader.
A sad looking Zuma who announced Mandela’s death said It was an “enduring loss”, and paid glowing tributes to the great freedom fighter. He announced the lowering of the South African flag until all burial ceremonies are completed. He also said that Mandela would be given state burial.
President Obama said Mandela was one of the most Influential, courageous and profoundly good” people to have ever lived. An obviously emotional Obama said that The great icon “achieved more than could be expected of any man.”
Cameron said Mandela’s life inspired millions around the world and that people in all countries mourns with south Africans the death of the great man. “One of the brightest lights of the world had gone out,” he said.
Mandela had contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, he underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease.
In January 2012, he was hospitalised for what officials initially described as ‘tests’ but which turned out to be an acute respiratory infection and in February underwent minor surgical procedure to determine the cause of abdominal pain.
He was hospitalized in Pretoria on June 8, 2012 for a recurring lung infection, with authorities previously describing his condition as serious but stable, but on June 22, his condition changed for the worse, causing his immediate family and the world to become agitated over his fate.
However, as his condition improved, he was discharged from the hospital three months later to receive home based care at his home, where several doctors attended to him.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Transkei, South Africa. His father named him Rolihlahla which is Mandela’s unsung name meaning “pulling the branch of the tree”, or more colloquially, “troublemaker.” This name is probably the spirit or motivation behind his doggedness and determination to fight injustice in the society.
At the suggestion of one of his father’s friends, he was baptized into the Methodist church and became the first in his family to attend school. As was the custom at the time, and probably due to the bias of the British educational system in South Africa, his teacher told him that his new first name would be “Nelson.”
Mandela’s father too had died of lung disease when Nelson was only nine years old. From that point, his life changed dramatically. He was adopted by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people.
This gesture was done as a favour to Mandela’s father who, years earlier, had recommended Jongintaba be made chief. Mandela was given the same status and responsibilities as the regent’s two other children, son Justice, the oldest and Nomafu, the regent’s daughter.
After taking classes to study English, Xhosa, History, and Geography, Mandela became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress, ANC in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
In May 10, 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president after he had spent 27 of his 75 years in jail fighting for “ordinary respect”. He led the struggle against white-minority rule before being elected the first black president in democratic elections in 1994.
Despite being imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid government, after his release he forgave his former enemies and urged South Africans of all races to work together and seek reconciliation.
He served one five-year term as president before retiring from public life.
The former president is regarded by most South Africans as the father of the nation, having inspired them to fight for democracy. The struggle made him a prized son of Africa and a rare icon to mankind.
A tribute and concert was held in Hyde Park, London on 27 June 2008 to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s ninetieth birthday. The concert formed part of the 46664 concert series to promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and came twenty years after the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley, held while he was still prison.
His 94th birthday, marked the 3rd anniversary of Nelson Mandela International Day, set aside by the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate the life of a man who gave his life to the struggle for freedom, resolution of conflicts, better race relations, service to humanity, promotion of human rights and exemplary leadership.
In November 2012, the first banknotes featuring the face of Nelson Mandela went into circulation in South Africa. President Jacob Zuma said the banknotes were a “humble gesture” to express South Africa’s “deep gratitude”.