Mandela dies at age 95

Icon of the 20th century loses fight with illness.
Associated Press
Dec 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who became one of the world's most beloved statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century when he emerged from 27 years in prison to negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa, has died. He was 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at a news conference late Thursday, saying "we've lost our greatest son."

His death closed the final chapter in South Africa's struggle to cast off apartheid, leaving the world with indelible memories of a man of astonishing grace and good humor. Rock concerts celebrated his birthday. Hollywood stars glorified him on screen. And his regal bearing, graying hair and raspy voice made him instantly recognizable across the globe.

As South Africa's first black president, the ex-boxer, lawyer and prisoner No. 46664 paved the way to racial reconciliation with well-chosen gestures of forgiveness. He lunched with the prosecutor who sent him to jail, sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration, and traveled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister at the time he was imprisoned.

His most memorable gesture came when he strode onto the field before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg. When he came on the field in South African colors to congratulate the victorious South African team, he brought the overwhelmingly white crowd of 63,000 to its feet, chanting "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!"

For he had marched headlong into a bastion of white Afrikanerdom — the temple of South African rugby — and made its followers feel they belonged in the new South Africa.

At the same time, Mandela was himself uneasy with the idea of being an icon and he did not escape criticism as an individual and a politician, though much of it was muted by his status as a unassailable symbol of decency and principle. As president, he failed to craft a lasting formula for overcoming South Africa's biggest post-apartheid problems, including one of the world's widest gaps between rich and poor. In his writings, he pondered the heavy cost to his family of his decision to devote himself to the struggle against apartheid.

He had been convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for leading a campaign of sabotage against the government, and sent to the notorious Robben Island prison. It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, yet he and other jailed members of his banned African National Congress were able to smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid crusade.

As time passed — the "long, lonely, wasted years," as he termed them — international awareness of apartheid grew more acute. By the time Mandela turned 70 he was the world's most famous political prisoner. Such were his mental reserves, though, that he turned down conditional offers of freedom from his apartheid jailers and even found a way to benefit from confinement.

"People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones; such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety," Mandela says in one of the many quotations displayed at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. "You learn to look into yourself."

Thousands died, were tortured and were imprisoned in the decades-long struggle against apartheid, so that when Mandela emerged from prison in 1990, smiling and waving to the crowds, the image became an international icon of freedom to rival the fall of the Berlin Wall.

South Africa's white rulers had portrayed Mandela as the spearhead of a communist revolution and insisted that black majority rule would usher in the chaos and bloodshed that had beset many other African countries as they shook off colonial rule.

Yet since apartheid ended, South Africa has held four parliamentary elections and elected three presidents, always peacefully, setting an example on a continent where democracy is still new and fragile. Its democracy has flaws, and the African National Congress has struggled to deliver on promises. It is a front runner ahead of 2014 elections, but corruption scandals and other missteps have undercut some of the promise of earlier years.

"We have confounded the prophets of doom and achieved a bloodless revolution. We have restored the dignity of every South African," Mandela said shortly before stepping down as president in 1999 at age 80.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918, the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, one of the future "Bantustans," independent republics set up by the apartheid regime to cement the separation of whites and blacks.

Mandela's royal upbringing gave him a dignified bearing that became his hallmark. Many South Africans of all races would later call him by his clan name, Madiba, as a token of affection and respect.

Growing up at a time when virtually all of Africa was under European colonial rule, Mandela attended Methodist schools before being admitted to the black University of Fort Hare in 1938. He was expelled two years later for his role in a student strike.

He moved to Johannesburg and worked as a policeman at a gold mine, boxed as an amateur heavyweight and studied law.

His first wife, nurse Evelyn Mase, bore him four children. A daughter died in infancy, a son was killed in a car crash in 1970 and another son died of AIDS in 2005. The couple divorced in 1957 and Evelyn died in 2004.

Mandela began his rise through the anti-apartheid movement in 1944, when he helped form the ANC Youth League.

He organized a campaign in 1952 to encourage defiance of laws that segregated schools, marriage, housing and job opportunities. The government retaliated by barring him from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg, the first of many "banning" orders he was to endure.

After a two-day nationwide strike was crushed by police, he and a small group of ANC colleagues decided on military action and Mandela pushed to form the movement's guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.

