Nelson Mandela diesAgence France-Presse . Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela, the icon of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and a colossus of 20th century politics, died late Thursday aged 95, prompting mass mourning and a global celebration of his astonishing life.
The Nobel Peace laureate, who was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in jail, died at his Johannesburg home surrounded by his family, after a long battle against lung infection.
The news was announced to the nation and the world by the emotional South African president, Jacob Zuma, in a live late-night broadcast.
‘Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed,’ said Zuma, whose own role in the struggle against white rule saw him imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island.
‘Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.’
Zuma on Friday announced that Nelson Mandela’s funeral will take place on December 15 at his rural childhood home.
‘He will be laid to rest on the 15th of December in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province. We should all work together to organise the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation,’ said Zuma.
As the sun came up on Friday, hundreds of South Africans maintained an impromptu vigil outside the Mandela home in Johannesburg, ululating, waving flags and singing anti-apartheid era songs.
‘I did not come here to mourn. We are celebrating the life of a great man. A great unifier,’ said Bobby Damon, who lives just a few streets away from Mandela’s house.
‘But I must admit though, the news came as a shock’ he added. ‘There will never be another Mandela in our lifetime.’
Zuma announced Mandela will receive a full state funeral and he ordered flags to remain at half-mast until after the burial. National flags were also lowered in countries including the United States and France.
State broadcaster SABC later said Mandela’s body had been moved to a military hospital in Pretoria.
The world on Friday grappled with the loss of South Africa’s beloved Nelson Mandela, a towering figure of the 20th century who inspired millions across the globe with his struggle for equality.
‘We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,’ US leader Barack Obama, his country’s own first black president, said in a televised statement, leading a global roll call of commemoration.
Flags flew at half-mast in numerous countries, including the United States, France and Britain and at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower lit up in green, red, yellow and blue to symbolise the South African flag while India declared five days of mourning for a man the premier labelled ‘a true Gandhian’.
Prince Charles said Mandela ‘was the embodiment of courage and reconciliation. He was also a man of great humour and had a real zest for life.’
Myanmar’s own democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi spoke of her ‘extreme grief’ at the death of her fellow Nobel Peace laureate, who she said had ‘made us understand that we can change the world’.
Nelson Mandela’s struggle for freedom inspired Palestinians to believe that their own liberation was ‘possible,’ jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti said on Friday.
The Dalai Lama said ‘the best tribute we can pay to him is to do whatever we can to contribute to honouring the oneness of humanity and working for peace and reconciliation as he did.’
Pope Francis on Friday paid tribute to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela for ‘forging a new South Africa’ and said he hoped his example would inspire the nation to strive for ‘justice and the common good’.
His death had long been expected, coming after a spate of hospitalisations with lung infections and three months of intensive care at home. But the announcement came as a shock nonetheless.
Mandela’s two youngest daughters were in London watching the premiere of his biopic ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ — along with Britain’s Prince William — when they learned of his death.
On Friday Mandela’s eldest grandson expressed gratitude for the international outpouring of support.
Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu lauded his fellow Nobel laureate as the man who taught a deeply divided nation how to come together.
‘To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames — as some have predicted — is to discredit South Africans and Madiba’s legacy,’ Tutu said in a statement.
Mandela is survived by three daughters, 18 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. He had four step-children through his marriage to Machel.
His death has left his family divided over his wealth. Some of his children and grandchildren are locked in a legal feud with his close friends over alleged irregularities in his two companies.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela speaks after being conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the University of Galway in this June 20, 2003 file photo. Ã¢€” Reuters photo
A man prays during an all-night vigil outside the home of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on Friday.Ã¢€” Reuters photo
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