Nelson Mandela died

Nelson Mandela just died. The former South African dissident, revolutionary, and then post-apartheid president was 95.

So much has been written about Nelson Mandel, and is being written today, that I’ll excerpt some of the best, most informative, things from around the Web.

Mandela served 27 years in prison

First some background from Wikipedia:

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla]) (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the Afrikaner nationalists of the National Party came to power in 1948 and began implementing the policy of apartheid, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch and oversaw the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961 but was found not guilty. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

South African President Jacob Zuma, via CNN:

“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human,” the president said in his late-night address. “We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from Friday through that funeral.

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”

Chicago Trib quotes Mandela’s acceptance speech:

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”

Mandela decided not to stand for reelection – a move almost unheard of among African leaders

The LAT notes that Mandela was one of the rare African leaders to actually step aside and not run for permanent re-election:

During his five-year term in office, Mandela’s formal dignity and his skill in building consensus made him a rarity on a continent beset by corrupt dictators. Although his strongest supporters were deeply distrustful of whites, who controlled much of the country’s economy, Mandela made a determined — and largely successful — effort to ease white fears.

As his term drew to a close, he decided not to stand for reelection in 1999 and voluntarily stepped aside — a move almost unheard of among African leaders. His party, the African National Congress, again won the national elections and chose Mandela’s vice president, Thabo Mbeki, as his successor.

After leaving the government, Mandela’s worldwide stature continued to grow. He became active in the fight against AIDS; a son died of the disease in 2005. He also traveled widely in support of human rights and efforts to end poverty and spoke out vehemently against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In 2004, at age 85, Mandela announced his retirement from public life.

 A tribute to the struggle for freedom from all forms of discrimination

The New Yorker has Nelson Mandela on the cover next week:

New-Yorker-Mandela-CoverNext week’s cover, “Madiba,” was drawn by the artist Kadir Nelson. “I’ve recently made a children’s book about Nelson Mandela, but for a New Yorker cover, I settled on a younger image of him during the time that he was on trial with over a hundred of his comrades,” says Nelson about “Madiba,” his oil painting of Nelson Mandela, who died today, at the age of ninety-five.

“From looking at the photos of the time, I could see that the energy around him was very strong and that his peers were very much with and behind him,” Nelson added. “He was clearly a leader. I wanted to make a simple and bold statement about Mandela and his life as a freedom fighter. The raised fist and the simple, stark palette reminded me of posters and anti-apartheid imagery of the nineteen-eighties. This painting is a tribute to the struggle for freedom from all forms of discrimination, and Nelson’s very prominent role as a leader in the anti-apartheid movement.”

Pres. Obama’s statement on Nelson Mandela’s death

Here’s President Obama’s statement on Mandela’s death:

At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real.  He 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.  He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.

Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.  His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.  His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.  As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life.  My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.  I studied his words and his writings.  The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.  His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most.  And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real.  A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.

Music inspired by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela also inspired a lot of music, including the song “Free Nelson Mandela,” by The Specials:

Also there’s the song “Nelson Mandela” by internationally renowned Senegalse singer Youssou N’Dour:

Peter Rothberg over at the Nation has more songs, if you’re interested.


(I’m told that in order to actually see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me – so say the experts.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • lynchie

    We should not forget Regan vetoed the bill asking for the release of Nelson Mandella in 1986 and the vote was 245-177 not enough to be veto proof. America’s knight in shining armor the despicable Dick Cheney voted no and to this day says the ANC were a terrorist organization. In fact it was the CIA with the help of the NSA who arranged his arrest in South Africa (Bush senior of course headed the CIA at the time).

    “The CIA and NSA spy services—with the full collaboration of such
    transnational corporations at IBM, Kodak and many others—worked at all
    levels and for decades for apartheid and against the African National
    Congress activists who were routinely murdered, tortured and sentenced
    to life terms in the hell holes of South Africa.”

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/it-was-the-cia-that-helped-jail-nelson-mandela/5343409

    The polishing of Regan and Cheney’s reputations shows me that america has little regard for the truth but prefers to gloss over the actions of its worst leaders.
    America is involved in a long list of these types of actions and have little to be proud of on the international front
    I have heard not a peep from the GOP regarding Mandela’s death not a word from Newt, Boner, or any of the turds who are or were heads of the party.

  • HelenRainier

    It is a sad day for the world now that Mr. Mandela has died. The world mourns his death but celebrates that this amazing man walked amongst all of us and accomplished so much with dignity, grace and unparalleled strength. RIP, Mr. Mandela.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    This is a tremendous loss for everyone, even those who opposed him and continue to do so.