He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years' hard labor for leaving the country illegally and inciting blacks to strike.

A year later, police uncovered the ANC's underground headquarters on a farm near Johannesburg and seized documents outlining plans for a guerrilla campaign. At a time when African colonies were one by one becoming independent states, Mandela and seven co-defendants were sentenced to life in prison.

"I do not deny that I planned sabotage," he told the court. "I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by whites."

The ANC's armed wing was later involved in a series of high-profile bombings that killed civilians, and many in the white minority viewed the imprisoned Mandela as a terrorist. Up until 2008, when President George W. Bush rescinded the order, he could not visit the U.S. without a waiver from the secretary of state certifying he was not a terrorist.

From the late 1960s South Africa gradually became an international pariah, expelled from the U.N., banned from the Olympics. In 1973 Mandela refused a government offer of release on condition he agree to confine himself to his native Transkei. In 1982 he and other top ANC inmates were moved off Robben Island to a mainland prison. Three years later Mandela was again offered freedom, and again he refused unless segregation laws were scrapped and the government negotiated with the ANC.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became president. This Afrikaner recognized the end was near for white-ruled South Africa. Mandela, for his part, continued, even in his last weeks in prison, to advocate nationalizing banks, mines and monopoly industries — a stance that frightened the white business community.

But talks were already underway, with Mandela being spirited out of prison to meet a white Cabinet minister.

On Feb. 11, 1990, inmate No. 46664, who had once been refused permission to leave prison for his mother's funeral, went free and walked hand-in-hand with Winnie, his wife. Blacks across the country erupted in joy — as did many whites.

Mandela took charge of the ANC, shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk and was elected president by a landslide in South Africa's first all-race election the following year.

At his inauguration, he stood hand on heart, saluted by white generals as he sang along to two anthems: the apartheid-era Afrikaans "Die Stem," ("The Voice") and the African "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("Lord Bless Africa").

To black South Africans expecting a speedy new deal, Mandela pleaded for patience. The millions denied proper housing, schools and health care under apartheid had expected the revolution to deliver quick fixes, but Mandelarecognized he had to embrace free market policies to keep white-dominated big business on his side and attract foreign investment.

For all his saintly image, Mandela had an autocratic streak. When black journalists mildly criticized his government, he painted them as stooges of the whites who owned the media. Whites with complaints were dismissed as pining for their old privileges.

He denounced Bush as a warmonger and the U.S. having "committed unspeakable atrocities in the world." When asked about his closeness to Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi despite human rights violations in the countries they ruled, Mandela explained that he wouldn't forsake supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle.

With his fellow Nobelist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed human rights offenders of all races to admit their crimes publicly in return for lenient treatment. It proved to be a kind of national therapy that would become a model for other countries emerging from prolonged strife.

He increasingly left the governing to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who took over when Mandela's term ended in June 1999 and he declined to seek another — a rarity among African presidents.

"I must step down while there are one or two people who admire me," Mandela joked at the time. When he retired, he said he was going to stand on a street with a sign that said: "Unemployed, no job. New wife and large family to support."

His marriage to Winnie had fallen apart after his release and he was now married to Graca Machel, the widowed former first lady of neighboring Mozambique.

He is survived by Machel; his daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second.

___

Donna Bryson, former AP bureau chief in Johannesburg, contributed to this report. Marcus Eliason has worked for the AP in South Africa and is now stationed in New York.

 

Comments

deertracker

R.I.P.

PoppaWidge

Truly an amazing life story. I remember watching the live coverage of when he was released from prison; IMHO this was a significant historical event to be witnessing.

I am not an African American but I am in awe of the sacrifices he made in his fight against apartheid.

kURTje

Class person. He & mother Teresa are up there talking.

coasterfan

Mandela accomplished more for other people than anyone in Capitalism Magazine. They are only good at accomplishing things for themselves. Pretty low class of you to post that link on the day the man died...

Truth2u

Oh, get off your emotional train Coaster, this man was no friend of America and certainly not a friend of democracy or Vets. He insulted America so many times it would take an entire printing of the Register to report it.

I suppose your going to be upset when Castro dies as well, he has about the same political position as Nelson, hating our Republic and openly stating so numerous times.

