"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013
Nelson Mandela, who guided South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to multi-racial democracy and became an international icon of peace and reconciliation, died Thursday 05 December 2013 at age 95.
Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela emerged determined to use his prestige and charisma to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war.
"The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come," Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994.
"We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation."
President Barack Obama hailed Mandela as a leader who left his country with a legacy of freedom and peace with the world.
"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," Obama said at the White House shortly after the announcement of Mandela's death.
"Today he's gone home, and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," Obama said.
President Jacob Zuma's announcement of the death late on Thursday shook South Africa. The streets of the capital Pretoria and of Johannesburg were hushed, and in bars and nightclubs, music was turned off as people gathered to quietly talk about the news.
A sombre Zuma told the nation in a televised address that Mandela "passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013".
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said.
Tributes began flooding in almost immediately for a man who was a global symbol of struggle against injustice and of racial reconciliation.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron called Mandela "a hero of our time". "A great light has gone out in the world," he said.
Praise also came from African leaders. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the death "will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent."
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said Mandela was "one of the most honorable figures of our time ... a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence."
"Today a great freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela has died, one of the world's most important symbols of freedom," said Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group, calling Mandela "one of the biggest supporters of our cause."
In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro declared three days of national mourning.
"Nine months since the passing of our comandante (Hugo Chavez), another giant of the people of the world passed away today. Madiba you will live forever!" Maduro said on Twitter.
Ordinary South Africans were in shock. "It feels like it's my father who has died. He was such a good man, who had good values the nation could look up to. He was a role model unlike our leaders of today," said Annah Khokhozela, 37, a nanny, speaking in Johannesburg.
Mourners gathered outside Mandela's home and spontaneous tributes sprang up around the world.
The famed Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, which Mandela visited in 1990, lit its marquee with the words: "In memory of Nelson Mandela ... He changed our world."
In Washington, flowers and candles were set at the base of a statue of Mandela outside the South African Embassy.
Outside Mandela's old house in Vilakazi Street, Soweto, a crowd of people, some with South African flags draped around them, gathered to sing songs in praise of the revered statesman. "Mandela you brought us peace" was one of the songs.
"I have mixed feelings. I am happy that he is resting, but I am also sad to see him go," said Molebogeng Ntheledi, 45, reflecting the mix of reverence and resignation with which South Africans had been following Mandela's fight against illness.
National figures were quick to play down fears expressed by a minority that the passing of the great conciliator might lead again to a return of the racial and political tensions that racked South Africa during the apartheid era.
The loss of its most beloved leader comes at a time when the nation has been experiencing bloody labor unrest, growing protests against poor services, poverty, crime and unemployment and corruption scandals tainting Zuma's rule.
Many saw today's South Africa - the African continent's biggest economy but also one of the world's most unequal - still distant from being the "Rainbow Nation" ideal of social peace and shared prosperity that Mandela had proclaimed on his triumphant release from prison in 1990.
"To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames - as some have predicted - is to discredit South Africans and Madiba's legacy," another veteran anti-apartheid leader, former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, said. "Madiba" is Mandela's clan name.
"The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next ... It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on," Tutu said in a statement of tribute.
The loss of a figure famous as a peacemaker comes at a time when South Africa, which basked in global goodwill when apartheid ended, has been experiencing bloody labour unrest, growing protests against poor services, poverty, crime and unemployment and corruption scandals tainting Zuma's rule.
Mark Rosenberg, Senior Africa Analyst at the Eurasia Group, said that while Mandela's death might give Zuma's ruling African National Congress a sympathy-driven boost for elections due next year, it would hurt the ANC in the long term.
He saw Mandela's absence "sapping the party's historical legitimacy and encouraging rejection by voters who believe the ANC has failed to deliver on its economic promises and become mired in corruption."
Zuma ordered flags to be flown at half mast and said there would be a full state funeral for South Africa's first black president, who emerged from prison to help guide the country through bloodshed and turmoil to democracy.
The U.N. Security Council was in session when the ambassadors received the news of Mandela's death. They stopped their meeting and stood for a minute's silence.
"Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. "Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity."
Mandela's greatest accomplishment was to unify South Africa and push for reconciliation between blacks and whites in the post-apartheid era, F.W. de Klerk, the country's last white president, said on Thursday.
"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," de Klerk, 77, said in an interview with CNN after the announcement of Mandela's death at age 95.
