Nelson Mandela, the beloved anti-apartheid activist who would become South Africa’s first Black president, has died. He was 95 years old.
Mr. Mandela’s death was partly due to a recurring lung infection, which kept him hospitalized for the past few months. He had also undergone endoscopic surgery to remove gallstones. He leaves behind his third wife, Graca Machel, ex-wife Winnie Mandela, three surviving daughters, 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela in the Eastern Cape region (a teacher would later give him the name Nelson) of South Africa, Mandela is most revered for leading a decades-long resistance struggle against White-minority rule in South Africa. For his anti-apartheid activities, he was charged with treason in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 27 years in prison before being released in 1990 when his party, the African National Congress, was disbanded. Upon his release, “Madiba,” as he is affectionately known, called for reconciliation in a country torn apart by its Jim Crow-like racial policies. He was awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize (with former President F.W. DeKlerk) in 1993 for his calls for peace. He was elected the first Black president of South Africa in 1994.
In his last few years, Mandela detached himself from politics, choosing instead to live a quiet life in a remote village of Qunu, his birthplace. His last public appearance was at the 2010 World Cup celebrations in Johannesburg.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address today. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.”
Mr. Mandela passed away at 8:50pm Thursday night South African time.
ESSENCE takes this moment to honor the beloved freedom fighter, father and humanitarian.
Rest in peace, Madiba.
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