Nelson Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the towering political figures of the 20th century, has died aged 95. Mandela, who was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.
His condition deteriorated and he died following complications from the lung infection, with his family by his side. The news was announced by a clearly emotional South African president Jacob Zuma live on television, who said Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” said Zuma.
“What made Nelson Mandela great is precisely what made him human,” he said. Mandela, once a boxer, had a long history of lung problems after contracting tuberculosis while in jail on Robben Island.
His extraordinary life story, quirky sense of humour and lack of bitterness towards his former oppressors ensured global appeal for the charismatic leader.
Once considered a terrorist by the United States and Britain for his support of violence against the apartheid regime, at the time of his death he was an almost unimpeachable moral icon.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 27 years behind bars before being freed in 1990 to lead the African National Congress (ANC) in negotiations with the white minority rulers which culminated in the first multi-racial elections in 1994.