De Klerk, a white Afrikaner who released Mandela from prison in 1990 and then negotiated the end of apartheid, said Mandela was a humane man who was able to understand and soothe the fears of South Africa's white minority in the transition to democracy.
De Klerk said he felt a connection to the African National Congress leader during their first meeting in 1989, shortly after de Klerk had taken over as leader of South Africa's apartheid government.
In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour he shared with de Klerk.
Mandela went on to play a prominent role on the world stage as an advocate of human dignity in the face of challenges ranging from political repression to AIDS.
He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: "Don't call me. I'll call you". But he remained one of the world's most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.
Whether defending himself at his own treason trial in 1963 or addressing world leaders years later as a greying elder statesman, he radiated an image of moral rectitude expressed in measured tones, often leavened by a mischievous humour.
"He is at the epicentre of our time, ours in South Africa, and yours, wherever you are," Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature, once remarked.
Mandela's years behind bars made him the world's most celebrated political prisoner and a leader of mythic stature for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his country's borders.
Charged with capital offences in the 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.
"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities," he told the court.
"It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
DESTINED TO LEAD
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, destined to lead as the son of the chief councillor to the paramount chief of the Thembu people in Transkei.
He chose to devote his life to the fight against white domination. He studied at Fort Hare University, an elite black college, but left in 1940 short of completing his studies and became involved with the African National Congress (ANC), founding its Youth League in 1944 with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.
Mandela worked as a law clerk then became a lawyer who ran one of the few practices that served blacks.
In 1952 he and others were charged for violating the Suppression of Communism Act but their nine-month sentence was suspended for two years.
Mandela was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid, going underground in 1961 to form the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, or 'Spear of the Nation' in Zulu.
He left South Africa and travelled the continent and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare and building support for the ANC.
After his return in 1962, Mandela was arrested and sentenced to five years for incitement and illegally leaving the country. While serving that sentence, he was charged with sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government along with other anti-apartheid leaders in the Rivonia Trial.
Branded a terrorist by his enemies, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, isolated from millions of his countrymen as they suffered oppression, violence and forced resettlement under the apartheid regime of racial segregation.
He was incarcerated on Robben Island, a penal colony off Cape Town, where he would spend the next 18 years before being moved to mainland prisons.
He was behind bars when an uprising broke out in the huge township of Soweto in 1976 and when others erupted in violence in the 1980s. But when the regime realised it was time to negotiate, it was Mandela to whom it turned.
In his later years in prison, he met President P.W. Botha and his successor de Klerk.
When he was released on Feb. 11, 1990, walking away from the Victor Verster prison hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, the event was watched live by television viewers across the world.
"As I finally walked through those gates ... I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were at last over," Mandela wrote of that day.
ELECTIONS AND RECONCILATION
In the next four years, thousands of people died in political violence. Most were blacks killed in fighting between ANC supporters and Zulus loyal to Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, although right-wing whites also staged violent actions to upset the moves towards democracy.
Mandela prevented a racial explosion after the murder of popular Communist Party leader Chris Hani by a white assassin in 1993, appealing for calm in a national television address. That same year, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Talks between the ANC and the government began in 1991, leading to South Africa's first all-race elections on April 27, 1994.
The run-up to the vote was marred by fighting, including gun battles in Johannesburg townships and virtual war in the Zulu stronghold of KwaZulu Natal.
But Mandela campaigned across the country, enthralling adoring crowds of blacks and wooing whites with assurances that there was a place for them in the new South Africa.
The election result was never in doubt and his inauguration in Pretoria on May 10, 1994, was a celebration of a peoples' freedom.
Mandela made reconciliation the theme of his presidency. He took tea with his former jailers and won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa's national rugby team - once a symbol of white supremacy - at the final of the World Cup in 1995 at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.
The hallmark of Mandela's mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated apartheid crimes on both sides and tried to heal the wounds. It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.
In 1999, Mandela, often criticised for having a woolly grasp of economics, handed over to younger leaders - a voluntary departure from power cited as an example to long-ruling African leaders.
A restful retirement was not on the cards as Mandela shifted his energies to fighting South Africa's AIDS crisis.
He spoke against the stigma surrounding the infection, while successor Thabo Mbeki was accused of failing to comprehend the extent of the crisis.
The fight became personal in early 2005 when Mandela lost his only surviving son to the disease.
But the stress of his long struggle contributed to the break-up of his marriage to equally fierce anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie.
