Nelson Mandela, who is known across the globe as a freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and the South African symbol of struggle against racism, passed away late December 5, 2013. It is the same Mandela who spent 27 years in jail to eventually lead his country out of decades of apartheid. He was 95 years old.
He is seen across the world as a great source of inspiration. His messages of reconciliation, not vengeance were definitely sent across when he successfully negotiated a peaceful end to segregation and asked for forgiveness for the white-dominated government that was responsible for his incarceration.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” were Mandela’s words after he walked out of prison in 1990.
Mandela, who was the South African president from 1994 to 1999, had been battling some health issues in recent years. He was hospitalized numerous times as a result of a recurring lung infection.
His appearances in public were few and far between, but a special place in people’s hearts was always held by him.
Announcement of death
His death was made public by current South African president Jacob Zuma. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves,” were the words used by Jacob Zuma while announcing to the world of Mandela’s passing.
US president Barack Obama had similar sentiments while expressing his sorrow for this sad incident.
“We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth,” Obama said. “He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.”
Mandela was slowly etched into the hearts of the South African people as the country healed from the wounds inflicted by the apartheid era. He openly defied the rule of the white minority in South Africa and his time spent in jail while fighting against discrimination focused the attention of the world on apartheid.
Apartheid is the commonly used term for the legal racial discrimination against the majority black, enforced by the South African government until 1994.
He retired from the South African presidency in 1999 but long after that, he was used as a standard for measuring the caliber of different African leaders. Predictably, all the leaders fell short as far as leadership skills were concerned, when compared against Mandela.
Last public appearance
Mandela’s last public appearance was during the 2010 FIFA World Cup which was hosted in South Africa. That was the first instance the finals of the prestigious tournament were held in an African nation. His lack of presence in the limelight and frequency of hospital visits left people on the edge of their seats, triggering Zuma to calm his citizens down every time he fell sick.
Mandela had 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Only three of his children are alive today.