Stop It

+1

Lake Erie Gold

Truth2u, you are a piece of garbage! Your parents did not do a good job raising you, to bad there are people like you in this world.

Truth2u

Seriously? You post hate and murder from your heart and you call others garbage. Amazing, you produce NOTHING in defense against the article so wish to silence those who post FACTS about your imaginary idol. Grow up and learn to deal with truth and stop acting like a child. Your post indicates you have some very very serious mental issues.

Stop It

+1

Simple Enough II

Never liked the man, never trusted him. Where is South Africa today or for the most part the Southern half of the continent?

santown419

+1

Truth2u

The FACTS are the same even if you don't like them.
He WAS a Marxist
He hated America and its democracy and stated so in many ways

Just because you don't like something doesn't mean its not the truth, deal with it.

Stop It

+1

Lake Erie Gold

Just shows how classless you are to post on day of his death. I feel bad for you.

Truth2u

@ Lake Erie Gold

Under Apartheid 172 people died but there was over 100,000 who were tortured to death under Mandela's presidency, many who were Christians who refused to deny Christ!

You have a lot of nerve talking about being classless, you don't care about the 100,000 but instead want to morn a CONVICTED murderer and terrorist!

He pleaded guilty to 156 counts of public violence, including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns in public places. Many innocent people including women and children died because of Mandela. Don't be such a coward Lake Erie, do research and prove me wrong! The liberal press has created a myth and you swallowed it, the JOKES ON YOU!

He never once apologized for what he'd done and for those he murdered.

If you mourn for Mandela then you have to mourn for Saddam and all the other terrorists in the world.

Stop It

+1

Truth2u

"The Soviet Union is the torch-bearer for all our hopes and aspirations. We have learned and are continuing to learn resilience and bravery from the Soviet people, who are an example to us in our struggle for freedom, a model of loyalty to internationalist duty. In Soviet Russia, genuine power of the people has been transformed from dreams into reality. The land of the Soviets is the genuine friend and ally of all peoples fighting against the dark forces of world reaction." Winnie Mandella

TO Coaster, L.E.Gold, please explain how a man and his wife that says the next statement can be considered a 'great' person.

"With our boxes of matches and our NECKLACES we shall liberate this country."

Take a moment and research what they meant by 'NECKLACES' and if you continue to say that he and his wife were good people we who know what the necklaces are will know you as also being an anti-American Marxist as well.

Stop It

+1

starryeyes83

Like the "columbian necktie" , right?

Simple Enough II

Truth2u, They won't listen, their minds are made up and closed to any other view point, even when that view point is supported with facts. Look at all those ID10Ts who think Che Guevera was a liberator. Sad, these folks are foolish.

Lake Erie Gold

Everyone say a prayer for Truth2u, he needs all he can get.

Truth2u

Winnie Mandela was found guilty in court of the murder of a 12-year-old boy and served 5 years.

Missionaries and their kids were murdered, bayoneted on the fields, whole families killed by landmines planted in the roads,all with the direction of Nelson.

African, many Christian, were killed by necklacing by Mandela's ANC. Necklacing is where Mandela's terrorists put an automobile tire over someones neck, chain it to them, pour fuel over them and set them on fire!

and you ask for prayers for me? I think YOUR the one that needs the prayers by supporting this evil man and his family!

Stop It

+1

santown419

If you were about the truth he was in solitary confinement when the necklacing took place. If you are about the truth how could you commit something when you couldn't talk or see anyone.

jibber jabber

Mandela was a GREAT man, and he didn't need, affirmative action, minority hiring, diversity hiring, etc; etc: to seceed.

Truth2u

its really sad that your not kidding because it reveals how little you know outside what the liberal brainwashing machine press has pumped into you.

Mandela is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, most from the theft of the poor while President.

Again, I challenge you or anyone to prove me wrong with facts. Here is a link to start your research, but I doubt if you want to know the real facts concerning this murderous Marxist.

http://thebackbencher.co.uk/3-th...

deertracker

He needed economic sanctions to force his freedom.

Coram Deo

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/...

"How to be a Good Communist" by Nelson Mandela

Mandela wrote this while he was in prison. Free download.

Dr. Information

This guys was full of crap. He hated America and everything it stood for. Wake up people.

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