  • Monoceros Forth

    When I was growing up and Reagan was Pieter Botha’s best friend there was every reason to believe that Nelson Mandela would die in prison. Today is a sad day yet in a way it is remarkable that this day came to pass at all, that a man doomed to rot as a political prisoner of a loathsome regime could leave this world as a respected elder statesman.

  • mirror

    We gotta make it keep meaning something.

  • mirror

    Thanks. I’m really crying now. Now the whole house is crying.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Reminds me of one of my favorite passages from a completely unrelated book:

    “The darkness might conquer, but it can never extinguish hope, and though one candle, or many, may flicker and die, new candles will be lit from the old. Thus hope’s flame always burns, lighting the darkness until the coming of day.”

  • cole3244

    some who praise him now didn’t support him and his followers in their time of need, hypocrites.

    rip nelson rip.

  • Indigo

    May he rest in peace.

  • Anonymous

    A great man – a uniter of people and ally of peace. Thankfully he left a great example.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    A sad day for a great man’s passing.

    The struggle will go on in his name.

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com/ Elijah Jacob Shalis

    McKellan’s statement on his Facebook page

    “Nelson Mandela1918-2013

    The Valiant Nelson Mandela
    I met him once, in February 1995. He’d not long been President of the new Republic of South Africa and a debate was on to write the new constitution. A Constitutional Committee was lobbying to ensure that it would be constitutionally illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. The Committee invited me to raise funds for their work, with my solo show A Knight Out, which I performed in CapeTown, Durban and Johannesburg.
    Then, out of the blue, a meeting was proposed with Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, where he worked one day per week. I was to accompany two young gay people, asking the President to support them and the aims of the Constitutional Committee: Phumzile Mtetwa, a lesbian law student at Wits University and openly-gay Simon Nkoli, who had been a fighter against apartheid. Both adored Mandela, Madiba, Tata, their granddaddy.
    When our taxi picked up Simon he was waiting outside his digs, not in his habitual shorts and bare feet but in a borrowed dark suit and shoes. And he had a briefcase. “What’s in the briefcase, Simon?” “Nothing. But it would be disrespectful to meet Madiba, without looking the business.” The three of us arrived at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg, where we were invited to deposit our weapons and any live ammunition, before the lift to the top of the building. Simon realised he’d left the empty briefcase in the taxi. A young minder told us the President was tired but ready for us and showed us into an office sitting-room.
    On the desk were piled copies of his autobiography. He sat on an upright upholstered chair, legs crossed so his striped socks showed. His eyes drooped, damaged by the hard labour in the Robben Island lime quarry. He spoke quietly, about the weather but then my reasons for being in RSA. That was my cue to introduce Phumzeli who made the case for protecting gay people from discrimination. The victim of apartheid quickly got the point. He then asked about Phumi’s education. Perhaps it was that he wasn’t at ease talking about gay issues, nervous even. I’d been warned that he might giggle.
    The chatterbox Simon hadn’t yet spoken when our 20 minutes was almost up. In a rush he told Madiba that he’d been on trial for his life and then released. He said, “My regret about not being found guilty is that I missed the chance to serve with you on Robben Island.” Mandela looked right at Simon, shaking his head. “No. No you don’t regret that.”
    I asked if we could tell the press that the President supported the Constitutional Committee. The president nodded “Yes” and it was time for the photograph – taken without flash because of his sight. Simon put a protective arm round Tata’s shoulder. Phumzeli beamed. The constitution, explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, came into effect two years later.
    Before I left RSA, a hardback of The Long Walk to Freedom arrived, signed by the author; “For Ian McKellen with admiration Nelson Mandela.” It’s about my most treasured possession.
    The recent authoritative exhibition at the British Museum, Staging the world, showed Shakespeare’s influence over the centuries. The last exhibit was the “Robben Island Bible,” the complete works of Shakespeare signed by the prisoners of apartheid who passed it around illicitly from cell to cell. On 16 December 1977, Nelson Mandela signed his name in biro next to Julius Caesar’s words to his wife in Act 2 scene 2:
    “Cowards die many times before their deaths,
    The valiant never taste of death but once.”

    — Ian McKellen, New York, 5 December 2013″

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    That’s intg, I always wondered how it got put in there.

  • http://liberawheeler.blogspot.com/ Elijah Jacob Shalis

    Sir Ian McKellan said that Mandella was instrumental in putting gay rights in the South African Constitution in 1995. McKellan was on the Committee

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    A giant light goes out, but thousands of flames endure. What an extraordinary man.

© 2014 AMERICAblog News. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS