SOUTH AFRICA―Former South African President Nelson Mandela died on Thursday, December 5. He was 95 years-old.
The anti-apartheid figure succumbed to his failing health in his home in Johannesburg. The current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, confirmed the death of the elder statesman in an address to the nation.
“He is now resting,” said President Zuma. “He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.” While calling for the flags of the country to be lowered to half-mast on Friday, December 6, he also reminded the people of South Africa to “reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed, or dispossessed by another.”
President Barack Obama also released a statement in remembrance of Mandela’s passing saying, “I cannot fully imagine my own life with the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”
The first black president of South African was born on July 18, 1918, when he was given the Xhosa name “Rolihlala,” which is roughly translated to “troublemaker.” He attended a Methodist school as a child, where he was given the Christian name “Nelson” by a teacher at that school. Mandela was the first in his family to receive a formal education.
He attended the University of Fort Hare in 1939, from which he was expelled for boycotting against the school in a fight to better the quality of the food served. He then made his way in life to join the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, a political party established in 1912, that still remains the dominant political party in South Africa, in response to the 1948 electoral win of the Afrikaner National Party which itself created the methods for the apartheid regime. From there he helped establish the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), whose policies for boycotting and strikes where adopted by the ANCV proper.
Realizing the futility of fighting with a peaceful force against the violence of apartheid, Mandela co-founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe, or the “Spear of the Nation,” which became the unofficial armed branch of the ANC. His involvement in the armed branch known as the “MK” led to the Rivonia Trial of 1963, where he and other ANC members where sentenced to life in prison, in lieu of the death penalty, for the charges of sabotage.
Mandela and others were sent to the prison onRobbenIsland, where he would spend 18 of 27 years in prison. Being a prisoner of the lowest level, he was only allowed bi-early visits, and the hard labor of the prison permanently damaged his eyesight and lungs. Despite the hardships, Mandela still completed a degree in law through a correspondence program through the University of London. He also fought to improve the living conditions of all prisoners with him while also exposing the harsh treatment of the warden and guards. Mandela eventually contracted tuberculosis in 1988.
After President P.W. Botha suffered a stroke in 1989, new president F.W. De Klerk lifted the ban placed on political parties like the ANC. He then authorized the release of Nelson Mandela, who walked out of prison on February 11, 1990. Throughout his stay in captivity, Mandela was the source of inspiration for millions who championed his release for decades.
The 1990s were marked by Mandela’s fight to unify his home country through events like the Convention for Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in 1991. His attempts at peace earned him and de Klerk the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year saw the first multiracial election on April 22, which had Mandela voted as president. He was sworn in on May 10, 1994. Mandela also managed to publish his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in December 1994.
As president, he helped to establish Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund in 1995, which continues its operations to this day. Furthering his desire to see a peacefulSouth Africa, he encouraged the people of his country to cheer for the Springboks, the country’s rugby team which was despised by blacks, but beloved by whites. When the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, he presented the Cup to team captain Francois Pienaar while wearing a green sweater, the Springboks’ team color. In 1996, he aided in the construction of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was intended to both investigate allegations of major human rights crimes committed during the apartheid regime and to provide a sense of closure for the people ofSouth Africa.
Mandela chose to retire from politics when he decided to not run for re-election in 1999, though he did not stop his insatiable desire to promote peace and awareness wherever he went, which included combating the HIV/AIDS spread inAfricaand opposing the intervention of NATO in Kosovo in 1999.
By February 2011, he was hospitalized for a recurring lung condition which affected him once more in March 2013. In November 2009, the United Nations created Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition of the many triumphs that the elder statesman had accomplished.
The man known in South Africa as “Madiba” passed away surrounded by family and close friends, according to President Zuma.
By Alex Nochez