Yesterday, December 5, 2013, South Africa’s first black president and the world’s most prominent anti-apartheid advocate passed away. The global icon, Nelson Mandela, died at age 95 due, in part, to a lung infection. After spending three months in the hospital for the infection, Mandela was receiving intensive medical care at home before he passed away.
South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, announced the news on South African national TV, saying, “Our nation has lost its greatest son.” Zuba also said that Mandela, referred to by his clan name, Madiba, would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be put at half-mast.
Born in 1918, Mandela began his legacy in South African and global politics in 1943 when he joined the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC campaigned against apartheid, encouraging peaceful action; in the 1960s, however, they began to advocate violence. Mandela was made commander of the armed wing. In 1964, Mandela was arrested for sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After 27 years, however, he was released by the then president of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk. In 1993, he and Frederik Willem de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” A year later, Mandela was elected president in South Africa’s first multi-racial election, and served one term before stepping down in 1999.
After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador. In this position, Mandela campaigned against HIV/Aids and helped to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.
Throughout his long life, Mandela was a global icon of peace and tolerance. He will be sadly missed, but always remembered and appreciated for a life well lived.