Nelson Mandela: a life in service

South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, spent most of his adult life fighting apartheid. He died last night, aged 95, at his Houghton, Johannesburg home, after enduring a prolonged lung infection.

The former Nobel Peace Prize Laureate’s death has brought the country to a standstill with many condolences still pouring in from world leaders, celebrities, and ordinary South Africans.

Brand South Africa chairperson, Chichi Maponya, expressed deep sorrow at his passing saying, “Madiba embodied our hopes and the realisation of our dreams.

“We are in deep mourning following this loss of indescribable magnitude which is today reverberating across the world. During his imprisonment for 27 years, Madiba carried the aspirations of multitudes of our people who yearned for a free and democratic South Africa.”

He added that Mandela had inspired South Africans and people around the world to fight for South Africa’s liberation, despite the seeming impossibility of this vision.

“One of the greatest gifts he has bequeathed to this nation is the courage and strength to believe in a tomorrow that is better than today, a tomorrow in which our people live in dignity and prosperity,” he said.

Many South Africans who were devastated by the news of Mandela’s death took to the nation’s streets in a show of mourning last night. Some gathered at Mr Mandela’s home in Houghton to light candles and celebrated his achievements. Others congregated outside Mandela’s former home on Soweto’s Vilakazi Street.

United States President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among world leaders and dignitaries who paid fulsome tribute to Mandela as a moral giant and a beacon for the oppressed.

27 YEARS A PRISONER

mandela-95-250Let us draw from Nelson Mandela’s wisdom. Let us be inspired. Let each and every one of us continue to walk forward into the future as he didMandela spent 27 years in jail for his attempts to overthrow the country’s white-minority government before being freed in 1990. He led the African National Congress (ANC) liberation organisation in negotiations with the National Party to secure South Africa’s first inclusive election in 1994.

Born into the royal Tembu family in July 1918 in the village of Qunu, in Umtata in the south eastern Transkei, Mandela rose from relative rural obscurity to challenge the apartheid government.

He became commander-in-chief of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), in 1961 and underwent military training in Algeria and Ethiopia the following year.

While underground back home in South Africa, Mandela was captured by police in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison for inciting workers to strike, and leaving the country illegally.

In 1963 he was charged with sabotage and sentenced in 1964 to life in prison at the infamous Rivonia Trial with a number of other ANC members.

He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and, after just a single term in office, stepped down as president in 1999.

In retirement, Mandela focused his energy on his new role as a roving elder statesman and leading HIV/Aids campaigner before retiring from public life in 2004.

His last major public appearance was in July 2010, at the final of the Fifa World Cup at the FNB Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.

Mandela is survived by his third wife, Graça Machel, three children, 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and four step-children from his marriage to Machel.