Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student. He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid, initially in a peaceful manner.
But in the 1960s, as the ANC began to advocate violence, Mr. Mandela was arrested and sentenced in 1964 on sabotage charges to life imprisonment, serving the next 27 years for the most part on the infamous Robben Island. While incarcerated, Mr. Mandela and other ANC leaders with him were able to still smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid movement.
In 1990, as South Africa began to move away from apartheid, or strict racial segregation, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and, in the first multi-racial elections held in 1994 became South Africa’s first black president.
His administration replaced the racist white-minority regime that had enforced apartheid. Mr. Mandela immediately won admiration of the world community for advocating reconciliation with the white-minority that had tormented and jailed him for nearly three decades.
In 1993, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president. After serving a single-term, Mr Mandela stepped down as president in 1999 and went on to become one of the most respected statesmen in the world.
After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup. He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Mr. Mandela had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004. He made his last public appearance in 2010, at the football World Cup in South Africa.
Suffering from a lung illness for a long time, Mr. Mandela was hospitalized several times and since September of this year, when he was last discharged from hospital, he continued to receive treatment at home.
On Thursday, 5 December, Mr. Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg, aged 95. South African President Jacob Zuma announced the death of Nelson Mandela in a late night national TV address. He said Mr. Mandela had died shortly before 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT).
A service of national mourning is expected to be held at the 95,000-seater stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Monday. His body will then lie in state for three days in the capital, Pretoria, before being taken for a state funeral in the village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he grew up.
World pays homage to a hero
As news of Nelson Mandela’s death spread, world leaders, politicians, athletes, entertainers and ordinary people around the world spoke about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.
Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings in many of the world’s capitals and across South Africa. Books of condolence have been opened at public buildings in South Africa and at the country’s embassies throughout the world.
South African President Jacob Zuma: “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “A giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.”
Queen Elizabeth II of UK: “He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today.”
US President Barack Obama: “He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping: “Mandela was a world-renowned statesman… Chinese people will always remember Mandela’s extraordinary contributions to the cause of human progress.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Nelson Mandela’s shining example and his political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue to inspire people around the world for many years to come.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Mandela was a man who never betrayed his convictions. Having gone through the most difficult ordeals, he was committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism and justice.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time: a legend in life and now in death — a true global hero.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s.”
French President Francois Hollande: “Nelson Mandela’s message will not disappear. It will continue to inspire fighters for freedom, and to give confidence to peoples in the defense of just causes and universal rights.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani: “With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Nelson Mandela. Surely, his legacy will remain a source of inspiration.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres: “Mandela’s legacy will remain etched on the pages of history and in the hearts of all those people whose lives he touched.”
Former US President Bill Clinton: “History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation.”
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk: “Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy was that we are basically at peace with each other notwithstanding our great diversity, that we will be taking hands once again now around his death and around our common sadness and mourning.”
Long time ally Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: “God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history.” He added that the anti-apartheid leader would want South Africans themselves to be his “memorial” by adhering to the values of unity and democracy that he embodied.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi: “He made us all understand that nobody should be penalized for the color of their skin or for the circumstances in which he is born… He also made us understand we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions.”
Actor Morgan Freeman, who played Mandela in Invictus: “Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve — a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind.”
Singer Aretha Franklin: “A great man has passed on and moved on up a little higher. Most extraordinarily was how he rose above his being imprisoned and exalted himself above apartheid and hatred to unite the country — an unbelievable example of humanitarianism and courage.”
Actress, producer and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey: “He was everything you’ve ever heard and more — humble and unscathed by bitterness. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time,”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter: “It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person. He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people. He was probably one of the greatest humanists of our time.”
Olympic champion Usain Bolt: “One of the greatest human beings ever... May your soul rest in peace... The world’s greatest fighter...”
But perhaps Mr. Mandela’s greatest legacy is the youth of South Africa; South African resident Miles Mabaane (18) said it best. “Because of Madiba there are now no boundaries. We young people have the potential to come up with new strategies of how to save the country, how to do things better, how to accommodate everybody in this country.”