Nelson Mandela has died.
South Africa’s first democratic president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate passed away last night at 20:50 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.
Madiba, or Tata as he is affectionately known by many South Africans, had been treated for a recurring lung infection since June.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo, a small village in the former Transkei.
He attended the Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape and then ran away to Johannesburg in 1941 to escape an arranged marriage. While in Johannesburg Mandela obtained his BA degree through correspondence university and then enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand for a Law degree. Mandela was the only African student in the Law faculty at the time. In 1944 he, along with notable figures and activists such as Oliver Tambo, William Nkomo and Peter Mda formed the ANC Youth League.
He, along with his life-long friend Oliver Tambo opened the first black law firm in South Africa, called Mandela and Tambo in 1952.
During his time as a political activist fighting against the injustices and cruelties of the apartheid system, Mandela was banned, arrested several times and sentenced to imprisonment for acts such as treason, leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. [pullquote align=”right”] “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”[/pullquote]
Mandela was tried for sabotage in 1963 in the trial that became known as the Rivonia Trial. In his mitigation speech in 1962 Mandela said on the liberation, “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man”.
In 1964 he was sentenced to life, along with Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and others were sent to Robben Island Prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, serving most of the time on Robben Island, before he was released on 11 February 1990.
Road to Democracy
In 1991 he was elected as the new ANC president and voted for the first time in his life on 27 April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president on 10 May 1994. He only served one term as president but continued with his humanitarian activities and his vision of South Africa’s rainbow nation.
“Madiba”, as he is/was known by his clan name, had received almost 700 awards, including honorary awards. Many institutions, street names and foundations have been named after the peace icon.
Honouring an icon
Mandela’s funeral is expected to be attended by state leaders and other global icons. Before the burial his coffin will lie at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for the next ten days where the public can pay their respects and say their final goodbyes to their “Tata”, the father of many nations. Thereafter he will be laid to rest in Qunu, his home town in the Eastern Cape.
Mandela is survived by his wife Graca Machel, his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Mandela himself regarded death as an inevitability and said in 1994 that “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”.
But his thoughts on life at the 90th celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002 were: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.