The great Nelson Mandela passed away last night at the age of 95. His death was not unexpected, but the world will mourn his death tonight. Mandela was South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression, much in the same way that Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were as well.
“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address late Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him their love.”
Mr. Zuma called Mr. Mandela’s death “the moment of our deepest 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.
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.
Mr. Mandela, who was 95, served just one term as South Africa’s president and had not been seen in public since 2010, when the nation hosted the soccer World Cup. But his decades in prison and his insistence on forgiveness over vengeance made him a potent symbol of the struggle to end this country’s brutally codified system of racial domination, and of the power of peaceful resolution in even the most intractable conflicts.