South Africans are mourning the death of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, the country\’s first black president, who died Thursday at the age of 95.
Many woke to the news Friday, hours after President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela had "passed on peacefully" in the company of his family.
Dressed in black, Zuma made the statement in a nationally televised address that South Africa "has lost its greatest son and our people have lost a father."
"That is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow. Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination. A determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived and to not rest until we have realized his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world," said Zuma, referring to Mandela by his nickname.
He said flags will be flown at half staff and Mandela will be given a state funeral, which is expected to follow a period of national mourning.
Mandela rose from rural obscurity to challenge the might of white minority apartheid government – a struggle that gave the twentieth century one of its most respected and loved figures.
He was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid in 1960, but was quick to preach reconciliation and forgiveness when the country\’s white minority began easing its grip on power 30 years later.
Mandela was elected president in landmark all-race elections in 1994 and retired in 1999.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, an honour he shared with FW de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who released from jail arguably the world\’s most famous political prisoner.
"A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time," de Klerk told CNN. "He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy."
As president, Mandela faced the monumental task of forging a new nation from the deep racial injustices left over from the apartheid era, making reconciliation the theme of his time in office.
The hallmark of Mandela\’s mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which probed apartheid crimes on both sides of the struggle and tried to heal the country\’s wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.
In 1999, Mandela handed over power to younger leaders better equipped to manage a modern economy – a rare voluntary departure from power cited as an example to African leaders.
In retirement, he shifted his energies to battling South Africa\’s AIDS crisis and the struggle became personal when he lost his only surviving son to the disease in 2005.
Mandela\’s last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he attended the championship match of the soccer World Cup, where he received a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 at the stadium in Soweto, the neighbourhood in which he cut his teeth as a resistance leader.
Charged with capital offences in the infamous 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination."
Mandela\’s passing comes ahead of the country\’s fifth election, and at a time when the country is battling challenges, both political and economic.
Source – VOA and Argencies