The country shared the pain of their divorce in 1996 before watching his courtship of Graca Machel, widow of Mozambican President Samora Machel, whom he married on his 80th birthday in 1998.
Friends adored "Madiba", the clan name by which he is known. People lauded his humanity, kindness, attention and dignity.
Unable to shake the habits of prison, Mandela rose daily between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to exercise and read. He drank little and was a fervent anti-smoker.
An amateur boxer in his younger days, Mandela often said the discipline and tactics drawn from training helped him to endure prison and the political battles after his release.
But prison and old age took their toll on his health.
Mandela was treated in the 1980s for tuberculosis and later required an operation to repair damage to his eyes as well as treatment for prostate cancer in 2001. His spirit, however, remained strong.
"If cancer wins I will still be the better winner," he told reporters in September of that year. "When I go to the next world, the first thing I will do is look for an ANC office to renew my membership."
Most South Africans are proud of their post-apartheid multi-racial 'Rainbow Nation'.
But Mandela's legacy of tolerance and reconciliation has been threatened in recent years by squabbling between factions in the ANC and social tensions in a country that, despite its political liberation, still suffers great inequalities.
Mandela's last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he donned a fur cap in the South African winter and rode on a golf cart, waving to an exuberant crowd of 90,000 at the soccer World Cup final, one of the biggest events in the country's post-apartheid history.
"I leave it to the public to decide how they should remember me," he said on South African television before his retirement.
Copyright © Chicago Tribune 2013
For Len Port's commentary, CLICK HERE.
Reuters - Reactions to the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's anti-apartheid hero and first black president, on Thursday at age 95.
South African President Jacob Zuma: "Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love."
U.S. President Barack Obama: "He achieved more than could be expected of any man. ... Today he's gone home, and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth."
British Prime Minister David Cameron: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time."
Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus and anti-apartheid activist: "Like a most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the earth, the Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless ... Instead of calling for his pound of flesh, he proclaimed the message of forgiveness and reconciliation, inspiring others by his example to extraordinary acts of nobility of spirit."
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, on 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."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity."
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies."
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush: "As president, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment - setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Nelson Mandela was of the most honorable figures of our time. He was the father of his people, a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence. He set a personal example for his people in the long years he spent in prison. He was never arrogant. He worked to mend the tears in South African society and with his character managed to prevent outbursts of racial hatred. He will be remembered as the father of new South Africa and as an outstanding moral leader."
Chinese President Xi Jinping: "Mr Mandela was a world-renowned statesman, who during the long years led the South African people through arduous struggles to the anti-apartheid victory, making a historic contribution to the establishment and development of the new South Africa. Mr Mandela, who visited China twice, was also one of the founders of China-South Africa relations, and an active champion of bilateral friendship and cooperation."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: "He fought for the abolition of apartheid with strong will. On nation building, he made a major achievement with focus on the reconciliation of the people. He was a great leader."
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden: "In the hands of Nelson Mandela, hope and history rhymed. This is a better world because Nelson Mandela was in it. He was a good man."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "His name will always be associated with the fight against the oppression of his people and with overcoming the apartheid regime. Not even years in prison could break Nelson Mandela or make him bitter - a new, better South Africa eventually emerged out of his message of reconciliation. ... Nelson Mandela's shining example and his political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue to inspire people around the world for many years to come."
Myanmar veteran democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi: "I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and equality. He made us all understand that nobody should be penalized for the color of their skin or for the circumstances in which he is born. He also made us understand we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay tribute to a great human being who raised the standard of humanity."
U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson: "Remembering Nelson Mandela today, in his passing, a true pioneer and inspiration in my life.
Irish rock star Bono: "It was as if he was born to teach the age a lesson in humility, in humor and above all else in patience. In the end, Nelson Mandela showed us how to love rather than hate, not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence, but because he learnt that love would do a better job. Mandela played with the highest stakes. He put his family, his country, his time, his life on the line, and he won most of these contests. Stubborn till the end for all the right reasons, it felt like he very nearly outstared his maker. Today, finally, he blinked. And some of us cry, knowing our eyes were opened to so much because of him."
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto: "Humanity has lost a tireless champion of peace, liberty and equality. Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela."
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt: "Nelson Mandela was man who changed the world. He was as firm in his belief in the equal value of every human being as he was strong in his will and ability to bring about reconciliation. He chose reconciliation where others would have chosen vengeance. He created a new South Africa and gave people around the world a role model and an ideal."