Nelson Mandela dies at 95 | Nelson Mandela Funeral Details | Nelson Mandela Funeral | Nelson Mandela Died | Nelson Mandela Dead
Freedom fighter, prisoner, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression. Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country's first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night. He was 95.
The Nobel Peace laureate, who spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner before going on to lead his country, passed away at his Johannesburg home surrounded by his family. South African President Jacob Zuma said "the nation has lost its greatest son", adding: "He is now resting. He is now at peace." He was not the innocent social democrat many of us would have liked him to be. He tolerated the Communist connections of colleagues in the African National Congress (ANC) and at certain times saw serious virtue in Communism. Nor was he a Gandhi. He conspired in acts of violent sabotage when he saw no other way. But at the crucial moment, he knew what to do. In 1962, after many years of organizing his fellow blacks to oppose apartheid, he was charged with inciting workers to strike.
At that moment, age 44, he saw his responsibility and the shape of his future. He realized his strength was symbolic, as the personal embodiment of the moral opposition to racism. He declined to call witnesses in his defence and turned his plea of mitigation into an eloquent political speech. Mandela became the nation's conscience as it healed from the scars of apartheid. His defiance of white minority rule and long incarceration for fighting against segregation focused the world's attention on apartheid, the legalized racial segregation enforced by the South African government until 1994. In his lifetime, he was a man of complexities. He went from a militant freedom fighter, to a prisoner, to a unifying figure, to an elder statesman.
He will be buried in a private ceremony in Qunu, next to the remains of his family, including three deceased children. The children's graves were the subject of a bitter court feud between Mandela's grandson Mandla and other relatives, including his current wife Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Preparations began Friday for the state funeral of South Africa's liberation hero Nelson Mandela, as the world mourned the peace icon's passing. Heads of state from around the world, including US President Barack Obama, and well-known personalities who were close to the statesman like Oprah Winfrey and Bill and Hillary Clinton are expected to attend.
Unofficial government sources have said he could be laid to rest on December 14, though some are calling for his burial to take place on the 16th, a public holiday named Reconciliation Day. Mandela last appeared in public during the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. His absences from the limelight and frequent hospitalizations left the nation on edge, prompting Zuma to reassure citizens every time he fell sick.
"Mandela is woven into the fabric of the country and the world," said Ayo Johnson, director of Viewpoint Africa, which sells content about the continent to media outlets.