6 Dec 2013

World mourns Mandela

9:26 pm on 6 December 2013

South Africa and the world is mourning the loss of revered former leader Nelson Mandela, who has died in Johannesburg at 95.

The Nobel peace laureate led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s after 27 years in prison and was the country's first black president.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Photo: AFP

South African president Jacob Zuma announced the death on Thursday night (local time) in an internationally televised address.

"The founding president of our democratic nation has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20.50 on the fifth of December 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

Mr Zuma said Nelson Mandela would be accorded a full state funeral and ordered flags to be flown at half mast.

Mr Mandela had been receiving round-the-clock intensive care from military and other doctors since September this year, when he was discharged from a nearly three-month hospital stay for a lung infection - a legacy of his time at the Robben Island prison camp near Cape Town.

The president who freed Mr Mandela, FW De Klerk, said he made reconciliation happen in the nation. "He was a remarkable man and South Africa, not withstanding political differences stands united today in mourning this great, special man."

A large crowd held an all-night vigil outside Mr Mandela's home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton where flowers and burning candles were left. Some had South African flags and were wearing the shirts of the governing African National Congress, which Mr Mandela once led. Many sang and danced to celebrate his life.

In Cape Town, mourners attended a mass said by Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St George's Cathedral on Friday.

Meanwhile, leaders and dignitaries from all over the world are expected to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. Books of condolence will be opened on Friday at public buildings in South Africa and at the nation's embassies.

The first major event will be a service of national mourning at the 90,000-capacity FNB stadium on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the BBC reports.

That will be followed by three days of lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria before Mr Mandela's body is taken to the Eastern Cape's remote rural village of Qunu where he grew up and will be buried. The funeral is likely to take place at the end of next week.

Nelson Mandela is survived by his third wife Graca Michel, three of his six children, 17 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

View more images from Nelson Mandela's life

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says mass at St George' s Cathedral in Cape Town on Friday.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says mass at St George' s Cathedral in Cape Town on Friday. Photo: AFP

World leaders pay tribute

In the United States, President Barack Obama spoke at the White House on Thursday, saying he is one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela and the world is not likely to see a man such as him again. "He no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages."

The Queen said she is "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr Mandela's death and has sent her "sincere condolences to his family and to the people of South Africa". A statement from Buckingham Palace said: "Her Majesty remembers with great warmth her meetings with Mr Mandela. He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today".

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said: "One of the brightest lights of our world has gone out. The first president of a free South Africa - a man who suffered so much for freedom and justice and a man who, though his dignity and through his triumph, inspired millions."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "profoundly saddened" by the death. He described Nelson Mandela was as a giant for justice and many world-wide were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. "He touched our lives in deeply personal ways."

Japanese leader Shinzo Abe called him a nation builder, while China's President Xi Jinping said his nation would never forget his contribution to the cause of human progress.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has expressed his sadness, describing Mr Mandela as an inspirational leader and a remarkable man.

Crowds took to the streets in Johannesburg on Thursday, celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.

Crowds took to the streets in Johannesburg on Thursday, celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. Photo: AFP

Symbol of resistance

Praised for his intellect, strength, wisdom and eventually his peacemaking, the trained lawyer was a symbol of resistance to the South African policy of apartheid - the forced segregation of the races which had been established in 1948.

When 69 protesters were shot dead by soldiers in Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson Mandela was among those who persuaded the African National Congress, of which he had been a deputy president, to abandon its policy of peaceful civil disobedience.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela was sent to jail for five years for inciting persons to strike illegally. While in jail, he was in 1964 sentenced to life for plotting to overthrow the government by violence and was to spend the next 27 years in prison.

From the dock he made a speech that became famous throughout the world and ended: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

During these years in prison Mr Mandela's international reputation grew. He became a powerful symbol of dignified, non-violent but absolutely resolute opposition to apartheid.

In February 1990, he was released from prison and after the country's first democratic elections became South Africa's first black president in 1994, serving for five years. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Since stepping down in 1999 after one term in office, Mr Mandela played little role in public life. His last public appearance was at the final of the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium in July 2010.