Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013

JOHANNESBURG – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the father of a nation, has died at the age of 95.


Mandela, who was South Africa’s first president after the dawning of democracy, died at his Houghton home shortly before 9PM on Thursday, 5 December 2013.

President Jacob Zuma, speaking from the Union Buildings in Pretoria, announced the news of Mandela’s death to the world before midnight.

“Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed.

“He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 8:50PM on 5 December 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”

The President looked back at the life of a global icon.

“His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family.”

Zuma had a special message for Madiba’s family, in particular his wife Graca Machel and his ex-wife Winnie Madikazela-Mandela.

“Our thoughts are with his wife Mrs Graca Machel, his former wife Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with his children, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and the entire family.”

He closed with touching words.

“We will always love you Madiba! May your soul rest in peace. God Bless Africa. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.”

Zuma said Mandela will receive a state funeral and from today all South African flags will fly at half-mast.


On 8 June, Madiba was admitted to hospital at around 1:30am after suffering a recurrence of a past lung infection several days before.

During his final stay in hospital Mandela was paid visits by several of his daughters, his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and President Zuma.

The hospital stay was marked by controversy over whether his relatives had barred anyone other than family members from going to see him. This claim was disputed by the African National Congress and the Presidency.

That was his fourth stay in hospital since his first bout of the infection in December 2012.

In April, Mandela was discharged from hospital after spending nine days at an undisclosed Pretoria facility. He was treated for a recurring lung infection and resulting pneumonia – the third health scare in four months for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Before that he was admitted to hospital in March and he spent last Christmas in hospital for a similar illness. Mandela also had a procedure to remove gallstones during the same hospital stay.


Madiba was many things to different people: a boxer, a student, a leader, a father, a foe, a social icon, a man who helped to heal a nation.

Mandela was born in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on 18 July 1918.

His political education began while studying at the University of Fort Hare.  He proved to be a thorn in the side of the Apartheid government and was suspended for taking part in a protest with Oliver Tambo, another man who would go on to lead the ANC in a crucial stage in its history.

Together, Mandela and Tambo started South Africa’s first black law firm in the Johannesburg city centre after Mandela studied law at the University of Witwatersrand.

The young political activist joined the ANC in 1943 and went on to become its Youth League leader, helping to launch the Defiance Campaign in 1952.

He rose through the ranks of the ANC and devoted his life to fighting the Apartheid government, a calling that eventually saw him and other party leaders convicted of treason in 1964 during the infamous Rivonia Trial.

Madiba and a number of other struggle fighters were condemned to high security cells on Robben Island – isolated from the world.

Mandela spent 18 years on Robben Island before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982 and then to the Victor Verster (now Drakenstein) jail six years later.

Throughout his time behind bars, Mandela remained steadfast in his ideals.

It was FW de Klerk and his government were the ones who eventually relented.

Prisoner 46664 was finally released on 11 February 1990, over a quarter of a century after Mandela was incarcerated.

After his release, the ANC and the National Party entered into difficult and sometimes heated negotiations. In 1994 South Africa’s first democratic elections were held.  It was arguably Mandela’s finest hour, as he was sworn in as the country’s new president at the Union Buildings.

As president, he continued his efforts to reconcile South Africa, forgiving his oppressors and ensuring white citizens that they had an important role to play in the country.

In 1999 at the age of 80, he stepped down as president. However, his contribution to world peace and development didn’t stop there.

Through his life, Mandela continued his contribution to the fight against AIDS and the caring of children through his work with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Madiba used one of his most difficult personal moments, the death of his son Makghato, to help change people’s views on AIDS.


Mandela also lived his private life in the public eye.  He was married three times – first to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, whom he divorced after 13 years in 1957.

A year later he married Winnie Madikizela, who would go on to be a controversial icon of the struggle against Apartheid while her husband was in prison.

He divorced Winnie in 1992 before marrying Graca Machel, the former Mozambican first lady, on his 80th birthday in 1998.

In June 2004, aged 85 and amid failing health, Mandela announced that he was retreating from public life.

Mandela’s 90th birthday was marked across the world on 18 July 2008, with the main celebrations held in his hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape and a concert in his honour was held in Hyde Park, London. In a speech marking the event, Mandela called for the rich to help the poor across the world.

Despite maintaining a low-profile during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Mandela made a rare public appearance during the closing ceremony, where he received a “rapturous reception”.

In January 2011, he was hospitalised for two days for a respiratory infection.  On 8 December 2012, he was hospitalised again for a recurring lung infection and had surgery to have gallstones removed a week later. He was released from the hospital on 26 December.

On 27 March 2013, Mandela’s lung infection reoccurred and he was hospitalised in Pretoria, but it was reported that he was responding well to treatment. He was discharged on 6 April 2013 and returned to his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, where he continued to receive high-care treatment.

Tributes from around the world continued to stream in for Madiba during this time.
Two months later, Mandela would be admitted to hospital again where he succumbed to the lingering lung infection.

The man who inspired others to greatness will live on in history, forever an icon for generations to come and a shining example of what the human spirit is capable of.

Source: Eye Witness News

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