Strengthening the Web of Relationships for Peace
The announcement was made by President Jacob Zuma shortly before midnight on Thursday.
“He passed on peacefully in the company of his family,” he said via a live broadcast from the Union Buildings. “Our people have lost a father. We knew that this day would come. Nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.”
Mandela, who had been largely out of public view since the 2010 Soccer World Cup, died just before 9pm at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where his family had started gathering earlier in the day.
“This the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son, yet what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human,” Mr Zuma said. “Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”
The African National Congress (ANC) said in a statement: “Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions; here and abroad.”
Former president FW de Klerk, who received the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, told CNN: “He was a great unifier and a very, very special man.” He added that Mandela’s greatest legacy was his emphasis on reconciliation.
US President Barack Obama, who is expected to attend Mandela’s state funeral, said the world had lost “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth”.
The much-loved Mandela, known affectionately as Tata Madiba, became increasingly frail and retired from public life in 2004 at the age of 85.
Mandela became the symbol of the struggle against apartheid after he was convicted in the Rivonia Trial of charges of sabotage and was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
At the end of his trial, Mandela gave a now iconic speech in which he said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela, a key figure in the African National Congress, who helped found the party’s youth league and armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, was imprisoned for 27 years before he was finally released in 1990 at the age of 71.
Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, together with former president FW De Klerk, for the “peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”. A year later, he was elected president in the country’s first democratic election.
He stepped down from the presidency in 1999 after one term in office but continued with a busy public schedule. He brokered negotiations for peace in Rwanda, established the Mandela-Rhodes Foundation for educational scholarship, and launched the 46664 Aids fundraising foundation.