JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, died on Thursday, the government of South Africa announced, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the current country’s leaders.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.”
Mr Zuma called Mr. Mandela’s death “the moment of our greatest sorrow,” and said that South Africa’s thoughts were now with the former president’s family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free,” he said.
George W. Bush said, “Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. 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. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever.”
Jimmy Carter said, “Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. 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.”
President Barack Obama spoke Thursday on the death of Nelson Mandela, praising the South African leader for having “achieved more than could be expected of any man.”
“We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” Obama said. “Madiba” no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages.. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” Obama continued, citing his own protests against apartheid as one of his first political actions. “I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example set by Nelson Mandela.”
Obama continued, “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.”
Madiba is an affectionate name for former President Nelson Mandela, and the honorary title adopted by the elders of Mandela’s clan. In Xhosa (the official language of South Africa) it is the clan name for Nelson Mandela. It is reserved for important rulers and chiefs.
The Nobel Peace Prize 1993 was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”
Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.
After his health began to fail — he was hospitalized in February 2012 for a long-standing stomach ailment — Mandela returned to the rural community where he was born.
Mandela’s death comes months afer his 95th birthday on July 18, which his foundation, various charities and businesses vowed to celebrate with a nationwide day of service that includes painting schools, handing out food and books, and running a 41-mile relay marathon in the spirit of Mandela’s 67 years of activism and public work.
Nelson Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and three daughters Pumla Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela.