Anti-apartheid Icon Mandela Dies at 95
By Fakir Hassen | PTI | Published: 06th December 2013 06:09 AM |
Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of resistance against injustice who brought an end to the much-despised apartheid regime in South Africa and served as the country's first black president, died today at his home here following a lengthy illness. He was 95.
"Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation, has departed," South African President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address to the nation.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father," he said.
"What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves."
The elder statesman was receiving medical care at his home in the suburb of Houghton here from a team of doctors since September after spending three months in a Pretoria hospital for a recurrent lung ailment.
Zuma announced a state funeral for the elder statesman. Details of the funeral have not been announced yet, but all flags will fly at half-mast until the funeral.
He said Mandela's tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world: "His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love."
Hundreds of South Africans all over the country huddled in groups from the early hours of this morning to mourn the death of Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as its first black president.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island, after being convicted in the Rivonia trial with several others 50 years ago.
He stepped down after serving one term as President following the first democratic elections in 1994.
And as president, from 1994 to 1999, Mandela worked for uniting the polarised nation dominated by tribal politics. He devoted his energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites with fears of vengeance.
Mandela had been in and out of hospital for the past two years with a range of medical problems. His public appearances became rare but despite that he held a special place in the consciousness of the nation and the world.
The South African government has set up a special tribute website at "http://www.mandela.gov.za
"Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood," Zuma said.
"Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause.
"Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another. Let us commit ourselves to strive together – sparing neither strength nor courage – to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa," Zuma added.
In his tribute to Mandela, Nobel laureate and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said the former president had transcended race and class in his personal actions.
He said people cared about Mandela and loved him because of his courage, convictions and his caring ways for others.
"Mandela embodied and reflected our collective greatness. He embodied our hopes and our dreams. He symbolised our enormous potential, potential that has not always been fulfilled," Tutu said in a statement.
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