Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and the man who guided the country out of apartheid, has died at home just outside Pretoria. Mandela, 95, was receiving care for a lung infection, which he has been fighting for many months, first in hospital and then at home.
The announcement was made on television by the country’s president, Jacob Zuma. Mandela will receive a full state funeral and flags throughout the country will be flown at half-mast from 6 December until after the funeral which is expected to be in a week. His body will lie in state in Pretoria until the funeral. According to his wishes his body will then be flown to his home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape for burial.
The winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993 Mandela was one of the world’s most revered and loved statesmen not only for his tenacious fight in the African National Congress (ANC) against the minority white regime but also for the way he kept the country peacefully united in the years following the end of apartheid.
Mandela was born in the Easter Cape in 1918 and joined the ANC in 1943. In the early days of the ANC’s fight against apartheid he was charged with treason but in 1960 after a four-year trial the charges were dropped. Two years later he was arrested again and convicted of incitement and then in 1964 he was charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent the next 27 years in the harsh conditions of Robben Island prison off the coast of Cape Town. He was released in 1990 and in 1994 he was elected the country’s first black president. Soon after the end of his term in office in 1999 he retired from public life and has only made rare public appearances since.
However regardless of his withdrawal from political life he has continued to be a point of reference and esteem at home and abroad, even in his last few years of ailing health. Tributes from heads of state and government from all over the world started to pour in immediately after the official announcement of his death.