“The world has lost a great leader” in Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela at the age of 94
At the age of 94 Nelson Mandela smiles and laughs on the day he became an honorary citizen of France on March 25, 2013. Image: AFP/UN Radio

(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: At the age of 95 one of the world’s greatest human rights icons has died. His Excellancy Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died peacefully in his home in the neighborhood of Houghton in Johannesburg. Before this he spent time near the rural village of Qunu in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province where he spent many days with his mother as a boy. It was a land that could not be owned by any of the villagers at the time, including his extended family as individual land rights for South Africans would not happen for years to come.

“The founding President of our democratic nation has departed,” said South African President Jacob Zuma said to the press as he announced Mandela’s death. “He passed on peacefully in the company of his family… He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Zuma added.

Zuma was visibly touched by the passing away of the leader as he announced Mandela’s death to the public.

“Our people have lost a father,” he continued.

Born into the Thembu clan on July 18, 1918 in the East cape village of Mvezo Nelson Mandela was surrounded by family members who moved to Qunu village on eastern rural land in South Africa that seemed to stretch in all directions toward the horizon.

“My mother presided over three huts at Qunu which, as I remember, were always filled with the babies and children of my relations. In fact, I hardly recall any occasion as a child when I was alone,” Mandela outlined in his 1994 autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”

“In African culture, the sons and daughters of one’s aunts or uncles are considered brothers and sisters, not cousins. We do not make the same distinctions among relations practiced by whites. We have no half brothers or half sisters. My mother’s sister is my mother; my uncle’s son is my brother; my brother’s child is my son, my daughter,” added Mandela.

Now arrangements for a funeral are in the hands of Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, along with his daughters Makaziwe Mandela, Zenani Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela. An offer for an official State funeral will formally be made as is protocol by President Zuma, but the final decision on the funeral will be up to the family.

If the family chooses to have a State funeral it will take place in Pretoria, the seat of government for South Africa where mourning for the leader would last approximately ten days. With it would come all the pomp and ceremony that befits a presidential leader, including a public funeral march and viewing of the casket. His body would be laid to rest on land in Qunu.

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people,” said Mandela during an April 1998 speech in Johannesburg as he honored and recognized one of his heroes Zulu Chief Albert Luthuli who was also president general of the African National Congress. During his lifetime Mandela’s hero went on to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for non-violently leading ten million black Africans in a hard campaign for civil rights in South Africa, a campaign that Nelson Mandela would also take up and dedicate his life to.

In October 1993 Mandela received his own Nobel Peace Prize for the personal sacrifices he made in the work to stop apartheid and to bring human rights and equality to all people in South Africa.

As a torch bearer for human rights and a student of Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela was a also a strong advocate for the equality of women.

“We ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women,” he said in 1995.

As a founding member of human rights ‘super heroes’ The Elders, Mandela worked to bring a better vision of the world to everyone he met.

“The world has lost a great leader. Madiba showed the people of the world that great nations are built with moral courage and collective strength, with justice and equal opportunity, with truth and reconciliation, with love and forgiveness, with vision and wisdom. He was indeed the Gandhi of South Africa. His spirit lives on in the people of South Africa and in the hearts of all who loved him,” said one of Mandela’s human rights colleagues at The Elders Ms. Ela Bhatt, who is known worldwide as the ‘gentle revolutionary’ and the founder of one of India’s most successful organization to empower women, SEWA – Self-Employed Women’s Association. SEWA works today to give women a ‘step-up’, especially for those who have been marginalized and discriminated by society, often because of their low standing or caste.

“His face is difficult to forget, so kind and so caring. It was his message of Ubuntu that drew me to him and to the Elders. We can do no better than honor his memory by bringing the spirit of Ubuntu to every corner of the world…My deepest condolences to Graça and Madiba’s family for their great loss,” added Bhatt in her eulogy for Mandela.


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