Rest in peace, Madiba. South Africa's first Black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, according to South African President Jacob Zuma. Mandela was 95-years-old.
Nelson Mandela was the first Black President of South Africa and served from 1994 to 1999. Mandela was recently hospitalized for almost three months with a recurring lung infection. The infection was believed to date back to the nearly three decades he spent in prison for fighting apartheid and the white minority dominated government.
President Zuma made the announcement tonight on South Africa television, reports the BBC.
Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had "departed" and was at peace. "Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr Zuma said.
Earlier, the BBC's Mike Wooldridge, outside Mr Mandela's home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, said there appeared to have been an unusually large family gathering. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world's most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years. He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004.
Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1943 to oppose SA's white-minority regime. He was charged with high treason in 1956 but charges were dropped after a four-year trial. Mandela later fled to Ethiopia. He was arrested after his return around 1962 and later charged with sabotage. Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.
Mandela's 27-year-imprisonment become a worldwide symbol of the oppressive, far right wing white minority regime. Mandela soon became the "father" of the modern SA after his release in 1990, notes CNN. "Mandela represented a new breed of African liberation leaders, breaking from others of his era such as Robert Mugabe by serving one term."
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993 for transitioning the nation from a system of racial segregation. ... Despite chronic political violence in the years preceding the vote that put him in office in 1994, South Africa avoided a full-fledged civil war in its transition from apartheid to multiparty democracy. The peace was due in large part to the leadership and vision of Mandela and de Klerk.
"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."
In related news: Idris Elba stars as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris as his former wife Winnie Mandela in Justin Chadwick’s critically-acclaimed Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom. The film opened on November 29.
Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from Friday through that funeral.
On a personal note: On my first visit to Ethiopia in late 2011, I stayed on the fifth floor of the Ras Hotel in Addis Ababa. This was the same hotel and the very same floor where Mandela lived in 1962. It was an incredible feeling to walk on the same carpets and in the shadow of this iconic man. I was also lucky enough to be in Zambia and South Africa on a fellowship in July and August. Almost everywhere you traveled across Sub-Saharan Africa, the news media and everyone you encountered were discussing the life and legacy of "Madiba." Mandela was the father and soul of modern Africa. May he rest in peace and rest in power.