- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his armed militancy against South Africa’s apartheid regime only to emerge as a global icon for peaceful resistance and become his nation’s first black president, died Thursday in Johannesburg after a long illness. He was 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at a news conference late Thursday, saying “we’ve lost our greatest son” and calling the Nobel Peace laureate “Mandiba,” the traditional clan name of Mr. Mandela.

At the White House, President Obama said Mr. Mandela “achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.

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“He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Mandela was surrounded by his family as a gaggle of reporters and TV cameras crowded near his house. He was hospitalized in June with a lung infection and released in September, but he had struggled with ill health for years.

Mr. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected president a year later. He was widely regarded in South Africa as the “Father of the Nation,” but critics denounced him as a terrorist and communist sympathizer.

As president from 1994 to 1999, he promoted racial reconciliation and large social welfare programs. However, the economy remained sluggish and his government was beset by corruption scandals. Crime rose dramatically, causing waves of white flight in the late 1990s.

South Africans mourn

As the news spread across South Africa in the earliest hours of Friday morning, as many slept, Mr. Zuma said there would be a state funeral and ordered all national flags lowered to half-staff until then.

“First sleep in a Mandela-less world,” South African journalist Brendan Boyle tweeted. “We’re on our own now.”

Hundreds of people gathered at both the Mandela home in the Houghton neighborhood of Johannesburg and the nearby Soweto township, a massive shantytown where he lived during apartheid and which marked the status of blacks during that era.

But at both sites, The Associated Press reported that the mood was lively rather than somber as people sang and danced to mourn his death and celebrate his colossal life.

“He came here to Soweto as a lawyer and he led us. When he came out of jail in 1994, after 27 years, he did not come out a bitter man and encourage us to fight. No, he came out with a message of peace,” Mbulelo Radebe told reporters.

A man in Johannesburg blew on a vuvuzela, the plastic horn widely used at World Cup soccer games in 2010 — the hosting of which was part of Mr. Mandela’s legacy. The dismantling of apartheid ended decades of international isolation, including sporting and other cultural boycotts, and thus permitted South Africa to hold such a high-profile event.

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