Nelson Mandela dies aged 95

The world mourns

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Nelson Mandela died last night aged 95 from a lung infection that had hospitalised him for three months earlier this year.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner passed away at his home in Johannesburg; soon after, the world paid tribute to a man who spent 27 years of his life in prison for his beliefs.

After his release from prison in 1990, his administration went on to replace the racist white-minority regime that had enforced segregation of black and white people in a policy known as apartheid. Of his release, Mandela once said, ‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’

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Mandela went on, in 1994, to become South Africa’s first black president. After stepping down after five years, Mandela devoted his time and effort to global human rights campaigns. What set him apart was his devotion to forgiveness.

The sad news was broken by the South African president Jacob Zuma who said: ‘Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. What made him great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves and in him we saw so much of oneself.'

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US president Obama said of his passing: ‘He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages.’

Last night crowds of people – black and white, young and old – gathered outside his former home in Soweto, where he lived in the 1940s and 1950s, singing the liberation freedom song Nkosi Sikelei iAfrika. There were tears, yes but also celebration for a man who brought an end to apartheid, and united their country.

In London, the news was broken to royals, celebrities and even Mandela’s close family at the premiere of the film A Long Walk To Freedom about the statesman’s life. Mandela’s daughter Zindzi was apparently notified of his fading health before the screening. At the end, as the credits rolled, the audience were told of his passing. After the premiere Prince William said: ‘We were just reminded of what an extraordinary man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.’

Idris Elba, who played Mandela in the biopic, was in tears. Speaking after the premiere he added: ‘He was a man who broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world.’
Mandela himself once said: ‘Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.’

Update:

Last month's ELLE cover star, South African Candice Swanepoel said on her Instagram: 'Rest in peace madiba. I pray your beautiful soul continues to look over South Africa and keep its people united. (Nkosi sikelel’ i Afrika – sound the call to come together and united we shall stand, let us live and strive for freedom in South Africa our land).'

Samuel L Jackson tweeted to say: 'Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country.'

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