Nelson Mandela Dead At 95

"We've lost our greatest son," South Africa's president Jacob Zuma said

Topics: Nelson Mandela, South Africa, Africa, Apartheid, International,

Nelson Mandela Dead At 95Nelson Mandela in 2008 (Credit: Wikimedia)

Nelson Mandela has died at 95, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, announced on Thursday.

“We’ve lost our greatest son,” Zuma said of Mandela, who fought to end apartheid and then became the first elected president of democratic South Africa.

More from the Associated Press: 

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela was a master of forgiveness. South Africa’s first black president spent nearly one-third of his life as a prisoner of apartheid, the system of white racist rule that he described as evil, yet he sought to win over its defeated guardians in a relatively peaceful transition of power that inspired the world.

As head of state, the ex-boxer, lawyer and inmate lunched with the prosecutor who argued successfully for his incarceration, 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 sent to prison who was also the architect of white rule.

It was this generosity of spirit that made Mandela, who died on Thursday at the age of 95, a global symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation in a world often jarred by conflict and division.

Mandela’s stature as a fighter against white racist rule and seeker of peace with his enemies was on a par with that of other men he admired: American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, both of whom were assassinated while actively engaged in their callings.

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Mandela’s death deprived the world of one of one of the great figures of modern history and set the stage for days of mourning and reflection about a colossus of the 20th century who projected astonishing grace, resolve and good humor.

***

Updated 5:31 p.m. EST: In prepared remarks, President Obama called Mandela “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with.”

“He achieved more than could be expected of any man,” Obama added, and noted that he himself had protested against apartheid as a young man. “I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela’s life,” he said.

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.”

Updated 5:23 p.m. EST: An obituary in The New York Times hails Mandela as an “international emblem of dignity and forbearance,” while noting that the former South African president “will be buried, according to his wishes, in the village of Qunu, where he grew up.”

More from The Times:

The question most often asked about Mr. Mandela was how, after whites had systematically humiliated his people, tortured and murdered many of his friends, and cast him into prison for 27 years, he could be so evidently free of spite.

[…]The explanation for his absence of rancor, at least in part, is that Mr. Mandela was that rarity among revolutionaries and moral dissidents: a capable statesman, comfortable with compromise and impatient with the doctrinaire.

Updated 5:12 p.m. EST: President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a statement about Mandela at 5:20 p.m. EST. Those remarks will be streaming live from the White House website.

Peter Finocchiaro is the deputy editor of Salon. Follow him on Twitter @PLFino.

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