Nelson Mandela, Anti-Apartheid Leader, Freedom Fighter, Dies at 95

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Nelson Mandela, the first African President of South Africa and life long anti-apartheid freedom fighter, has died in Johannesburg, South Africa from age related illnesses that had him repeatedly in the hospital throughout much of 2013. He was 95.

Lauded by world leaders, revered by his countrymen and respected around the world, Mandela was seen as the symbol of freedom having spent 27 years as a political prisoner in a notorious prison used in early slave trading days to break the human spirit.

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” President Obama said in a released statement, adding that it was up to all of us to live as Mandela would: “to make decisions guided not by hate but by love, to never discount the difference that a person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”

The 95 year-old Mandela spent much of 2013 suffering from a worsening lung infection as well as various age related ailments. He was hospitalized on several occasions and in June was placed on life support.

Mandela spent the majority of his middle age in prison. Sentenced June 12, 1964 for admitting to sabotaging the government the court found him and two co-defendants guilty. While the requested death penalty was thrown out the court sentenced the defendants to life imprisonment as communist agitators.

During this time in South Africa, apartheid, a segregated political system which not unlike southern segregation gave preference to whites, was the dominating political party and seen as normal and all other political parties including the African national Congress (ANC) were banned and considered illegal.

Mandela, 46 years old, at the time of his sentencing was already recognized globally for his role as a political leader. During the trial he was appointed as President of The University of London and citizens of the London participated nightly in non-violent candlelight protests. Global organization attempted to intervene for his release to no avail. Mandela, the prosecutors believed, needed to be silenced in order to secure the current way of life.

For the first 18 years of his imprisonment Mandela was held in the notorious Robbens Island in an 8ft. by 7ft. cell. He had extremely limited contact with the outside world. The conditions and treatment would have killed a lesser man; Mandela kept himself mentally active and spiritually focused. He was transferred in 1982 to Pollsmoor Prison where was held until 1988. Mandela was then transferred to Victor Verster Prison, a minimum security type prison, where he was held until his release in February 1990.

The wave of democracy that swept across Europe in 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall were very instrumental in F.W.de Klerk’s decision to legalize banned political parties and free Mandela. The two met prior to his release.

In 1993 Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Order of Lenin as well as many other. He became an international symbol of freedom. He went on to become President of South Africa.

Mandela will receive a state funeral, which will be televised and attended by world leaders, although no further information has been released to media.

 

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