Photo Credit: ADL via Religion News Service
From the Union Building in Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma announced that civil rights icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died Thursday evening after a lengthy illness. He was 95.
This past summer he spent three months in the hospital with a lung infection but returned to his Houghton home in September.
Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa after spending 27 years as a political prisoner. He fought against racial discrimination, known as the anti apartheid movement, in the 1950s and 1960s. \
Brought to stand trial for plotting to overthrow the government by violence, on June 12, 1964 Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. At his trial, the former head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), South Africa’s Communist Party, pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns, where bombs were planted in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station.
He was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town and later moved to Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.
Released from prison in 1990 at the age of 71, many attribute his imprisonment to ending racial segregation in South Africa. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with South Africa's president at the time, Frederik Willem de Klerk, for working together to dismantle apartheid.
One year later he was elected president of the ANC in the nations first open election, serving one term. The years that followed Mandela continued to be active in causes promoting world peace, supporting children and fighting HIV/AIDS.
Mandela’s mother, Nosekeni (1968), and his eldest son, Thembekile (1969), died while he was in prison. He was not allowed to attend either of the funerals.
A controversial activist in her own right, Manela granted his wife, Winnie Madikizela, a divorce in 1996. In 2003 Winnie Mandela was found guilty on 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft related to money taken from loan applicants' accounts for a funeral fund.
Two years later Nelson Mandela married the former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel.
The once controversial freedom fighter became beloved around the world. More than twenty years ago, Mandela laid out his vision for the democratic future of his country in the pages of Foreign Affairs.
“Apartheid corroded the very essence of life in South Africa,” he wrote. “This is why the country’s emerging political leaders are challenged to build a nation in which all people—irrespective of race, color, creed, religion, or sex—can assert fully their human worth; after apartheid, our people deserve nothing less than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Over the years Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies John Campbell with the Council on Foreign Relations has examined Mandela’s legacy in terms of South African governance and political freedom.
“He insisted on the rule of law,” said Campbell. “Apartheid may have been a crime against humanity, but there was no extralegal ‘revolutionary justice.’ Instead there was a Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the presidency of Archbishop Desmond Tutu that offered amnesty in return for confession to liberation fighters and members of the apartheid security services. Mandela assiduously observed the new constitution that enshrined the strongest protection of individual and minority rights anywhere in the world.”
World Leaders Respond:
From the White House Briefing Room, President Barack Obama delivered a statement on the passing of the former South African leader.
"We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," the President said. "So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice."
Former President Bill Clinton, who considered Mandela a close friend, released a statement on behalf of his family.
“Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of the finest human beings,' who was 'a champion for human dignity. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a free heart is bigger than a closed mind.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said the flag at number 10 Downing St would fly at half-mast in honor of the South African leader.
"A great light has gone out in the world. He was a hero of our time,” said Cameron.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, also issued a statement.
“President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example,” George W Bush said. “This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy to President Mandela’s family and to the citizens of the nation he loved.”
South African president Jacob Zuma noted that national flags would be lowered to half-mast and Mandela will receive the honor he deserves.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” said Zuma. “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.”
President Zuma confirms that Mandela will receive a full state funeral. Some liken the civil right’s leaders funeral to the 2010 World Cup opening and closing ceremonies, a coronation and inauguration all combined into one.
The Guardian Newspaper writes, “The closest British equivalent may have been the 1965 state funeral of Winston Churchill.”
Russ Jones is a 25-year award-winning journalist and correspondent. He is co-publisher of various Christian news sites such as ChristianPress.com, ChristianNewsService.com, OxfordFamily.com and a media consultant to a number of political and cause-oriented campaigns. He is also a freelance correspondent for the American Family Radio Network, a regular contributor for ReligionToday.com and various Christian TV networks. He has been a guest on such programs as the Mike Gallagher Show, the Dennis Prager Show and Sandy Rios in the Morning. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Paul School of Theology. Russ is married to Jackie and together they have four children. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/ChristianPress or Facebook.com/russjones.
Publication date: December 6, 2013