South African President Jacob Zuma announced tonight that Nelson Mandela, the hero of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, has died at the age of 95. “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son; our people have lost their father.” Zuma said that Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. Mandela had been in and out of hospitals for several months before his death. “Although we knew that this day will come, nothing will diminish us sense of a profound loss,” Zuma said. “This is the moment of our deepest sorrow.”
Mandela had suffered difficulties with his lungs over the past three years, having been hospitalized at least four times for the condition. In 2011, Mandela was briefly hospitalized with a respiratory infection before being admitted again for lung infection and gallstone removal in December 2012. After a successful procedure in early 2013, his lung infection recurred, and he was briefly hospitalized in Pretoria. Mandela’s lung infection worsened in June of this year, and he was re-hospitalized in Pretoria in a serious condition. Earlier this year, Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, said that he was unable to speak. President Barack Obama, while visiting South Africa, was scheduled to meet the venerable leader but due to Mandela's failing health, Obama's visit was cancelled.
Zuma said Mandela would be given a state funeral and the country’s flags would be lowered to half-mast.
Mandela spent 27 years in jail because of his political activities as part of the African National Congress. Following a reform in SouthAfrica’s apartheid government, he became the country’s first black president in 1994, and was widely praised for his efforts to promote national reconciliation. He was also active in diplomacy after stepping down in 1999. He was born on July 18, 1918 in the village of Mvezo.
Mandela joined the then outlawed African National Congress in the 1940s and rose through its ranks. In 1962 he was sentenced to life in prison following a violent campaign against Pretoria’s apartheid government.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.