"I don’t think there is much history can say about me," Mandela said during one of several memorable speeches in a singular, world-changing life that came to an end today. "I just want to be remembered as part of the collective." But there is, and he will be. Stay tuned here for the latest updates and remembrances.
Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa whose revolutionary politics and revolution in humanitarianism gave rise to his legend as the embodiment of peace on Earth and to the fall of apartheid, passed away today at the age of 95, according to an announcement made by South African president Jacob Zuma on Thursday evening. ”This is our moment of greatest sorrow,” Zuma said of Mandela’s passing. According to Zuma, Mandela passed away peacefully at his home at 8:50 p.m., South African time. Mandela will receive a state funeral.
Mandela spent three months in the hospital earlier this year with a lung infection, a recurring condition after contracting tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment in South Africa. The former president was released from the hospital in September, and placed under intensive home care. Earlier on Thursday, family members, media, and government officials gathered at the Mandela home over concern about his condition.
"I don’t think there is much history can say about me," Mandela said during a famous speech in April 1964, when his trial and subsequent imprisonment in Johannesburg for starting a workers strike drew an international outcry. "I just want to be remembered as part of the collective." But there is, and he will be.
Indeed, Mandela most certainly was one of the most influential and inspirational leaders not just in African history but that of the world. From 1994 to 1999, he was the first black South African to serve as president, as he unwound his country’s painful history of apartheid into a proud new history of eace. During his 1994 election, Mandela’s African Nation Congress party won 252 of the 400 seats in the first-ever democratic elections in South Africa — the truest sign that apartheid was over and healing could begin.
Mandela, of course, became president only after spending more than two-dozen years behind bars. He was charged with inciting workers strikes and leaving the country without permission and was jailed in 1962. “Free Nelson Mandela” became a worldwide rallying cry for peace, and his face a symbol for strength. “I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness,” he wrote in Notes to the Future. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Mandela, already a global icon for his time in prison, became a global hero for everything he did thereafter. “He is at the epicenter of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are,” the South African Nobel laureate Nadime Gordimer wrote after Mandela’s release in 1990. But the same could have been said of the man before and certainly after. His peace efforts were beyond historic, between AIDS activism and advising other world leaders. He will surely be eulogized by many of them, and we’ll be keeping those remembrances updated in real time right here.
Rolihlahla Mandela was born in South Africa in 1918. He is survived by his wife Graca, his ex-wife Winnie, his five children, and a world at relative peace.